How I Survived Chinese School

It was 1986 while the Philippines was still singing the theme song for People’s Power, my parents realized that having me ran around the entire day will only bring more scabs on my knees and nothing else.  So they have decided to enroll me to this good school that could probably give me the right education I need and be a productive citizen in the future – a Chinese School.

Me and my kababata Miss J

And you would wonder why.  Oh before we continue, a little background about me.  I was born and raised in a Filipino household with Filipino parents.  The only Chinese influence we ever had at home was limited to tikoy, chop suey and mahjong.  So it was a bit surprising why our parents chose a Catholic Chinese school – Stella Maris Academy.  I take that back, I wasn’t surprised at all.  I don’t even care back then.

I would have you know, I am actually very proud to have graduated from this prestigious school.  Let me tell you a little background on my alma mater.  Come to think of it, I don’t actually know anything about it except that it is run by the Hijas de Jesus and we always celebrate the feast of Mother Candida every August and Foundation day on December.  Despite of that Stella is like home to me, even though I’m not Chinese I actually feel I belong to this institution. And so you would wonder how I was able to graduate even without any concrete Chinese background?  Here’s 5 things:

1.  I have hard working parents.  Being enrolled to an expensive school is not possible if it weren’t for my parents.  Yes, I am kicking off my 5 points in a sentimental note.  Back then I was not aware of the tuition fees of schools such as Stella Maris.  I go to school sometimes begrudgingly because I still want to sleep.  And I celebrate with so much enthusiasm if there is heavy rain and the school vicinity is flooded.  However, when it was my brother’s turn to go to school I sometimes do his enrollment and saw the fee.  It was scary.  So I am forever grateful that my parents enrolled us here.

2.  I am a hard working student. Of course!  Hard working parents usually bore hard working children.  I study quite a lot.  Of all the subjects I have taken, Chinese was one of the easiest maybe because I just need to memorize, pronounce and write the characters.  Honestly, I can no longer remember the Chinese classes I took during elementary.  By the way, during our time, we were lucky that Chinese classes are only for elementary students.  When you get to high school you are free.  Anyway, back to my classes.  I could only remember a few words and characters.  Numbers was the easiest plus I could put it into good use especially when haggling for discounts. *wink*wink* The birthday song and half of Hail Mary in Chinese.  And lastly some cuss words.  Who could forget bad words?  They are the easiest to remember.

3.  We have a close-knit community.  In Stella Maris, I know the same people from elementary until I graduated high school.  Some I get to bond and be close with.  The institution is located within a residential area so expansion is not possible.  Classes are limited to 4 sections per year level.  When I graduated in high school there were a total of 140 students.  That’s just like the short guest list for a wedding right?  We know almost everybody.  Every face is familiar not just the students of the same year level but as well as the older and younger.

4.  We have Manang Bining’s Lumpia, Betty’s Egg Sandwich, Nong Roger’s bbq and the Fishball.  during break time, students flock the canteen for the fried lumpia.  And Manang Bining, the canteen overseer, is in charge of the lumpia.  It is always a best seller. The sauce.  Who could ever forget that weird sauce.  I’m not a big vegetable eater, but that lumpia just makes me want to swallow all the vegetables inside that spring roll.  A semi-expensive canteen in front of the school, Betty’s also sells a very good egg sandwich.  As a treat every Friday, my friends, my sister and I will use our saved up allowance to buy one.  And if we are in a good mood we’d buy some pork barbeque from Kuya Roger.  And lastly the fishball, who could ever forget the fishballs?  For 1 peso you get to skewer 5 fishballs and dip it into the sauce.  *Sigh* I miss those vendors outside the school.  I wonder if they are still there.

5.  We have access to books and we interact with each other.  Before technology have taken so much of our time especially the youth who spend more time doing selfies and whatever, my friends and I hang out the library.  Yes, it sounded lame and nerdy but Stella’s library back then was entertaining.  I guess for me and my friends, it was.  We get to use some of the facilities of the library and we get to sleep.  We were lucky we have befriended the librarian else we won’t have those privileges.  Books and magazines were more appreciated back then.

So there you have it.  My big five factors that made my Chinese school experience awesome.  Yes we have zero base system which made most of us achievers, yes we have no special section which gives every student the chance to be on the top and yes we have a uniform that looks like a table cloth.  But, I love everything about Stella Maris.  Every nook and cranny of the the institution houses my fondest memories of my elementary and high school years from the moment I learned to say “Sensei Zao an.”