To that kid in class –
This is how i know that i love you:
I know because I hate you, every time you stand up and speak over me in class. I hate you, in those moments when you start a fight with a classmate right in front of me and I hate you during those times when I walk into the room and the fight’s over and someone’s bleeding and crying and you’re laughing guiltily in a corner — again. I hate you when you run from me, pounding your fist into your chest screaming “Sugod!” (Charge!) or “Takas!” (Run!) and I hate you when I call your name and you defiantly turn away. Sometimes, I pause outside the classroom door and count to ten, because it takes all of me to enter that room knowing I’ll have to face your boundless energy and craziness and stubbornness all over again.
But every time you tell me, “‘Di na lang ako papasok. Nanggugulo lang naman ako dito eh. Alam kong wala akong silbi dito,” (I won’t go to class anymore. All I ever do here is cause trouble. I know I’m useless here.) or “Ayoko nang magbasa. Nakakatamad. ‘Di ko naman kaya eh,” (I don’t want to read anymore. I don’t feel like doing it. I can’t do it anyway) my heart stops. All my anger vanishes, together with my words, and I remember all over again that this, this is how I know that I love you:
Every time I am faced with the thought of losing you, it is painful. Whenever you threaten to leave and never to return, ako mismo nasasaktan ako (I myself am hurt). Because when I tell you that I want you in my classroom, I mean it. When I tell you that you are intelligent and pogi (good-looking) and kind (deep deep down inside), I mean it. Because no matter how destructive and crazy and bastos (rude) you are in class, I always mean it when I say — given a choice, I would always choose you. I would rather it be you sitting in that chair, over anybody else.
This will take a while, I know. It will be days, weeks, months before you believe in the things I tell you and maybe even longer before you begin to believe in yourself. But this is how I know I love you: I feel it in my bones, you are worth it. You are worth everything.
So thank you, because every day you teach me something new about what it means to love. One day, I hope to break through to you, and manage to teach you a little something, too.
Katrina Roco, 21, graduated from the University of the Philippines Diliman with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. She is one of five Fellows from the 2013 Cohort teaching in Sto. Cristo Elementary School.