JANICE’S MOTHER was rushed to the hospital this afternoon. When she received the news, she could no longer work properly.
She felt her pulse from the side of her head, her nape stiffening. Her trembling fingers constantly committed typographical errors as she encoded customer complaints, leading to more frustration. When Janice could no longer contain her uneasiness, she sought permission from her boss to go under time and went straight to the hospital.
When she arrived, she found her mom sleeping on one of the beds in the emergency room. Sitting beside the bed was her youngest brother.
“What happened, bunso?” Janice asked.
“Her sugar dropped. She was dizzy a while ago. After a while, she lost consciousness, so I rushed her here already,” Carlos replied.
“When will she be discharged?”
“She could be discharged later if no other issues arise.” They both went quiet, not knowing what to do next until Carlos broke the silence. “Does the health card cover this?”
“I think so. I will go home and find it to settle the bill already.”
She rode the jeepney home to look for her mother’s health card. When Janice arrived, she rummaged through all the places her mom usually placed things. In the closet: between the shirts, the bras, the hung Amerikana, nothing. In the bed: nothing underneath. In the china cabinet: nada still. In the memorabilia box in the sala. It must be inside, or so she hoped.
The memorabilia box is an ever-present article in every Filipino household. Sitting at a table between two couches was an empty tin can of Danish butter cookies filled with medicine, sewing kits or even things that have no value anymore. Janice lifted one side of the lid, moving her hand around the rim until it opened.
Inside were some trivial things: a bracelet from Palawan, a keychain from Baguio and a spool of thread. There were also old cards: Metrobank Electronic Teller, Smart Buddy GSM Prepaid Super Sim and ISP Bonanza. Behind it was another card, white and donning words in red Bauhaus font. Professional Regulation Commission. At that very moment, years of memories took over Janice.
Janice first applied for work at a private school in Caloocan. The next day, she returned with visual aids and conducted a demonstration before the administration. The board was delighted. Later on, she was qualified for the job. She came early to school on the first day of class, dressed up in uniform again — not as a university student, but as a high school teacher. That was the beginning of it all.
A high school teacher would die if she took herself too seriously. She remembered she stood in front of the class once, discussing The Chanticleer and The Fox. At one point, she asked, “What did the fox say?” to which the students answered in unison: “Ming ming ming ming ming miming!” She would often arrive at the room and see students at the back making Musical.ly videos, vandalizing pictures and impersonating other teachers.
She remembered the students vividly. Gabby, yes, the one who does the sexy dance! Who, Jericho, the one who strips down his classmates’ pants? Of course, I remember Maxine; I brought her to the guidance counselor once!
Oh, how loved she was, and how she loved them. She recalled the first time she received heaps of flowers, chocolates and letters on her desk. It was a nice feeling that you made an impact, she once thought while reading her students’ messages. When she attended the graduation ceremony of the last school year she taught, some of her pupils sobbed at the thought that they would never see each other again. Until now, her students still send messages to greet her, say thanks and tell her where they are.
That departure was bittersweet, but she knew she did not do it just to look for a greener pasture. It was out of love: her love for other endeavors, her love for her family and for herself.
She took the identification card and placed it in her wallet. The memories of her teaching days flashed throughout the journey from the house to the hospital. Upon arrival, she headed straight to the cashier, calmer than in previous instances. Later that night, they reached home.
“Ma, are you better now?” Janice asked as her mom settled into bed. Outside the room, the mess she made while looking for the health card remained, along with the bewilderment in her mind caused by the other card she unearthed. I am going to sort this out, she told herself.
“Yes, do not worry about me…”
“May I leave tomorrow?”
“Where will you go?”
“PRC. I will renew my card.”
“Will you go back to teaching?”
“I will just open the door…again.” F