May 28, 2024

(Editors’ note: The Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on June 6, 2019)

Friends come and go, but a girl will stand by her man through thick and thick, at least until the pocket runs thin and dry.
That is absolutely false, protest the romantic of heart. It is the other way round, if truth be told.
Girls come and go, but friendship(s) will last till the end of time.
But if you listen to the realists, there is no such thing as forever in life.
But where is all this nutty talk coming from?
Wait up, and I will tell you.

In my grade school years at the old Baguio Central, I once took part in a play during Health Week, where I acted the role of “the Germ.”
On cue, I would jump out from behind a post proclaiming, “I am the germ.”
Everything went according to plan, except that when I got on stage, twin trains of mucus (moteg) came dribbling down my nose.
The applause wasn’t deafening, but the laughter was.
I couldn’t live with the embarrassment, so on my sixth grade, I moved over to St. Louis School.

One afternoon, while cleaning our classroom as assigned cleaners for the day, I got into a scuffle with a classmate half a head shorter than I was.
Boy, did someone learn a painful lesson that day.
I came out of the fight with a bloodied nose, a busted lip, and a double blackeye.

When I got to high school, I was part of a team that played the opening game in the basketball intramurals.
With the ball in my hands, I heard the voices of two women screaming their lungs out.
“Shoot, Benny, shoot,” my mom and aunt shouted in unison.
And each time I got the ball, the crowd would laughingly chant, “Shoot, Benny, shoot.”
I didn’t speak to my mom that day, and the day after.

It wasn’t much different in college.
In our English 3 class, the professora required us to write a theme on a subject suggested by her.
When she gave us back our papers the next day, mine merited a grade of 4.9.
Looking at the professora, hoping for an explanation, she quickly reads my mind.
“Mr. Carantes,” she says to me, “you do not instigate peace, war is what you instigate, and you forge peace.”
My seatmate snickers, and he too gets his comeuppance.
“Mr. Lira,” the professor addresses him, “when a country cuts ties with another country, it does not disconnect, but it severs the diplomatic relations between both.”
“Now when Meralco cuts off the power, it disconnects the electricity or the electric services.”
“I would have given you and Mr. Carantes a grade of 5, but the 0.01 percent is for the effort.”

Nick Pobledor, a UP cum laude graduate, was our professor in Economics 101.
There were 48 of us in that class, and only three got passing marks – two with a grade of 3, the other with a perfect grade of 1.
According to stories, some of my classmates were not just take two, but also take three, or even four.
They took it as a matter of challenge, that to get a passing grade under Nick Poblador was an honor by itself.
But my second take was under Miss de Guzman, a UP magna cum laude.
And lo and behold, she gave me a grade of 1.75.
But get this, one classmate was take three or four under Nick, and he would later become Dean of the UP Law school.

By some stroke of faith, Nick got married to a local girl – Helen Kruger, a classmate in grade school.
Small as Baguio was then, Nick and I met, and got to talking about good old Diliman. Take note, Diliman is not UP Baguio, UP Iloilo, UP Mindanao, or even Los Baños. It is in fact (or fiction?) a republic within a republic, where minds run from right to left, but with hearts always in the right place.
Given today’s military activities, the Philippine Military Academy is vainly trying to prove that it is far better.
Take your pick, isip pulis or isip pula.

Anyway, I couldn’t help but ask Nick if he still remembers our classmate with the grade of Uno.
“Yes, yes,” Nick answers, “I know who you are referring to, that guy graduated summa cum laude.
But even before I could open my mouth for additional inquiries, Nick quickly adds, “And then he committed suicide.”
But like my freshman English professor loved to say, she with the nail polish that would match the color of her car, Mrs. Alice Coseteng, loved to say, “If you think you are intelligent, then you are not.”
Tell that to the generals and their commander-in-chief.