I attended mass at the Loyola House last night. It was for my grade school principal. He had passed on to the other life last January 2. He was buried today, but since it’s not easy getting a leave after you’ve had so many, I decided to attend the last evening mass before the funeral rites.
Fr. Jorge Hofileña, SJ was the principal of Xavier University Grade School in Cagayan de Oro for the whole duration of my elementary education. And he would not just be my principal, but he would also be my mentor and my friend.
I first met Fr. Jorge when my mother brought me for admission at the grade school. By this time, I had already finished nursery and two years of kindergarten at the local public school. Since I was enrolled a year before the usual, I applied for first grade at Xavier when I was still 6 years old.
Back then, there was a practice of separating the ones old enough for first grade and those who need to repeat Kinder II. And it was asking the student to use his right hand to reach his left ear with the hand passing over his head. If the student has difficulty reaching it, he is asked to repeat kindergarten. If not, then he goes on to first grade.
When it was my turn to face Fr. Jorge, he asked me to do the same, and so I did. But being that I was actually still 6 when first graders are supposed to be 7, I could not reach my ear. And so he told me, “you need to repeat Kinder II.” And so I enrolled as a kindergarten student at Xavier and not as a first grader.
I don’t know if there’s a scientific reason behind the practice, but I just dismissed the practice afterwards. I would later learn to appreciate what Fr. Jorge did everytime I graduated from an academic level at the Ateneo. I always had an award I can count on because of his decision, since the loyalty awards at the grade school required seven years; the high school, eleven; and in college, at least fifteen.
Last night, I heard from former Assistant Principal Flerida Nery, that Fr. Jorge back then always told the grade school faculty and staff that they should never scold the students. And instead of getting angry everytime a student does something wrong, they are supposed to talk to them and explain what they have done.
And this brought back an incident back then in fifth grade. Being that ours was an all-boys school, we all had our mischievous sides. And one of those moments where mine would manifest was when we played around with the flagpole at the quadrangle.