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jun sibug
paterno 'jun' c. sibug jr INSPIRED BY the recent program aired over at History.com about "The Top 101 Gadgets that Changed the World," I am now reminded of the gadgets I used in school to get through six years at Holy Family Academy in Angeles City. History.com defines a gadget as being "small enough to hold in your hands. It's mechanical or electronic, and mass-produced. It's a personal item that evolves from novelty to necessity—and ultimately shows its paradigm-shifting power."

Without hesistation I say it would have to be the pencil sharpener for me. Among first graders, no gadget is more ubiquitous. Pencil sharpeners come in all shapes and sizes, some sturdier than others, although occasionally a pair of scissors might do the trick just as well. To be sure, we had rulers, too, in case we needed to make straight lines. And then there is the pencil compass, with its metallic needle point, which was more hazardous than helpful. The pencil sharpener is easily my number one gadget of choice that truly made a difference in my grade school years at Holy Family Academy.

In 1839 for his play Richelieu, Or the Conspiracy, Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote;
True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself a nothing! —
While we were not in grade school to do mock sword fights, we were told that "the pen is mightier that the sword." Well how about Harry Potter's wand? Did anyone see Harry Potter hold a pencil while at Hogwarts? If J.K. Rowling's magical fantasy world was penetrable I would as Harry did pick mine from Ollivanders, in Diagon Alley. I wonder whether it would be more potent the louder I shout "Avada Kadavra" or "Wingardium Leviosa." I would also have much preferred to be riding my own Nimbus 2000 going to school rather than a calesa ride pulled by a pygmy horse. One thing sure though was that I got more "Very Good" ratings in cursive writing exercises because my pencil was always sharp. Oh how I impresed Ms. Rosario Bognot in 2nd grade!

hand-cranked pencil sharpener But here is my reality check. I did not own a single pencil sharpener throughout those six years. Unbelievable but true. As cheap as they were as a 10-centavo kite—and I now say this in melancholy—”never did I once had my very own pencil sharpener. So, how does one get through the day in school without a companion tool for one's mightiest weapon? Grade school at Holy Family Academy is really no different from being at Hogwarts. You can be a teacher's pet like Harry was for a few wizards and professors. I had my own Dumbledore in my uncle who always had the sharpest pocket knife generously ready to do the most intricate process of sharpening my pencil. It would have been a huge disaster if this thing had broken in my book bag. But alas, my mightiest weapon had its sheath—a spiral wrap-around sheet of paper sturdy enough to prevent such ruin.

The sheer volume of note-taking and writing exercises we did in fourth and fifth grade called for a different strategic battle plan. Here I relied on my own versions of Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. My seatmate in 4th grade, Jaime Magat, always had an extra sharpened pencil. In 5th grade Allen Quiambao had the best pocket pencil sharpener in class. And this was the best kept secret ever. Sr. Leonarda had this hand-cranked pencil sharpener that must have been there in the library for ages. How it survived daily use, misuse, and abuse through all the years is beyond me. Sr. Leonarda was probably the best pencil sharpener usage rules guardian ever. Even only for this task she must be enjoying a special place in heaven. I must confess that sharpening my pencil was my best alibi for Sr. Evangeline whenever I felt like slacking off and getting a whiff of fresh air by going to the library to sharpen my pencil. I could not pull the same trick with stern teachers like Mr. Jaime Naguit nor with Mr. Leonides Tuaño. I did not even dare. Mrs. Flora Banting was an angel and so was Ms. Elisa Salta. There were stern angels and then there were just plain angels.

I did wave my pencil like a magic wand with all my might in copying and learning lessons that are not necessarily magic spells of sorts. They are more potent than potions and magic spells. Sr. Albana Sauter and Ms. Bognot prepared us for First Communion. The Lord's Prayer, the Apostles Creed and praying the Rosary, which I learned in 2nd grade, and which are now being recited by my own children. My youngest, who had just received her first communion, dutifully reads through with the lector during the mass, holding the church missal. One wonders whether the lessons that were taught by our Christian parents at home would have stuck if they were not reinforced in schools such as Holy Family Academy. Did we not stay in school longer during the hours that we were awake? I believe that above the careers we pursue, our single most important contribution to society as parents is the raising of morally upright, law abiding, and God fearing children. I also believe that "the written word strikes a deeper blow than the sword."
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!
the holy family In all sincerity I cannot claim to have always lived the way my Christian upbringing has taught me. But I am thankful that it has taught me to rise up from the same ground where I fell and failed to live by my faith. The days of our individual lives are like words that we write and our most important gadget to write them with is our religious faith. We should be writing those words with sharpened pencils that we may get "Very Good" ratings on the day of reckoning. For me the lessons of the experience that is Holy Family Academy are these: That one can strive to be a humble and patient patriarch like St Joseph, to be constant and loving like the Holy Mother Mary, and to be an obedient and caring Son of God like Jesus. Daily we continue to write the lessons of our lives for as long as we walk this earth. Let us keep sharpening our lives' pencils by continuing to apply the lessons of the experience that was Holy Family Academy.

[About the author. Even in college, Paterno C. Sibug Jr., was known as Jun Sibug. He took his elementary education at Holy Family Academy, his high schooling at the former Sacred Heart Seminary, and spent college at the University of the Philippines. Mr. Sibug now lives in Chicago, Illinois and is presently working as a Pension Benefit Administrator. His main references are mostly books from the Newberry Library Filipiniana Collections and University of Illinois in Chicago. He cares about history, and is always proud to have been born a Pampango.]

-Posted: 10:10 AM 6/22/11 | More of this author on eK!