By Julie Javellana-Santos

I just attended the alumni homecoming of my high school. It’s been almost 31 years since I left that school. And my classmates and I were nostalgic about how the school looked different, but was somehow still the same.

The chairs in the school auditorium were still the same steel folding chairs we sat on during our graduation, albeit repainted several times over. The drinking fountain where we would satisfy our thirst with lukewarm water on hot days was still there, down to the yellowing tiles and antiquated taps. No mineral water or filtered water for us then—just plain old ‘Nawasa (National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority) juice’ as we called it.

The girls I grew up with were different, though. Many had put on a pound here and there. On the contrary, others had lost weight and were positively scrawny. Still others proudly sported brand new nose jobs.

Through the years, there would be times when I’d bump into someone who said, “I know your face, I just can’t remember your name. But it’s here somewhere.” I guess the popularity of caesarian births and general anesthesia was as much to blame for this forgetfulness as simple old age.

Listening to my classmates criticize the program, though, I guess not much had changed. Many times before, we would gather for a program in that very same auditorium, on those very same chairs, and nitpick over the order of the day. Closing my eyes, I could imagine those same girls in blue and white uniforms, wearing standard black shoes and bored expressions. The voices around me were the same voices back in high school. The criticisms were the same: the program was boring, her skirt was too short, the food not good …

And yet, everything was different.

The classrooms across the yard are now of a different color. Where once a single row of classrooms stood, there’s now a four-storey building. Fences were all around—not just wooden, decorative ones but bars, preventing the wayward child from leaving the premises and strangers from entering the grounds.

Most of all, the girls were no longer young students, but familiar faces sporting monumental eyebags, a couple of pounds, and prominent noses.

Everything had changed, but it seemed to be for the better. The classrooms now had LCD projectors, the school grotto was more orderly and freshly landscaped, the school piano had been refurbished, the auditorium’s comfort rooms had been renovated… all courtesy of the school’s generous alumni. Hopefully, the improvements would not end this year. Hopefully, there would be more next year.

The school may have changed a lot since I was there, but what hasn’t changed was how studying in those rooms helped me become the person that I am. And that is a gift that I would always treasure.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash