Sunday, May 10, 2020
That Time I Ran From My Bully And Made A True Friend
One thing that I’ve noticed from Philippine movies and TV series is that there is always this idealized version of the so-called pffft… “class struggle” between the rich and the poor. This is something that has existed since the heydays of stars like Nora Aunor. Always, with a probability of 90% (I’m making up the percentage), the rich are portrayed in a negative light as the oppressors of the poor who are discriminated and bullied.
Now I’m not sure how much my anecdotal experiences echo that of others, but for me at least, the reverse has always been true. I’ve been through at least six different schools in my lifetime – three during my grade school years and I’ve had the privilege of interacting with kids of my age from different walks of life including super rich kids whose families could afford three mansions with three cars each and less privileged kids who basically lived in a one-room, two-square meter house made of bamboo and dried coconut leaves.
With that said, one thing that I’ve consistently noticed is that discriminatory behavior actually depends on which demographic has more members. Therefore, if the less-privileged kids have more members, then it’s the rich or in my case, almost-rich kid that gets singled out. You might be thinking, “But how can they even discriminate against you if they’re less privileged?” Well, it’s really quite simple:
“Don’t touch anything from our group’s vegetable planting project. You don’t know how to do this because you’re rich.”
“You’re drawing a witch with a broomstick? That’s not what it looks like. Have you even handled a broom a day in your life? Your parents didn’t teach you anything because you’re rich.”
“You can’t play with us. You get to play all the time at home because you’re rich.”
“I’m giving everyone a share of this chocolate bar – except you – because you’re rich.”
Well, you get the idea. Throughout this series, I’ve often referred to myself as an “almost-rich kid” and while I did talk a little bit about this when we first started, allow me now to elaborate a little bit on the subject.
My father was a successful lawyer in what was then considered to be the premiere law firm in Iloilo City. In fact, he mentored the current dean of the University of San Agustin’s Law School as one of the senior partners of said law firm.
As such, my “Papa,” (a name that he really wanted me to use, but that I barely ever called him because it just didn’t sound right to my ears) always told my sister and I that we weren’t rich but that we had just enough money compared to everyone else – of course, we didn’t really believe him.
The reality is that we had a huge mansion-level house, we could afford to buy a new car every year, we took a Rolex watch’s worth of money just to go on vacation to Manila in the nineties, and that we certainly had enough money to buy out the local toy and book store if my father so desired. Of course, just because we had enough money to buy just about anything I wanted, doesn’t mean I could have anything I want. My father was a very strict, almost militaristic man when it came to discipline. As such, we were always told to never ask for anything and to simply wait for him to offer to buy us something because that’s what good children did. Otherwise, we would be lectured on how spoiled and privileged we were and how other kids in other parts of the world were struggling and counting every single grain of rice that they could eat.
Speaking of eating, I was a very finicky eater back then and it showed in how scrawny I was. I have a strong aversion for seafood because all kinds of seafood just make me throw up upon touching my palate. The mere smell of seafood is enough to make me vomit. Yet, back then, I had to gulp down everything from fish to shrimp, squid and all manner of seafood that I detested or risk getting slapped, punched or otherwise being subjected to violence from my father.
With that aside, this was the norm for me and I assume this was the norm for many other children similarly situated during the nineties. Yes, the terms “child abuse” and “traumatizing” did exist during these times, but not quite to the level that the modern snowflake generation have popularized these concepts. To set thing straight: I do not blame my father for his ways nor have I ever fault traumatized by these experiences.
Growing up with this kind of passive upbringing of never asking and just waiting for things to be given to me taught me how to survive and make the best of any situation… and it helped out a lot in this one instance.
Long expositions aside, this is the story of how I eventually befriended a bully.
Let us travel back (again) to 1993 and the time when I was a transferee to the Iloilo American Memorial School. By the middle of the school year, I had gradually been accepted as a part of the group after a rather rough start that began with a fistfight during my very first day. It was then that I had a rather iconic fight with a much bigger bully that somewhat ended in a draw thanks to timely intervention by the school’s security guard. This is the second part of that story.
You see, unlike in anime wherein “defeat means friendship,” my bully and I did not really start to get along with each other after that fight. It must have been a week later, but the bully (and I say that he’s a bully just because he’s larger than me, by the way), challenged me to another fight after school. Of course, me being the sucker for honor and pride that I am, I did not back down from this challenge.
Therefore, after school at about 4:30 PM, my bully started seeking me out all over the school. Now there is one more thing that I learned about survival during my younger years and this lesson came from my older sister.
Just like Maria from Hayate the Combat Butler, my older sister was always invincible at games, real-life games. This is because she had this winning philosophy: “If you can’t win, then make up a new rule that allows you to win.” Therefore, in all kinds of children’s games from tag to hide and seek, my sister would always be number one because if she lost, she made up a new rule that somehow made her the winner, and if you refused to acknowledge this rule, then she’d no longer play with you.
With this in mind, instead of confronting my bully head on, I hid. Of course, I didn’t plan to hide from him forever or else he’d think that I was a coward. At about 4:45 PM based on my wristwatch, I came out, near the entrance of the school and yelled at him to come and get me.
Naturally, since he was gung-ho for a rematch, he charged straight at me… which was my signal to run for the exit. He started shouting at me asking me why I was running. I replied that I was just relocating our fight to a bigger location.
This was actually the first time that I’d ever been out of the school on my own. My parents always came to fetch me to and from school in our car – and they would do the same today at about 5:00 PM. I would be safe by then, but I’d need to keep my bully occupied for about fifteen minutes.
I followed the street and turned the corner just before the main highway where cars were moving at high speed. I followed the footwalk and eventually reached a small toy store. I ran inside quickly to hide.
The truth is that I had no plans at all of engaging in another fistfight with this bully. The last time, I got lucky. I managed to distract him with a pik-nik can lid and then I surprised him again by charging in all the time and not allowing him to initiate any kind of offense against me.
Well, as I’d learned from being in class with him over several months, this particular bully was extremely intelligent and by this time, I’m pretty sure he’d figured out that in a fair fight with no other external factors, he would overwhelm me pretty quickly. We both knew how this would turn out – and of course, I was determined not to let that happen.
Anyway, after about five minutes, I peeked out – and saw that he was quickly approaching the toy store. He hadn’t seen me yet so I snuck out and quickly ran even further. In fact, If I’d gone even just a little bit further, I’d probably have reached my mother’s university – which was just about five blocks away from IAMS. When I looked back, I saw that my bully had probably gotten tired of following me around and saw him walking back to our school. I waited till he’d turned the corner and then cautiously made my way back to the school myself when suddenly:
He peeked out from behind the corner and then beckoned me to come and fight him. It was 4:55 at this point. This time, I had no more excuses – and not a lot of room to retreat. I clenched my fists and prepared to charge him. This was a fight that I was certain to lose. By the way, my father had actually taught me Karate and some boxing, but against an opponent who was probably three weight classes above me, nothing I knew was going to work. Still I prepared to charge forward and he did the same. As expected, he understood what happened the last time and wasn’t going to allow it to happen again.
“Cymark! Ga ano ka di sa sagwa!?” (Cymark, what are you doing here outside?)
I heard my mother shouting out from the side window of our car. Naturally, there was no way we were going to fight now – not in front my parents. Not even my bully would be that brazen.
So… what could we do at that point. Well, I calmly approached him and he slung his hand around my shoulder and I did the same. We walked together back to the school like we were the best of friends.
My mother got off from our car to talk to us. She asked my “friend” a few things like his name and where he lived. Then she told him not to allow me to walk around outside of the school because I wasn’t used to being outside.
From that point on, my bully never challenged me to another fight, but we started acting more familiar with each other like we'd always been friends. Over my four long years at IAMS, we did become really good friends. Of course, because cellphones and communication gadgets still weren’t popular at that time, we were never really able to keep in touch as we went our separate ways after graduation.
Still, even through the distance that time has created between us, you know who you are, my friend. I hope I am still yours.