Sunday, June 6, 2010

*202. CHEVALIER SCHOOL (Sacred Heart Seminary), Angeles City

FRESHMEN AT SHS. First Year Section A, 1969-1970. Extern Department. Sacred Heart Seminary. With Miss Dahlia Guiao as Class Adviser, and Pilipino teacher, Lydia Gabiana (Pionela).

30 July 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of Chevalier School aka Sacred Heart Seminary, the high school I went to from 1969-1973. A grand alumni homecoming is planned with the usual motorcade, medical missions, a Thanksgiving Mass and recognition for 25 distinguished alumni as selected by the host class, the Class of 1985. I am humbled and honored to be part of the list, and I look forward to seeing some of my batchmates again after 37 years. It wasn’t too long ago that we held our own 25th Silver Anniversary Homecoming, and now, more than a decade has again elapsed, putting more distance to those wonder years of youthful discovery and explorations.

When I graduated from a public school in Mabalacat, I was very single-minded with the high school I wanted to go to. For me, it was Sacred Heart Seminary or nothing. Never mind that I was being recruited by St. Anthony’s Institute, a community high school, with a fifty peso scholarship being waved at my mother’s face. But I bawled no end; after all, my older brother was already a part of the pioneer class of 1971. Eventually, the scooter-riding rector, Fr. Bartholomew “Bart” Witteman, charmed my mother by telling her of this wonderful high school with a teacher-student ratio of just 1:30, in one of his house-house sales blitz.

And so, with a mix of nervous excitement and apprehension, I entered the hallowed halls of the school in the big city of Angeles, along with 70 other boys on that fateful day in June 1969. By then, the school was almost a decade old. The place where the seminary stood was leased for 99 years beginning in 1958 to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart by Most Eminence Emilio Cinense D.D. Fr. Cornelio Lagerway MCS was tasked to build a minor seminary—and thus, in 1960, Sacred Heart Mission of Pampanga Inc. came to be.

Seminarians (interns) and externs were both admitted to the school from 1960-1967, with classes held separately. Eventually, with a dwindling seminarian recruitment, classes were merged. I still remember pangs of envy every time I caught sight of intern students dressed in their immaculate long sleeved shirt and tie enter the classrooms, while we externs only had plain white polos with the school seal (such silly insecurities!). In 1972, the intern department closed.

Oh, but we were a privileged batch, and we bore witness to a lasting revolution, starting with our Freshman Year under Miss Dahlia Guiao. We saw the first man walk on the moon, felt the first stirrings of dissent and unrest against our government, watched Gloria Diaz win Miss Universe. But we were a young and carefree bunch. We sang “Aubrey” and “Stairway to Heaven” until until kingdom come, held rock masses at the Chapel, dominated the cheering contest of our lively intramurals (Splashdown, Charade, Ating Landas), and gamely joined the APSCOP meets .

We turned the school’s empty lots into a virtual vegetable garden as part of the Green Revolution of the 70s and held hilarious plays with an all-male cast. We hanged out in the school canteen during recess time, sipping Sunkist tetra-packs with our 5 peso spaghetti or cheese pimiento sandwich. Come lunch, I and my chum, Guillermo 'Emong' Morales, would eat our packed Tupperware meals under the lush bonggabilya bower that grew near the back gate, hidden from everyone's view.

We had chess tournaments, basketball competitions (our senior ball team was the “Radicals”) and even had a Junior-Senior prom that was staged so badly that the students demanded a refund. The band (‘Angel of Death’) that Miss Casupanan had commissioned to play at the prom apparently did not please the hip crowd with their limited repertoire. I attended that said prom and you can only take so much of Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” after four or five repetitions.

But we also agonized over Mr. Ramoneda’s Physics test and Mr. Ramon Villablanca’s oral exams that he conducted with his unforgettable accent. Oh, how I dreaded the postings of our bi-weekly grades! But I enjoyed Miss Pangilinan's Literature class (doesn't she look like Barbra Streisand?) , Mr. de la Cruz's interesting Biology lectures, Mr. Batac's history lessons and Principal Larry Pineda's Economics subject . In between, we found time to ‘torture’ teachers, playing pranks at every available opportunity (I remember the “trebalak” that was placed inside Miss Ramos’s desk, but the joke’s on us—she didn’t flinch). We had so much angst that we boycotted the PMT classes much to the consternation of Commandant Escalante, and protested to the fathers at the slightest provocation.

Then the tumultuous 70s took over. Idols and icons came and went. Woodstock. Love Story. Make Love, Not War. James Taylor. The Vietnam War. America. Shaft. Peace Man. Bomba Films. Marcos. And, on the day of the school election for the Supreme Student Council, Martial Law was declared. All too soon, our age of innocence was gone.

Shocked at the passing of our beloved Fr. Bart and barely surviving the first two years of the 70s, the class was ready to salsoul, L.A. walk, bump-and-grind its way to its 1973 graduation. I remember the frenetic preparations before that big day—the yearbook had to be laid out, graduation photos had to be shot at Selegna’s and ads had to be solicited. On that actual graduation day, I remember so little. But I do remember wearing a borrowed coat and coming with my Ima for the commencement exercise. I think I finished with a ranking of 7th or 8th—my bad Algebra grades did me in-- but at that time, it really didn’t matter as I was so excited about getting to college. I didn't even say a proper goodbye to my best friend Emong; that would be the last time I would see him.

By 1978, Sacred Heart Seminary would change its name to Chevalier School to honor the founding father of MSC, Fr. Jules Chevalier. It opened its doors to elementary students and then went co-ed, in response to the imperatives of change. Each time I pass the school though, I would still refer to it as SHS and remember those 4 years spent in the school where we breathed and lived the great Caballero spirit.

Three decades after, we not only survived but thrived. A little scarred perhaps, but never scared. Clearly focused with what we want to accomplish, never mind the authority. We’re still feisty and irreverent as ever, perhaps a little softer on the edges. Though our paths have taken us to different worlds, we stay on, comfortable with each other in the truest sense of friendship, hopefully, forever. Long live and prosper, Caballeros!

5 comments:

nd said...

I spotted my brother Ramiel in that class pic. I was catapulted back to the 70's with your picturesque description of the era...I will forever long for those simple, uncomplicated days! I remember our exchange of letters...how I looked forward to receiving one after each weekend. Live long and prosper, my dear cowzin!

alex r. castro said...

Meng was our class runt! He was so cute and small! Everyone was protective of him. Wa ne, simple times, simple joys! Pero at that time, poor la reng parents tamu, cowzin. OK mo?

Anonymous said...

Mas lalu na aku agyang Me-KickOut ku SEMINARYU it was Great! uling detang E mengalingwan kanaku " Mad " makatatak quing Isip at Pusu da. Ing Puro Pamag-pakayli ku during and after the Class. Until now Fresh pamurin ing S.H.S Days ku. I'm always at the Section B until my last 3rd Year ! Boom Quick-Out !!!!!!

phill said...

Hello shs 71

phill sanchez shs class of 71, hello to my old school grads, the best batch....

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