Whenever I find a picture of the UNC-PMT Gala Uniform, I can't help but feel pride in having worn one of those - especially the one with a star on its 5-striped chevron.
The PMT (or CAT as it was originally called) officers' training was probably one of the most stressful phases in high school, especially in Naga City. The amount of training and excellence was exemplified by the fact that the entire region was participating in bagging the honors of being the best and most disciplined group.
Yet for all the hype, the dark rumors were true in our day: of corrupted basketballs which left us drooling... of hardened abdomens from boxing practice...
But hey, we had our happy memories, too!
1. Memories on the Dog Days of Summer
It was in the summer of 1997 when Bicol was given the privilege of hosting the Palarong Pambansa. And we were invited to take part on it - as flag bearers. The practices took place at the back of the Capitol Building in Pili, Camarines Sur (and later on, at the Sports Complex). It was an El Niño summer just like this year - the sweltering, unforgiving sun broiling our brains.
Our late commandant, Sir Pete, brought with him a funny, yet cool gadget. Literally. It was a ball cap with a solar-powered fan installed in it. I forgot where he got it, but anyway he was happily enjoying the artificial breeze while we endured the entire ordeal. Some of my co-officers decided to play a prank then on him. Sneaking behind our short faculty member/officer, they stretched out their sweaty palms over our elderly's head, grinning like the devils they were.
With the sunlight blocked, the tiny fan suddenly stopped. Sir Pete looked at the device curiously, the bill of the cap hiding the palms that were the cause of the discomfort. He tapped the fan several times, just in time for my colleagues to withdraw their hands. They repeated the charade several times, until they got caught because everyone was already laughing at the scene.
It was also on that occasion when the "Maogmang Lugar" (translated as "Happy Place") motto of the city was being introduced. The city government was bannering the motto all around, and unwittingly placed some signs at (of all the unholy places) the local cemetery. At first, it elicited a few jokes from us - until the officials realized their mistake. Well, it did help made the place livelier, even for a while.
2. The Red and Gray Days
I guess one of my greatest regrets was being the cause for the cancellation of our PMT Officer's Ball. While I was not against the idea, I was not comfortable with the requirement - that is, each officer had to have a partner. Being fickle as I am (until now), I didn't like the idea for several reasons: (a) I didn't want people to take the wrong idea about whom I choose as my partner; (b) I didn't know whom I want to pick; (c) I was too torpe to ask the one I actually wanted to be my partner. Yeah, yeah... And so, just a few weeks before the ball, my commandant found out about my predicament and so the ball was called off on my account. Sorry, everyone.
There were a lot of happy, ordinary day memories, too. Like the time when I played a prank on a junior officer - something I picked up from my sister, who also was an officer. I ordered the poor kid to fetch a pig that was up on the tree. After a round of cajoling, I persuaded him to do as I say - which was to convince the imaginary pig to get down the tall tree. I was laughing my ass off watching him shake the tree and shout at the invisible animal until a faculty member investigated what was going on. Luckily, the kid didn't tell on me.
Being part of the officer corps is a privilege, and an advantage. We were often tasked to do sentry duties on important school events, which automatically gives us access to free food.
I just wondered how different my life would have been had I been more playful in terms of romance during my high school life. I mean, I had a good built, and being in uniform was somewhat a pogi point then. But even though I did notice a peek or two, I didn't bother to give them my attention, enjoying my days with friends. Maybe I will change that if I invent a time machine... hahahha!
3. A Tiny Mutiny
Our batch's greatest feat (or prank, as it seems) was done late in our school year, as we were training the junior students as officers. There had been some issues concerning abuses and complaints, which during that time I didn't take much notice of. I was quite busy with my numerous extra-curricular commitments (and my personal problems at home) that I conceded to their plan - which was for all the senior officers to boycott the entire PMT drill for the day. And it was only a few weeks away from graduation.
And so we executed it flawlessly: we pumped up everyone, growling at our classmates to not mess up the drill because we will be "strict", and we were doing our very best to act scary. Which actually paid off: Everyone was scurrying, borrowing metal polish and rags, preparing stuff even two periods away from the practice.
We hurriedly left our rooms when the bell rang, signaling the end of class. Then, after meeting up with the other officers, we scurried away - some went straight home, others went with me to LCC Mall. When we returned an hour later, we saw our classmates loitering around the grass, glaring at us. We just grinned back.
Later on, I asked a fellow how the kind commandant reacted. It was only then I realized that our little act of insubordination was not funny at all. But we did give him a parting gift when the PMT department received its first Best Unit Award during the graduation rites, which he received with much pride. Months later, he died. We never got to salute him a respectful farewell.
Sigh. I miss Sir Pete. God rest his soul.