Blessed Fridays. Why couldn’t all days in a week be Fridays?
The day of the retreat had finally come. I had been waiting for this day in like, forever. Finally, I’d be able to go back to Bantayan and experience the beaches I had been planning to go to but failed to do so because of time constraints and the people who I was supposed to go with. Sure, I was into traveling but I just couldn’t do it without a friend or two to accompany me.
All the teachers who were assigned to attend the retreat were already in the audio-visual room for the meeting and the final preparations. The school bus would pick us up at five, taking us to Hagnaya port in more or less four to five hours. The student council officers were ready with their things and had had their consent forms all signed. I’d surely enjoy myself even with the cumbersome conjunction of minding the students’ security.
Including Finlay. Especially Finlay.
The school’s AVR was not spacious; they had to move the equipment to the sides to give enough room for us in the middle to conduct the meeting. The atmosphere kind of reminded me the first time I attended an open forum during high school—serious and solemn but at the same time ghastly. Chairs were dotting the middle area with some teachers already sitting and waiting for teacher Mary to arrive and officially start the meeting. Veruca was waving at the back portion of the room, gesturing for me to come. She surely could come in handy at times like this.
I sat beside her on one of the chairs she had reserved for us. Blanch and Arjun were not yet around. Perhaps they were prepping their stuff for the retreat. I spotted Chevonne talking with Jelly and her gang in the front row seats.
“Okay, everyone, may I have all of you properly seated,” teacher Mary instructed as soon as she stepped inside the room. She was impeccably dressed in our Friday uniform. This was the only day that I liked our dress code because we only had to wear our last Teachers’ Day outfit, which was an orange polo-shirt with an ‘ANHS teacher’ print on it. Our names were also printed at the topmost part of the back. “To start the meeting, let’s have teacher Selena for the opening prayer.”
We all bowed our heads, and most of us did the sign of the cross. Teacher Selena led the prayer. The silence, together with the mood of the room, took this simple prayer to something too surreal to explain. We took our seats right after.
“Thank you for that, teacher Selena. Now, our meeting for this week will mostly be focusing on the five-day retreat in Bantayan Island. Manong Trinidad is already waiting for us at the school grounds. I have already given instructions for the other teachers who are not coming with us to load the things we need on the bus. I hope that all the officers have already turned in their consent forms. May I know those who have not submitted yet? This is for the advisers who are handling an officer.”
“Okay, very good. Now, I will be announcing the names of the attending teachers. Say ‘here’ once your name is called,” teacher Mary said. She grabbed her planner from the table.
“12A adviser, Vhina Escorita.”
“12B adviser, Ritchelle Berduda.”
“11A adviser, Alyssa Gonzales.”
“Here.” It looked like she was keeping in mind that the instruction was just to say “here”. By the way, we taught the same subject.
“11B adviser, Selena Guzman. Actually, no need to answer that. How about 11C adviser, Norkie Verde?”
“Here,” he replied with a deep voice. How I wished I had a manly voice just like his.
“10A adviser, Josh Kabungcag.”
“Here.” I just kept it simple. No need for extravagance.
“10B adviser, Samuel Cuer.”
“Where is teacher Samuel? Anyone?”
“Cher, I think he’s meeting one of his student’s parents. He told me earlier, during lunch,” teacher Norkie replied. They might be friends or whatever.
“Okay, but I have not received any info from him. Kindly tell him to give me prior notice next time. Moving on. 10D adviser, Jelly Diaz.”
“Present, cher,” she replied with utmost integrity, looking like a primary schooler. What on Earth was that? The instruction was simple, yet she managed to change it? Well, seemed like teacher Mary didn’t care about it.
“8B adviser, Arjun Lovindina.”
“Here,” he squeaked in a girly voice, which made some teachers chuckle—including me. Teacher Mary didn’t like it, so we refrained from chuckling. Once again, she continued with formality.
“8C adviser, Veruca Navarro.”
“7A adviser, Blanch Mendez.”
“Here!” Her bubbliness was giving off a vibe that was too cute not to notice. Don’t get me wrong. I already had my eyes on Chevonne.
“And, 7C adviser, Chevonne Amamapaw.”
“Here,” she said. There, that was how you should reply properly. If only I could say, “Don’t worry, Chevonne, you’re also here in my heart.”
Now, that would be cringe-worthy.
“Who was not called?” teacher Mary asked.
“Good. Now, keep in mind that some of you may not be handling an officer, but still you need to keep the security of the students well-maintained. We are going to be out for five days straight and you will be held liable to anything that will happen to the students. I hope it’s clear with you all.
“Just a reminder, we will not be the only ones on the barge. There will be passengers other than us, so advisers who are handling an officer, kindly remind your student to behave properly—” she broke off and searched for someone in the crowd of teachers with her gaze. Then, she locked in, “—especially Priscilla, teacher Vhina.”
Vhina nodded her head. The way she did it had made me remember how my mother used to scold me about my misdoings back when I was a child wherein I’d just vigorously nod my head in agreement whenever she reached the “do you understand?” part, keeping it in a low but about-to-burst voice, just to make my apprehension be done the soonest. I wondered if it was just because of it or if it was something associated with fear.
“Well, I will not hold you for long. We need to prepare a lot of things. Teachers, kindly—” teacher Mary hesitated as soon as we all felt the building move. No, it was shaking.
“Alright, it’s a small one. Don’t panic. Just cover your heads. Wait for it to stop. Not yet. Teacher Norkie and teacher Josh, kindly guide the officers from the next room to the evacuation area. Ritchelle, not yet! And... Go!” teacher Mary cried when the quake ceased. It all went smoothly because it was normal for us already. It was not something new.
True, it was a small one compared to the first big earthquake that hit Cebu before.
I was a first-year college student back then. The teacher who was proctoring our exam during that time was an obese, middle-aged man with sunken cheeks. He didn’t care about his job and just handed the test papers out—no greetings at all. He was giving the instructions of the exam and I was doodling the back of my English notebook about how I’d get my crush that time to like me back when a verticalearthquake hit us. Everyone was hysterical. It seemed the drills we had done were useless; we ran for our lives. It was in the news for days.
Due to the sudden phenomenon, our departure had been moved the following day. Well, better be safe than sorry. All officers were sent home, including Finlay.
Things that you used to fear would surely turn to something insignificant and annoying in recurrence. These earthquakes were good examples.
The dawn was surely majestic and wonderful when I arrived at Hagnaya Port. The sky was painted with distinct shades of orange and red. It looked like a painter had thrown his palette out of his well-crafted anger, which depicted the rashly-made-but-awkwardly-stunning atmospheric skies. The vicinity was filled with the cries of deafening waves retreating to and fro and mumbles of soggy tires of trucks and buses against the dirty-wet soil. The area had been swept already, but still some types of trash lay dormant in every nook. The cleaners were surely not paid handsomely for the job. A nostalgic, mossy smell and the stingy, salty sea hit my olfactory nerves, which brought me down memory lane. Ah, those were the days.Hagnaya Port was the only port to receive passengers going to Bantayan Island—forth and back. The retreat house we would visit was situated near Kota beach. The earliest trip going there was at four-thirty, but we had all agreed we would have the nine-thirty trip. The call
My head hurt. My surroundings were a blur, and I found it hard to stand. My ears were ringing. I felt like there was blood flowing out of them. I tried to lean sideways using my right arm, and I touched my head with my left to check any injuries. It hurt. I twisted my hip and noticed that something was lying on my lower body. No, someone. And it hurt. I shook my head a little bit, and gradually, the environment became clearer. I first noticed that everything was blue. The person dangling limply on my legs was my student—Finlay. His disheveled, smooth, black bangs were complementing the overall shape of his small face that consisted of wide eyelids, broad nose, well-shaped lips, and a firm jaw. I had never been this annoyed with such a handsome face before. I remembered what happened. All my pure concern with this student turned to a feeling that I neglected for a long time, which I should have accepted all this time. I was enraged, and I badly wanted to shove this disrespectful
I was inside our room with Molly once again. She was not saying anything: she just kept on sobbing. Why ate? Why... hic... hic... I was faithful. I was faithful until the end. I even promised myself that I will be serious this time. I’m head over heels in love with him. But he said that he didn’t feel the same, that he never did. He just dated me because of my looks—never of my whole being, uwaaa...It was the worst. I was never good at consoling people and giving them pieces of advice. I tried comforting my sister but with no avail. I didn’t even know the boyfriend Molly was referring to since she had been dating down to an art, to begin with. I even attempted asking WikiHow about how to comfort someone who had just had a breakup when a message came in.Teacher Jelly, the headmaster wants to talk with you regarding your late submissions.It was teacher Grumpy. Oh, no. I had been passing my LPs late. I was about to send a reply when I heard a feeble voice calling me out: Elly... Elly
This might be some kind of mistake. Or a dream.The behemoth just five meters ahead of us—the one we found unrealistic—was a dilapidated edifice stretching from one side of the woods to the other. We couldn’t see the other end as it was heavily enshrouded with coconut-looking trees—which we all agreed to call “cocohair trees”—from the windows and cracks, but memory-wise, we might know how massive it was.The cry that we heard—and still going on—was of a fire alarm. It was still functional and noisy despite the stature of the building.I was about to tell everyone to be cautious with it when Chevonne, again, sprinted toward the main facade, entering through the wide-open main entrance. Shards of glass littered the threshold where glass doors should have been. We followed suit to avoid losing sight of her.The sound finally ceased. She might have turned it off already.We tiptoed our way in awe as we entered the main gate—ironically, without the gates themselves—and proceeded through the
The body had been removed from the cabin already. The crew found an open area just near the shore wherein they could bury the corpse along with his head. Other passengers were still crying about the incident in their makeshift tents while teacher Samuel, who was out gathering food inland for everyone to eat during the time the men wrecked the door of the cabin, was shocked and could not accept the news. Our only hope of getting out of the island was far-fetched by now.I peeked outside my tent and spotted teacher Mary at the far corner of the shore, near the coconut-looking trees (as the beach was surrounded by lots of them). She was surveying the area and trying her best to pinpoint the suspects who could have done such an act. The thing was, she perhaps still could not believe that something like that happened here, but the experience was not out of ordinary for her.She shared with me a bit about herself before we got down from the barge after finding the body of the late captain. I
“That’s a lot, Lucky Kid. Now, how do we start a fire again?”I grabbed two pieces of dry branches and attempted to create a fire by rubbing their surfaces against each other.Disclaimer first: I didn’t know how to create one, but I at least had an idea based on the books and videos that I had read and watched. It seemed not that complicated, just rubbing two pieces of wood together.The only lighting that we could get, which helped us in seeing just enough in the dark, was from the flashlight application of our cellphones. They finally had some use. However, it was still cold and we needed a fire to warm ourselves.It took some more minutes before I got tired and soon gave up. How come it was this difficult? I succumbed to the corner, near the elevator as we were currently staying on the first floor, ashamed of the humiliation I displayed in front of Chevonne. Lucky Kid was trying his best not to laugh at my incompetence.“Josh, I’ve got some stuff from the fifth floor. Maybe they can
Red. Blue. Yellow.After coming up with a decision to group the crowd into three to do different tasks, I immediately went back to my tent and slumped heavily on the makeshift bed. I couldn’t believe what was happening right then. Everything here was traumatizing. Everything was unreal.Was it too much to ask God just to meet someone romantically?I never asked to have this kind of situation.First of all, the main reason why I agreed to join the retreat was that I was expecting that I’d be able to meet someone—of course, romantically—on the island and have some fun. I wanted to at least be held by a guy even once in my life. That was the only thing that I was asking for. I didn’t care if the guy would be handsome or not as long as he was a guy then it was all good. Damn, I was desperate about finding one.Instead, this happened.I noticed that I was shivering, which I suspected was because I still couldn’t forget what happened in the captain’s cabin. It would surely haunt me for life.
It was almost night time and some of the passengers and crew were already gathering firewood from the woods. The whole area had been painted with velvet and scarlet red. It was a perfect canvas for us for the upcoming slaughter. They didn’t know that I was here, that we were here. They didn’t know that we were coming.This time, I’d make sure to find the creator out of this large crowd that father failed to do.I had recently become a thinker after being gauged and classified by Master to exceed the ten percent capacity of my brain, reaching a whopping fifty percent. She complimented me about how I possessed such talent, and it was my pleasure to always please her. If she was only some years younger, I’d surely marry her.I loved my Master. I was obsessed with her. The feeling was greater than what the meaning of the word “love” carried.There were three categories of thoughts to choose from; however, with the mission carved in me since I was born, I chose to have the one in the red ma