12 days

random rumination number 17 - education
the first 10 years of my life as a student is something i now look back on without much fondness. no, i am not ungrateful for what i've been taught. it's just that with the benefit of profound hindsight, i can't actually rave about the high quality of teaching that was bestowed upon me by the institutions of learning that i had to settle with. i started out as a straight-out-of-mindanao grade schooler at the quirino elementary school in project 2, quezon city. my tagalog was terrible. i was teased a lot about my being bisaya, and had to compensate for it by leveraging on my other skills. that early, i realized that my english was superior to everyone else's. surprisingly, i went through the whole roller coaster ride in grade school: i was always on the honor roll, but i didn't quite pay as much attention to finishing on top as i should have. then i went to high school at the then trinity college of quezon city, which is now known by the rather pretentious appellation of trinity university of asia. amazing how you achieve university status, and yet go down voluntarily by many notches in your choice of name. in school, i was not an academic star, and i excelled thinly in most subjects. i was particularly poor in math. during this time, i consistently competed in oratorical competitions, and it seemed natural for me to go into broadcasting. i was somehow made to believe that i wasn't exactly above average. but i knew i was good, and this much was proven when much to everyone's surprise, i topped our NCEE and also passed the UPCAT when all our honor graduates didn't. it got me thinking: hey, i'm smarter than i thought i was.

in college, i was supposed to take up broadcasting. since i didn't make the quota for the course, i decided to take up english: creative writing instead. i knew i was good at the subject, but didn't quite know what i was getting myself into until i actually got hold of my curriculum. i suddenly fell in love with the subject and decided to finish it. i struggled during my first semester, and my grades weren't even average at the time. i got a 3.0 in math 1, and my highest was a 2.0 in other subjects. i did get a 1.5 in ROTC, which had no consequence to GPA. my eldest brother had somehow made me think that getting a 2.5 was good enough. he didn't go to UP and i shouldn't have believed him. it turns out i could do better, and on the second semester, my grades ranged from 1.75 to 1.0. i still think though that i didn't work hard to get good grades. i just tried to do well enough not to be embarrassed by my marks. i eventually graduated with an average of 1.6. cum laude. i waited anxiously at the UP amphitheater to be called to the stage as one of the honor graduates of 1997. but much to my dismay, i was just one cum laude among more than 300. not as cream of the crop as i would've wanted. graduating with honors from UP felt vindicating in a way, but also humbling.

then i went to singapore as a participant in the singapore international foundation ASEAN visiting student fellowship. i was selected as one of the 8 representatives of the philippines, and i chose to study at the national university of singapore. while i was there, i knew, somehow, that my UP education was far superior than what NUS offered, the lack of facilities notwithstanding. i found my classmates to be very average, even the ones who attended the honors class on criticism.

after that semester, i returned to the country and pursued my postponed tenure at UP law. i had to retake the LAE even though i already passed it the previous year. i had no desire to enter law school in the beginning, but on my senior year as a creative writing student, i wasn't sure if becoming a full-time writer and professor was for me, although i was accepted to teach in my department. despite my reluctance to study law, i decided to step into malcolm hall and see for myself what the stories were all about. getting into law school almost assured one of an elevated status. law students were regarded with misunderstood respect. there was nothing awesome about it, but because of the perceived difficulty of getting into UP law (and staying), i became a willing recipient of the undeserved admiration.

in law school, i was pretty average. i did have sparks of brilliance here and there, but i was generally too lazy or too unconvinced to excel academically. when i started out, i just wanted to "try" it, but by the end of my freshman year, i felt i had wasted a year, so might as well push through with the "investment". i remember telling people that i did everything which was likely to get me kicked out: i didn't study as hard as most. consider, for example, my coffee story. i don't drink coffee. at all. i've never had a full cup of coffee in my life. so people in law ask me this:

"how do you keep awake?"

"i don't stay up. i sleep."

"and how do you finish the readings?"

"i usually don't."

"so how do you manage to pass?"

"well, i just."

the joke was, i've tried everything to fail, but i just didn't.

reviewing for the bar and taking it were perhaps the most miserable times of my life. my stomach would twist in hopeless anticipation of an exam. but passing the bar was the most deliriously happy moment of my life since. i'm glad that i didn't have to do it over again. my bar grades though, were rather telling: i did very well in commercial law, and even in taxation, which i confess i don't know jack about. i surprisingly failed legal ethics and was pulled down by labor. very telling.

right now, i'm still not done with studying. i have plans of pursuing a master's degree in something, probably international law or environmental law. i want it for the experience, and of course, for the feather it'll add to my already well-adorned cap. wanting to pursue further studies abroad is one of the main reasons why i haven't made any major investments so far. i've been reluctant about getting a car, and even a house for myself. i've given myself until next year to get accepted in a university in the UK or the netherlands (australia is also an option). if not, then it's likely i won't take that path anymore, and finally get myself a major investment.

random rumination number 18 - innumeracy
so i have an irrational fear of math. i buckle and break apart when confronted with numbers. my high degree of literacy is inversely proportional to my grasp of math. which is surprising if you've seen my grades prior to high school. i've actually figured it out some time ago. my public elementary school was the recipient of a tutoring program for sixth graders from the seniors of the ateneo de manila high school. i'm not sure, but i think it's what they call the tulong-dunong project. the blue ateneo buses would come to the school once a week, for how long i can't recall. i signed up for science, but ended up being tutored on math. i remember our kuya being the least good-looking among the tutors. he was nice though, and to my memory, didn't condescend on us lowly public grade schoolers. until he decided to compete with the tutor who had a sixth finger on one of his hands. i remember overhearing them comparing what subject was already being taught, and each one was bragging about how advanced he was. the competition became apparently stiff when my kuya scoffed: "ha! trigonometry na ang tinuturo ko." of course, we understood nothing about the subject. i had never heard of the term before, and we did poorly in the exams. our tutor chided us for getting zeros in his tests. i felt particularly inept and dumb, because he expected a lot from me. it was at that time that i developed the fear, i think. yeah, blame it on the atenean.

surprisingly though, even if i can't understand the basic idea behind algebra, trigonometry, and calculus, or all those higher maths, i'm very good at geometry. it was the only math subject in high school where i didn't get a grade below 80. in fact, i was the only one who aced all our periodical exams. i think maybe because it was a visual kind of math. when you have a history of mediocre performances, you tend to remember the few highlights.

random rumination number 19 - spoken english
when i went to singapore, my first interaction with a foreigner on the bus from the airport went like this:

"hi, my name is fuadi, i am from indonesia."

"hi my name is alman. i'm from the philippines."

"you know your english is really good."

i said two sentences, and this guy made weird remarks about how i spoke. it turns out that he wasn't referring to my english per se (i.e., vocabulary), but how i spoke english (i.e., diction, accent, ). "your english is really good" became almost daily fare whenever i was introduced to new people. even europeans and canadians. that, and "did you study in the US?" at first i thought it was flattering, and i enjoyed it (but insisted that i don't have an american accent), but later, i realized why they made comments like that. apparently, they think the brown pinoy should speak english with a strange, exotic, even bad accent. i was often asked where i learned to speak english the way i did, and my usual response was: at home, watching sesame street.

so i've been told that i speak well, that i sound like a DJ, that i should report the news, that i should become a voice talent. this is all very flattering, but nothing close to that is happening.
GoOd cHoIce TaKiNG lAw. nEwsrEAdeR nAh! yOu ArE tOO tAlENtEd FoR tHat. aNd doN'T BlAme tHe AteNEan fOr YOur FeAr oF mAtH. be thankful that the tutors didn't come from Taft Avenue.
Your English is good-looking! At one time my daughter had a Texan accent, no kidding, from watching the Cartoon Network channel
Legal Ethics
WHAT!!! You failed Legal Ethics?#!* How come I don't know this? That should have been the easiest subject, easily passable I mean. Very telling indeed... Are you sure you really don't want to go into law firm practice? Haha. -ALT