Chapter 10:


The Ballad of the School Hallways

Infatuation. Love.

Those two words were very distinct and different to each other, pronunciation- and spelling-wise. However, most kids these days thought that those two were the same.

You want an example? Well, look at the social media. More often than not, you’d find a lot of ‘sentimental’ posts about infatuation being masqueraded as love. And the students, having related themselves to those posts based on their situation, would actually believe in this stupidity, and worse, they’d share it for their other friends to see.

“Alright, you sentimental idiots!” was my fiery introduction to them about our new lesson to tackle. “We have these words, ‘infatuation’, and ‘love’. Can someone from this class tell me what’s the difference between these two?”

As usual, my students returned my question with their silent stares for answers.

“Come on, guys! I thought you’re love gurus, experts, or the incarnation of Papa Jock himself?” I sarcastically challenged them. “How come you don’t know about these?” (1)



“Is infatuation about you?” a student asked jokingly, “I mean, you’re fat and all…”

“Yes, I’m fat…but you can’t deny I’m handsome,” I countered, complete with a confident grin. “And infatuation has no connection on being fat, you ugly moron!

The whole class laughed at my trash talk, and teased their classmate mercilessly. Well, they all knew I was joking, so there was no offense committed. Another one raised his hand.

“Yes Boris? Any ideas?”

“Sir, is infatuation have something to do with crushes?”

“Yep, you’re correct!” I praised the president of Class Jade. “You see, infatuation is the other term for crush.”


“Question, can anyone tell me here how’d you know you’re already in-love with someone?”

This time, there were a lot of hands that were raised up. I pointed at that one student, whose name kept on escaping my memories…

“Sir, I could tell that I’m in-love with someone if I don’t want to lose her, or every time I miss her.”

“Nice answer, err…who are you again?”

“It’s Johnrick, Sir.”

Ah, Johnrick Agustin, right…thanks for that answer,” I took a mental note of his name. Johnrick was one of those students who was active in my class, yet I kept on forgetting his name. “Alright, anyone else?”

“For me sir, I could say that I’m in love if my feelings for him remained the same even though years have passed.”

“Okay…so, are there any other answers to add aside to those that has been put forward?”

“Me sir! I think it’s already love when I always wanted to let my presence and intent be known to her.”

“Right!” I signaled for the others to lower down their hands, since I only wanted to get some of their opinions to my question. “Now, all of your answers, no matter how noble you think it could be, are all fucking wrong!

Everyone gave me a puzzled look. They sure didn’t expect that word from me; no, I’m not referring to the expletive that I said—I was referring on how I told them they were wrong in their assumptions about love.

“Let me tell you guys what true love is, so listen here, noobs!” I was getting carried away with our discussion, so I began scribbling some rough illustrations on the whiteboard. “See, if you say that love is based on feelings, time, or presence/intention, then you’re mistaking it for infatuation. Infatuation refers to the pleasant feelings, the short time you spent with your ‘love’ even though you’ve been holding hands for 24 hours straight, and your attempts to have your presence or intentions felt.”

“You mean to say Sir that even if me and my ex-boyfriend were together for a year now, it could still count as infatuation?”

“Of course. You see, true love is not the feeling, not the time, and not the presence. It is actually a decision; a decision to stay forever with that someone you claim to love, even though all of his/her flaws has been exposed to you. The things that you said were just by-products of such a decision.”

“A decision, Sir?”

“Yes! Feelings are deceptive, guys. You may think you’re in love right now; and then the next second—because of some stupid misunderstanding, you feel you hate that person to the core. Time isn’t an assurance either; because there are relations that can take a lot of time, and still end up unsuccessful. And look, having your presence or intentions be felt by the person you love is something a ghost can also do. A living human would rather attack in the front to show his feelings to his loved one.”

“…” the class was relatively silent. I think they found my explanation worthy of reflection. However, someone raised her hand to ask another question.

“Yes, Cef?”

Stephanie stood up, “Sir, if you say it like that, then is infatuation bad?”

Hmm? Nope. It isn’t bad, Cef. You see, with infatuation given the right time to grow, it could develop into true love. After all, I believe there’s no such thing as love at first sight. You can become strangely attracted to him at first, and then came to decide to love him the next time, because you saw something in his character that is worth fighting for.”

Then Stephanie took her seat, satisfied with my explanation.

However, I continued my lecture, since I became way too fired up. “Guys, remember. When choosing your potential partner, always consider these three things, in this exact order: 1) Attitude, 2) Intelligence, and 3) Beauty. It’s better to have someone ‘ugly’ that loves you because you’re ‘you’, instead of having the most beautiful person in the entire world who treats you like you’re utter shit.

“Ooooh!!!” The entire class erupted in jeers and applause; I think most of them could relate on what I just said.

Pardon my colorful words; that happens when I become so engrossed in what I do…


Our lessons about ‘Infatuation’ and ‘Love’ continued for about several days, since it was in the curriculum of MAPEH (Health) for Grade 8. A lot of questions were put forward and I tried to answer them all, to the best of my knowledge. Many of those were fairly innocuous; but there were some that were pretty much ‘fucked’ up.

Like that one question, “Sir, if the person I love keeps on doing things that causes me to get jealous, what should I do?”

“Break up with that person.”

“But I love him!”

“Well, if that person loves you as he says, he won’t do anything to make you insecure in the first place!”

I think that student received the shock of her life. Maybe she thought that I’d tell her to ‘go fight for that person’, but no! Why fight for someone that makes you feel insecure every single time? He doesn’t deserve you!

Yep, our Health lesson continued in that fashion for several days; it caused my other topics to be seriously delayed until I decided to forcefully put a stop to their queries. However, I don’t want to keep them hanging, so instead, I went to social media to answer their questions.

The result was overwhelming. It had become my routine every time I came home to login to my account and act like a ‘love advisor’ to these curious young minds. My students would privately confide to me their concerns about love and relationships, which eventually led to the discussion of other matters, like family, school performances, friends, and even personal topics.

Seriously, I found myself talking to about ten different students at the very least, simultaneously; giving them advice. Every. Single. Night.

Well, yes, it’s pretty difficult, and stressful. However, I decided to keep on what I’m doing, since I didn’t want them to end up doing something spontaneous and wrong that would affect their lives forever. You know, though I didn’t encourage them to enter romantic relationships or commitments in such an early age, I guess we couldn’t stop these guys from being curious. Getting angry at these teenagers for having a boyfriend or girlfriend would only lead them to hide things from us—which could end in disaster.

So, instead of telling them outright not to have a lover because they’re still studying, I preferred to guide them through their relationships: on how to keep them, or when and how to bail out when the other half gets abusive.


Well, on the other matters, I had no idea what happened. You know, ever since our education curriculum changed three years ago, I’ve noticed a big change in the behavior of our students.

They’ve became noticeably noisier, a lot more prone to go out ‘illegally’ from their classrooms and loiter around our school corridors—if not always being absent in class. And there was an increase in incidents where they get into trouble with their peers, and sometimes, their teachers as well…

I guess they couldn’t help it. With the change of the system, the subject time duration was increased to a fixed standard of an hour per class. The grades could now be determined through what we call ‘student’s performance’, instead of the traditional written projects and reports. And the most difficult change of all, was that there’s a big influx of students enrolling to us from private schools. We’re hopelessly overcrowded, and with the relatively small rooms, it’s been incredibly hot.


And even so, with the current difficulties, our principal had stopped funding for our faculty room’s air-conditioner repair. The results were catastrophic; it’s been incredibly hot in the faculty room, for the air-conditioner could barely produce cold air to keep the temperature at comfortable levels. Still, despite the miserable condition, most of our faculty members preferred to hold their office in that tiny space. After all, they could work in an unpleasant environment, but they won’t be able to survive for much of the day without the almighty internet to placate their boredom…

My fellow teachers will enter their respective classes ill-tempered and prone to lashing out their frustrations on our students.

And because of those reasons, too, that I chose to become a ‘nomad’ teacher. It meant that, I put my ‘office’ anywhere, if the spot was still available. Since our corridors were wide and devoid of most teachers’ tables, I would setup my not-so-private personal space in there.

“Sir Seth!”


I looked up and saw Stephanie with her classmate and best friend, Kyle, standing in front of my table.

“What’s up, you two?”

“Well, can we stay around here for the meantime?” Kyle asked me.

I looked at my watch. It’s three minutes past 4:10 in the afternoon, it was well way into their class. “Hey, don’t you guys have a teacher or some activities in class?”

Hmm…well, Mam Ria permitted us to go out of the classroom for a while.” Stephanie explained.

“And so, you went to my table to idle around?”

Kyle and Stephanie only gave me mischievous smiles for their answer.

Nah…not happening. You go back to your class, or Mam Ria would get angry at both of you.”

“Please sir, we’ll be quiet; just don’t send us back into our TLE class.” Kyle pleaded.

“Yes sir. We’ll be good next time; just don’t send us back for a while,” Stephanie backed her best friend, “It’s boring in her class. All that I do there is either sleep, or get shouted at when I’m awake.”

I closed my eyes and thought of my options for a while. Well, if they’ll do this just once, I guess it won’t hurt that much. So, I told them, “Alright you two, you may stay. Just be quiet.”

“Thanks sir!” they both grinned.

Ugh, these two misfits know I can’t refuse their request that much…


As I’ve explained earlier, each subject in our school burned about an hour of official class hours before we switch rooms. The Grade 8 classes would always start by 12:50 in the afternoon, then they would take a break for snacks (recess) at 2:50 p.m. before their classes resume at around 3:10 p.m. After that hour, the bell would ring once the 60 minutes time allotment were all used up, signifying the need of the teachers to change classes.

And since Stephanie and Kyle went out of their classroom around the time that Mam Ria had just started in her TLE class, they found that they have a lot of spare time in their hands. (2)

Uhh…Sir, it’s pretty boring in here, don’t you think?” Stephanie asked me as she lay her bored head on my table.

“I told you guys to come to your class, see?” I retorted. “You got nothing to do here.”

“Well, I don’t like to die in boredom listening in dull lectures though…” Stephanie countered. “I envy Kyle, at least he has someone to bother in class Opal.”

Ah, Daphne…”

Shh! Not too loud, Sir!” Stephanie furiously whispered. “Kyle told me to keep it a secret to everyone else—save for us—for a while. Daphne’s parents are pretty strict after all.”

“I see…I’ll keep quiet then.”

Stephanie then went silent for a few moments, before speaking up once more, “Well, sir, since we’re on the topic, I’d like to ask you something.”

Hmm? What is it?”

“You told us before that you’ve been in a relationship with someone for 12 years, right?”

“Yes, what do you want to know about it?”

“Well, how did you manage to keep her for that long?” Stephanie had an inquisitive stare thrown towards me.

“Oh…haha!” I did have an awkward feeling talking about it, but at the same time, I’d like to speak to others about my experience. “Hmm…if I may say, we just did our relationship like other normal couples do. I loved her, and she loved me back.”

“No, I mean sir, did you happen to have any misunderstandings? Serious fights?”

“Yes!” I laughed. “We fought, and argue a lot. There are also several moments when I thought our relationship would end…well I mean, it did end, after 12 years, but there were times like that before as well.”

“So, even you went through that much, huh?

“Of course! I’m human, and my ex-girlfriend is human as well. We’re imperfect beings that has a right to commit serious errors from time to time,” I went on my reflective mode. “But you know Cef, we did manage to be in love for 12 years, you know. I guess, it’s because we both believe that a relationship is a two-way process…”

“A two-way what?”

“Two-way process. You see, when you love someone, you should give—and you should receive. For example, my girlfriend would give her love to me, and in exchange, I’ll also give back to her and she has to receive it. Any relationship that has only one partner creating the effort—the only one that keeps on giving—would end up in tragedy.”


“Yep, a one-way relationship would be abusive. In the end, if you’re the only one doing the fighting, eventually, you’ll get tired and would feel used and abused. So, make sure that the relationship that you’re in is a two-way one.”

“I see…”

“But you know Cef, if I may add, it’s better if both of you try to outdo each other in giving than in receiving. Heh, you’ll soon find yourselves wallowing in the vast pool of love. Hahahahaha!!!

Stephanie said nothing in reply, but she was nodding seriously. I think she understood my point well. And hey, we didn’t notice the time pass while talking, so when the bell rang several seconds later…

Oh shoot! Time for Miss Carla’s class!” Stephanie was brought back to her reality.

Right…call that playboy back and head to your room!”

“Yes, Sir! By the way, Sir Seth, thanks for your words!” Stephanie waved her hand. “Can we continue this sometime later?”

“Well, whenever you guys are available!” I replied. “Don’t worry, I’m just a wandering bad spirit…you’ll find me loitering around the corridors.”

Stephanie smiled, and then dragged her reluctant friend Kyle back to their classroom.

Author's Note:  (1) Papa Jock is a famous DJ in one of our local radio stations here.  He's well-known for his love advices, often after playing a drama on his radio program.

(2) TLE, or Technology and Livelihood Education, is one of the eight subjects of the Philippine Education Curriculum.  It aims to nurture the technical skills of the students, like carpentry, gardening, cooking, and similar stuff.