#ThankYouMa’am: The little Ollivander and the ‘Voldy’ Me
Bach in grade school, I was the regular quiet girl off with her own world, happy while the rest of the world ignores her. Had just two bestfriends and would stay inside the classroom during recess with a good book than terrorize the playground.
One of my fondest memories is to smuggle a comic book and read them during math lectures while using textbooks as covers. Because I wear glasses and speak poshy, uncommon words I deliberately memorized to suck it up, all the teachers generally considered me as the well-behaved, studious girl and so, I get away with my every crime that easily.
When you love to read, you’d find that the English teachers would always adore you, especially if you’re in a small school such as mine. No one pleases them than to see kids reading thick paperbacks with brows furrowed in concentration. If they only knew how hard it is for me to stifle my laugh over the Archie Comic Digest I am reading smugly shielded by a thick paperback of “War and Peace.” For most teachers, they’d rather forgive a student passing out his boredom on class by reading than sleeping through it all.
One day, my math teacher caught me reading in class one time. Since we’re clearly not in a reading or English class, she took away my comic and enacted the punishment. This was the third time in a row I was caught reading. I thought she’s going to hand me the chalk and make me suffer in front of the class by trying to solve a very long word problem but she just told me I have to go to the principal’s office after class. Mrs. Ligot will see to my case.
Mrs. Ligot is a small lady with a gentle voice. Although wrinkles ran all over her face, she’d always wear a graceful smile which can deceive you into thinking she wouldn’t hurt a fly. She’s not the type of headmasters students would cower in fear from everytime they get sent to her office; in fact when I was waiting for her, I was enjoying myself with the office’s cool air-conditioner tinged with spicy jasmine scent. But don’t get me wrong, she can be pretty intimidating when her fuse blows up. Her small stature effectively hides how firm and strict she is.
When I explained to Mrs. Ligot what I did, she just smiled benignly and said “You really love reading books, don’t you, Jannica?” (And I forgot, she knows EVERY student’s name)
“Comics po. Nagbabasa po ako ng comics” I meekly said.
“Comics, books, they’re all the same. They’re made to read” she said. “I heard you love reading”
There are tons in my class who also love to read so I never consider my love of reading as anything special. In the setting I grew up in, adults would gush over young readers as if they possess some incredible mind power uncommon to many, which means they seldom encounter a child who loves to read and that in itself is a sad thing to think about. “Medyo lang po.”
“Have you ever tried writing?” she asks while peering at me through sharp horn-rimmed glasses.
I thought of my horrible penmanship and wildly shook my head. “Pangit po sulat ko ma’am” I thought she’d order me to write a letter to my parents or something.
She threw her head back and laughed for a long time “I’m thinking of enlisting the school in the District Press Conference.” Seeing my blank expression, she continued. “It’s a contest of writing in journalism – news writing, features, editorials, sports…Every school in the district will participate. I’m thinking of including you in the team”
I was overcome with shock and extreme worry (but really, more of the latter) “Hindi po ako marunong magsulat” I said in a fearful voice as if she just asked me to run barefoot in smoldering ashes.
I never really considered writing before. You can ask me to read an entire series of Harry potter for one week but never an essay about how the books affected you as a person. Writing’s too personal. It reveals something of your personality, and I can profess I’m the most closeted secretive girl there is. Revealing anything about myself to other people without my consent is just one of my fears.
It’s like everytime you write something, you’re leaving a part of your soul behind , just like what Voldemort did on Horcruxes. To attain immortality, one must pay the painful price of baring his soul and I had a feeling I’m not prepared for that kind of sacrifice.
I’m your regular wallflower, content to watch everything silently in the corner, never sharing anything; Sharing my opinions, my beliefs, my style and how I view the world, opening up like a bud on spring is the least of what I want.
But Mrs. Ligot insisted that I should try. See how determined she is? Who knew a little lady could have such an iron will? She says that in any case, I still have to make up for my misbehavior in class. “You wouldn’t lose anything,” she assures but the word ‘lose’ made me even more frightened more than anything. “Why don’t you just give it a try? After some practices and trainings, you can tell me if you wanted to leave”
I reluctantly became the part of the first ever newspaper staff of the school, along with a handful of my friends and some fifth and sixth graders.
The first time I write something is a poem. Yes,A short, mushy poem. I still feel a hot flush creeping on my face everytime I remember reading it. When I submitted it to Mrs. Ligot for review, I literally ran away. Part of my reluctance in writing is eliciting negative comments about the way I see things, and ultimately, rejection of my character. See how messed up I am as a kid? (and maybe until now)
I came to meet Mrs. Ligot later that afternoon in the library where the school newspaper meeting is. She is wearing that all perpetual motherly smile while watching me clumsily shuffling my way to her.
“Is this the first poem you wrote?” she asked, holding the tiny piece of paper which contained jumbled words so meaningless and cheesy I might as well have swallowed up a dictionary and vomited words in random.
I nodded bravely. I really didn’t care if I get kicked out of the campus paper team or what. To be honest, I grew to like it. Suddenly, my mind isn’t just all about reading and understanding words; it’s creating them. The experience of having to make readers feel, see, or think the same way as you do gives me a bittersweet sense of taking a piece of my soul and immortalizing it into a piece of paper and letting it go.
“This is good.” she said. “There’s a few grammar problems but for your first poem, this is excellent!” I looked up to her to see if she’s joking but she’s looking at the paper and looking genuinely pleased about it. “Isasama ko to on the first issue of our newspaper for the literary page.”
“Wag na lang po” I said but she just shook her head and smiled.
“You shouldn’t be ashamed of your work” she continues. “Magsulat ka lang nang magsulat. You’ll find it to be the most natural thing you can do after reading. Walang tama o mali sa pagsusulat at sa nagsusulat. Just a little bit of skill there and a tiny bit of kapal ng mukha, you’ll get by”
Needless to say, my passion for writing started after that. My poem got published in the school paper, and sure my archrival in class, a mean arrogant boy who I will never name, mocked at how I write it, and sure I cringed inwardly everytime I read it, my ambition to become a writer never wavered. Ever since Mrs. Ligot suggested me to write and open myself up to the world, I think I changed for the better, and i began to trust on my words more and more. I began to trust on myself more and more.
Everytime I write an article, a chapter, a poem, a news piece, I’d always remember Mrs. Ligot. We would still get in touch sometimes in high school but I’ve never heard of her anymore as I entered the university except some snippets of her leaving the country and settling with one of her sons living in the States. Every time she visits the old school, it’s heartwarming to know that she still inquires about me from my younger cousins who are studying there. More than remembering a fond memory of a teacher, it’s such a happy feeling when a teacher remembers you.
Someday I’m planning to return to contact her, arrange a meet up and tell her that I’m now a successful journalist or a writer, a game-changer, or maybe as a lost twenty-something girl who hadn’t still found her place in the world. Victorious or battered down, no matter what, I would stand in front of her as the girl whose life she had changed and tell her how much it meant to me.
In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy myself running around and playing Voldemort, casting a piece of my soul to every word, every sentence, every paper and every story to my quest of immortality.