School was an odyssey of mixed feelings and happenings from my end –it had done me good as well as ruptured my interiors throughout its lengthy span. For months that I was attending kindergarten in our town’s modest exclusive all-girl school, my hands would get cold as ice — out of heebie-jeebies — each morning before class would commence. A classmate sitting behind could’ve caught aware and took advantage of my wussiness. She would pull my hand, position it beneath her desk and dig her nails onto its flesh for an entire breaktime. I was afraid of her, too wimpy to pull back my hand, so I let her do it to me again and again. My mother saw the fresh wounds all over my hands one day and off she went to complain to the teacher. A transfer of seats took place and that seemed to be the end of it.
It was the same teacher, however, from my kindergarten days who’d cause me humiliation when I was too shy to shake my hips during a whole-group dance competition. My self-consciousness engendered a silly supposition the audience–many of them my neighbors–eyes were mainly on me while the music was blaring over the expanse of the school playground. When our class failed to bag the top prize, no need to guess who she blamed it on. She even bitterly recounted and reenacted my lethargic dance moves in front of the class for more than a week.
Then I turned Grade One and grew brilliant at spelling English words and was awarded 2nd best at an annual Spelling Bee contest. Unfortunately our family had to move from Caloocan to Quezon City. A major academic change — this time to a smaller substandard coed elementary school. From Our Lady of Grace Academy to Our Lady of Salvation School. 😛
Mestiza types especially the fair-skinned ones with noses on the prominent side could catch attention around average-class localities. Even though my looks were hardly impressive in the traditional sense I was deemed lovely, somehow, by regular citizens due to my Spanish roots. So throughout gradeschool, as part of our recreation during recess or break periods, all the passably nice-looking girls including me would line up to take the role of Miss Universe contestants. (Filipinos by the way are forever enamored of beauty pageants). “Miss Spain” as my frequent label; winners would be announced one by one from fifth to second runner up. I’d always finish as one of the two remaining candidates. “And the Miss Universe goes to …!!!” Surprise, it would be me. Often. Unanimously. Persistently. 97% of the time. Got used to paper crowns being placed on the top of my head. Still perplexing to this day…. Had they been pulling a prank at my expense 🙂 ? Probably not. It doesn’t matter; it’s become one of the fine memories I’d want to keep.