Monday, March 24, 2008

My final creative work (for CW10! :D)

[author's note: this story/sketch/whatever it is counts as a collection of half-truths. next time you guys will have to guess whether what i write is half-truth, or pure fiction ^_^ and the occasional pure truth, nyahahaha]

MANG DIGOY

The private school I attended from nursery to grade 6 believed in modernization. During my stay there a new playground, gym, quadrangle, parking lot, basketball court and library were built, one after another. Old buildings were given new occupants and functions each time a new, and often bigger, building was completed. At the time I didn't pay much attention to the incremental changes in the school's image; like everyone else I was excited whenever another construction project was begun in some undeveloped portion of the campus. The school went through a lot of phases as it gradually built up its reputation and its real estate; few things remained the same while I was there. One of them was Mang Digoy.

I first saw him in grade 2, right after the playground and waiting area were built next to the parking lot. He was in charge of opening the gate between the waiting area and the campus before the flag ceremony; at his signal the elementary students waiting outside the gate would form four lines and march into the campus. His voice rasped whenever he yelled at us to be quiet and stay in line; his misaligned teeth were stained yellow with nicotine. He was short and tightly built, with sun-blackened skin and eyes that bulged a little. Many of us were afraid of him because he reported directly to Miss Ruby, the elementary level head; one word from him would send an offender straight to her. The boys especially were careful not to bump into him while he patrolled the campus, splintered nightstick in one gnarled fist. One boy had the misfortune of literally running into Mang Digoy while playing at recess. Mang Digoy's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets with fury; he grabbed that boy by the arm and hauled him over to the guidance office, without bothering to consult Miss Ruby. Apparently he promised never to run around again, because for a long time afterward he seldom joined the games at recess. Learning from his example, the rest of us made sure to keep a lookout for Mang Digoy whenever we played games.

Mang Digoy was the first and last person inside the campus. He was there before 6 every morning, and remained even after all the janitors and maintenance men had packed up and gone home. When he wasn't patrolling the campus, he directed traffic by the school entrance, or did routine maintenance jobs like replacing burnt-out light bulbs and electric fans that didn't work. He even swept the grounds when he had time. The way he looked after the campus it was as if it were his own home, and we the transients who came and went with the academic years. Sometimes, in between mouthfuls of crackers and sandwiches, my classmates and I would gossip about whether or not Mang Digoy had a wife and children to go home to. He wore no wedding ring, and none of us dared to ask him about his family. We usually came to the conclusion that Aga was his only family. Aga was the stray dog who lived off people's lunch scraps and slept inside the campus. During his lunch break Mang Digoy went looking for Aga with a large, empty can containing the remains of his meal. Taking care of Aga was one of the few comforts that Mang Digoy (and, apparently, the school's administration) seemed to allow himself, along with his unofficial uniform; he came to work in a white collared shirt, a brown vest with rows of pockets, and denims torn at the knees. In retrospect, he might have been putting away a fraction of his paycheck for his retirement, or sending money to a family in his home province. The thought never entered our heads; having Mang Digoy around the school 24/7 was as natural as the cycle of the academic year, summer vacation in April, resumption of classes in June. Though the buildings and facilities came and went, he was always there, just growing a little fatter, a little slower, every year.

In my last year as an elementary student, the administration decided to hold an employee award ceremony. It was a simple affair; the students would gather at the newly constructed quadrangle after class, and the employees to be awarded would be called onto the stage and given gift baskets of fruits and canned goods. When the teachers announced that collections would be held for the ceremony, all of us had the same thought in our heads. Mang Digoy would win. There was no question of his loyalty to the school; he had become like the statue of the school's patron saint in the chapel. Chipped and weather-worn, but still very much a part of the school's identity. When they called his name (many of us were surprised when we heard it) he climbed up the side of the stage slowly, as if each step of his tattered sneakers stood for a year of his life spent inside the campus. He accepted his gift with a shy smile that none of us had ever seen, or imagined. It was the smile of a content man with no regrets.

I left that school after graduation. I went to a public science high school in Manila, whose virtually nonexistent tuition fees attracted my parents after nine years of annually increasing investments in my education. I seldom visited my old school; like my elementary uniform, I had put away my memories of the place as a part of my past, and I didn't leave many friends to visit there, either. One friend kept me updated throughout high school with stories of more new gyms, renovated parking lots, and bigger buildings. I listened to her patiently and agreed that the school was getting better, one way or another.

Once I visited her during the summer. She lived in a subdivision a few blocks away from our old school. That day the high school students' grades were being released; we decided to meet at the school, so I could tag along and see how much it had changed. When I arrived ahead of her, it took me a while to recognize the school I had spent my childhood in. The entrance had been converted into a wide concrete alcove with painted grill windows and a gate in the middle for pedestrians. The uniformed security guard standing behind the gate wouldn't let me in; he said he wasn't allowed to admit anyone without the school's ID. I scanned the parking lots through the windows. Mang Digoy was nowhere to be found.

Later, my friend told me that Mang Digoy had been run over by a car in front of the school a year before. She didn't know the name of the security guard who had replaced Mang Digoy; in fact, the school had changed security guards several times since Mang Digoy passed away. Along with the elementary building and the playground, everything I had known had either been renovated or demolished, with something new and completely alien in its place. I couldn't imagine myself as a child in my old uniform, running around on the school's grounds. For one thing, there was no Mang Digoy to watch out for.

After that, I didn't visit my old school again.

* * *

This is the revised version of the story, so I don't know if it's any better than the first draft. ^^; It has changed a lot, though.

2 comments:

Rich said...

Whew! Uno 'to for sure :D

Pero ang galing mo talaga gumawa ng storya! Para sa 'kin, wala nang dudang writer ka. Nakakainggit pa ang english mo! At ang paglalaro ng mga salita! Superb!

A e, tina, next time, story naman ni ladyguard sa mjec. hehe!

Sj87 said...

Wowie!
This is another nice post!
I liked your sentences because they were easy to read. And I thought, the words were carefully chosen.
Good work!

If this is indeed 100% truth, WOW to your memory! It is as if everything just happened yesterday. The details were there! Crisp and Clear!

If it wasn't, then WOW for your imagination!
Wohoo!

Keep it up!
Your blog is surely becoming more and more interesting!
So I will be expecting lots of these ok!

Happy Blogging!

P.S.
You are a writer!
I hope your works will be published!

Start your novel right now!
I will be one of your first readers!

Good Luck!