Renato Redentor ConstantinoApril 16, 2012
The Family Files
The cloud cover above Chicago's O'Hare airport is thick and layered, a canopy mimicking the tarmac's gray tones. Then the tufts part briefly to let through a streak of sunshine that greets shoeless, beltless passengers emerging like Farmville sheep from the security queue near gate B9.
The past few days have passed by like a blur.
Rio has finished Grade 7 and he's blazed a trail of glory, with big thanks from the parents channeled to his wonderful school, the Community of Learners Foundation, or COLF, which nurtured his mind and his charms and where his persona flourished.
By the time summer is done though, he'll move to Philippine Science High School, which accepts a little over one percent of students invited to take its entrance exams, who represent the top ten portion of their batch and who, of course, had to pass the school's eligibility test first.
Mighty proud of the boy for making it. Whether he thrives there or not, the ball is largely his to play, pass or shoot. For now, he knows he's reached a fine spot, a place of distinction, and he's humble enough as well to know he'll be pushed in the bigger environment, with his limits under constant test.
On Fridays he waits and helps me tend Fred's Revolucion, a bar I'm running with dear friends. (He's been missed by the crew most of last month; most weeks have found him really spent due to the exams and grad preps period.)
When he's not reading novels or picking up non-fiction around the house, he's playing Starcraft and other games on the computer. Most Sundays he spends doing watercolors and playing football, browsing 9gag and goofing around with his lovely sister, Luna. And when he's not doing anything else or finds some space for himself right in the middle of class or during breaks at school, he's playing futsal or still reading.
What a blessing he's been. The boy everyone wanted to hug when he was still so small and playing with toy cars and swords - he made me walk last Saturday after his graduation feeling a couple of inches taller.
It was a night of surprises. The first was how cool he looked all dressed up - his mum was gushing - wearing a brown tie, a crisp blue shirt and dark brown trousers which all matched the shoes he said he wanted to wear for his graduation - the brown shoes his late great grandfather Renato Constantino once wore, or Lolo Ding to Rio. His great grandmother, Letizia, or Dada Ming to her growing brood of great grandchildren, was beaming when she saw Rio at Club Filipino, where COLF's commencement exercises are held, with Lolo Ding's shoes on and all dressed up. All smiles too were his Lolo RC and Lola Dudi.
Then Rio gave everyone another surprise that night - as Teacher Marge was winding up the opening remarks for the graduation ceremonies for COLF's High School and Grade 7, she called Rio and Sari Todiño to the stage to deliver the speech for their batch. It was a huge wow moment for the parents; this was kept secret till the last minute and as Rio and Sari spoke, everything became even more special.
And of course, there was still another surprise left for the night - traditionally, COLF parents accompany their kid to the stage and receive the diploma, which they then pass on to the graduate. Just before we climbed the stage, Teacher Marge read out the inscription on an award for Rio - for academic excellence, I think one of the highest, since he registered pretty high on most subjects and had maintained a really high average.
I was told by Teacher Nancy it was the highest award - but whether it's indeed the top or one of the highest - it doesn't figure much to me. I've never received any academic recognition in all my schooling days. I remember Kala and I giggling as we went on the stage, like the time we were getting married, which made the priest officiating our wedding rather annoyed. But that's another story.
I'm just writing this from a cramped terminal, effused with the murmuring noise of anonymous travelers passing through an airport in decline, and despite creaking, tired bones and the stupor induced by spending almost 24 hours within the confines of a plane, I still feel myself glowing.
The boy has done really well, and myself, Kala and Luna - we soar with him. Thanks for dropping by. #
Photos by redster.