PSYCHOLOGY1, #1: That awkward moment when what was supposed to be a short essay turns into something like an autobiography.
I was born in the Philippines; spent my childhood in Cambodia; grew up (in a deeper sense) back in the Philippines.
When I was three-and-a-half years old, our family moved to Kampuchea (Cambodia) as missionaries. I remember spending my fourth and fifth birthdays in the Philippines, but the vast majority of my childhood was spent in Cambodia. It wasn’t until 2004, when I was nine years old, that I experienced living and studying in my birthplace, Laoag City, for a whole year.
I grew up speaking English. My maternal grandfather was a writer, and if you were to listen to a conversation between me and my cousins, you’d sum it up as “IloTagLish.” (ex. “Did you tell your ading to mureng her clothes na?” “Yes sa…ay, no pa gayam.”) You wouldn’t find me speaking that way even to my close friends, though. I also studied under the Accelerated Christian Education or School of Tomorrow curriculum, an English-based self-study (modular) system that had originally been created for homeschooling missionary kids, although licensed schools can actually make use of it. Though my school in Phnom Penh and Laoag used the same curriculum, I still had to deal with a language barrier because while my classmates at Academy International Cambodia were missionary kids like me who were accustomed to speaking English every day, I suddenly had Ilocano and Tagalog-speaking classmates when I entered Northside Bible Baptist Academy in fourth grade.
We returned to A.I.C. the following year. It was around this time that I began to be confused as to where “home” really was. Where did I really fit in? Nowhere, it seemed. In Cambodia we were foreigners in every sense of the word; in the Philippines, it was like being a stranger in your own land. Such thoughts didn’t depress me, but simply gave my personality a very nostalgic edge. I’d always find myself longing for home – “home” being a different place depending on which country we were in. For example, in fifth grade, I’d spend recess sulking about how boring A.I.C. was compared to N.B.B.A. But when I was back in N.B.B.A. for sixth grade (onwards), there would always be this hidden desire at the back of my mind to be back in the place in which I’d spent my childhood.
The last few months of sixth grade were some of the most memorable times of my life. Being part of a graduating class, it was my first time to feel the closeness that comes with being batchmates. Include the fact that I had a mutual crush with my best guy friend, and it was definitely a fun period.
Freshman year, though, wasn’t quite the best that it could have been. For no particular reason, my “best friend” and I suddenly started ignoring each other, and a silent awkwardness took the place of the relaxed and interesting conversations we’d been having just a few months before. I regret it deeply, that I wasted my first year of high school being depressed over allowing a single problem affect everything else – my studies, relationships with my other best friends, and even my spiritual life. My priorities were all jumbled up; however, the past is past and there’s no use crying over spilled milk.
Sophomore year was one of the best years of my life. My guy friend had transferred, and with him gone from N.B.B.A. I felt like I could breathe more freely, though I still missed him. I also made a new friend who somehow was able to bring out the louder part of my personality that year. I even started speaking Ilocano because unlike the rest of my close friends then, Krizza wasn’t the type who forced herself to speak English when talking to me. I was also appointed editor-in-chief of the school paper that year, a position I would maintain until graduation. Though it added a considerable amount of stress (and I get stressed easily) to my load, it was a way for me to improve not just at writing, but also at my computer skills because from then on I also doubled as the layout artist.
That year also marked my first time to join the National Student Convention, an annual event for schools around the Philippines using the A.C.E./S.O.T. curriculum. It was held in Puerto Princessa, Palawan; a week of competitions, rally nights during which the Word of God was preached, and bonding time with my schoolmates. I also won 5th place in a photography contest in the special effects category. I was no longer just the quiet nerd; now I was known in my batch as a writer as well as a photographer.
Junior year was my rollercoaster year. I spent the first month of the school year in Cambodia with my parents, but I was back by July. When I returned, I had an unexplainable sense of disconnection from the people around me. My classmates that year were my classmates during freshman year, the explanation for this being that at N.B.B.A., the high school students are divided into just two classes: freshmen and sophomores, and juniors and seniors. Perhaps being back with the people I’d been surrounded by during my less-than-happy first year of high school had an unconscious effect in me. In September of that year, I met an accident during our Academy Games (intramural games) that left me with a broken fibula, and I could not attend school regularly until early December. The curriculum proved very advantageous at this point, because I could simply do my work at home.
N.B.B.A. didn’t even go to the N.S.C. that year due to lack of preparation brought on by the supertyphoons Onday and Pepeng. Looking back on that year, I realize that I was neither emotionally nor spiritually healthy. On New Year’s Day 2010 I did something I am not proud of and would never do again. I won’t elaborate. Even my studies were again affected. I had always been advanced because I worked through the self-study modules (called PACEs) faster than most students, but it was only in junior year that I became lazy. It didn’t affect my academic performance much – I was that advanced – but I knew it was derogatory to my character. For the first time I found myself not doing my work during class hours and opting instead to chat with my seatmates. One afternoon my classmates were shocked to hear my name called out as my teacher enumerated those who were being noisy in class. I was no longer as well-behaved as I had been just several months ago. Granted I was still more quiet then 99% of my classmates (the exception was my best friend, Vashni), but I had forgotten that the standard isn’t other people – rather, God’s standard.
I think I matured the most during my senior year. At the start of the year, I felt like I was trying to bring back my sophomore self. Everything seemed to be going well. I started really concentrating on getting good grades, because I’d been set since fourth grade to take a degree in veterinary medicine, and in freshman year I made it my goal to get into the University of the Philippines. So at the start of senior year, the UPCAT was my first priority. When the UPCAT was done and I could fully concentrate on N.B.B.A., I began to realize that everything was my last – my last Academy Games, my last NSC, my last Christmas program, my last…everything. A blessing was that I did not break any bones during the Academy Games, but the real turning point of that year happened during the 18th National Student Convention held in Cagayan de Oro City, the event that made senior year my best year ever.
It was during the message for one of the rally nights. The speaker was Missionary John “Jay” Jackson. Though I was saved by grace through faith when I was four years old, it was only eleven years after at the NSC that I decided to wholly surrender my life to the Lord. It was that night that I gave up my lifelong dream to become a veterinarian. I realized that although I had accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, I had still been insisting on following my own personal goals and dreams – not considering if it would be the best way I could use my life to glorify God. That night, I felt as though a huge burden had been lifted from my heart. I wondered why I had wasted all those years chasing my selfish ambitions. No wonder I had been so unhappy despite being a Christian.
It was only after the NSC that I became an active church member, I admit. Thinking back to this time a year ago, I feel as though I was a completely different person. I used to be so determined to become a successful veterinarian, but when I got my UPCAT results last January everyone else was more excited than I was. Now I realize that it’s more important to know how to live for God than it is to know how to make a living.
In those four years of high school, Northside Bible Baptist Academy, in a way, became the home I’d never known. N.B.B.A. was where I first felt that I’d fit in, where I discovered and developed my talents, where I made my true friends, where I learned to take responsibility, where I learned to open up to the people around me, where I first felt that I could be a help to the people around me (being the youngest in the family, I more often than not felt useless around the house), where I gained the confidence to be the person I truly am, and a lot more. N.B.B.A. also paved the way for me to attend the 18th NSC where I made one of the best decisions ever.
I am a quiet person. What I lack in volume of the words I speak, I more than make up for with the words I write. So, Ma’am Dyrma Sabas, I apologize for writing so much. At least, I believe, you got to know me a lot more through this essay. :)