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Is that you, Private Joker?

The ‘intel’ we scooped and scoped out from the slum books of our classmates would provide us plenty more mischief in between classes.



Here’s a confession that’s not under duress. I need help to understand why Gen Z members cringe or go ballistic at the thought of being made to undergo mandatory military training in school.

While “Baby Boomers” or that generation ahead of mine are being blamed for wanting to “discipline” the country’s youth, maybe I, as a Gen Xer, can still bridge the generational gap just to lighten things up.

Here goes. In high school, I got to learn that the Mao cap was not exactly an approved headgear to top off my Citizen Army Training (CAT) uniform. This was during a time when New People’s Army Sparrows were descending from their mountain lairs to pick cops and soldiers off the streets.

“Boy, you’re in the Army, but not the Red Army!” hollered my irritated but bemused commandant the summer before senior high of ’84-’85, when I answered a last-minute call for aspiring 2Lts.

I played toy soldier in my fatigue, and my spit-shined combat boots with gawking and gaping soles nailed back to life by my neighborhood limpia-bota. My borrowed sword was without a scabbard, so in it went shiny but dull through my garrison belt.

Some push-ups here and some push-ups there, a little running, and learning (with two left feet) to march in cadence. That’s all — no sweat — and I was a newly minted CAT lieutenant in no time at all, ribbed no end by my pals.

While hundreds of my batchmates were in formation or marching late afternoon, I’d go through the line of my Corinto class and pick two “conscripts” for “special missions.”

Boy, we had loads of fun — I and Rico, alias “Barok,” and Eugene, aka “Peanut” going around the school campus to gather “intel,” horse around, or practice that very important battlefield skill — scrounging for the best leftover snacks at the school canteen.

The “intel” we scooped and scoped out from the slum books of our classmates would provide us plenty more mischief in between classes.

With the next teacher yet to come in, we’d shout “Procopia!” and laugh ourselves silly as the most beautiful girl in the class would suddenly turn her head, hearing her mother’s name being called.

“Jovito!” Barok would call out, and Peanut would echo “vi… to, to, to.” Another pretty girl would turn confused how we came to know her father’s name.

By the end of class, I’d then meet up with the guys whose names we’d read in the girls’ diaries as making diga or ligaw and apprise them of how poorly they were doing against the campus Romeos.

Over fruit shakes and waffle hotdogs, we’d strategize how to win the war from losing the battles, like the Americans and the Russians in World War 2 trying to be the first to get to Berlin and to Hitler’s Eagle mountaintop lair.

The lovelorn would provide the corny floral stationeries and pens with perfumed ink, and I’d provide the words, tailor-made to the person. If he’s not into English, then it’d be in Tagalog.

No habla espanol? No problemo. Intel for snacks, logistics and the right salvo and the Alamos had fallen, at least most of them. Learning is fun with moments of tomfoolery? Yes, even in the army — a citizens’ army.