I don't remember much from my childhood. Things I remember could fit in a box so small its contents can be carried by a child, left in a room, and forgotten.

I do remember being a little shithead. Not buying toyo from the sari-sari store nearby because I was afraid my schoolmates would see me and my family for who we were: poor. Across our house was an expensive private school where I, my brother, and all my cousins attended. Even when I called in sick, I still felt like I was attending flag ceremony in the morning. By 3 o'clock I could hear my classmates playing in the school yard.

Because the school was so close to our house, my memory of home was always interrupted by the bell from the school guard house. The guard on duty would ring the bell three, five times every hour, every night. The last bell rang at sunrise. The school owners also lived near, so they always knew when he had slept during his duty.

My mother worked at a government office. Every month, minus tax and loans, she came home with no more than 5,000 pesos. In the grocery store, fearing she had maxed out her credit card, her hands would shake. Most of the time, the machine said Approved. How she managed to pay for private school, my brother and I don't know.

She was never a house mother. I remember my mother cooking runny sunny side-ups and french toast. That was about her culinary prowess during my entire childhood. My grandmother (father side) used to scold my mother because all there ever was in the fridge were hotdogs, sugary cereal, and chocolate spread. My grandmother would then cook fish that tasted like the sea; I dreaded her every return.

I always wore thrift store clothes during school wash days.  There was a time when my classmate and I raided a classroom while everyone else was at flag ceremony. I stole shoes from this lanky girl a grade below us. I wore them three months later, and somebody had managed to snap a photo of me wearing them during Foundation Days. I was called out of class a few times to talk to the prefect of discipline. Though we tried to lie our way out of it, I got an F for conduct. That was my first failing grade. The same school year, even though we didn't have much, I was allowed to skip Junior Prom to watch a Fall Out Boy concert in Metro Manila. The rest of the year was a blur.

The other times I was taken out of class wasn't for conduct. It was for extra-curricular activities. Every year, there would be barn dances, school plays, and writing competitions. 

When I was in Grade 3, I wrote a short story for English class. My teacher called me to her table and asked if I wrote it. My mom had replaced some words in it, big words for a child, but the rest of it was mine. I told my teacher that it was me, just me who wrote the story. I was sent to other schools for writing competitions ever since. A few years later, when I began winning awards, she told me "I knew you'd be a writer." Until now, it still feels like I cheated.

I was never the star of school plays. I was always stage crew or props maker. I loved being behind the stage, and I could never sing or memorize lines or perform onstage to save my life. More than theater, I loved being pulled out of class for extra-curriculars. Those were the things I lived for.


Part 1 of 3
All photos taken in 2010, senior year