I was waiting inside an air-conditioned office of a very old edifice, the Main Building of the University of Santo Tomas (UST). Barely 2 months since the school had started of my freshman year, and I was already sitting inside the Dean’s office of the College of Science. Just like the notorious mandate, “to the Principal’s office,” this incident was not much different. I was there to drop a class in which I was not welcomed anymore.
Few days before that, I was in the Physical Education (PE) class of about 30 or so male students. It was Gymnastics I, which I really don’t have any interest, but needed to take, as it was part of my curriculum in the blocked section. The instructor was an older, yet still hulking man, whom I suppose was a gymnast in his heyday.
We really did not do a lot of gymnastics as I recall. It was more of running and walking around the grandstand, than rolling in the mat or tumbling on the gym floor. Definitely we did not ride on the pommel horse or hang on the high bar. It was in one of those running sessions around the grandstand that I got into trouble.
We were supposed to run around the UST grandstand for several rounds. Seven times around maybe, I don’t really remember. But as we were running, I felt the urge of nature call. Damn nature call! I have no choice but to answer.
So I slipped out of the ranks and went into the bathroom which was behind the grandstand. After I relieved myself, instead of running back and catching up with the class, I waited for the group to make one round and decided to join them when they come around to where I was. That was my costly mistake.
The instructor noted, that there were several students that broke out of the ranks and stop the group from running. So I was “caught” not in the group and have to run to the place where the teacher ordered the group to stop. The problem was it was not just me who was not in the group. There were five of us. The instructor thought it was a mutiny! Though to be honest, I don’t know any of the other boys, nor did we planned this together.
The teacher was really mad. He said that we were “cheating” and trying to take the easy way out by not completing the ordered number of runs around the grandstand. Instead of letting us run to make it up, he already decided that we were uninvited to join his class anymore. We were told to drop the class. No ifs, and no discussion.
As I was walking away across the field from the grandstand, it started to rain. The song “Crying in the Rain,” a remake by Aha, which was a hit at that time, was blaring loudly in my mind. And like the song goes, I did my crying in the rain.
That’s what brought me in the Dean’s office. No, not the crying, but the “cheating.”
When the Dean of Science asked me what was the reason I was dropping the PE class, I told her the whole story. I understand the consequence that by dropping that class, even how trivial it may be, I would not be eligible to apply for the Accelerated Class in Biology which was what I was eyeing to be in. Dropping a class, would delay me a semester.
The Accelerated Class was an elite group of students taking the Batchelor of Science, Major in Biology, in 3 years instead of the regular 4 years. They do it with increased workload every semester combined with summer classes. This was a fast track to enter UST Medical School. Only the best students with academic distinction were invited to join that class. Now, that opportunity was slipping away from me.
The Dean then asked me point blankly if I really want to drop the class. I honestly told her that I don’t want to, but I really have no other choice. The PE instructor kind of told me it’s either I drop the class while I can, or fail.
The Dean listened to my story intently. She barely knew me, since I was a first year student and the first semester was only 2 months in session. But I think she saw something in me: a 16-year-old lanky kid who needed a second chance.
The Dean then made a phone call to the PE Department. After a few minutes of what sounds like negotiating, she told me with a smile that I don’t have to drop the PE class. But I needed to attend the Gymnastic class regularly and to be in my best behavior. She never have to tell me twice, that was all I needed.
I am back in the UST campus. I decided to drop by at the Main Building, where the College of Science is. I am actually attending a seminar at the Medicine building as part of our 25th year graduation anniversary from UST College of Medicine and Surgery. But I wanted to visit the College of Science as well, and perhaps see the Dean. Though I found out that the one I knew, have long retired.
I was just hoping to let her know that the kid that once sat in her office, who eventually joined the Accelerated Class, and made it to the Dean’s list, has come back to pay homage and give thanks for the second chance he was given.
UST Main building today
P.S. Maybe I should wander to the PE department too and let them know, that the kid who was unable to complete his run around the grandstand before, is still running. Yes, running half-marathons, even after 32 years since freshman.
(*photos taken during my last homecoming)