Thursday, July 18, 2002

Here's something I wrote for my nonfiction class about my childhood, which I'll submit today.

Always Prepared

Several days had passed since I attended my first day in grade school. I was adjusting to the new environment. My bag was twice as heavy. We had desks to put our books in. We were no longer given the luxury of a half day. I was at school from morning until afternoon, eating my lunch at the cafeteria's long, green tables. It was a new experience for me.

Being in grade school meant you had to take up a lot of subjects: Reading, Language, Math, Science. While I liked my teachers, the same can't be said for my subjects. I'd spend hours perfecting my letter "a" for Language and memorizing numbers for Math. There was one thing I looked forward to though. That was the clubs. Once a week, we were given the opportunity to participate in a non-academic activity. Unlike my subjects which were spoon-fed, clubs were something you chose, provided your parents gave you consent.

We were given a list of the available clubs in two stapled sheets of paper. While the list was long, only a few were really available to us since the other clubs were restricted to the upper batches. Some of my classmates had their parents decide what club they'd join. As for me, I was never to waste an opportunity to exercise my freedom.

I decided to join the Kab Scouts. It was something that appealed to me. Camping out in the wilderness, learning how to survive on your own, creating fire from a pair of sticks. These were the thoughts that entered my mind when I first saw it.

I didn't think my parents would mind if I enlisted in that club. Sure enough, my parents signed the form without taking a second glance. Now all I had to do was attend the meeting.

Our moderator was a man in his twenties, or at least it seemed to me. He was full of energy and a sense of responsibility emanated from him. Perhaps it was because of the uniform: yellow shirts, green socks, laced shoes, a tied scarf on the neck. He told us with confidence what we could expect from the club.

I've forgotten what his exact statements were but there were two statements that sums up what being a Kab Scout meant.

"A Kab Scout is always prepared," was one.

"A Kab Scout keeps his promises. That's why we have Scout's Honor. The reason you are raising your three fingers is this. The top most represents God. The second represents others. The last one represents you. You should put God above all else, others second, and self last. That is the code by which a Kab Scout lives."

Those two ideologies were drilled into us. Not a meeting passed without us standing in attention and performing the rite of Scout's Honor. But a more subtle reinforcement was used to ingrain in us the concept of always being prepared.

After our first meeting, we were required to purchase and wear our uniform. It composed of a yellow shirt, a yellow scarf, a Tamaraw totem to hold the scarf, a belt, and green socks. My parents were only too happy to give me the check so that I could buy a set.

Every time we met, we were expected to wear the uniform. Not one article should be missing. We were given demerits if that happened. On the morning of our club meeting, I'd set aside my usual white polo in favor of my Kab Scout uniform. I made sure I lacked nothing. My parents even thought to take a picture of me while in uniform.

I attended the meetings regularly. I had perfect attendance, if I'm not mistaken. We were taught a lot of practical stuff. I didn't get the chance to make a fire out of two wooden sticks but I did learn how to tie knots and how to use tools. We were also reminded of the safety precautions needed to be done in every venture, from cooking to travelling. We had games to make remembering easy. For knot-tying, we were divided into groups and the group that could tie and untie the knot quickest won. There was also the message relay game which tested our memory and the accuracy of our messages.

One memorable moment was when the teacher taught me how to tie my shoelaces during my birthday. No matter how much I tried, I never did get the knack for tying shoelaces. Instead, I often wore leather shoes that didn't have shoelaces. That probably explains why I didn't excel in tying knots either.

Before the year ended, we had large group activity to certify us as official Kab Scouts. It was a sleepover camp and that caught our attention. We were to camp for one evening and after which, an awarding ceremony would be held. I really wished that we could have done it outdoors but the best that the moderator could do was the football field of our school. It was far from a scenic view since instead of trees, we saw tall buildings. We'd also hear the cars passing by and honking from time to time.

It began on a Friday afternoon and we set up camp as soon as it hit 5 pm. Each of us was required to sleep with a partner and the same partner would accompany us wherever we went, whether it was to the bathroom or to sleep.

During the evening, a bonfire was made and everyone got out their treats. I took out some marshmallows and barbecue sticks and started roasting them. My partner roasted his too close to the fire and the marshmallows started to burn. It was quickly put out and we marveled at the blackness the marshmallow had on one side. My partner quickly ate it and exclaimed that it was delicious.

When it was getting quite dark, we started gazing at the sky and saw the stars despite all the buildings. Some of us started a ghost hunt while others went to bed. I had the misfortune of accidentally peeing in my tent, which caused my partner to panic and quickly got out of their tent. He decided to sleep with another group and I was left alone in my tent. During this time, I heard all the other boys who weren't ready to sleep yet, playing with their flashlights and pointing it at other people's tents.

Morning finally came and we had a new set of activities. Despite all the activity from the previous night, we were still expected to assemble in complete uniform. After several games, we had lunch and prepared for the awarding ceremony.

A lot of parents dropped by to see their children stand on the stage and bring them home afterward. My parents were no different. It was strange as they were formally dressed while I was in my Kab Scout uniform. Dad had a tie and long sleeves, and mom had all her makeup. I, on the other hand, was a bit muddy but was nonetheless in complete uniform. I didn't want anything other than to get out of my clothes then and take a long bath.

Soon, we were formally acknowledged as Kab Scouts and to signify this, given new totems. I gave mine to mom and then assembled to take a pledge with the Scout's Honor.

I came home that day exhausted. Eventually, I lost the totem that was given to us during that ceremony but I managed to keep the original Tamaraw one. I joined Kab Scouts for one more year but failed to enlist in the year after that. There were two things I never forgot though: Scout's Honor, and that a Scout is always prepared.

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