“Miko’s First Day of School”

Article by: Sammy Westfall and Rom Villarica

Meet Miko, a six-year old student at Estancia Elementary School.  On the surface, he seems like any other six-year-old in the world.  His mother is a housewife.  His father works as an electrician.  He is the oldest of two children.  And when he doesn’t have school, his primary pastime is watching television.

But, as with most students at Estancia, there is more to Miko than meets the eye.  The catastrophic landfall of Typhoon Yolanda in 2014 devastated Miko’s hometown of Cavite, forcing his father to relocate nearer to Estancia; in fact, this is the primary reason Miko is attending Estancia at all.  It is not an uncommon occurrence, insists the principal of the elementary school, Gerry Tingson.  Often, when disasters strike, we get an influx of new students from ravaged areas.

The day is swelteringly hot. Miko, dressed in a white button-down and dark pants, sidles into one of the classrooms, trailed by several of his peers.  Even this early in the day, sunlight blazes through the windows, painting bright strips on the wooden floor, a token reminder of the brutal heat outdoors.

Were this any other day, Miko would then proceed to have regular classes.  He would spend brief intervals in different classrooms, studying subjects such as math, English, Tagalog, and the native tongue of the province, Ilonggo.  At precisely nine fifteen AM, he would be released for a brief recess in which he could choose to partake of his merienda or play with his friends.  After more classes, lunch would follow around noontime, with dismissal later at three PM.

Today, though, is not a normal school day.  Instead, as Miko steps into the classroom, he is confronted by a strange sight; groups of ISM students armed with chalk, paintbrushes, and other assorted supplies mill about amidst the masses of Estancia students, setting up for activities to be conducted later in the day.  When the setup is completed, most file out to begin their work elsewhere, though two remain behind, making Miko’s class of forty a class of forty-two.  These newcomers carry ukuleles and an air of enthusiasm that persists despite the ravaging heat.  What ensues is a singalong of sorts, with Miko and his class following ardently, if a bit confusedly, as the two begin jamming to popular radio music.

Yet the singalong is only the first of many surprises; no corner of Estancia will escape ISM’s presence this morning.  The visiting students will proceed to lead the kids in other activities such as art, sports, and academics.  Miko particularly enjoys one task wherein he is given a rock, paint, and a brush and subsequently told to make a “pet rock”, which he does with great vigor.  As the morning comes to a close, though, the ISM students depart, leaving Miko to continue regular classes.

But it’s not over yet.  Not even close.  At four PM, two white vans roll up to the gates once more and discharge their respective complements of ISM students, who make their way to Estancia’s outdoor stage.  As Miko and the other Estancia kids watch, the ISM students silently form two parallel lines.  A signal is given.  The ISM students strike a pose.  The speakers begin to thud with a familiar vocal bassline.

Some of the Estancia kids begin to whisper amongst themselves as the first strains of Uptown Funk resound through the open air, but they fall silent as the ISM students begin to walk towards each other in sync, swaying to the beat and snapping.  They break into a high-energy dance routine, even leaping down to join the Estancia kids during the song’s bridge.  Though the kids are hesitant at first, a few find their groove and join the ISM students, dancing in the center of an open dusty area that has been cleared specifically for this purpose.

As the music dies down, a girl steps up to the microphone.  “Sinong gustong matutong sumayaw ng sayaw na ito?  Who wants to learn this dance?”

Hands go up.  The entire crowd divides into two makeshift lines.  The music starts up again and Miko and the other Estancia kids begin mirroring the ISM students’ movements.  There’s a lot of laughter and a lot of stepping on feet, but in the end it all pays off; someone hits Play one last time.  

Together, Miko, his friends, and the ISM students all line up.  A signal is given. They strike a pose.  The speakers begin to thud with the same familiar vocal bassline.

And they dance.


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