Back in grade school, vandalism was a popular way of expressing teenybopper angst. One bathroom door was inked with angry scrawls saying, “Ms. Luque, mukhang puke.” When I saw this, I burst out laughing. I did feel a little bad for laughing when Alice told me that she heard that Ms. Luque cried when she saw the vandalism.
Ms. Luque was our reading or language teacher who had big lips. This feature worked well with Angelina Jolie, but I guess some angry student decided that those lips evoked another image. It did not help that she had such eager eyes. When you would recite, those eyes looked at you in the most sincerely encouraging but unintentionally scary manner. You fear that Ms. Luque’s desire to encourage you would make those eyes pop out and give you a big hug.
There were students who genuinely liked Ms. Luque. I was in the covered court when I saw a photographer asking Stella to pose for a picture with Ms. Luque. Next thing I knew that picture was published in a newspaper coupled with an article about Stella’s favorite teacher.
My relationship with Ms. Luque didn’t start out too well. During the first quarter, she gave me an O (outstanding) instead of an O* (outstanding with a star). She told my mother that the reason for this was that I did not recite. I was in grade five or six then, and I had survived many years without reciting. My previous teachers never begrudged me an O* because I didn’t recite. I thought that if I had high test scores, then that should be enough.
I thought that recitation was such an inconsequential part of learning that I resented Ms. Luque for “forcing” me to recite. I didn’t know back then that my aversion to recitation was a sign of insecurity, an issue that I would have to wrestle with for years to come.
I was so angry that I decided to recite everyday, to mock her, to show her that she can’t do that to me. Every time I raised my hand and stood up in front of my classmates, I felt power. I was winning, I thought, I was winning against her.
Next quarter, I did get an O*, but I got something more. I realized I was good at recitation. Constant recitation further developed my skills in public speaking, which proved to be valuable during oral exams and job interviews. I also became a debater when I went to high school and continued to debate up until college. Sometimes you never know how one thing can change your life.
Wherever you are, thanks Ms. Luque.
 “Ms. Luque, mukhang puke” can be translated as Ms. Luque looks like a vagina. The word puke is considered to be a vulgar word for that lady part. This negative connotation is challenged by certain feminists.
 Back in those days language and reading were separate subjects. I was good at language which was centered on writing but I was bad at reading.
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Note: For some entries in this blog, a few names and details have been deliberately and willingly changed by the author. This is a personal decision made by the author for specific reasons known to her and is not an endorsement for censorship.