I live in a small city in Southern Mindanao, Philippines. Small is the operative word there, rather than city. We have a small, sub-par mall. Small communities. Narrow roads. Only one or two social watering holes.
And, a small airport.
Maybe you’re wondering why I placed that last sentence in a paragraph by itself. Since my childhood, I’ve always been thrilled by airplanes and flying. (Never mind the fact that my first time aboard a plane was September of 2007.) My father always flew to Manila while I was growing up (and continues to do so now), and I’d always wanted to meet him at the airport every time he came home. At around noon, a siren would sound–indicating that the airplane was making either its downwind turn or final approach, and I would excitedly rush to a gate which separated the parking space from the airport apron. From there, I would watch the airplane land. You’d imagine how wide my eyes would get as the plane crept to a halt on the apron in front of me.
My dad’s once- or twice-a-month travel to Manila meant trips to the airport, and every time I watched a plane land (and, on occasion, take off), my fascination for the big flying chunk of metal was fed. Slowly, the back pages of my notebooks became occupied with drawings of different aircraft–very funny- looking ones, thanks to the fact that I was never very good at drawing. Soon, I was begging my folks to buy all sorts of airplane toys, and of course, to take me on an airplane ride.
I thought I’d get over the whole airplane addiction as I got older, but I didn’t. Recently, I downloaded a flight simulation system called YSFlight, and then later, FlightGear. For some time (until my first plane ride), using the flightsim was my most tangible sense of airplane flight.
I’d thought that this affection for flight was just that–an affection that stuck with me since my younger days. It would seem to be nothing more than that, come to think of it.
But perhaps my love of flying is a representation of my aspiration to soar high. (Yes, I’ve been thinking again. My theories may be somewhat weird, but stick with me here.)
Since my preschool days, I have always been pressured by my parents and peers (and myself) to excel. Whether it was the honor roll or the Speechfest or the journalism contest or the student government elections, my name was always expected to be at the very top of the winners’ list. Second was not an option. These high expectations drove me to at least try to soar high. Ever since, that has always been my goal: to get to the top.
To get to the top. For me, those words invoke so many thoughts. To get away from this city, to move to Manila, where more opportunities await. To at least get my name on the banner roll. To climb back to Section One. To finish high school. So many definitions of soaring high, of getting to the top.
I haven’t been there in a while, to tell you the truth. My academic heyday was way back in preschool, in Kindergarten, when I was accelerated to first grade without experiencing graduation. Perhaps the skies are the best representation of academic excellence for me. To fly and be amidst the clouds, to soar in the sky as much as I would like my grades to soar.
You could say that the skies are my asylum, my temporary amphetamine. So long as I cannot achieve the academic excellence my peers, parents and I aspire for myself, my admiration of flying will be one of my refuges.
Pressuring a student to excel is not the best thing to do—many an educator can tell you that. But I could say that the need to excel has been wired into my DNA. I now and forevermore feel the need to soar. Since I cannot do so academically (at least not yet; I promise I’ll start doing my assignments come June!), I guess the skies are my best bet.