An Ice Water War: A Philippine Public School Story

an ice water war
Our classrooms were never like this.

Who wants an ice water war?

For many people, June 24, 2006 is a holy day – it is the birthday of John the Baptist. He is either a saint or a prophet, depending on which religious denomination you ask.

No one cared to be honest. We all knew that John the Baptist was holier than any of us could ever be.

It is barely three weeks since the beginning of the school year. Even though it was the rainy season, the torrential storms that tuned the grass plaza into a constellation of mini-lakes were nowhere to be seen.

Our classroom was found in the second floor of the Grade 6 building, an old, dilapidated structure that would have been classified as “condemned” were it to be found in another country.

This was the Philippines though, and as far as public school buildings go, the place was considered normal. Not that it mattered: It had pots of bougainvillea plants on the balconies of both floors, and it was well-painted.

Class started at 7:00 in the morning with values instruction. Then, we learned Math and English.

We had all the other subjects after lunch.

“A verb is an action word. Examples are eat, sleep – Yes, we have a five-item pop quiz now. Please take a piece of ¼ pad…”

Well, needless to say, I was one of those guys who didn’t have ¼ pads back in the day. It was a bit embarrassing to ask from my classmates, but there’s nothing that could be done about it.

“Mr. Guevarra, what is the answer for number two?’

“Sleep is the original form of the verb. We will use slept, because it is the past tense…”

“Okay, okay, enough Mr. Guevarra, I was just asking for the correct answer…”

After two hours of staying inside a typical public school classroom with the notorious wooden brown desks, as well as tons of visual aids and charts covered in plastic, the lone school bell was struck by the duty student for recess time.

Even though it was a “central school,” – supposedly these schools had the best funding and whatnot – only half of the buildings had automatic bell systems.

We all rushed to the nearby stores to buy packs of iced water. Meanwhile, the usual trashtalking started out of nowhere.

An ice water war is about to happen again, just as it happened every damn year on the 24th of June.

“Cosa man? Hambug man gayot camo,” muttered a third-grade student.

It is no secret that students from the lower grades were quite jealous of our achievements. We were the ones always called up to raise the flag, to lead in the recital of the patriotic oath (Panatang Makabayan) and the flag pledge (Panunumpa sa Watawat ng Pilipinas), and  everyone clapped when one of us won competitions outside the school.

For them, we were all jackasses and vainglorious pieces of shit.

“Bobo man tamen camo,” replied one of my neigbors.

All of the sixth graders laughed.

“Bombyahan ya lang? Mareng gale camo,” added another kid. It was interesting to see that small kids could use such colorful language.

I already knew where this was going, but I didn’t mind. My friends and I were just buying up all the iced water that we could.

“Na, na, vene aqui! Ta tiene camo miedo?” taunted one of my neighbors, who was studying in one of the lower sections; there were like 15 sections for the grade six class and an average of 40 students. You get the idea.

Without warning, the smaller kids pelted us with iced water.

“Todo bagon –“ was all that I could mutter as the chaos began to unfold.

Water flowed and flew in equal measure from every corner of the campus. All kinds of plastic bags that were filled up with water were being thrown, while the more enterprising took pails, dippers, and pitchers and poured water from the top of the buildings.

Those who had access to the hoses cranked them up to eleven and splashed water on the buildings. Even some of the girls participated in the biggest royal rumble ever.

“Dali, dali, numa manda mira el cara na maestra!” If we showed our faces to our teachers, we would be reprimanded for causing trouble outside the classroom.

I threw a couple of iced water bags myself at those poor little kids. Given the fact that I already learned how to dodge pebbles and seeds in our little turf wars back in our neighborhood, getting out of the way of those iced water bags was easy for me.

Still, a couple of those bags exploded on my legs. My short pants were totally soaked in water.

“Pendehadas gayot oh,” I muttered to myself.

Finally, the bell rang. But there was a surprise waiting for us.

A huge horde of children rushed to our building and pelted every classroom that they could reach with bags of iced water.

The girls were struck by the ice water bags, some of them right in their faces. Many of them took pride in keeping themselves well-groomed, so it was understandable that they would be so pissed.

“Ahhhhhhhh!” shouted one of the girls as she was turned into a walking piña colada.

Yes, I counted them. Six.

The kids didn’t bother giving us the “baptismal treatment” as they knew that they could get more mileage by turning our classrooms into…their wetter versions.

“Bira ya daw camo ulti na classroom!” shouted one of the grade six teachers. They would have loved to bring all of those who participated in the brawl to the principal’s office, but there were hundreds, if not thousands of students involved.

In the end, we spent the rest of the morning period cleaning our classrooms.

But it was fun.

It was fun being in a brawl for a day.

It was great being in an ice water war.

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