Maybe, because I’ve taken so many detours in the past and gotten lost so many times in some jungles; maybe, because I’ve been stranded too often in someone else’s kitchen or got trapped in some odd jobs, my memories of dates have gotten so mixed up. Since the day I left the university I’ve been having trouble filling up forms that needed dates: I no longer remember things the way I used to remember them before.
But I still remember very clearly how the news of Ninoy Aquino’s death found us inside the upper classrooms of Holy Cross of Bansalan College in August 1983; which meant, we were in our higher years, then; because higher years at the Holy Cross of my hometown were in the classrooms on the third and fourth floors—the freshmen were on the ground floor.
When news about the Yellow Friday movement reached the airwaves, we were aware of the surging excitement in the world beyond, although we were still being kept inside the protective campus walls. One day, the whole class watched Ninoy’s wake on TV—I couldn’t remember where this was, but we were agog over Kris Aquino because we thought she looked like Jane! And here, the memories came back, Marichu or was it Tessa or Angie calling up Jane to catch a glimpse of her look-alike on screen—but this was still when K was still sweet, slim and seventeen; her mother, not yet President; and we watched Fr. Patrick Payton’s show in the park at night, featuring Jesus, Mary and the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, where at the end Fr. Payton would say, “The family who prays together, stays together;” followed by another show of the Exodus with Moses and his long cane in the desert.
Since I could no longer remember dates, I had to figure out many things on my own, which was rather hard to do. I figured that I couldn’t have graduated from high school in 1982, before Ninoy Aquino was gunned down on August 21, 1983 in the airport tarmac. To find the exact date, I’d begin again in 1972, when (former President) Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law. I was still four years old. I can’t forget the sight and smell of lush Bermuda grass getting mixed up with the sound of Ma in the background, as she turned on the radio to listen to static (was this my memory or the memory of someone telling this to me?!). I remember hearing my agitated Ma the following day, talking to her fellow teacher in a slightly suppressed voice, “huh! Marcos has declared Martial Law!” and the rest of their blah-blah-blah!
The following year, I started school. I’d begin counting six elementary years and add them up with the four years in high school to finally get the exact date I graduated.
Just to make sure I got it right, I’d validate it with another memory: this time, no longer in the four-story building of my high school and its perennial sound of trumpets playing. This time, it’s the memory of huge glass windows awash with sunlight; of whitewashed walls and our tightlipped Ilocano professor holding us in his geodetic engineering class when all we wanted was stick our ears on the radio to listen to the reports of people crowding the streets of Edsa. That was February 21 to 25, 1986.
I did not make it to the reunion of the high school Batch 1984. But the huge streamer they put up had put an end to my figuring out.