i guess you can call it a rite of passage. somewhere between childhood and adulthood, lola aleja’s apos were sent into “exile” during the hot summer months when school was out. of course, we were all happy exiles, as happy and as comfortable as real exiles could never be.
the little town of u-og in bohol became our playground — hanging out with the other kids, going on habal-habal rides into the town proper just to buy ice cream, raiding lola’s refrigerator for ice candies which she was known for selling, eating fresh buko mixed with royal true orange and marie biscuits because that’s the way the locals prepared and liked it.
talk to any of lola’s grandchildren and they will tell you the kind of summer they enjoyed in bohol. read between the lines and you will see in their eyes that although those little kids may now have families of their own, they consider u-og and lola aleja and her ice candies a part of who they are wherever they may be.
a stone’s throw away from lola’s house is the u-og ubujan elementary school. it was where, for many years, she taught first and second graders how to read and write. all her children, at one point or another, became her students. just as her children’s father was once her student too when she was just a young public teacher from cebu assigned to teach in the rural area that she would ultimately consider her home.
she was a brilliant teacher. everyone who knew her would agree. strict, but brilliant nonetheless. she made it her business to instill knowledge and values on her students.
to continue lola aleja’s legacy, we do whatever we can do to help the school that served as a foundation of learning for our fathers and mothers and uncles and aunts, not to mention the countless number of students who graduated from the school. in our own little way, we help, knowing that somewhere, lola is smiling.
just as these kindergarten kids are smiling over the box of crayons and pencils and erasers and paper — school supplies which may not be anything much but may actually mean so much to them.