The Christmas season always brings me the chills.
Chills down my spine, that is.
The season always haunts me like some Christmas ghost of the past, reminding me of some long gone day that I could barely remember. It’s a bad memory that lingers and is still carefully stored at the back of my head bidding its time to come out every Christmas season. It’s a trifle piece of memory, not even painful not even a story of unrequited love or any of that jazz, but it’s enough to haunt me.
I am not a Scrooge who goes bah-humbug every Christmas time to get this kind of haunting. Although I don’t believe in any Christian significance of Christmas, I never grumble or bash any well wishers. In fact, I sometimes even offer the greeting first and also join in the merry making. I don’t crush any people’s happiness by preaching the ancient pagan significance of yuletide including its pagan symbolisms and traditions to anyone who would approach me with a huge smile and a warm handshake. I join in warm huggies, smoochies and all!
Yet, Christmas past still haunts me.
High School. Senior Year. My last. The memory is actually sketchy. I don’t know what really transpired. I forgot the details already. It was so long ago. Maybe it was the guilt. Maybe because I fell asleep. Maybe because I wasn’t too focus enough to be creative enough. All I remember was that I was being prepared for one big event – something of epic proportions that I shouldn’t miss. It was supposed to be the last of my four year stint to join this event, so I couldn’t afford to lose. Day in and day out, I was being instructed, conditioned and trained for one big important school activity.
Every morning, every day before the big day, I went to this special class with a handful of classmates. We would stay in the room, sometimes locked in, with only papers and pens. We were excused from most of the morning classes. Each of us was being trained for specific specialties.
We were being prepared for a competition against other schools within the city. This means we’ve passed the district level and now getting prepped for the city wide or division level. The competition here is usually tougher because we’re competing against other schools, but our district in and of itself was already pushing camel through the eye of a needle. We belong in a district with none other than Manila Science HS, the top science high school in the city of Manila. Since we got to city level, it means we’re capable of placing with this school among others. Actually many schools in the city do try to topple this science high school and most of them succeed.
The big day comes. I am prepared except for one thing: the big day is a Saturday, A Sabbath. It’s a big deal that I be in church, even if all I ever do there back then was to play soccer with some friends using a fallen coconut on the lawn beside our church. It is a big deal for me so why am I elsewhere? I couldn’t do anything but just try to shrug it off. Though the pangs of guilt have slowly been eating at me each hour during the day, I couldn’t do anything. Back then, my fear of my instructor was greater than my fear of sin itself. My instructor would surely skin me alive if I ever opted out of the competition. So here I was guilty of hell fire but still competing in another high school whose name I couldn’t remember.
As usual for most city wide events, there was a program first. We all had to line up per category and listen as teachers, superintendents all had to talk. I don’t why but after all these years I learned that teachers ought to keep quiet when not teaching or risk voice misuse and abuse, then again, they seem to crave the talking that they even had to talk longer than usual at programs. As the program wore on, the guilty feeling has been eating at me. I wanted to bolt out. I wanted to catch the first jeep back to church. I wanted to scream, WHAT AM I DOING HERE?!
Then, we separated. All students were sent to a pre-arranged room based on the category they’re competing in. We’re supposed to stay there for most of the day until the tasks that we have to do is over. By this time, I was already sweating buckets. I was already uneasy.
Then, proctor walked in.
She talked for a while, some instructions I was already very familiar with. Then sheets of papers were passed, and then the competition starts. The task was this: write a personal feature story of how you celebrate Christmas for what it really means.
Until today, I couldn’t believe how I totally screwed up that big City-wide Journalism Competition. I wrote an obviously conjured story that had very vague and inaccurate details. I was not in focus. I was guilty for being there. I think I even fell asleep during the competition.
Now, every Christmas season, I am reminded by that article that I didn’t write. What if I told it like this or I told it like that? What if I wrote it this way or that? It’s driving me crazy until today.