To be a man, ‘pagbibinata’
To be a man, ‘pagbibinata’
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - November 22, 2018 - 12:00am

(Part II of “Dalaga ka Na, When a Girl Becomes a Woman”)

Letting go is the key to peaceful and meaningful coexistence between parent and teenager. As parents, we are concerned that life goes “right“ for our children. As teenagers, they are fighting to be the master of their own destiny. To let go when we want to hold on and continue to guide them requires the utmost generosity and love.

Between puberty and adolescence, a young boy is very vulnerable in this modern world… If only all the beer and whisky ads would be redirected to give the right message of manhood, then these million-peso ads would definitely build this nation instead of destroying it.

Christopher Laurel, the ‘binatilyo’

Sometime in the ‘70s, the sexual maturation of male pupils fascinated me. Christopher Laurel, the youngest son of the late Vice-President Salvador Laurel, was only five years old when he caught my attention during a political party, often celebrated in the Laurel gardens in Shaw Boulevard. “What an alert and bright-looking little man. I wish you would enroll him at our Montessori preschool,” I told Ms. Celia Diaz-Laurel. But Christopher stayed first a few years in a traditional school before Celia decided to transfer the “little politician” and his sister, Iwi to our grade school in Sta. Ana.

Christopher’s appeal to girls was instant. All the pretty and bright girls had a crush on him, including my daughter, Rachelle. Meantime, the boys resented Kris, because he was aggressive, very direct and opinionated. In the beginning personally handled the Facts of Life sessions, one for girls and another for the boys. One day in Christopher’s class: “Boys, have you noticed that the girls are growing taller and heavier much ahead of you?” That’s only natural. (Grade VII was not obligatory yet.) Next year, you will start to catch-up. Watch out especially in high school. You will shoot up like a bamboo, even in spurts of three inches within a month. Meantime, watch out how Mother Nature is transforming you as you grow into adulthood (pag bibinata). Although you will enjoy running in the sun and fields, playing rough games, and climbing trees, reducing you to very sweaty students during the day, you will soon lose that vinegar smell. It will be replaced by another body smell, because new hormones of growth are being produced. Frequent bathing and fresh change of underwear and clothes is a must. A lump will also grow in your neck. This Adam’s apple accompanies the change of your voice. Do not be alarmed if you begin to croak like a frog, and sometimes speak in the high-pitched voice of a woman. In due time, you will acquire a man’s low and loud voice like that of your father’s.

The facts of life and its accompanying responsibilities

Introducing cultural customs, I would remind them: “In many countries, the official ceremony for becoming a man is circumcision. This is done before the teen years. Who of you have been circumcised?“ (Blushes, fidgeting), Kris raises his hand readily with two other brave boys. All these signs of growing up, to include your developing a strong interest in girls. During adolescence boys and girls get fascinated with one another and become very self-conscious as their bodies undergo changes. It is accompanied by thrills, excitement and new sensation But traumas and nightmares can arise and can be psychologically damaging when the facts of life are not introduced properly, Corresponding responsibilities should be promptly be taught.

Being combative, Kris would tend to hurt his classmates. As a patrol leader, he would even ask his scouts to look at the sun as a form of punishment. But given difficult tasks like pitching tents and building fences and bridges, Kris would be in his elements. Although he has a hard time concentrating, he did his best in academic work and had a beautiful and neat penmanship. Signs of being well-bred and gentlemanly showed in his daily wear of very neatly ironed monogrammed school uniforms with a fresh man’s handkerchief that was slightly scented.

The masculine virtues

Christopher would repeat my lesson at the family table, according to Celia and Doy. One Saturday, over lunch, Christopher announced, “Dad I learned that to be a man one must cultivate the masculine virtues of hard work. We should channel our love for girls by being protective towards them. Mrs. Soliven insists that the right time to date is when a young man is financially sustainable.”

“That was inspiring coming from our aggressive son,” Doy recounted with misty eyes. But what brought the house down was when he proclaimed: “Do you know that although ladies have their monthly menstruation, men have also a particular emission. Mrs. Soliven calls it ‘white menstruation.’ We should watch out for it. It can come anytime of the day but more frequently at night when we are lost in our dreams. It is also known as wet dreams.”

We had no high school department then. Kris and his classmates went to different high schools. Their new classmates were usually in closely knit groups, which were difficult to break into. They missed their old school so much that they would drop by frequently after class to say hello.

A tribute to Christopher

In one party reunion, Kris who was much talked about at the UP Integrated High School, where he got into a few predicaments badly affecting his grades, gave me a wise observation of life: “At our O.B. Montessori school, you taught us that everything in life is good. You conditioned us to do good with all the prepared indoor and outdoor activities. At UP, I learned that life has two path ways, the good and the bad. Man is free to choose. I was curious about the other path and I tried. Now, I have been physically hurt. My parents and teachers are disappointed. My suspension from school is a very serious lesson in my life. Next time I know better.”

Kris became a working student in another high school. He did not do as well. One evening, as he stood by their gate at Shaw Boulevard, a huge truck rumbled by. The old thick wall of the residence fell on him, severing one foot. Despite undergoing eight operations, he never fully recovered and was in comatose during the following decades.

If Kris’s life was arrested at 20, I would like to think that no matter how short his life was, he was destined by God, in His mysterious ways, to show us how a boy struggles against so much odds to become a man.

Christopher died on March 22, 2008 at the age of 47.

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