The cold breeze gives off a feeling that Christmas is near; a few hours to go and it is November first. Young people are walking around the streets of Sampaloc, most of them dressed. I would find out later on that they would be attending the disco night at the amphitheater. It has been sort of a tradition in the place which the youth look forward to. I can see the perky attitude of girls and boys waiting to get inside as I watch from the stairs in the open plaza.
Four children surround me as we sit in the stairs at the town plaza at that time of the night; the one on my right is Teresa, the giggly one. On my left, Cyril. Standing in front of me is John who holds a gel in his hand which he bought for his get-up for the ‘disco night’. Beside him, on Cyril’s front, is Reynan—John’s best friend.
“Isasayaw kita, Ma’am!” John tells me proudly with a sneer. He then, shows me his P20 bill which he took from his pocket. “Kaya nga kami may bente dito, Ma’am. Sasali kami diyan sa sayawan.”
John, albeit trying to sound like a man, is a picture of innocence. He tries to appear cool with the way he moves his head, he bites his lips, moves his eyes. It’s like he’s copying someone; a movie or a basketball star maybe. But the way he speaks denies him of the image he wants to project. He still talks like a kid. He tells me stories non-stop and he never gets tired. John sounded smart, too. Truth be told also, he is one of the most promising students in my acting class. I actually cannot follow with every word John says but I can only be amused with how animated his stories are, my mind afloat on its own world sometimes. These four kids do not know each other but they do have common friends and common issues. I can only laugh at their issues like it’s the issue of their lives and it’s the toughest problem. But I do enjoy the fact that these kids, unlike the city kids who drool over their computers and gadgets, even fetched me to get out and walk. They do not run out of things to do. They even had me eating mami nearby, John’s treat.
Some children in the plaza were playing with fireworks; some were playing tag. Reynan is starting to share his own stories while we listen, the other three butting in as in this town, all of them know each other. I can only stare and laugh with these kids as their kwentuhan shifts to school, to the people they know, to ‘asaran’ and then back to our workshop. There is something with the ten year olds in the class which makes them stand out. I think it would have to be their innocence and purity altogether. They are not conscious with how they should do things and how should they appear before their fellow workshoppers. This purity makes them give a sincere performance.
We kept on talking about our own lives, the workshop, they ask questions and then I answer. The topic shifts to their dreams and ambitions. John and Reynan want to be basketball stars. I made the four of them promise they will never, ever smoke. All of them promised and assured me they will achieve their dreams. Suddenly, Reynan blurted out, ‘Ma’am, hindi ito ang huling pagkikita natin. Magkikita pa tayo.’
I smiled and was greatly touched. I just knew right there and then why the ten year olds are the best in my class. Someday, they will forget me and then they will forget that we ever ate together, swam in the river, ate mami but the purity of their sincerity is something we teachers always treasure greatly and bring with us forever.