Friday, June 14, 2024

The Halls Remember

By Jireh Catacutan | The Sillimanian Magazine

The university has always been closely intertwined with the spirit of family. One major reason is because it was the alma mater of a parent. While getting to know each other, students tend to talk about their relatives abroad, Silliman’s trademark of  molding professionals with high-paying jobs, or how one of their family members had been president of a specific club twenty years ago. Although I dreaded their stories, I shared the same reason. It was my family who got me here. 

The first man from my family to set foot on the campus was my grandfather. In 1971, the year before Martial Law was declared, he worked under the university’s Buildings and Grounds. I have never known my grandfather. I only get to hear his name when my relatives talk about how much I look like him in gatherings. But who knows if it’s the truth, there are no photographs of a man who used to clean the floors of  Occidental Hall or mowed the evergreen lawns of Silliman. 

By 1978, he had saved enough to send his only son to college. But given the school’s prestige, the janitorial salary and the endless nights of sewing by his mother in Tanjay were not enough to sustain my father’s education. He had to apply as a student assistant. 

In 2018, I was submitting records to the registrar’s office at Hibbard Hall. A middle-aged man asked how my father was doing after he scanned the insides of the envelope I gave him. For a moment, I was in a state of confusion. But I concluded that he must be someone my father had worked with or a friend during his time on campus. The man wasn’t the only one who had a memory of my father, there were others from the business office, and a few dorm managers. “A man that biked around from one office to another, greeting everyone with a smile as he delivered letters and panoramas,” they said. 

It seemed so strange that my father who barely talked about the campus had somehow been remembered by few. The two men who came before have not left a legacy big enough to be remembered by many. But in the end, maybe I was their legacy. Their future son who could study freely and write to be remembered.

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