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· Volume V Issue I

"Why won't you participate in any of the festivities, Celia? Buwan ng Wika is the only month in the entire school year where everyone is truly busy!" Francis exclaimed, surprised. Celia, his companion, crossed her arms and replied, "Because Francis, I don't want to. None of the opportunities are for me." They had been arguing under the shade of an ancient Narra tree for what seemed like hours. Francis had been pleading with Celia to join him in a performance of poetry for Buwan ng Wika.

Celia, as usual, said no. Francis was on the verge of giving up, having sought Celia on several occasions to participate in at least one event. "This entire celebration will last a month, Celia. You could have joined the dancers, poets, singing club, or brass band! It is the month to honor our country, to have some pride!" Francis sighed. "Your sentence feels exaggerated, Francis. I do have pride, but keep in mind that I refuse to join because I am afraid of humiliating myself," Celia argued.

"There is nothing humiliating about participating, Celia." Francis argued back.

"It's not the part of participating that I'm afraid of, Francis. It's my fear of performing that wins me over." replied Celia.

"You can't always be on the sidelines, because opportunities don't last as long as fears do!"

Ignoring Francis, Celia watched the dancers enter the field for rehearsals. The dance performances were usually her favorite part. She desired to be a part of them. But, once again, she was simply not suitable. She lacked agility and was unable to do such intricate moves in a dance. The dancers wore Barong Tagalog, and Baro’t Saya attire, and they looked amazing. Absent-mindedly, she asked Francis. "Is it their dress rehearsal?"

"Yeah, they look stunning. It could have been you, Celia," Francis grumbled. He was going to keep trying to persuade her to join anything. It was getting tiresome. "I can't see myself dancing there. I can't dance to save a life," Celia said, shaking her head.

Suddenly, Francis stood up. Before he walked away, he looked back at Celia. "I'm going to rehearsals now as well, Sir Reyes is waiting for me at the library," Francis explained. "Try to encourage yourself, Celia. As a wise man once said, ‘You have talent, you're just shy’ and ‘You can, you just don't try,’ Francis said as he walked away from Celia under the tree.

Celia sighed as she rested against the tree's trunk. "I can't dance, I'm not nimble, I don't have a loud voice, I can't express poetry well, and music isn't my forte." she lamented. Francis' reassurance, although encouraging, does not dispel Celia's concerns and worries about performing. She vividly remembers collapsing in front of an audience, in the middle of her performance of Rizal's poem, “Kundiman" when she was seven years old. It was humiliating to see so many people disappointed that she couldn't proceed, and being carried off the stage.

Celia shudders, unwilling to think about it any longer. It was embarrassing enough to remember it, but going through it again would be too much. "Our country is rich in cultures and traditions, and such things require talent and skill, and at the moment, I find myself to be missing both," she said sadly. In an attempt to distract herself, she averted her eyes from the ground and watched as the dance began.

The first two dancers took the stage, each carrying a bamboo pole. They began by striking the poles together in perfect sync, generating a rhythmic sound that established the pace for the whole performance, accompanied by the harmonious melodies of bandurias and octavinas. The other dancers joined in, their bare feet gliding smoothly in time with the beat, like the fast and delicate movements of a tikling bird. Celia was reminded of the tikling bird when the dancers' feet avoided becoming trapped between the poles. It was recognized for its quick movements because the dance depicted rice farmers' attempts to catch and prevent the bird from stealing ripe rice grains from the fields.

As the dance came to an end, Celia cheered and clapped her hands. "Bravo! That was amazing! I'm wondering how they manage to coordinate the dances so well, and how they could be so agile? That is no easy feat! I would pay diamonds just to be able to do that," she said, astonished.

Suddenly, a group of voices caught her attention. The voices were fairly loud and somewhat passionate. The phrases that the voices were delivering rhymed perfectly, as if they were reciting poems, and each hyperbole was matched with an emotion. Celia could hear the rustling of the grass from where she sat, as if someone was walking back and forth. It seemed as if those sounds were coming from behind the narra tree.

Peering from behind the tree, Celia manages to see Francis, who is holding what appears to be a script and is accompanied by other pupils who are also holding scripts. "I forgot, Francis will be presenting a poem along with many others," Celia mused. She continued to listen on as Francis performed his poetry. Francis made expressive motions with his hands and eyes while speaking, strolling back and forth.

At that moment, it became evident to Celia that the poem that her friend was delivering was the same poem she failed to perform when she was a child. Francis, in a very expressive manner, recited Rizal’s poem, “Kundiman”. As she listened to Francis deliver the lines, she felt a sinking feeling in her chest.

“Tunay ngayong umid yaring dila’t puso

Sinta’y umiilag, tuwa’y lumalayo,

Bayan palibhasa’y lupig at sumuko

Sa kapabayaan ng nagturong puno.”


Datapuwa’t muling sisikat ang araw,

Pilit maliligtas ang inaping bayan,

Magbabalik mandin at muling iiral

Ang ngalang Tagalog sa sandaigdigan.


Ibubuhos namin ang dugo’t babaha

Matubos nga lamang ang sa amang lupa

“Habang di ninilang panahong tadhana,

Sinta’y tatahimik, iidlip ang nasa.”

"I'm beginning to regret what I said to Francis. Joining one event seems like fun," Celia said. "But what could I do? It's only two weeks before the event," Celia murmured as she closed her eyes and felt a pleasant wind sweep over her as she rested against the trunk of the narra tree. The leaves above her rustled gently, sheltering her from the sun's rays. Everything appeared serene and quiet. "Oh well," she whispered to herself, "Appreciate the peace that you get, I guess. It seems quiet if you do nothing."


When she heard the tremendous booms, Celia was taken aback. "What on Earth was that?" she cried out, clutching her chest. Her focus was then drawn to the school's marching band, which was making its way to the stadium. Many students were holding wind instruments, seemingly following the leader up front, who was twirling a baton. The sound of the drums seems to have jolted her out of her trance. Celia strained her eyes as the gold from the trumpets and saxophones reflected the sunlight.

"I wonder how they manage to survive in this heat. One can't simply be out all day in the sun, it suffocates them," Celia pondered as she watched the band pass by. As the last members of the band walked by, Celia noticed a student with his hands positioned to seem like he was waving a flag. Celia understood, that must be where the Philippine flag goes. "Ah, they must be practicing for an opening ceremony," she speculated.

The band took horizontal positions in front of the stadium, while a conductor stood in front, lifting his baton. The booming tones of the national anthem then rushed forth like a swelling flood. The opening chords reverberated through the air, evoking memories of a long-ago fight, a history inscribed in the hearts of the country.

Celia watched the brass band perform, awestruck by the sound of the hymn that could stir the hearts of many just by its tune. That's exactly what it is: loud and motivating. What Celia didn't notice were the tears streaming down her cheeks as a result of her regrets at missing out on an event while it was still possible. Being the lone one who did nothing out of shame and fear of being humiliated broke her.

She was irritated with herself as she wiped her tears. "Do you really feel left out? You declined when the chance was given to you," she told herself. "You're the only one who doesn't seem to be celebrating this August. You're not participating in the time of the year when you're supposed to show your pride for your country."

A hole in her chest seemed to be growing within her. She felt dissatisfied with herself. How could the crowds recognize someone who couldn't sing, dance, or even express themselves poetically? What would make them unique if they possess no talent? Celia would have been able to join in the celebration of her nation if it hadn't been for her fear of public humiliation. But there she was, on the sidelines, observing the rehearsals.

Sniffling, Celia sought to wipe away her tears. "I regret everything, but if the chance was offered to me again, I would decline out of worry," she said, calming herself. "Watching the rehearsals was not a good idea," she added as she rose from where she sat. "I feel worse than before, as if I am lacking." As she started to walk away, a voice called out to her.

“Celia? What are you doing here?”

Ma'am De Guzman, her class advisor, was standing behind her. Where did she come from? Ma'am De Guzman's face was filled with curiosity as she approached Celia's side. The presence of her teacher made Celia feel apprehensive. For weeks, every adviser had urged and pushed their students to participate in the event, and here she was, found by her teacher beside an ancient narra tree doing nothing. Calming herself, Celia responded to Ma'am De Guzman, avoiding her gaze.

“I was just watching the rehearsals ma’am.”

“Did you not join any of them? There is so much to be done.”

“No, ma’am. I did not.”


“Because no opportunity available is made for me ma’am.”

There was silence between Celia and Ma'am De Guzman. Could she have been expecting that response? Was she disappointed with her? Ma'am De Guzman fell silent for a moment before looking at Celia, so it could have been either. “I see. "However, that leaves you as the only one with nothing to do," she stated.

Celia hung her head, unsure what to say to her teacher. "I do my best to assist in anything at all, ma'am," Celia responded. "I just--"

"But why not take part in an event?"" Ma'am De Guzman asked once again. Her expression was neither disappointed nor furious. Celia was perplexed as to why this was the case, since her teacher's inscrutable look disturbed her even more.

Celia's eyes sank to the ground as she felt her heart sink deep into her stomach. The hole in her chest appeared to be becoming deeper, unwilling to express her reasons. "If I stepped on a stage or performed in front of a large crowd, ma'am, I might as well sink into the ground," Celia said sadly. "I am not fit to perform."

"Our beloved nation," Ma'am De Guzman began, "is a timeless tapestry interwoven with the threads of culture and tradition, flowing through the annals of history long before the Spaniards crossed these shores. It encompasses the arts of gastronomy, the poetry of dance, and the sonorous melodies of song, echoing the spirits of generations past and present."

Her gaze fixed upon Celia. "For countless times, our heritage has thrived, nurtured by our ancestors' skilled hands and ingenious minds, sculpting and polishing it like precious gems to be treasured by us." Smiling at her student, Ma'am De Guzman continued. "In truth, it is impossible to think that someone is untouched by the spirit of creation, for it flows through our blood like an eternal river. Each person, a custodian of their unique gift, contributes to the symphony of life, the harmonious convergence of talents culminating in the brilliance of our culture."

Celia stayed silent as she listened to her teacher, astounded by what she had to say. In some ways, she understood what she said. But one question remained. What did that have to do with her absence from the celebration?

Ma'am De Guzman put a hand on Celia's shoulder and looked her in the eyes. She expressed it as something like a mother would do to her daughter. "We cherish our culture's arts, Celia. It is our enduring skill. Let us celebrate not just the wonders of our ancestry, but also the unlimited potential that each of us possesses. For it is through the nurturing of our abilities that we commemorate our predecessors' legacies and advance our nation into a future full of innovation and promise."

Even though Ma'am De Guzman's words of counsel had moved her, she was still perplexed. Celia is aware that it is to urge her to demonstrate a skill for the sake of national pride, and she is undeniably motivated. But what could she possibly do? It appears that it is too late to join a group. They have been rehearsing for several weeks and there are only two weeks until the month-long event.

Ma'am De Guzman managed to read her expressions and thoughts. Celia opened her lips to say something, but her teacher cut her off.

"Ma'am, you are correct. I am willing to participate this month, but it seems that--"

"What I mean is, Celia, you have the ability to accomplish something. But you must accept or allow yourself the chance to do so," Ma'am De Guzman said. “Why don’t you lead this year's Buwan ng Wika?” she reached into her pocket, producing a gold tag from within. It read: Master of Ceremonies.

Celia stared at her teacher, wide-eyed. She couldn't believe her eyes! Her heart was racing wildly with nervousness and excitement, and she felt like she may pass out from the shock. She ultimately turned to face her teacher.

“Me, ma’am? Host an event?” asked Celia.

"A whole month? Why not?" Ms. De Guzman nodded. “Don’t think I don’t pay attention to the skills of my students. I take potential when I see it, and I know this task is something you can achieve.”

Celia couldn't believe her eyes. This must be the finest accolade she has ever received. But it additionally called for her to perform on stage, which she hadn't done in years. She must do this for the full month. What if she passes out on stage? Or, worse, ruin the entire ceremony? As the hole in Celia's chest began to intestify again, the badge in Ma'am De Guzman's fingers began to feel more like a danger than an opportunity. Nothing will go wrong if she declines. Nothing will happen, and she will not embarrass herself.

But this chance comes around just once in a blue moon when a teacher makes such an offer. What if the fear of humiliation and a shameful aftermath was never an option in the first place? To finally leave the sidelines after so long might be a significant step for Celia.

A fear may be conquered, and although such a horrific thing is possible to remain, certain possibilities just do not last.

Celia smiled and nodded as she looked at the badge in Ma'am De Guzman's palm. The fear in her chest seemed to slowly leave her, as her hand left her side and moved towards the item. She grinned in the teacher's direction as she took the gold badge from her hand. Her teacher returned her nod. Ahead of Celia, there will be everyday glimpses of her on the podium, holding a microphone, always opening and closing the event.

What secured that possibility, which is now what lies ahead, were Celia's words of approval that were “I gladly accept ma’am.”