Memoirs of a Student in Manila
Chapter 5: Two Years in College
Soon to become eighteen years old and disillusioned, scarcely have I stepped on life’s threshold, I direct my glance toward the first time the breath of the tempest, already engulfed, turns his glance toward the shore and reminds him of his peaceful hours. Ah, I weep for you, placid hours that disappeared from the scene of my life more rapidly and fugaciously than lightning that shines on the dark road of the traveler. So sad is my situation that I doubt if I had ever been happy at all for I doubt if those days had ever existed. During vacation my sisters made clothes for me and during that time also my sister made clothes for me and during that time also my sister Narcisa married . . . I cannot portray here what I felt on seeing the separation of a sister whom I loved so much . . . and notwithstanding it had to be thus. I entered college then on 16 June 1875. My classmates received me well. The brother wardrobe-keeper assigned to me an alcove located in the corner of the dormitory looking out to the sea and the embankment. It consisted of a space of about two square varas, (25) an iron bedstead on which they placed my bedding, a small table with a basin, which a servant filled with water, a chair and a clothes rack. I forgot to say that in the little table I had a drawer with soap, comb, brushes for the hair and for the teeth, powder, etc. My little money that amounted to some eight pesos, I kept under my pillow. We didn’t go to the alcove but twice a day regularly, once at siesta to wash and again at night to sleep. On holidays, in the afternoons, we dressed and we went out for a stroll. The rest of the time we spent in the study hall, at recess, in the classes, in the dining room, and in the chapel. In spite of my thirteen years to fourteen, I was still very small, and as it is known that new students, especially the small ones, are received by the big ones with jokes, so it was on my first day, my pranks having attracted their attention. In a chorus they teased me and when they calmed down I told them in a tranquil voice: “Gentlemen, thanks.” Since then they respected me and they didn’t tease me maliciously. Excepting a few, all my companions were good, simple, pious, just, and amiable. There was no one among us who would want to control the rest by force, for power is achieved through skill. I had the luck to win if not the love at last the esteem of all of them. The names of some of my classmates shall never be eased from my memory; among them that of one Jovellanos, of one Lete (Enrique) and of others whose enumeration would be very pleasant for me but I foresee will be vexing to the reader. Our Professor was a model of uprightness, earnestness, and love of the advancement of his pupils; and so much was his zeal that I, who scarcely spoke very ordinary Spanish, at the end of a short time, succeeded already to write it moderately well. His name was Francisco de Paula Sanchez. With his aid I studied mathematics, rhetoric, and Greek with some advantage. Often I got sick with fever despite the gymnastic exercises that we had, in which I was very much behind, though not so in drawing under a teacher worthy of his name and under whose guidance I still continue to study. I’m proud to tell you, reader, that I spent this year better than anybody else as a student, as a man, and as a Christian. Ten months passed that I haven’t written anything in my diary because I don’t want to relate to you inspired occurrences, and thank God I won five medals with an immense pleasure for with them I could somewhat repay my father for his sacrifices. What sentiments of gratitude did not then spring from my heart and wit what sad delight I kept them still! After having bidden farewell to my superiors, teachers, and companions, I left. . . Who has not felt the vague melancholy that seizes the heart upon separating from one’s companions? Who, at the age...
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