What I Did During the Semestral Break 5 Years Ago

IT’S SEMESTRAL break again and students get the chance to do what they’d like to do and go where they’d like to go to unwind, loosen up, and detoxify after several months of coping with academic requirements.

I would just like to share what I did five years ago during the sem break. Here it is:


First posted 00:32am (Mla time) Dec 01, 2005
By Ariel C. Lalisan
Inquirer News Service

Editor’s Note: Published on Page A13 of the December 1, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IT WAS our semestral break. I could have chosen to go with some of my friends on some excursions, but I opted to stay home and forget my stressful and rather nauseating school life. Being at home for at least a week is more rejuvenating for me than having a dip in a pool or going to the beach or waterfalls. While going out of town can be a lot of fun, at home I can have peace of mind and learn some lessons that I need just very badly.

Our family owns a small “sari-sari” [variety] store. When I’m home, I serve as the “tindero” [vendor]. I really like doing it because I enjoy watching different people pass by. And I have even more fun when people sit on the benches outside.

I am an amateur psychologist and I am fond of studying the behavior of people. So when people drop by the store, I listen discreetly to their conversations and formulate theories about how they would act in certain situations. Sometimes, I imagine how a certain person looked like and how he behaved when he was younger. Other times, I just listen to what they are saying and try to guess what prompted them to say such things. It makes me smile to see how happy they appear to be as they talk about things that seem petty to me.

In just two or three days as a tindero, I heard more than a hundred stories. It was not because people were talkative, but everyone had his own story. And from the expressions on their faces alone, from the intensity of their voices or the speed of their speech, I could hear their souls speak of their agony or joy.

One time, two street peddlers happened to stop by the store. I saw them approaching with rolls of Romblon sleeping mats, woven from strips of dry and dyed leaves. It was noon and they were drenched in sweat, and I could smell them from several feet away. They looked tired and weary. They did not speak any word as they sat there, taking deep breaths and staring blankly at the dusty road.

I did not ask if they wanted to buy anything, for I knew that all they wanted was to take shelter from the heat of the sun. When they started speaking, I recognized the accent and I knew then that they belonged to an indigenous tribe.

They asked me if they could take a nap on the benches. I automatically said yes, even if I knew that their presence there would keep our customers away, especially the students of the high school a block away. In fact, many of those who happened to pass by openly stared at them for a few moments, wondering who were those two strange-looking men lying on the benches.

I was busy attending to somebody when I noticed a woman in uniform (a schoolteacher, maybe) stop by and examine the mats the two men had laid on the table. She was obviously impressed by their simple designs. She especially liked one whose sides were adorned with interwoven fuchsia and deep green strips.

One of the men suddenly woke up from his nap and told the woman she could have the mat for P120. The latter acted surprised and protested that the price was too high. “Pwede P60 na lang?” [Would you give it for P60?], she bargained.

The man gave her a bitter smile and said with a tone of condescension. “‘Di pwede’ [We can’t],” ma’am.”

A bit of a psywar began. She pointed to the sides which were uneven and said she was able to buy a mat that was exactly like it from another peddler for only P60.

“‘Buri man siguro’ [That’s probably made of buri], ma’am,” the man reasoned out, and proceeded to compare the qualities of a buri mat and a Romblon mat. He also said the mat she had bought before might be smaller than his mats.

The teacher persisted in asking for a bargain, offering to buy two for P120. The man said he would sell them for P200.

The exchange ended with the teacher dropping the mats and leaving with a look of disappointment. The man again wore his bitter and pitiful smile.

I could see his frustration and I half-expected him to run after her and say she could have two for P150. But the man remained seated and talked to me instead, knowing I was following closely his unsuccessful bid to sell his stuff.

“Grabe pud si ma’am, ‘no?” [Ma’am seems hard to please, doesn’t she?], he said quietly. Then he launched into a narration of how much effort it took to make the mats and bring them to town.

I listened to him and noticed how hard he was trying to mask his disappointment, and maybe despair, with his smile. But I felt he was dignified by his labor.

The man continued to sit there, waiting for his companion to wake up. He seemed to be pondering something very deeply.

What was he thinking about? I had no way of knowing. I draw pictures of him and his family in my mind: his wife and his children eagerly waiting at their door for his return and for the goods he would bring to them. I could feel how badly he needed to make a sale.

Then it was time for them to go. With the bundles of mats on their shoulders, they walked toward the public market, where they would have to meet other potential buyers and where more “educated people” could see and examine their product.

As they moved away, the conversation between the peddler and the woman kept coming back to me. I found it ironic that it was from the simple man that I learned a lesson, and not from the one whose profession was to teach. It was a simple lesson: of respect for oneself and holding others in high regard.

When classes start, I will have to travel again some 72 kilometers to the university. There, I will continue to learn the necessary skills in my chosen field of study. But right at home, in our little store, I know I will continue to learn the values necessary for life.

Ariel C. Lalisan, 18, is a junior in Bachelor of Science in Education (major in Physics) at the Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal, South Cotabato.

That was what I was thinking five years ago and things haven’t changed much.

Ariel Lalisan

Ariel Lalisan

Ariel Lalisan is a physics teacher at Alabel National Science High School. He is an advocate of constructivism approach in education. He employs active learning and independent learning in his lessons, and, of course, a lot of technology integration. His goal is to produce students who can solve problems on their own using the concepts they learn in the classroom. Ariel Lalisan is a Google Certified Innovator (Google Teachers Academy Southeast Asia 2014) and a community leader at Google Educator Group Sarangani. He is a co-founder of SoCCSKSarGen and he won the Globe Media Excellence Blogger of the Year Award in 2015.

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