by Gertrudes Seludo Llarenas-Ragub
It was my home away from home, my initiation to formal education. A nostalgic trip down memory lane, of wistful images of great
years gone by – this is what it’s like to remember my days at Villareal Elementary School.
Considered the primary university of Villareal, it has produced many notable and successful Villahanons. Its portals hold precious and unforgettable memories that remain in the hearts of its alumni. For the young Villahanons today who never had the privilege of witnessing the glory days of Villareal Elementary School, allow me to share some fond recollections.
The School’s physical structure was different back then, for there were not a lot of buildings. There was the Azanza Building where most intermediate grades were located, the Gabaldon (concrete) Building, the Home Economics Building that housed a busy
playground at recess time, the Shop Building, the old building near the acacia tree and a makeshift PTA building. I still recall that some classes were held in rented private homes within the community to make up for the lack of classrooms.
The School’s main entrance was made of concrete and covered with climbing vines of garlic-scented violet flowers. The pathway from the main entrance to the Azanza building was unpaved, and most of the teachers were reluctant to wear their highheeled shoes for fear it might get stuck in the mud. To ease this problem, a pathway cementing project was undertaken. We were mobilized to bring sand and gravel everyday when we come to school. There were even some afternoons when, instead of cutting the grass in our assigned section in the wide school plaza, our entire school population was mobilized to gather sand and gravel. A minimum number of three trips to gather sand and gravel was required and trips beyond that quota were rewarded with lavish praises or candy treats from our teachers.
Our favorite spot for getting sand and gravel was the seashore just across the old Holy Name Academy. There was a time when Apoy Ninay Nunez, the old lady guarding that part of the seashore, would drive us away. In fear, we would all scamper in various directions, sometimes even leaving behind our baskets full of sand and gravel. There was no pantalan(wharf) that time, and the only house closest to the seashore was the that of ‘Tay Benok Castillano. That part of the seashore then was the nearest beach resort of Villa. During high tide months, especially in May, young and old Villahanons would take a dip in the water to cool themselves off from the hot summer days.
Announcement of early dismissals by the school principal never
ceased to make us jump with joy! For the more adventurous
pupils, this spare time was used to pick some guavas in nearby
Kalubi-an, just behind the Azanza building; others would walk to
Arado until they reach Manggarit, where there were more guavas
to harvest. The pupils who stayed behind, on the other hand,
would either play in the plaza or play jack stone using a marble
ball in the shiny, cemented hallway of the concrete building.
Whenever the school has guests, food preparations were done
at the Home Economics Building by ‘Nay Meming (Clemencia
Geli-Ricalde) and Tiya Choling (Melchora Dasmarinas-Realino).
They would usually ask the help of some students, and the four
inseparables-Zabeth Gelera, Elma Garcia, Eve Garcia and
myself- were always hoping that Tiya Choling would choose to
call on us for help. Sadly, she always selected other pupils.
Disappointed but determined to help, the four of us would linger
around the Home Economics Building. It was during these times
that Mano Cadio (Leocadio Figueroa) would see us and send us to gather some firewood for roasting the pig. We knew that after the guests had eaten, ‘Nay Meming will surely spot us. True enough, she would almost always see us and invite us to have some of the leftovers.
Villareal Elementary School had a wide plaza, which was usually used to host municipal and regional athletic meets. Preparations for hosting these meets would involve the whole school as well as the entire Villa community. In charge of the ground preparation was my father (Ponciano Dalwatan Llarenas) and ‘Tiyo Tonying (Antonino Varela, Sr.). Pupils were made to bring woven lara (coconut leaves) and bamboos to be made into temporary kitchens and bathrooms. Teachers were made to bring beds and beddings for the visiting delegations. Villahanons eagerly awaited these athletic events
as delegations from Marabut, Basey 1, Basey 2, Sta. Rita and the host delegations from Villa compete in what was usually a weeklong sports extravaganza. The event would open with a grand parade followed by a welcome dance in the evening for the teachers and heads of delegation. The event was meant not only to showcase the athletic prowess of the competing delegations, but also to feature their academic and artistic talents during the Literary Musical Night.
School operettas were held annually. Preparations start as early as January and the directors and choreographers, ‘Nay Corazon (Corazon Dasmarinas Seludo and Mana Tados (Teodosia Geli-Figueroa), selected lead casts and all other participants. Some of these unforgettable operettas were Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast. The operettas were usually staged at the end of the school year and had become such a treat to Villahanons.
This was the Villareal Elementary School of my childhood years. So much has changed since and many years have passed, yet the fond and golden memories linger, forever etched in my Villahanon heart and mind.
The author is the daughter of the late Ponciano Dalwatan Llarenas and Socorro Dasmarinas Seludo-Llarenas. She was a former teacher at the Villareal Elementary School. She is married to a fellow Villahanon, Dr. Quirino Agote Ragub and they are now happily settled in Ottawa, Canada with their two sons, Bap and GR