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Trick or Treat! How wonderful. And Jund,

thats Mam. Maaam. Mum used to be an
underarm deodorant.

by Myra Muriel Go
It was the day of the Christmas program, and
Teacher Helen was not feeling well at all.
Teacher Helen had been teaching English at
the same school for twenty years. She was
forty years old and forty is supposed to be a
very good age to be for any teacher. That
means a teacher would have enriched many,
many lives.
Still, Teacher Helen was very unhappy,
having grown increasingly disappointed with
her efforts at teaching English in the last five
Even if she doubled her efforts at explaining
the rules of subject and verb agreement, she
still got sentences that read: The poem are
about, or, I think and felt or, Rizal and her
writing; and even if the only strategy she
hadnt used was to dance the tango to
induce her students to read, she ultimately
got reactions like, Teacher? Did I like Kipling?
Duh, I dunno, I never kippled before. Is that
like bungee jumping?
Or worse, Shakespeare? Is he the new guy
with the X-men? The one with the vibrating
laser beam?
Teacher Helen couldnt figure it out very well,
could not say where exactly the problem lay.
Although her students only spoke
smatterings of English they seemed to
understand much of it; specially films, or the
NBA games. And they correctly pronounced
all the signature brands of clothes and
colognes. They also liked to celebrate the
American festivals like Valentines and
Halloween. Her students used English mostly
to express their thoughts and feelings on
those days, even though their efforts left
something to be desired:
I Labs Ya. Dya Labs Me 2? Or better, Will ya
be may Balentine? Ur cool!

Teacher Helen also thought that she didnt

want to teach speech anymore, for it began
to feel like The Mother of All Jawbreakers. To
try to help students distinguish between the
P and the F, B and the V, and the soft and
hard TH, and worse diphthongs, seemed
Teacher Helen to need several lifetimes to
To make matters even worse, her colleagues
werent much help.
Just the day before, during their faculty
meeting, Teacher Helen had to suffer through
the entire two hours of English use being
systematically slaughtered by the subject
area coordinators.
Lets go to the ballroom dancing! No, Ive got
to go to the house early. Its my babys check
in the pedja. You know por da awting lets go
to the bitch in Nasugbu.
To ensure her sanity by the end of the
meeting, she formulated some learning
objectives. Silently, of course.
O-ke, o-ke, the principal said. Tomorrows our
program. Is the chairs there prom the
(to distinguish P and F sounds)
Yes Mum.
The Science people, hows the exhibits
(must always agree in number)
O-ki Mum. Biri Creetib Mum. P-6 and Kim ar
tim is Science, Da Stap of Lipe and Libing.
(must be able to clearly pronounce English
Whatabout Math?Good Mum. We Mutt people
are riddi. Da grid tu will sing about the Asosyatib and Comyo-tatib to da song of Chisnut
Roosting on da Open Payr.

At Halloween they told her of their

adventures. Mum! We went to trek and tret.

(must speak English)

In the gentlest manner she would say, Oh,

Art and Music?Da kids will sing Samsungs

and dance the dances.

(must not smirk)
Da buckdrop is pinis, and light epecks we
check olreydi.
(must not puke on the table)
Last year one payrents complain of the
warmth so pliss, check the ercon.
(must grit my teeth)

Do you have an appointment? The

receptionist asked.
Im sorry but I dont, Teacher Helen answered
with a smile, and a feeling almost vibrant.
Come again? The lady asked. At that
moment the phone ran. Excuse me please,
the receptionist said as she answered.
No, Im sorry, the doctor wont be in for
another hour. Shall I give him your message?
Yes, Ive got that. Thank you for calling, have
a nice day, and Merry Christmas.

What about Ingliss? Titser Helen?

(must not five in to urge to reply, I tits my
All the grade five sections will recite The
Night Before Christmas.
(must practice Christian values of humility,
honesty, perseverance)
The meeting ended soon after that, and
Teacher Helen was very relieved to have
survived it.But this morning, when she awoke
from a very bad dream in which she was
banished to hell, tied to a chair and made to
listen to Jimmy Santos, she told herself
maybe it was time to shift professions.

There is a God, Teacher Helen thought as she

relished the words she had just heard.
Suddenly curious about the rarity of the
person, she decided to chat a little bit.
You know, youre so familiar. Which school
did you attend?
You mean which school did I teach at. I was
an English teacher before I quit to work here.
Oh. May I ask why?
I finally realized that trying toe teach English
was being Sisyphus, a hopeless, uphill going
nowhere job.

Insurance maybe? Or real estate?

And so you quit.
Maybe she should shift languages.
Wisest thing I ever did in my life.
No, no, no she told herself. How could I think
of that at this time of the year, when
Christmas carols are in the air, and
everyone, yes, everyone still greeted each
other, Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
Maybe I should relent and allow fragmented
language in class.
But I cant give up now! Its my lifes work!
These were her thoughts as she trudged up
the steps to the hospital entrance.
Merry Christmas! The receptionist at the
medical specialists center greeted her.
Oh, and Merry Christmas to you to, my dear,
she replied. She was so relieved that the
sounds were correct.

Yes. Of course
Some of my friends have better paying jobs
abroad. DH-Tutors. Have their own houses.
Teacher Helen didnt feel as good as she did
a while ago. She fell into deep thought,
interrupted at last by her physician who
arrived, hounded by a large group of medical
reps waving Christmas packages.
Merry Christmas, Helen, not feeling well this
Teacher Helen seemed far away, managing a
wan reply. Can you believe this?
She whispered, a little lost.

An hour later, Teacher Helen was still there,

as the waiting room emptied of the other
It might have been pleasant waiting all
together had not the receptionist asked one
patient, Have you been x-rayed?
No, was the patients quick reply. I was ultraviolated.
Teacher Helen shot a glance at the patient,
then locked gaze with the receptionist. Like a
trouper that she was, the receptionist
ignored the mistake and kept silent.
And like the teacher that she still was,
Teacher Helen was about to speak in
correction. At the last moment though, she
too kept silent.
At that moment another receptionist came
over from the kidney doctors clinic.

preparing a little speech in her head as she

walked into the school auditorium filled with
clapping parents and costumed children.
Her principal was glaring at her, but Teacher
Helen came right up to her assigned seat on
the front row, together with the other
members of the faculty and did not notice
how late she was.
Soon, amidst the rasping minus one tape of
Christmas songs, the curtains opened to
reveal the extravaganza of the day, the
Music teachers opus.
Prancing children dressed like elves held
boughs and boughs of what looked like
plastic leaves. They danced about the stage
during the taped intro then stood still at their
designated places to burst into their much
practiced chorus:

Hey, did you hear about the baby our next

door pedia lost this morning?

Dick da holes with bosso Polly, Pa la la la la la

la la la!
Isdasison to Jollibee. Pa la la la la la la la la!
Dochano da gay apartelle, Pa la la la la la la
la la!

No, what happened? Sepsis. Infected

ambivalent cord.

A blinding, white light. A great force upon her


Teacher Helen staggered to her feet, feeling

like she had been shot.
Mam? Are you leaving? Youre next.

Teacher Helen was puzzled. Did the stage

collapse? Why were there so many people all
of a sudden? And why were they screaming
and hovering above her?

Really? Thanks so much. So Teacher Helen

returned to her seat.

She heard the Science teacher say, Titser

Helen, Titser Helen, ded you paint?

We have this Christmas program Id like to

catch, you see.

Then the Math Teacher said, Wooter pliss,

someone git wooter!

Her doctor said it was stress, thats all. That

the chest pains were imagined. That she was
taking her job too seriously. That perhaps she
should extend her Christmas vacation well
into January.

Lay down, Lay down, the Principal was


She promised to consider it, and was actually

But just then, Teacher Helen no longer cared,

and was thinking, you all make me funny.
She died with a smile on her face.

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