Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ghosts by Brittany Jao Go

There are some things that only night and the darkness it brings can see with utmost clarity, some things that can only be brought to light when the brightness of the day has disappeared.

And so I wait until darkness reigns.

I stand in the middle of the front lobby. A couple of light bulbs are lit to brighten a few corners of the school. I can hear the soft ticking of the clock hung high up on the wall. The time is 10:30 p.m.

Few other sounds can be heard. There is the constant crack of a hammer from the building construction nearby, a locker door slamming at the gym two floors above, and there is the slightest rustle of the wind telling me that the ghosts are out to play tonight.

I turn to begin my weekly Friday night prowl about the dark corridors of the school. I slip through the green metal gate of the first corridor. I pass a door or two, pausing in front of the next classroom.

I can see my reflection in the glass pane as I look through it.

There are small chairs stacked on top of rectangular tables positioned neatly around the room. An array of colored squares makes an interesting pattern on the floor. Tacked on the bulletin board are artworks obviously created by tiny hands.

It is a kindergarten classroom. This is where the journey had begun for most, a long journey that was altogether too short.

I step as close to the door as is possible. My heartbeats must have somehow reached my ears, as they are the only things I can now hear. The ghosts are about to make their presence felt.

And in they come, filling the darkness of the classroom and corridor with a flash of light. I can see them—images that are faint, faded, fleeting.

But the ghosts that come aren’t the dreary, creepy figures that frighten. The ghosts that come don’t moan and groan, nor do they walk with clanking chains.

They come in quick flashes of color, of light, of smiles, of laughter.
I see children taking out their snacks for recess. I see a game of tag played on the old red flooring of the back lobby. I see a seven-year-old girl giving a letter to her best friend.

I see math trainees playing Ice/Water without being caught. I see grade-schoolers rehearsing for a play, reenacting Lapu-Lapu’s heroism.

I see freshmen cheering as they watched their first basketball game. I see students filming their versions of a movie about a wimpy kid.

They are the ghosts of the past.

But they are not my only companions.

The ghosts of the future are there to join me as well.

I see the seven-year-old girl now grown up, probably in her early twenties. She is standing beside the teacher’s table, writing on the board while talking about run-on sentences and dangling participles.

Teaching must be a difficult profession. She looks tired and her voice sounds hoarse. I guess that’s part of the trade. But I look in her eyes and I see the sparkle. That, too, is part of the trade, the part that makes everything worthwhile.

The teacher suddenly turns towards the door and sees me peering in. She smiles and I smile back.

Funny. The lady looks a lot like me.

I continue my trek round the school. At each classroom I stop at, there will be that sudden flash and the arrival of more ghosts.

Every scene is different yet every scene is familiar.

Whenever my Friday night stroll ends, I always find myself back at the front lobby, listening to the ticking of the clock once more.

I turn towards the Panda that looks over the school day after day, night after night.

He sees more ghosts than I do, I’m sure. You can tell from his eyes.

He’s proud of every ghost he sees because he’s proud of the people they’ve become.

I look back at the Panda, and I nod my thanks.

I turn to leave.

This may very well be the last of my nighttime strolls in school, at least for quite a while.

My parents and I are migrating to Canada in a few days. It’s a trial trip. We’ll be staying there from five days to five years, I don’t know.

In the meantime, I am packing the ghosts in my suitcase.

The ghosts of the past are my memories.

The ghosts of the future are my hopes.

They go wherever I go.

The ghosts of the past provide me with reasons for coming back.

The ghosts of the future give me the assurance that I will.

Five days, five weeks, five months, or five years, I will.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Grade-Conscious By Sheila Grace Tan

No other feeling can compare with the agitation one feels in seeing the teacher enter the classroom holding a pile of brown papers—well, for the grade-conscious, at least. Usually, teachers give them out one by one. After the teacher calls the student’s name out loud, the student stands up. Thoughts immediately rush to his head—“Did I pass?” or “I hope I got at least a 90!” A stream of seemingly endless questions goes through his mind until the crucial moment when the student gets the paper and takes a peek at the grade—the number that signifies a whole night’s hard work, a tutor’s guidance, or a quick cramming session five minutes before the test. I could go on babbling about how students stress over tests, and now I wonder: are tests and grades all we really care about? It seems like many of us, I myself included, are so preoccupied with tests. Aside from making friends, do we go to school mainly to ace tests, or get the grade good enough to pass, and call it a day?

I have to admit that there’s nothing quite like seeing a substantial grade and feeling a sense of fulfillment after spending one whole night studying, reviewing, and, more often than not, memorizing. Still, I can’t help stopping and thinking about what I have been doing for the past twelve years. Have I actually been learning in school? Or have I been just answering questions in tests, just filling in the blanks?

I always find myself getting stressed over a bad grade, ranting when I get a 99 for a careless mistake, and almost feeling depressed when I fail. Now that I think about it, why make a big fuss out of numbers? Why bother aiming for that elusive 100 and begging the teacher for “plus points” when one actually doesn’t learn anything?

Perhaps grades are like mirrors that reflect one’s diligence or even intelligence, but I don’t think they are enough to depict how much you’ve learned. A 100 can be the product of a night’s hard work, days of practice, the so-called chamba or luck for others, or the sheer genius of those lucky few. 80 plusses? Not enough for the overachievers but a true blessing for many. Meanwhile, a failing grade may seem like the end of the world for the grade-conscious, but now, I realize I should look at a failing grade as a lesson that will always make a mark on me. Failing should not be something that leads to despair and hopelessness but rather a stepping-stone to improvement. What’s wrong with getting a 60 plus when one can learn something from it? That failing grade can even push one to exert more effort and do better. At the end of the day, I think one learns more from mistakes than from accomplishments.

Yes, getting good grades and passing tests do give us a sense of fulfillment, but I believe that what’s more important is for the lessons we study to light a fire inside us, give us something to think about on our way home, and, even better, ignite our curiosity to learn more. Yes, getting good grades and passing quizzes are great, but seizing the perfect opportunity to acquire endless knowledge should be our reason for coming to school. That’s what school is for. That’s real education.

We squeal with delight upon knowing we get bonus points. We scramble and line up at the canteen to photocopy a test guide. Both are mere aids to pass tests. A student who receives a perfect score after memorizing words from a test guide has nothing to be proud of. A student who attains honors but cannot apply school-taught concepts in real life is hardly praiseworthy. We must look beyond test guides, beyond bonus points, beyond textbooks. We must not cease to remember that lessons are there not to be memorized and written blindly on an answer sheet. Again, getting good grades is nice. By simply memorizing words and hoping not to forget them when it’s time to take the test, however, we are ignoring the beauty that lies behind Chinese culture and history, the unique feeling of contentment we get from answering a tricky math question, and the wisdom we gain from reading stories with beautiful lessons.

Sometimes, we get so hung up on getting good grades and passing tests that we fail to see the beauty of knowledge and the real meaning of learning. As we get older, go through the stages of school, finish college, and get over those stressful grades, we must still have relentless passion for seeking knowledge and being curious about our world.

I think this is how we should look at tests and grades. Maybe it’s time to change our perspective and approach to getting an education. After all, a life spent learning is a life well-spent. Learning is better than studying. Listening and asking questions are better than plainly sitting in class and waiting for the bell to ring. Understanding is better than memorizing. Being inquisitive and imaginative are better than blindly saying yes to everything the teacher says. We now have a good reason to start looking at grades differently. So, the next time you get a hundred, ask yourself, “Did I actually learn something?” and make sure you really understood the lesson.

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. ~Mortimer Adler

Friday, February 25, 2011

Language of Teenagers by Julie Ann Yap

The world sees us through a cloud;
They barely hear our voice, our shout.
A shadow of distrust is barring the door
Of understanding that we yearn for.
They think we mean trouble
For we are young; our spirits are raw.
They think we are not yet able.
We are considered defiant and stubborn
For we long to be on our own;
We always want them to leave us alone.
But how could they possibly fathom
Who we really are unless they listen?
To the language that we speak,
To the sound we utter,
To the impression we want to make.
Because we like risks, we want to take chances,
Mistakes are often committed.
But how can one walk without having stumbled?
How can we learn if not by falling?
Release is what we desire
For in ourselves we have faith.
We will complete the journey and we will be great.
Individuality is what we speak of.
By doing wild things, we stand out from the rest
And no matter what they say, no matter how,
We will achieve success.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Parisian Life by Janina Paula Sy

What are you going to do if you suddenly find yourself stranded in a foreign land like Paris, France? Will you rush to the nearest restaurant to acquaint yourself with mouth-watering French dishes, head straight to the nearest shopping district to purchase the finest and hippest clothing in town, or simply wander about and take in the breathtaking sights?

Deemed the commercial and industrial center of the whole of France, Paris is renowned for its stately historical sites, numerous restaurants, unusual sidewalk cafés, wonderful theaters, stirring nightclubs, and lush parks, and gardens. Aptly called the "City of Light," with chestnut trees lining up its principal avenues, Paris is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Millions of tourists flock to this wonderful city each year, their reason mainly to witness the dazzling glamor of Paris themselves.

Given these facts, one can see how visiting the city will certainly be a wonderful experience. Knowing the dashing personalities of Paris - the ineffably fascinating French - will , without question, give the travelers an assurance of having a most delightful and pleasurable stay in the most romantic, sought-after tourist destination worldwide.

Here are a few juicy tidbits about some of the noteworthy characteristics of the French. These undeniably interesting facts will definitely satisfy your French cravings!

Osculation is often associated with French individuals. In line with the famed reputation of the French as the best kissers in existence, foreigners usually have rather exotic fantasies involving themselves and their hunky francais or the oh-so-sexy francaise. These drop-dead gorgeous French lads and the ravishing, sultry French lasses possibly constitute one of Paris's chief attractions.

Believed to be the planet's trendsetters, the French personify sheer elegance and stylish sophistication. Unlike the nearly naked models and personalities we often see on television, the French prefer formal get-ups. A good number of well-known designers began their craft of creating highly fashionable apparel in Paris, for they reckoned that the city is truly the perfect place where new models may develop. That is probably why the French dress with great refinement even up to now.

Brimming with intense passion for logic, the French have a penchant for good and sensible arguments. They tend to argue dynamically with others, but they only take these arguments as a form of amusement. In truth, they respect people who can offer a rational dispute and hold their ground. Aside from their love for logic, they appreciate their language greatly. They are fond of sprightly conversation and eloquent speakers.

With the little guide I have given above, you now have an idea of what the French are like. Their distinct personalities will surely entertain you as you walk down those indescribably marvelous Parisian streets. So what are you waiting for? Start packing your bags and take the next plane to Paris!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Life and the City by Kristel Kaye Chua

Days create seasons of their own.

As I looked out the window into the street and saw the numerous cars illuminating the night, I felt strangely cosmopolitan, and very alone. The wind passed by and I heard a memory whisper to me as if from another lifetime. I breathed in and what I expelled was more than hot breath; it was life in its purest form. I stood there, unaware of my surroundings, suddenly caught in the enormousness of the turmoil happening inside me. I could conquer the world, really I could. In truth, life can be narrowed down into being an extremely simple matter. The orange glow of the sky gave me power, and the lights of the buildings provided me with a kind of courage so inexplicable only the spirits present for that split second of revelation could have understood me. I saw through the bars of the window and I felt my inner struggle with life. I remembered the countless times of losing hope in the life and the many times of wanting to give up on it altogether. I had no idea what direction my rally for life was heading. I led a relatively healthy existence; I was well fed, well clothed, well loved, did almost everything I pleased, and enjoyed the liberties not everyone had a chance of enjoying. What scared me the most was not knowing what I was really looking for.

There were times when I felt that I lived only for the time in space between dreams and reality, where I could float within them. Even if sadness was all humanity had, I would still cling to it. And at that point, I started to appreciate all the small, meaningful things in life, and I found myself being able to see what was beneath the face of everything. The more I advanced in life, the more the mystery increased. In my reflection, I saw myself, only myself. I was none of the special person I promised myself ages ago I would be and none of the extraordinary prodigy I dreamed about, just a bag of confused junk. The mirror stared back and I asked who I was. I asked what Life was exactly. I stood once more for a long time. The moment I turned away I knew there would never be an answer to that question. I left some part of myself behind that thing, and oddly, I felt at peace with myself, with the mirror, with the world.

Life is something so intangible, it can never be defined. It is just like the dust that passes before my eyes. All I can do is just look at it, but I can never keep it with me forever. It is never one hundred percent mine. Life travels and, as it does, it lets itself be felt through mysterious ways. It's something so cosmic, it rules in a world of its own.


Kristel is currently involved in her family business.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Can You See Me Now? by Maxine Maia Ang

The green grass giggled softly under my feet as I half-hopped, half-skipped over to the little boy sitting quietly under the tree. He was huddled close to the tree and hugging his knees, a brown slip of a boy that was an island lost in the vastness of the field. I snuck up behind him and shouted, "Boo!" His eyes lit up and scrambled to his feet.

"You're here! You're here! What game do you want to play? Do you want to go down to the creek and swim? Do you want to play tag?" He was hopping from foot to foot, smiling a smile that proudly displayed his two missing front teeth. I grinned at his enthusiasm.

"Why don't we do all of them?" I grabbed his hand, but before we could take a step, a woman's voice rang out.

"Jun? Where are you going?" She appeared, first her head, and then the rest of her body as she made her way up to the small hill we were standing on. "I'm going to go play with my new friend, Carlo. May we go, please?" Jun's eyes wore a haunting sheen of loneliness as he gazed up to his scowling mother. "You know I don't want you far away from the farm. Who is this Carlo anyway?"

"He is." Jun happily pushed me towards his mom.

"Hello." I offered my hand. Jun's mother, however, saw right past me. Her face played host to several emotions - confusion, surprised, wonder - before shouting, "Where? I don't see him?" Her face reddened with a fear thinly veiled with anger.

"Here! Can't you see him?" Jun was bewildered. He was frustrated with his mother's inability to see his new friend. "Why can't you see him?" He's standing right in front of you!" His little chest heaved with each excited pant. As for myself, I simply stepped back a few paces and quietly observed the scene, a scene I had already witnessed a thousand times, with the thousand different little Juns and with a thousand different mothers. I was not surprised by each party's reaction; they were to be expected in my field of work. You see, I am an imaginary friend.

There are a thousand of us roaming the earth, but each child can only see one of us, only one who would be able to understand him the best. People, mostly parents, have these misconceptions that we aren't real just because they can't see us. Even we have a hard time explaining to the kids why other people can't talk to us as they do. What is real anyway? I get confused sometimes when parents tell their kids we aren't real. I know I'm real because I know I exist. I exist very plainly to these kids, if only for a few weeks, a few months at most. When a child plays with me, when he tells me his secrets, and when he accepts me as a friend, I could live and laugh and dream like any normal boy could. I would exist technically as a figment of his imagination, but I would be something more. I dry the lonely child's unshed tears at night; I shield him in his moments of pain. I hear the mute child's plea for affection, and I see the dreams the blind child paints in his mind.

That summer, Jun and I spent every moment we had together. We splashed along the shore while the moon hung full and low in the sky, climbed rocky hills together, and lazed around on flat, sun-warmed rocks by the river. We fell asleep some nights by the yellow curtain of the oil lamp on the floor of their hut, on the grass from the exhaustion of counting the stars in the sky. I traveled a lot of places that summer. I liked the little cave by the waterfall where we often pretended we were pirates guarding our hidden treasure and the rocky ledge overlooking the beach where we went to sometimes to eat, but I think I loved our little hill where we first met and often went to play the most.

As the summer ended, Jun began to slowly gather the confidence to play with the other boys from the other barrios. More and more days went by during which we wouldn't spend any time together. I would wake up to find him gone and patiently wait for him to return each night, He would then regale me with stories about things he'd done that day, promising me that we would do the same things the next day. I smiled sadly and waited in vain.

One day, while I was sitting alone underneath the tree on our little hill, Jun showed up with somebody, a boy who belonged to a barrio not far from Jun's. They were laughing over a joke Jun had said. Sitting just a few feet away from them, I waved to Jun a few times, but he didn't acknowledge my greeting. Jun's happy eyes danced from everywhere, everywhere but me, when, with a heavy thud of my heart, I realized he couldn't see me anymore.

This is the day each of us dreads - the day when our friend wouldn't see us anymore. We can't prevent this any more that we can prevent the rain from falling. Everybody moves on. Friends come and go. Some very luck people get to spend all their lives being with someone they love, but for the most part, everyone grows up. Life is a series of meeting people and learning to let go. Every moment spent together lives within our hearts. To be loved purely and unconditionally by someone, even for a little while, makes each day beautiful, but the knowledge that things won't always be that way and that there will come a day that both of you will have to let go is what makes each minute doubly beautiful.

Jun and his friends made a perfect picture - two boys standing close together laughing and smiling with the golden afternoon sun touching the two dark heads close to each other. I sat there for the longest time, as my vision blurred with tears fro the friend who couldn't see me anymore. Letting go of someone is never easy, especially when that someone was a best friend like Jun. I stood up quietly, forgetting he wouldn't be able able to hear me. I walked past him and left his friend and him as they watched the sun paint its slow drama across the horizon in dying bursts of oranges and reds while I made my way slowly down the hill.


Maxine is currently taking up Management Honors at the Atenedo de Manila University. She graduated from Uno High School in 2007.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bisaya - Not A Cheap Language by Camille Dionzon

I want to learn how to speak Bisaya.

At this point you readers may have a lot of speculations as to why I would want to do such. Some of the common reasons are: one, I might have fallen in love with a Visayan guy; two, I might be interested in joining the Abu Sayyaf; three, I might be moving to a province in the Visayas in the future; and finally, I might be so frustrated in trying to speak English and Chinese that all I want is a breath of fresh air. No matter how credible the aforementioned reasons are, mine are not included above. Let me elaborate.

I have been exposed to Bisaya since I was a kid. My mom was born and raised in Dipolog (a province somewhere in the South), and we have been spending our summer and semestral breaks there ever since my toddler years. I could understand seven out of ten Visayan words, but I was hesitant to make other people aware of this.

I didn't want to speak Bisaya because I thought it was a "cheap" language. My devilish ego could not tolerate the fact that I would be speaking the same language that the muchachas were speaking. I was a cute child then, so they simply tolerated my refusal to speak in their tongue, laughed about my naivete, and talked to me in Tagalog.

A few years later, however, the situation somehow changed.

It was the summer of 1996 when I had to spend the entire vacation in Dipolog. During the birthday party of my cousin, I tried to muster enough guts to talk to one of his friends. I thought I actually made a new friend right then and there, but the guy later gave up on our conversation because he found it hard to talk to me in Tagalog. For the first time, my being "a girl from Manila" didn't work for me. I felt like the odd girl out, and it was hard for me to accept the fact that I was slowly slipping into the "loser, loner" category. Luckily, an in-law of my cousin talked to me, and we hit it off.

That wasn't the first time that I was let down by my attitude towards Bisaya. Imagine having to ask someone to tag along every time you go out of the house just so you can have an official interpreter. Can you stand being the subject of mockery and ridicule just because you have said the wrong thing? It certainly wasn't nice when people said, "Ibaligya na sa merkado" (translation: "Sell her in the market") just because I was considered "imported." I also heard a friend of my kabarkada say, "I think we Visayans have an edge over those Manileños out there. We can always understand what they're trying to say, but they would have to hire an interpreter just to figure out words that are coming out four mouths." Ouch.

My ultimate reason why I want to be able to converse in Bisaya occurred to me just this summer when I voulunteered to teach kindergarten in the community school. Piece of cake, I thought to myself. I'd talk to the kids in English; I was pretty sure they could understand me. When the orientation day came, I realized how poor the standard of education in the province was. The kids couldn't dig my instructions, and I had to rely on my fellow teacher to tell the kids what to do. Fortunately, they slowly learned to follow simple directions and eventually turned out to be quite good. The most talented pupil in the batch was a girl named Nikki. During the final ceremonies, she tugged at my skirt and whispered, "Teacher, you are quite pretty today." I was touched by the effort she exerted into making me feel good about myslef; she even spoke in Tagalog despite her heavy Visayan accent. I also took her compliment as a sign of her gratefulness for my training her. The sad thing was I couldn't return her compliment because I didn't know what to say. All I could do was to hug her and tell her, "You're a wonderful kid. I'm so happy to be your teacher." I couldn't sleep that night because of both happiness and frustration.

After all my experiences I have realized all the prejudice, embarrassment, and helplessness that the Visayans have gone through all their lives just because of their heavy accent. It is really terrible to feel like an alien in your own native land. I now understand that Bisaya is not a "cheap" language, nor is it a sign of inferiority. Maybe the Visayans really do have an edge over us.

From this day forth, I shall learn to speak Bisaya, and next summer, when I teach the kids in Dipolog again, I'll use the same dialect they're using. When Nikki comes up to me and compliments me again, I'll return the compliment.


This article won the Quintin Yuyitong Award for Best Feature Article in 2001. Camille Dionzon got her medical degree at the University of Santo Tomas and passed the medical board in 2010.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

True Friends by Eunice Ang

Sometimes I ask myself
Are my friends real or are they fake?
Are they true friends
Or do they put my life at stake?

If one is a true friend
Upon him you can depend.
Your secrets are safe
In him you can trust.

A friend is important to me.
I trust him too much, you see
But when he plays tricks on me
That's when I get fed up and flee.

When I need someone at my side,
A true friend is always there for me,
Comforting me and asking me
What in the world is bothering me.

When I've got a problem,
A true friend can always see.
He knows what I need
He is the friend for me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Unean Paradox by Jacqueline Suzette Yu

Not many people know what a Unean is.

If you have ever lived in Binondo or spent most of your primary years studying at one of the Chinese-Filipino schools dotting Metro Manila, then you just might have an idea of who Uneans are. If you’re still in the dark, then let me clarify by identifying Uneans as those students who conscientiously attend each class in that small high school on Alvarado Extension, Tondo, Manila. At least, that is what most non-Uneans believe.

In the Chinese-Filipino community, Uno High School has the reputation of having a tough curriculum. People almost always utter your name or the name of your school in hushed, reverent tones. If they try to speak nonchalantly, there still remains a certain inflection in their voices, giving the impression that either you have impressed them with your supposed mental prowess or you have baffled them for wanting to make your life harder by remaining in a school with a rigorous academic environment. Either way, whether you are seen as a well-rounded genius or a misunderstood youth, people expect you to be a trivia master or be extremely proficient in mathematics, English, and Chinese. Consequently, claiming or saying that you study or have studied at Uno has become a challenge to live up to.

I was a Unean for nearly twelve years of my life. I can still remember my apprehension during the first day of school in kindergarten. There were so many new faces, I was extremely shy, and I missed my best friend, Tiffany, from my old school. A curly-haired girl named Stephanie asked me my name, and from that innocent question, we became inseparable for quite a number of years. I can still recall the excitement I would feel every time I would perform in a school program or when I became a cheerleader for the pep squad. I remember too the giddiness of experiencing puppy love and pining for my secret crushes. I won’t forget a lot of things — being constantly summoned to fall in a straight line, being reminded that running was prohibited in the playground, raising money and aiming to top the donations given the previous year for the annual Christmas fund drive, and being wary of the legendary surveillance cameras that stood guard in almost every nook and cranny of the school. Through all these, the challenge to maintain above-average grades was foremost in my mind.

You see, despite the eccentricities associated with being a Unean, I must admit that I wanted to be identified with those qualities. In my young mind, it was better to be regarded different than to be part of the herd. Among my relatives, my sister and I were the only ones sent to study at Uno. Even among the children of my parents’ friends, only a few of them had attempted to matriculate in Uno. My sister and I were not the same as everybody else, and for me, that was the absolute best! It didn’t matter that I had to spend longer hours poring over my books, that I was relatively inexperienced in taking school field trips, or that I almost had no social life outside my school friends and studies. I was determined to be one of the remarkable students that would be graduating from Uno High School.

Imagine my consternation when I reached college and truly realized that I wasn’t as special as I originally thought I was. There were hundreds, even thousands, of others who were better equipped than I was for the university academe. Not only were they smarter than I was, they had also gone on countless field trips, participated in several interscholastic activities, were part of numerous summer camps, and were way more adept in sports than I could ever be. Adding insult to injury, many students outside the Chinese-Filipino community had not even heard of Uno High School. As one fellow Unean would recount later on, a female college classmate had actually insisted that the “Uno” for Uno High School was an acronym for something! It was humbling and frustrating at the same time because it seemed like all the years and effort I put into being the “ideal” Unean was all for nothing.

I had to find a way to cope with college life fast, and fortunately, it wasn’t long before I was keeping up with my fellow geeks. I was far from the best, but at least, I could finally claim that I could hold my own in examinations and presentations. My dream of learning any kind of sports would remain elusive to me, but going to retreats, taking part in immersion programs, and attending alternative classes had at last become the norm for me.

At that time, I thought my innate perverseness triggered my coping mechanisms. However, it would be too presumptuous of me to fully take credit for surviving the unexpected outside the controlled environment of Uno. In hindsight, the time I spent studying at Uno had instilled some intangibles in me, aside from a good academic record. To go through each grade level without failing in Uno is certainly an accomplishment, but to actually thrive in the Unean curriculum means one must have some sort of self-discipline. The yearly fund drives held in school and the free medical services given by the alumni had made me more aware of and compassionate for the people less fortunate than I am. Of course, after spending twelve years believing that we had been strictly monitored through the school cameras, I can honestly say that I’m less inclined to go into mischief (although the urge remains) and tend to think first of how my actions would affect others.

It’s interesting to note that I only understood what being a Unean is after I had graduated from Uno. What I believed to be shortcomings of Uno High School were actually life lessons that have prompted me to constantly seek excellence in my life. I was too caught up in comparing the tangibles with colleagues from other schools that I failed to realize that my formative years were spent on learning how to become a better student and a better person. Self-discipline, compassion, altruism, having a healthy sense of right and wrong, awareness of our effects on the world and people in general — these are some of the most essential things one would need to lead a happy life, and I am proud to say that most Uneans, even if we are relatively few and unknown, are fully equipped with these to live the good life.

Not many people know who Uneans are, but the moment they get to know us, they will certainly never forget us.


When not immersed in books and caffeine, Jacq spends her time working as a French/Chinese translator for a multinational Swiss company (so that she can afford her books and strongly caffeinated coffee). In the rare moments that she's decaffeinated enough to be sane, she makes nearly impossible plans on how to travel the world on less than 200 dollars. She has finally forgiven herself for being a perennial dreamer, but she still can't make up her mind whether she prefers being a rock star or the first female UN Secretary-General.