A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of October 22-28, 2014
REVISITING THOSE HOMECOMING BLUES
I wrote the following essay way back in 1997. It was published under the “Youngblood” column that welcomes contributions from the twentysomething or below in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. My piece appeared on the same day that Batch 1987 had its 10th year reunion on Dec. 27, 1997 in our alma mater, the Manila Science High School. Since October is MaSci’s foundation month, please allow me to share this essay with all of you as I remember how my special science high school education shaped me in a lot of ways. Now imagine me ten years out of high school, 27 years old and full of nostalgic angst, hunkering down to write this all those years ago. Has anything really changed since then? ***********************************
By Blesilda I. R. Carmona
It’s been 10 years since our batch graduated from the Manila Science High School. I don’t know what will happen on our alumni homecoming, but I do know that the prospect of meeting my batchmates has filled me with some apprehensions these last few days. It’s been 10 years, and what have I got to show for it?
If our batch had compiled a short list of the most likely to succeed, I certainly would have been on it. I was a popular campus figure. I graduated first honorable mention, copped the excellence award in English, and received the Gerry Roxas leadership award. I still have the slumbook where some batchmates wrote their mushy dedications predicting a rosy future for me. Most wrote that they’d never forget me and hope I won’t forget them, too.
Would I ever? My batchmates are always on my mind these days. They’re supposed to be the standard against which I should measure myself. But after 10 years, I have been anything but a smashing success.
It depends on how one defines success, you say. But let’s assume the “usual” criteria: career going great guns, improved financial status and standard of living, a happy marriage and home life, and possibly some contributions to Philippine society. When you come right down to it, I fail on every count.
Career going great guns? I have barely started mine while my high school batchmates have already ascended to middle management level. I botched my attempt at a medical course at UP-PGH, decided to shift to a film course in UP Diliman campus, and up to now I haven’t done my thesis-on-video yet. I’ve been in college for a decade now, but I haven’t been able to finish anything. (I do have a BS Basic Medical Sciences degree after finishing two years of pre-med and two years of medicine proper under UP’s Intarmed program. I dropped out in the middle of fourth year proper.)
Earlier this year, I botched my first job. My supervisor at a film company fired me for frequent tardiness and absences, which was entirely my fault. However, I prayed to God to help me land another job so I could redeem myself in my own eyes, and He answered my prayer by giving me my current job as a writer/PR coordinator for a publicity firm. So far I have been late only once, and I am turning out good copy, after countless notes from bosses and clients. While my batchmates have already gone on study leaves from their prestigious jobs to get their MBAs and PhDs, here I am a mass com undergrad with an entry-level job whose ultimate joy consists of achieving a near-perfect attendance record. Since I’m still new, I can’t even assess my so-called performance. But what the heck, I’ve finally started a sort of career path. Talk about a late bloomer in the corporate jungle.
What about improved financial status or standard of living as a success indicator? My current income doesn’t guarantee me total financial independence from my California-based parents. The eldest of four children, I still live in the original Carmona home in Guadalupe Bliss with my sister and her husband, a male cousin and a female helper, while my high school batchmates already have houses and cars of their own (throw in a beeper, cell phone, laptop, Internet subscription). My ultimate joy in this area consists of being able to give the proper tithe to our church, buy basic personal needs, pay for my lunch at the office and bus fare, and occasionally contribute to the marketing budget at home. Oh, and I almost forgot: I’m assigned to pay for the household’s subscription to the Inquirer.
What about a happy married or home life? Oh, I’ve had my share of serious and non-serious affairs in my teens up to my early 20s but I’ve been unattached since four years ago. My theme song now is Karen Carpenter’s “I Know I Need to be in Love,” which goes on to say: “I know I’ve wasted too much time/I know I’ve asked perfection from a quite imperfect world/and fool enough to think that’s what I’ll find.” I’ve got a pocketful of good intentions but none of them will keep me warm tonight.
While some of my high school batchmates are already married and with children, others are engaged and still others are seriously dating, my ultimate joy as far as this thing goes is (at the risk of sounding like sourgraping) at least being able to come and go anywhere I please, whether it be the mall, art gallery, secondhand bookstore, movie house, Olongapo, Bayombong, Enchanted Kingdom – everywhere! I savor and appreciate my voluntary solitude. Long-term commitment? I guess I’m still not mature enough to handle one, despite my previous passions.
Let’s not even dwell on my so-called contributions to Philippine society because I’ve never had one which would merit mention on the front-page or at least the lifestyle section. Meanwhile, one female batchmate has topped the dentistry board exams (as in No. 1!), another female classmate is now chief editor of a leading business publication, and my best friend is a supervisor at a topnotch accounting firm. I know at least three guys who are already doctors, one guy who is a lawyer at the Supreme Court, and another guy (our valedictorian) who has taken a study leave from his managerial position at a big bank to pursue another degree in a famous American university. (I know he already has an MBA, so this is now his third degree – pardon the pun.)
So it’s been 10 years, and what have I got to show for it?
In a word, nothing. At least not by the usual standards we use to measure a person’s success.
I must have been the quietest person around during the couple of meetings I attended as a member of the homecoming organizing committee. I have in my possession all of my co-members’ impressive calling cards. I can feel the aura of self-confidence and wisdom emanating from their previously clueless high school selves. I quietly revel in their radiance while feeling proud of their achievements. Vicariously I feel I have also succeeded through them.
It’s been a decade, guys, so I’ll be seeing you at the Manila Science auditorium today. If plans don’t change, I’ll be playing sparkling host tonight. All I can offer you is a slightly improved version of the Bless Carmona you knew (and even the descriptive “improved” is open to question in my case, needing several qualifiers). Well, you be the judge.
I may not have much to show for all those years we’ve been apart, but I won’t be ashamed to attend our homecoming because I want to see for myself the way you’ve all turned out. Success indicators or no, I’ll always be proud to be one of you, my bright and beautiful Manila Science High School batchmates.
So you bet your souvenir coffee mug I’ll be there – if only to bask in all that reflected glory.
And of course, to dance to all that new wave music.
Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings, email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org