The Sad Ending of Pepe’s First School

Biñan played a brief but pivotal role in Rizal’s schooling as a young boy under the guardianship of Maestro Cruz. although he described the town being ‘ugly and small’ the now crowded municipality help develop Rizal during his critical formative school days.

Unfortunately much of what remains in Maestro Cruz’ school is now gone. The town has managed to build a new monument for the national hero but paid no attention for the school that’s slightly larger than an medium-sized truck. I almost wept when I saw what has become of the charming little kubo that I have seen in my books.

The ruins are still there perhaps waiting to be disposed. the property owner did not allow us to go inside to take pictures but I managed to get it anyways (climbing the walls). Partly I was not surprised at what happened to this historical treasure – this is not the first time that a historical treasure was left to decay. I was angered still by the insensitivity and disrespect of the very people that should have secured the place. They probably thought that once they have placed a marker that’s it – their job is complete.

I spoke with a man who claims to have been commissioned to repair the kubo on several occasions. He now sells buko juice right beside the wall near the historical marker. He said that overtime the family that owns the property where the kubo was built lost interest in maintaining it he adds ‘it was time consuming and it cost money’. I can imagine that it does cost a lot time and money – it ‘s a century old kubo built with nipa and lumber it does not have the endurance of stone houses and monuments. The kubo according to the man was in disrepair for a long time (leaking roof and termites) then came typhoon Millenyo that sealed its fate – without support he knew it would fall to the ground. And it did.

There were countless request he said for the municipal government to intervene and help shoulder some cost, he heard that some individuals made pledges but it never came. My friend Pepe (who accompanied me) was fortunate enough to see the small structure while it was still standing in 2004. According to him the caretaker regularly receives promises of assistance by known groups and individuals but none arrived. Until the storm finally destroyed it, this is how the fabled school house ended.

Rizal wrote that he was ‘made fun of’ and was ‘called names’ by some classmates, even bullied by the Maestro’s son. Reading those lines from his diary gave me a feeling that he was not very sentimental of his days in the Maestro’s watch – but knowing the grateful man that he was I’m sure that he must have sung praises for the memories he had then and treasured those moments together with some of his old Biñan classmates when they met in Manila as university students.

Here in Biñan I found the perfect example of how our government has failed to restore and promote our national treasures. We were not being unfair with the historical giants but to our very children. Only in pictures will we be able to share to them what Rizal’s old school looks like.

There’s another place in Biñan that has a historical significance for the young Rizal, it was a capilla where he “fervently raised his prayers” he once recorded. The Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje in Baranggay La Paz Biñan. It was interesting to note that the church doesn’t have any historical marker and to my surprised the head Priest and the official church historian was not aware that Rizal made his Marist devotion in that sleepy barrio more than century ago. I have decided to help them to rewrite their parish history.

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