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Babysitting the UPCATeer

Exactly one week ago today, I have been an unwitting companion, overall super alalay, and hesitant guardian of a 15-year-old cousin who took the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT).
Fortunately, he was not a brat. Nor was he a cono kid. Had he been any of the two, at least one of us could have been injured.
This was because I was not good with kids, especially the cell phone-addicted, fashion-conscious, sex-starved, functionally illiterate, and inarticulate skinheaded teens who are generally considered as today’s Filipino youth.
And if my ward happened to belong in this category, I would have whacked him right on the head with my el cheapo cell phone. It needs to be replaced anyway.
And what better way to say goodbye to a decrepit Nokia 5110 than to use it to brain a teenager?
Fortunately, no whacking ever did take place because my cousin-in-law, God bless him, was stiffer than an Ayala bridge steel girder. He had the mein of a priest; or at least a priest who didn’t drink, smoke, or have children.
For a regular 15-year-old kid, Fritz, his avatar (online name), was way too mature for his age.
Not only was he allowed to accelerate to first year high school without taking his school’s mandatory seventh grade, he also hung out with people older than Dolphy.
This was because he was the youngest and doubtless, one of the more talented and active members of an organization of Philippine plastic modelers.
Thus, immediately after he took the UPCAT, he trooped over to the UP Fine Arts compound where he and his like-minded cohorts, including a UP Fine Arts professor, were building a scale model of an American aircraft carrier from scratch.
This, he told me, was for an exhibition in the next few months in Megamall.
While he was accompanied by his parents to the Diliman campus very early in the morning for the test, he needed the supervision of an elder companion or guardian later in the evening for his extra-curriculars.
His father, who drove him to Diliman, was already exhausted, having been sent off to Mindanao on business the past week.
Meanwhile, his mother, my aunt-in-law, was going to paint the town red with my wife.
As such, by default, the responsibility of taking care of him fell on yours truly. This was proof that parents will do a whole lot of things (including entrusting their kids to their drunken relatives) just to get rid of them, albeit temporarily.
Which is not to say that I didnt enjoy keeping him company. Because I did, together with my beer buddy and fellow pseudo-intellectual, Art.
And while Fritz was opinionated, both Art and I were impressed at the breadth of his knowledge, from the Second World War to the current American occupation of Iraq.
He believed, for instance, that the situation in Iraq was and still is being waged on lies fabricated by the Bush administration.
In fact he believed many other things; things that Art and I didn’t exactly expect from a teenager, especially one who had the patience to hang out with a bunch of oafish drunkards whose pulutan was running out on a Saturday night.
As we nourished our last bottle of beer and hung onto the last few ounces of sobriety, both Art and I realized that with assertive and intelligent teenagers like him, there’s hope for this country yet.
And we weren’t just saying that because we were drunk.

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From the Clarifications Dept. This piece was written nearly six years ago in August 14, 2004, and was published in the opinion pages of the Manila Times. Just felt I had to upload it because UPCAT results just came out.
Fritz, the UPCATeer referred to in this piece, didn’t make it to UP. But along the way, he made a name for himself, securing a free trip to Hong Kong because of his talents. Now who said you have to be a UP graduate to be successful? Just look at all those Atenistas, some of whom consider me — incorrectly — as their friend.

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