It Was The Best Of Times – By: Corazon Samedra-Cagahastian

It was quite hard to recollect events that happened 37 years ago given one’s age and cluttered memory and still able to remember with crystal clarity what transpired in Ramon Magsaysay High School Manila – always with “Manila” to differentiate it with the other high school of the same name in Cubao.

While the task is daunting, it can always be done. That is the spirit that every Magsaysay graduate has.

A question comes to mind though. We had always used “Ramon” or “RMHS” or “Ramon Magsyasay” to refer to the school. When did students and alumni start referring to it as “Monsay”? First time I encountered the term in YOU TUBE last week when former actress and beauty queen Jennifer Cortez (RMHS 1977) referred to herself as “Monsay Girl” and some 1999 graduates used the term in commenting on the RMHS Batch 1983 video tribute to the school.

Now for the nitty-gritty of the article. RMHS Manila 37 years ago in 1970 when we graduated. high school memories may be aided by recalling the events that shaped this year, and the three years before it.

We started high school in 1966, when Ferdinand Marcos was President and Antonio “Yeba” was Mayor of Manila. Villegas was seriously for free education and made good on his word.  We and our parents made the most of public school education with little “gastos”, and in hindsight, wasn’t it all worth it?

Our was the last to use the one-story RMHS Old Building fronting Espana St. It used to be the Manila North General Hospital, and was demolished in 1968 to give way to the five-story building that now stands on the site. RMHS of our time was the three-story building, the quadrangle and the makeshift classrooms, classes held in where Home Economics building used to be, and where Principal Maria M. Ocampo held office. She transferred of course, to the New Building towards the end of our term.

Those were happy days at school, although the political storm was brewing in the national scene.  Modern Math was just in its second year of instruction and we grappled with sets and subsets with the Beatles singing in the background.

Some of us were picked to attend E-TV at Ateneo, then being introduced in the Philippines by Cecille Guidote and Onofre Pagsanjan. The year 1966 was a transition year for most of us, and school activities were more or less “general” in nature. My starting out in First Year Section 2 had its advantages, with the amiable Mrs. Flerida Roque as adviser, breezing through First Year without much fanfare.

Joining the Section One class in our Sophomore Year may be considered fun but challenging. The Honor Roll was a good (now they would say “cool”) list to be on, and everybody who was somebody academically wanted to excel.  The Second Year also provided an opportunity to choose your favorite activities other than reading books and studying lessons – the Rondalla, the Student Catholic Action, the Hi-Y and Y-Teens, and Scouting.

During the Sophomore Year, the girls in our batch started to “Bloom” and the entire school did not fail to notice the beauty and charm of our friends like Leonor Abad, Vida Piamonte, Elvira Capacete, Elizabeth Pascual, Raquel Loyola, Ma. Luisa Arriola, Alicia Belen, Teresita Canlas, Fe Guan, Estrella Capinpin, linda Infante, etc.  Likewise, the boys were equally intelligent and good-looking Francisco Mendoza, Rolando Swing, Wilfredo Gonzales, and Adelardo Raflores) but some were naughty and “makulit” like Johnny de Leon, Pedro Bulatao, Jesus Espiritu, Hermie Padua and Agrpino Tambunting, Jr.

No longer neophyte, we were carefree and at home in Magsaysay, and by then, more or less defined by the company we kept. Some excelled in writing (in English or Pilipino), some in mathematics, music, dance, etc.  With Mrs. Leticia Halili as adviser, this year was a most eventful segment. What with young crushes developing and you and your classmates looking forward ro every “barn dance” or party at the Quadrangle, I could even hear  now the Electromaniacs and RJ and the Riots with their electric guitars.  Even just portable turntables that were in vogue then, and cold fruit punch will do to a start a classroom party.

Come to think of it, have you ever wondered why Pepsi and 7-Up always accompanied our chicken sandwiches during those school parties, and Coke was never served?  Years later, in an alumni meeting with Principal Mateo Angeles, my husband found out that RMHS had a long-running exclusive tie-up with Pepsi.

Christmas of 1968 was a time for SCA members to attend the leadership training conference in Bagiuo City, and for many of us, it was the first time to visit the City of Pines.  Among the delegates were Teodoro Tabien,  Corazon Ronquillo, Florence Zablan, Miriam Fulgencio and Fe Nano.

In our Junior Year, every girl in class had pretty much developed physically and some had stsarted dabbing in “going steady” with some guys, to continue until Senior Year. The big hit in downtown was the movie “The Graduate” starring Ann Bancroft, and every one was singing “And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson…”  Our adviser then was Miss Adelina Advincula, the English teacher. Known for their neatness and being likeable to evryone were Proserfina de los Reyes, Cecilio Estrella, Antero Penasales, Isabel Concepcion, Enriqueta Santos, Shirley Flores, Ernesto Esmerio, Helen Co, Miriam Garcia, Lourdes Prealta and Benito Solis. I could very well remember the faces of the humble Rosita Enriquez, Evelyn Darum and Erlinda Salvador.

The third year also came with responsibilities, as Mrs. Bella Abangan began to train me and others-Miriam Fulgencio, Teodoro Tabien, etc. – for editorship of “Ang Silahis”. It was a time when “silahis” meant a ray of light and nothing else – look how the word has evolved.

In 1970, Mrs. Abangan took me and Miriam to compete in the National Secondary Schools Press Conference (NSSPC) in Bagiuo City, after a series of writing competitions among Manila high schools student writers. It was also a time when our counterparts in our English paper, “The Blue and White”, Marcelino Mision and Maria Fe Pineda, were likewise winning honors for the paper, with adviser Mrs. Laurencia Abad guiding them. Others in the B & W group were Thelma Miguel, Romeo Clamor and Abelardo Ulanday.

During our Senior Year, 1970, the IV-1 CP class adviser was the very sexy and feisty physics teacher Miss Teresa Nebrida. It was the year of the First Quarter Storm and RMHS was somehow affected because several alumni who graduated a year ahead of us such as Herminio Espiritu (Class 1969) were leading figures in the FQS and they maintained connections with RMHS batches from 1969 to 972. It was also a time when “ideological” riots were rampant in school especially during the transition from day shift to night shift, what with KM’s influence on the day students and MPKP’s hold on the the night students.

Turbulent as it was, 1970 was good year for making plans and building dreams, for starting oung but full of confidence and hope, of expectations and forward planning.  And although, President Marcos suspended the Writ of Habeas Copus then, and activists went underground, we who stayed behind stayed the course and continue our daily grind.  Graduation came even without the commencement exercises, and a new chapter in our lives unfolded.

The years 1966 to 1970 have been an eventful and enjoyable years for all of us.  Truly, it was the best of times.

5 Responses to It Was The Best Of Times – By: Corazon Samedra-Cagahastian

  1. Mrs. Flerida Roque says:

    To Corazon Samedra Cagahastian,

    Hey I am still alive; I am now 80 years old but I remember you well … petite, pretty, and very intelligent. I even remember your handwriting. Out thousands I have taught, I still remember you.

    In 1974, I became Department Head; in 1981 Asst. Principal of Torres; and in 1984, I became a Division Supervisor for Manila. I retired at the age of 58 in 1987. I have stayed in Cabanatuan (with my husband) for almost 20 years now. All my children are now professionals and all happily married.

    Remember me to your batch; I have not forgotten them, nor your husband Diego, who is a favorite of my friend Ms. Letty Halili.

    Mrs. Flerida Roque

  2. Eileen Danganan says:

    Dear Ms Cagahastian,

    Pardon my writing on this blog but i cannot help to reminisce the teachers from RMHS who are colleagues of my mother, Esperanza Danganan. Unfortunately, my mom passed away 2 years ago. I want to get in touch with Mrs Roque and renew communications with her and family. My mom is really good friends with her. Hope you can send this message to her.

    Thank you,
    Eileen Danganan

  3. Carlos Roque says:

    Dear Ms. Danganan

    I am Mrs. Flerida Roque’s son and my mom is also very happy to hear from you. She is very sorry to hear about your mother and apologize for not receiving your message earlier. Please text me your contact details at my number 0908 171 1244 so she can call you herself — she is in our province but comes to Manila from time to time.

    Carlos

  4. Rhorie Halili Abalos says:

    Hi Cora:
    You might not remember me but I remember you well. I am Gng. Halili’s daughter and I googled her name and came across your article. I will surely let her read it when she gets home to Canada. She is currently in L.A. spending time with her siblings. She will be turning 80 on Sept 25th this year. How is Diego? I remember him well with much gratitude for he took me under his wings and mentored me in my journalism journey. It went a long way since I was able to utilize it in local newspapers in Toronto, Canada, in the Church Newsletter in Denver, Colorado and most recently, in the newsletters for Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation (MMP)founded by Fr. Fernando Suarez. I am currently a full time volunteer as their Project Coordinator in the US. Give my warm regards to Diego and Luzviminda, my classmate in high school. Hope to hear from you soon. I am on FB as well under Rhorie Abalos

  5. Dear Carlos,

    Your mother, Mrs. Flerida Roque, was my adviser in fourth year. I belong to Batch 1973 of RMHS. On Saturday, October 12, 2013, our batch has scheduled “Parangal sa mga Guro ng Batch ’73” to honor and show in our own small way our gratitude to our former teachers. Venue will be at Max’s Restaurant in Roces, Quezon City from 10:00 AM-1:00 PM. Please inform me if Ma’am would be available to grace the occasion on that day so necessary arrangements can be done. I am on FB – Melanie Maminta Donkor and my contact number is 09475223427.

    Thank you.

    Melanie

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