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Remembering...

A History of the Special Science Class of '63
March 28, 1963 ... graduation day -- the climax of our high school life. The inevitable parting has come. This thing must be a dream. It can't be real. How time has flown! Yesterday is just as clear as today. Tomorrow we will go our separate ways in search of our places in the sun. Vividly now, the past surges back to our dazed minds.
 
It was a bright Wednesday-the 25th of November, 1959, when with heavy hearts we had to leave our former schools to face an entirely new challenge-the so-called Science Pilot Class. All 36 of us trooped to the sober soils of Intramuros with an uneasy feeling over what seemed to us an invasion into "foreign" soil.
 
Varied reactions were to be expected. The 36 confused "pioneers" eyed each other with unbounded interest and curiosity. Not one of us ever thought that we would pass the rigid battery of tests given us for two Saturdays in September. That was the toughest (and the weirdest-looking) test we ever hurdled. In black and white, the instructions read: Avoid wild guessing. We gambled and luckily won.
 
We thought we were going to be pilots, i.e., aviators in its real sense because of the title "science pilot class." We found long after, that "pilot" also means experimental, besides "a flier of air machines".
 
Despite temporary disillusionment, we managed to smile as we turned to the sprawling world before us. So this was Intramuros... with its familiar contrasts of tall, modern building and shaky, dilapidated shacks and its historic walls-in ruins and covered with cogon.
 
Here we met-in a tiny room. It was so odd that we suspected the architect was either drunk or drowsy when it was constructed.
 
Cooped up in that undersized room, we sought for more freedom of movement and more of the sun's radiance. Our prayers were heard. Immediate construction of a new room was started. This was Room 15. It was also a crude one but we took pride in it because it was the best in the school. We had armchairs and lockers for our things.
 
From the easygoing attitude we had in our former schools, we plunged into arduous tasks. We found ourselves overdosed with science and mathematics that we thought our brains would give way. No one was to be blamed -- save perhaps that innocent-looking word pilot. The "cream of the crop," so they referred to us. We had to live up to that.
 
The impact was tremendous. Each day brought some fresh and tougher challenges. But it was not all science and algebra. We had some fun, too. While the boys had their industrial arts, the girls had cooking lessons under Mrs. Luz B. Reyes. The girls did the cooking while the boys did most of the eating. One group had the dirty job of washing the greasy silver and china, sooty pans and kettles.
 
It was like a banquet with everyone gathered around the lengthy table covered with linen. The place? None other than our former little room, which is now better known as the library.
 
P.E. time was lots of fun, too, under Mr. Pedro Villasista. He taught us an enjoyable game called snatch ball which the girls were to play with utmost enjoyment up to their senior year. It isn't any wonder we will always remember him with such great pleasure. Singing during the music class under Maestro Jose Legaspi was just as delightful as note-reading.
 
To acquaint ourselves with the school vicinity, all 36 of us boarded the school pick-up one day and went around on an educational tour guided by Mr. William Ll. Estrada.
 
The second year brought us distinction from the regular classes! We were officially known as the Special Science Class. The letter S meaning science was affixed to our section -- II-1-S.
 
Three classmates voluntarily withdrew from the II-1-S for various reasons. Undeniably, most of us were still loyal to our former schools, each regarding his own as the better one, if not the best. We were introduced to geometry which proved interesting. We were given our first dose of physics which was tough from all angles.
 
Our first taste of glory was very sweet. Luisita dela Rosa, a mere sophomore then, bested even the seniors in the inter-high school physics contest held at the YMCA.
 
We also had the most special privilege of having Dr. Leopoldo Torralballa, liaison officer of the NSDB and the Phil-Am Science Foundation, with us for a day. He took over the geometry class and demonstrated several techniques in the theory of sets, a mathematical concept taken up in graduate studies. We were all excited and eager and wished for more.
 
"Strike!" that was how it was called. It was December and there was a three-day athletic meet, during which time no classes were to be held except in the SSC. We had been longing for a much needed respite from our hectic school activities so we approached the principal and requested him for a no-classes-please favor. Our boldness spelled disaster. Our teachers mistook it for a class demonstration in defiance of Mr. Alzona's decision to hold classes. We never thought of it as a punishment. Bitterness was absent. We merely shrugged the whole thing off as one of those things.
 
Relaxation finally came in March when we had an excursion to scenic Tagaytay. It was the first real chance we had to grow closer to each other.
 
Sorrow befell us right on the first day of our junior year. Our beloved adviser, Mrs. Helen P. Ladera, had to leave on a scholarship grant to the United States. We missed her terribly. Yet, under our new adviser, Miss Clarita Nolasco, we regained our composure. She possesses such remarkable qualities that have earned for her a golden place in our hearts. She is as superb an adviser as she is a teacher. Slowly but steadily, the class swang to her tempo. The class was livelier and merrier than ever.
 
Another wonderful teacher, Mr. Benwardo V. Umila, received a three-month scholarship to the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Science in Tennessee. He was back by September of the same year and wowed the class with all his "pasalubong." It was really so good to have him back to take over physics and advanced algebra.
 
Sad to say, we lost another classmate. We were now only 32, with an equal number of boys and girls.
 
Biology proved to be very interesting. We had Miss Felicisima Trinidad in the first semester and Miss Juliet Dayap in the second semester. About this time the boys got acquainted with Mr. Hans Arber, a prominent biologist and astronomer. He came to our school, gave a lecture and lent us one of his microscopes. The very thought of him never fails to bring a smile to the boys' faces.
 
One fine Thursday in June, PMT-uniformed creatures were seen entering Room 15. Why, those were our junior boys. Every face was a picture of eagerness and each one was given a delightful scrutiny by the girls. Later, in their senior year, Mr. Franciso Esmas, their instructor, confided to the girls, "The first time I handled those boys, they didn't know how to march..."
 
Our class organ, the SSC Klarion was born in August and died shortly after its debut. It was a luckless attempt. Financial instability gave it its greatest blow.
 
The induction of the SSC Student Council was highlighted by the donation of science books from the New York Life Insurance. VIPs present were USIS Public Affairs Officer Lewis Mattison, Dr. Florencio Medina of the PAEC and Dr. Casimiro del Rosario of the NSDB who later visited us again to lecture on space and satellites.
 
March turned out to be a very busy month. Preparation for our first science fair reached the feverish stage. We made various projects in physics and biology. Our patience and perseverance resulted in success. The visitors commented that our projects were graphic and ingenious although most of them were crude since they were completely fashioned in school without any assistance. The week long affair was later featured in the March 24, 1962 issue of the Manila Daily Bulletin.
 
Nor was this the first time we were featured in a metropolitan newspaper. Way back in our sophomore year, we got our first publicity break through the Manila Chronicle. Next was a pictorial write-up in the Sunday Times Magazine dated December 10, 1961. Almost all of our other important affairs were played up in various publications.
 
After the hectic days of the homestretch we craved for relaxation. The place -- La Mesa Dam. The next day was the start of the two-month vacation which nobody seemed to care for. We couldn't bear the thought of the long separation and all eagerly wished for June.
 
Full of gaiety and fun -- lots of laughter... laughter... laughter... this was our fourth year of life -- the last and the "mostest act" of our high school drama. In spite of the harder and tougher subjects, there never was a day of gloom.
 
Mrs. Bonifacia Matutina was back ready to teach us a series of mathematics subjects -- trigonometry, solid geometry, and basic concepts of analytic geometry and calculus. We took these one after the other.
 
We missed another teacher -- Bb. Miriam Arceo to us, now Gng. Liwanag -- who had been our Pilipino teacher since the first year.
 
Under Miss Edy Losaria, chemistry became a challenge to us. Many were the times we wanted to play with the chemicals -- to do what was a big red "DON'T."
 
We were delighted to carry our new textbook, its title in big bold letters -- COLLEGE PHYSICS. Of course, the incomparable Mr. Umila was our teacher. Nobody can beat him in physics nor equal his endless supply of humor. However tough physics had been, it was balanced by the buoyant spirit that prevailed in the class. Which one of us could ever forget such "phy-sick-al" terms such as couple, moments, turbulent flow, and collision and such histories as that of Archimedes and the doughnuts?'
 
Our beloved Mrs. Ladera at last came back in September and took over our English class more proficient than ever in English and as stunning and lovely as when we had our first glimpse of her in 1959.
 
On the other hand, November brought us a bittersweet even. Our dear teacher-adviser Miss Nolasco had to give us up in favor of the sophomores. She was no longer our history teacher.
 
It was the principal who took over our history class. The principal -- teaching? Yes, our own Mr. Augusto Alzona. With his amazing mastery of history (this in addition to his being a staunch science and math enthusiast) we had a wonderful time. In addition to history, he had lots of interesting experiences and off-the record stories to regale us with.
 
Overnight, yesterday's little angels had turned to Dennises and Little Iodines. Be it off periods or not, laughter could be heard bursting forth spontaneously from every direction. Each group had a lot to talk about. One could find six girls clustered in a corner -- the inseparables, Sylvia and Carmen, Tessie and Racquel, and Benilda and Remy. Other inseparables were Fely, Carmelita and Noemi, joining forces with Sonia and Gaudiosa indissoluble team. Engrossed with them in a lively chat would be Bernardita Lemoncito. A foursome of Luisita, Guadalupe, Aida, and Bernie Esmama would add to the merry uproar and whenever the girls would let out impish giggles, a boy would surely mimic her.
 
And as the girl would turn around to look in his direction she would surely catch either mischievous Mike or enterprising Erly as the culprit. Galo could often be seen gesturing in comic fashion, always the center of attraction. During this time Rey who had his nose buried in the lessons, would cast aside the book, ready to banter with Rufino, Rolando and Jose. Childlike Noel then would say just a word or two to set everyone laughing -- especially Francis and Benjie. Although Edmundo and Germie were usually busy with brain teasers they, too, would be convulsed with laughter. Mariano and Nicanor with their jocosity would all the more add to the merry uproar so that even Eduardo and Benedicto, the silent types, would be provoked to laughter.
 
Having qualified to compete in the NSDB Science Talent Search, we found ourselves up to our neck reviewing physics, math, chem and biology during the last days of January. Then came the big day -- February 6. The other examinees eyed us as we marched to the Philippine Women's University. The girls, conspicuous in their green and yellow uniform, and the boys, cut quite a figure on the campus. We outnumbered the candidates from other schools. The exams lasted for nine solid hours with a one hour noon break.
 
Days dragged on... each filled with perfect memories. Yes, memories we will never forget... our stretchable deadlines in journalism under Miss Eufemia Estrada...how literal we could be in Pilipino under Miss Elisa de Castro... those dancing lessons in P.E. under Miss Teresita Vera Cruz... the lunch counter and the retail store... our supply of Lifesaver candies and Rybutol vitamin pills, courtesy of CARE... the last Christmas we had together on December 21, 1962 and our excursion to Montalban.
 
Yes, we will never forget all these...
 
A shrill I-n-g from microphones half-startled us from our reverie.
 
We heard these concluding phrases, "... so from being merely an idea of the Bureau of Public Schools, the Special Science Classes have grown to something more substantial..." Then this is our graduation day, the day we have prayed so hard to be put off because it means separation -- farewell to Intramuros, beloved teachers and best friends. No one can think of it as a moment of glory, of triumph. Eyes sparkling with unshed tears betray the unspeakable sorrow that has been haunting each one's heart... the forced smiles are gone...
 
They say life must go on. Tomorrow is another day...
 
 
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