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Gemma Cruz Araneta

Gemma Cruz Araneta

On the very day an official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) cavalierly issued a list of schools  “that have been, and widely known to have been used, as fora for communist recruitment…”(Rappler.com), I happened to ask my grand daughter what she learned in school that day.   She was staying with me for a week because her parents went out of town to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

With an innocent smile, this 13-year-old declared: “Lola, today we learned how to make bombs.”  I could not believe my ears. Bombs?  You mean to say, things that explode? Yes, she said, they were making explosives, they made things explode in the schoolyard, duly supervised by their class teacher; it was part of the lessons for the day.

Flabbergasted, I asked her to give me an example of the explosives. She said they put seven mentos candy tablets in a family-sized bottle of coke and after less than a minute it exploded. She made a swooshing sound of a thousand bubbles and flung her arms in the air as she exhaled a “booom!” Could that be the millennial version of a Molotov cocktail?

So, I asked if there were other “experiments” of the explosive type and as if it were the most natural thing on earth, she replied that there were a couple more. In between giggles, she said the boys were really clumsy at making the little bombs. Really? I have always thought that boys were more adept at making weapons of mass destruction. Apparently, that was not the case in her school. The “little bombs” were made of baking soda, which had to be wrapped carefully in paper, secured with rubber bands after which the bundles were carefully inserted in little plastic bags filled with water and vinegar. Hurl them on the ground and they explode.

My granddaughter said she had finished making 16 of these explosives while the boy next to her was still struggling with his first bomb. She laughed as she told me how the poor chap was spilling the baking powder all over the place and could not twist the rubber bands around his fingers. How strange, I said, the boys I grew up with made dangerous weapons with rubber bands and twigs; they were called slingshots. They would mercilessly shoot birds (and their neighborhood enemies) with pebbles ejected by those deadly elastic bands.  She concluded that girls are more adroit with their fingers because they have a lot of practice with hair ties. They can make elaborate hairdos twisting and twirling several elastic ties while boys can barely make a decent ponytail.

The fact that the AFP revealed its  list of subversive schools just when my granddaughter and her classmates were experimenting with  “little bombs,” threw me out of kilter.  Why the explosives? What was your teacher talking about while you were making bombs? I had to ask. Nothing, she said, he was just showing them how to put the ingredients together.  What a relief; there was no mention of Red October or of destabilizing the government with cases of mentos cocktails, or joining renegade bands with their knapsacks stuffed with baking soda explosives.

I will not mention the name of the school nor where it is located, lest the AFP include it in their list of “recruitment centers” for the Communist Party and the New People’s Army. Teachers beware, do not conduct similar bomb-making experiments, no matter how innocent and harmless; you might arouse the suspicion of the AFP.

What if those experiments were conducted in a different school, in another part of the National Capital Region? Would it alarm the present dispensation? And make them see red at every turn?   Will there be raids, with students, parents, and teachers arrested?  One can never be too careful.

During a reunion with my batchmates of Maryknoll (now Miriam College), we spoke about   that AFP list of “recruiter” schools.  It has become an Honor Roll, so we are offended that our alma mater was ignored. Weren’t we the Katipuneras, among the first to join EDSA 1?  Levity aside, we pondered on the dire consequences of such an accusation to the survival of our educational institutions

Even history in no longer a safe subject to teach during these ominous times; imparting knowledge about the past has suddenly become subversive. Teachers who lecture about what really happened during those years of martial law may lose their jobs as they are suspected of destabilizing the government. They are accused of brainwashing students and prodding them to join outlawed organizations like the New Communist Party and the New People’s Army. Yet, Jose Rizal himself exhorted that we should open the book of the past. We must de-construct the bombs and explosives of times gone by.


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