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reminiscing

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I was pleasantly surprised to unearth find recently a poem that I wrote when I was 16 years old, way back when I was a freshman at the Ateneo de Manila University. At that time, we were discussing a poem in English class that had something to do with how people can be classified into either cats or dogs, personality-wise.

The paper is now yellowed with age but what our teacher wrote in red ink on the first page still fills up my heart with so much pride. “Very nicely, done, Mimi” is what she wrote — that is, our teacher, Mrs. Susan Evangelista. She became more than just a teacher to us in the two semesters that we spent in her class. She became our friend and confidante, as we poured our hearts out in the journals that we kept which we submitted every week to her. We read, discussed and dissected unforgettable stories like ‘Flowers for Algernon‘, classic poetry like E.E. Cummings’ ‘Somewhere I Have Never Traveled‘, unorthodox material such as the lyrics of The Phantom of the Opera’s ‘Music of the Night‘. We couldn’t help but have a grand time being creative in her classes. Never mind that those classes started at 7.30 am…

I remember the wacky assortment of truly gifted people in our class — Tatine, Alexandra, Marcelline, Lionel, Nessa, Baybay, Jessica, Mabel, Margie, Richie, Cris, Peds, and many more whose faces remain clear in my memory but whose names escape me right now. [Note to self: Dig up those old photos and Google them up!] They were so gifted that, at more than one occasion, I felt almost unworthy to be in the same class as them. Notice that I used the word almost 😉

However, I cannot, for the life of me, remember the exact poem in question. All I remember is that, after we discussed it in class, we had to write our own poem, classifying ourselves as either a cat or a dog.

Here is the poem that I wrote back then, in its full, raw, unedited glory (hah!), so please excuse any grammatical errors:-

Cat

A cat will stare
at you at night
with silent, glowing eyes.
By day, those eyes
will still be quiet
but
their glow will hide;
just as that cat
will seem to vanish
as it creeps into its hiding.
Its padded paws
will make no sound
in walking and in running.
But underneath
those soft li’l feet
the claws are always ready –
to strike, to hurt,
to scratch, to scar,
and into flesh to bury.
The cat is soft and warm and cuddly,
at night, fits ‘neath your chin so snugly.
The cat is always curious,
unafraid to try what’s new.
It asks, it dares,
it sniffs, it stares,
tracks down, uncovers each clue.
The cat is silent and mysterious.
Betrayal drives it furious.
It meows, it purrs,
it screeches, yowls
and fights back when it’s angered.
It’s timid, true,
but cunning, too.
Surviving countless deaths,
the lives it lives
are not just nine:
It’s never scared of dying.
This cat could be so playful,
merry;
at times, it also could be lazy.
It snoops and spies,
it crouches, shies,
and rubs you when it’s friendly.
It rolls and pounces
and surprises
you when you’re least ready.
This cat is unpredictable –
its moods can change
so swiftly.
At the merest hint of injustice,
Cat lifts it brows and frowns.
For it believes
in playing fair
and square
through life’s
wild ups and downs.
Through all extremes,
Cat fights, survives,
and still finds time for dreams.
Cat always can be counted on
to tell the truth — be it right or wrong.
Possessing a sixth sense,
Cat lives on hunches –
its intuition never fails.
Cat comes and goes
like a gust of wind;
it never stays for long.
What is Cat, really?
Or who is it, really?
It’s never clearly defined.
What I do know
is that cat-ness shows:
the intuition flows,
the nine-lived life goes,
the burning eye glows…
But the cat in me?
It seldom
really shows.

The poem’s got a few elements that somehow don’t make it so cohesive with the overall cat theme — such as the eyebrows-raising thing — so it’s not bound to win any literary prizes. But I felt I needed to put in those things in order to paint a more complete picture of my personality.

When I read the poem to DH, oh, how he laughed! Because, he exclaimed, the poem perfectly describes me!

It’s amazing — and totally unbelievable — how my personality never changed after 20 years. I may have changed in some ways over the years… but deep down inside, I’m still the same old me.