Do you remember your English Teacher? Do you remember the last time you spoke English? Well, it is probably an everyday routine for the most of us but… have you ever thought of how were you able to comprehend a language that is not your mother tongue? English has been known to be one of the most prominent and widely used mode of communication today. It is being used from entry level to supervisorial level in the corporate world. A very useful tool indeed.

This I got to ask. Well, if you are basing everything on the title… you should know what you are going to read next. Do you remember the first person who taught you English? For me, it was my grandmother.

Meet Maria Luisa R. Cabrito. She was a teacher who taught college English at Arellano University, University of the East and University of Santo Tomas. All prestigious schools if you ask me. Since we are talking about Pinoys in general, I said to myself… Why don’t I talk to her? Ask her about how it was back then and all that…

So, I took the time to ask my grandmother for a short interview. By the way, before I proceed. You might ask me how old is she? Well… let’s find out. She might be able to teach us a thing or two that we cannot find in Wikipedia.

The Turk Effect: So now, Lola Eggie… first, let’s talk about your name. How did Maria Luisa became Eggie?

Maria Luisa: Well, nung bata pa ako… lahat ng mga kapatid ko mapuputi. Ako lang yung medyo may kaitiman compare sa kanila. Next thing I know, they were starting calling me Neggie. That’s where the name came from. (When I was kid, all of my brothers and sisters had fair complexion. It just so happened that mine was a little darker than theirs.  Next thing I know, they were starting calling me Neggie. That’s where the name came from.)

The Turk Effect: I see! How old are you?

Maria Luisa: At the present? 83. I was born September 28, 1935.

The Turk Effect: Wow! So… can you walk me through how life was before?

Maria Luisa: I was not like the normal kids who often play a lot. I always kept to myself. I read a lot of books and memorize them if need be. I was like that ever since I was a kid. I graduated First Honor in Elementary. I had so many awards that I lost count. Even though I had so much awards, wala sa mga parents ko ang naka attend sa graduation ko. Kasi busy yung nanay ko sa pamamalantsa, paglalaba. Tatay ko naghahanap buhay. Kaya nag-graduate ako mag isa. (Even though I had so much awards, my parents was not able to attend my graduation. My mother was busy ironing and washing our laundry and my father was at work. So I graduated Elementary alone.)

The Turk Effect: That’s a little sad, but you had to come home right? What did your parents say?

Maria Luisa: I showed my awards to my parents of course. I was best actress, best poet and got first honor. Nung makita ng tatay ko, ok ok lang ang tatay ko sa nakita nya. Kaya sinabi ko sa kanya na gusto ko mag aral ng High School. My father said otherwise… he said, “Wag na. Tama na yang grade 6. Di naman kailangan ng babae yang high school. Tama na yang elementary.” (No. Grade 6 is just enough. Women do not need to graduate high school. It’s ok to just stick to that.) Me, being the stubborn child… answered back, “Marunong naman po ako at matalino. Gusto ko po mag High School.” (I am intelligent and I want to go to High School.). So my father dared me, “Sige kung makakapag enroll ka ng High school, eh di mag aral ka.” So… I went on to enroll myself alone.

The next thing I remember was nag hahanap na ako ng mapag e enroll-lan na high school so pumunta ako sa public school. Pero puno na ito. Di sila nag a accept. (The next thing I remember, I was trying to find a high school to enroll in. A public school to be exact but, they were not open for enrollment anymore.)

The Turk Effect: But that did not let you down right?

Maria Luisa: Well, meron akong nakita at kakilala na kasabay ko grumaduate dun sa Sacred Heart kung san ako nag elementary.(Well, I did see someone while I was trying to find a school. It was someone I know. Someone who graduated from Sacred Heart, same school I went on Elementary) Then she invited me over to enroll at Arellano University. Since they were accepting graduates. But then I thought, “Ay may bayad yun…”. (That school has payments…)  So I took my chances. I went to Arellano University at Sampaloc, and got accepted. Luckily, I was allowed to enter and got a scholarship as well. All I had to pay for the whole year was, 5 pesos.

The only way I know how to study was the way I did back in Elementary. So, lalo kong pinagsikapan. Natutulog ako ng 7 ng gabi, gigising ako ng 12 ng hating gabi. Tapos dun ako mag aaral. Why midnight? Para makapag concentrate ako sa pag aaral ko. Walang maingay at walang ibang ilaw kundi dun kung saan ako nag aaral at nagbabasa. Sa ganitong paraan, nakakabisado ko ang libro. Kapag examinations, dalawa lang resulta ko. Either may isang mali or perfect. (I did my best, I slept at 7:00 in the evening and I will wake up at 12:00 midnight. From there I will study. Why midnight? So that I could concentrate on my studies. No one’s noisy and everything’s dark except for the table where I am reading my books. That way, I can easily memorize the the book. On examinations, I expect 2 results. Either I got one answer wrong or I got everything perfectly.)

I did not expect anything else. Each and every time there was an exam. I always prayed and asked for help. I was Catholic back then by the way. I am able to complete a 100 numbered exam in less than 10 minutes.

I always punished myself whenever I would get anything lower than 85% in one grading. So I make it to a point that I get a higher mark on the next grading. A 95% is my lowest target and it would happen. So, first grading… I would accept mistakes but as the school year go by… I want everything to be on steady 95%. Nothing less.  Because if I get anything lower, I was afraid I would lose my scholarship thus my chance in studying. At the same I want to prove to myself that I am smart. I want to prove everyone that a woman is not just someone who would stay inside a household just to cook meals and clean.

The Turk Effect: Did it put any pressure on you since most of your sisters and brothers did not finish school?

Maria Luisa: Ako lang ang grumaduate sa kanila. Pero kung pressure, bale wala sa akin kung ano ang pinili nila. Nakinig sila sa parents namin, sila yun. Gusto ang pinaka target ko ay yung sarili ko eh. In other words, di sila naka apekto sa akin whatsoever. Basta ako, kung ano sinabi ng nanay ko na duties ko for the day, gagawin ko lahat yan. Kaya kahit ako ay puyat, alas sais pa lamang, gigising na ako para mamalengke. (I’m the only one who graduated. But I did not feel any pressure. I did not care what course in life they took. They listened to my parents. That’s them. Me? My target is myself. In other words, they did not affected me whatsoever. I just did whatever household chores my mother asked me to. Doesn’t matter if I’m still sleepy or not. 6:00am I am already up and immediately go to the market.)

And sa school di ako tulad nung iba na daldal daldal lang. May tao man o wala yung classroom namin, andun ako at nag aaral at nagbabasa. (And when it comes to school. I am not like the others. It doesn’t matter if there’s someone inside the room or none, I will study there.)

Mababaw man ito pero isa ito sa mga naging drive ko para ungusan ang mga classmates ko. Kasi may peklat akong malaki dito sa may legs ko. Palibhasa mid na ng school year alam na nila na marunong ako, so tumatabi sila sa akin. Ako naman dahil alam ko nga kung ano ang gusto nila mangyari, lumalayo ako. Kaya pag dating sa labas. Sinisagawan nila ako na, “Maria Luisa BAKOKANG!”.  Talagang pinapahiya nila ako at napapa iyak na lang ako minsan. Pero kadalasan sinisagawan ko din sila, “Pag balik ko bukas sa classroom, wala nanaman kayong masasagot sa exam.”. Kakilala ko sila… pero wala akong kaibigan. (This is a little shallow but this is one of my drive. I have this large scar on my legs. Since it was middle of the school year, my classmates already know that I am one of the smart kids so whenever there’s an exam coming, they often try to sit beside me. I already know what they need and want to happen so I try to move away. When the bell rang and it was time for us to go home, they tease and shout at me in public. “Maria Luisa Bakokang” (Which means a Large Scar)Just to get back at them, I shout back saying, “Don’t worry, when we get back to school tomorrow… You still ain’t gonna have anything to put on your examination papers.” I know a lot of people back in high school. But I had no friends.

The Turk Effect: Such drive! Well, believe it or not… the generation nowadays, their drive is a little different from yours back then. Kids today are driven by socializing. Friends to be exact.

Maria Luisa: Ay hindi ako! Pinanganak akong mag-isa di kita kasama, tatayo ako ng mag-isa. That was very valuable lesson that I learned from my parents. Matuto kang tumayo sa sarili mong paa. Wag kang umasa sa iba. Which up to my old age, yun ang tangay-tangay ko. (Not me. I was born alone so I will stand alone. That was a very valuable lesson that I learned from my parents. Learn to stand on your own two feet. Do not rely on others. Which up to my old age, I still carry that lesson.)

These are all accounts of the truth back then. It might sound hella fun, but it was also hella hard.

This is for episode one… Stay tuned for our next episode!

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