Doing a Practical Thing

The subject was Practical Arts. It was one subject that we high schoolers never had serious thought of getting high grades. Nonetheless it was a subject we liked most for obvious reason. There were no long, boring lectures. There was nothing to memorize. And no grueling written exams to take. Above all there was no fear of failure as long as we are present. The only requirement was to do a practical thing . . . gardening.

Yes, our Practical Arts was gardening. It was done near the basketball court--a perfect location for those who liked basketball. And since playing basketball was a first-come-first-serve basis it was convenient when sports period came. Unlike some abusive seniors who had no qualms of bullying the younger ones in order to get a slot in the court, we who were first year high school had to earn it by being ahead of time. Thus, many were happy that the site for gardening was beside the basketball court.

Gardening time was one hour in the afternoon, three times a week. Though time was specified, some would love doing it almost every day, especially those who had no inclination in sports. It was a good avenue to creatively release one’s extra energy, which we had so much of as teenagers.

The person who would easily come to mind when I recall our Practical Arts class is Mr. Labis, our teacher. Who could forget him? Not me especially because I was almost hit by a flying eraser that he threw at me when I was caught talking with somebody in the middle of his lecture.

Neatly groomed, with his patented well-combed and shiny hair, Mr. Labis was always the prime mover for us to connect with Mother Earth. As a devoted teacher, he would always be seen standing in front of us, like a kapatas who would be ready to call our attention when we were caught engaging in idle talk. I remember him telling us early on to plant something which we could bring to the kitchen later. He suggested that we plant pechay, eggplant or tomato.

It was Leodegario--if my memory serves me right--who once interrupted him with this question, “Pwede’g monggos sir?” With a sarcastic smile and his trademark intonation that drops the first syllable and the last two syllables in his sentence, our teacher answered, “Ahh… tinapulan kana!” His remark generated a hearty laugher from all of us.

Gardening was also a good activity to release stress. Although I would say that the term stress was not part of our vocabulary then. In fact the atmosphere was very relaxed. By stress I mean the absence of strict rules. For in the field, there were no strict rules regarding silence. We were free to talk while working in our assigned area. It was a time each one could vie for airtime and share a piece of joke that would usually elicit jeers and laughter from everybody. Jokes that until now we keep repeating and never get tired of.

Thus, gardening was one of those times when we easily forgot about living in a much regimented life inside the four walls of the seminary.

But the most interesting part of gardening was when our plants were starting to grow. During that period many of us would visit our garden more often to water the plants and inspect for insects. Taking care of the growing plants was like caring a pet. We had to allot extra time in order to see to it that they were healthy and in good condition.

Interest and joy in gardening peaked during harvest time. It gave us a feeling of fulfillment in seeing the fruits of our labor. And when we brought our harvest to the kitchen, we knew that would also make Nang Feliza and Nong Tanciong happy.

For us Practical Arts was a past time and not a serious endeavor to get high grades. Perhaps the deeper reason why we did not consider Practical Arts as a serious subject then was the thought that can be summed up in the words of one classmate, “Ahh.. kinahanglan ba god diay ni aron ta ma pari?

Nonetheless, we enjoyed every moment of it. Though taken for granted in the beginning, I’m sure we realized later that doing a practical thing, like gardening, is an art that we need to master in order to survive and even succeed in whatever option in life we take -- including the priesthood! (soc)