Friday, September 18, 2009

Part 12: Rules and Regulations

"It's not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them."
~ T.S. Eliot

"If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun."
~ Katharine Hepburn

"Get your motor running, head out on the highway. Looking for adventure, in whatever comes our way. Yeah, darling gonna make it happen, take the world in a love embrace. Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space. I like smoke and lightning, Heavy Metal thunder. Racing in the wind and the feeling that I'm under

Like a true nature's child
, we were born, born to be wild.
We can climb so high, I never want to die"
~ from the song Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf

I awoke early Sunday morning to the sound of bells tolling. At first I thought it was the breakfast bell, but then realized that the loud noise was coming from the Chapel bells. I thought about trying to go back to sleep for a bit, but the smell of bacon cooking was drifting in through the window and my stomach growled. So I got up and got dressed, made my bed and wandered over to the kitchen. It wasn't time for breakfast yet, but I guess the sight of this forlorn little boy hungrily peering through the windows like some modern day Oliver Twist made them feel sorry for me. One of the waiters (whose name I found out was Arsenio) came over and unlocked the door and let me in. He must have heard my stomach growling because after awhile he brought me out some scrambled eggs and bacon and then some pancakes. This was standard fare on Sunday mornings I found out. The only reason a sleepy upperclassman would drag himself out of bed that early (kids in the lower grades were required to attend all meals) was to partake in this excellent repast.

After breakfast I went back to my dorm and read a book. By mid afternoon the rest of the boarders began arriving. As high as my anxiety had been on my first day at Brent, I was really dreading the first day of classes. All the hub bub of students unpacking reminded me that tomorrow school would start.

Before Chapel that night, a tall, lanky kid came up to me and introduced himself. His name was Norman and his parents knew my parents. He had been going to Brent for several years now and knew all the ropes. The relief I felt at knowing just one person was palpable. He filled me in on some of the rituals and rules. I soon found out Brent had a lot of rules to remember. A lot of the kids had never had so much structure in their lives before. It was a big shock to them.

The meal after Chapel services was completely new for me. White linen tablecloths and napkins, the dining room was only lit by candles.
I had never had eaten a meal by candlelight on purpose before. Before the meal Mr Craig stood up and read some announcements, which really were just some additional rules, one of which was to remind us to stand for the prayer before the evening meal, to hold out the chairs for the ladies. Then we said the meal time prayer which was printed on little slips of paper for us.

Bless us O Lord, this food to our use and us to Thy service. Make us ever mindful of the needs of others, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday after dinner we gathered in the sala and our dorm master went over the boarding student rules. Attendance at all meals was required except for breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday. You had to get up by 6:00 am, then beds were to be made and rooms cleaned every morning. Demerits would be issued for being messy. You had to be at breakfast by 7:15 or you would get a demerit. We had a dress code. More demerits issued for not abiding by that code. After school we had to sign in and out every time we left the dorm. If we went to the gym, the library, the basketball courts or the girls dorm we had to put down the destination, time and reason along with our printed name and signature. If we left the campus we additionally had to sign out at the main gate. We had to be back on campus by 5:30. Failure to follow the sign out procedure would get you more demerits. We had one hour of free time after dinner and then, when study hall began at 7:30 pm, it was Quiet Time, no socializing or rough housing. Then lights out. Depending on your grade this time would vary. Our room had kids in different grades so they just averaged it out and made it 8:30 p.m. We had Chapel twice a week, once on Wednesdays and again on Sunday before dinner, formal attire required. To receive your allowance, letters to parents were to be written once every two weeks and turned in to the Dorm Master.

When you had accumulated so many demerits you would begin losing privileges, like having free time after school, TV time, being allowed to go off campus. Some kids started getting demerits right off the bat and soon would be
"campused" which meant you could not leave the school campus, or worse "dormed", which meant you were stuck in their dorm for weeks on end.

The next morning after breakfast we were told to assemble by the flag pole. Once there our homeroom teachers organized us by class and took roll. They lined us up facing the flag pole and Mr. Craig walked up and down the rows checking hair length and hem lines. When you looked up at the flag boy's hair was not supposed to touch the collar. Skirts could be no shorter than fingertip length. We were all in our school attire, white shirts and ties, dark slacks and shoes for the guys, white blouses and gray skirts or jumpers for the girls. There were some offenders amongst the day students, a few haircuts needed, a few hemlines too short. Some girls were sent home to change, some boys given a haircut on the spot.

Then we had flag raising and afterwords we went to our homeroom. Our homeroom teacher was Ms. Estacio. The first thing she told us was that our class had the worst reputation in the whole school and that she was mortified at being our home room teacher. She told us not to be embarrassing her by acting up in other classes. I wondered what these kids had done before I got there to get us branded this way. Then she discussed what she expected from us during the upcoming year and told us we would be holding class officer elections the following week.

After homeroom we went down to Amos Hall for a school assembly. We sat by grade and were introduced to our "new" headmaster Dr. Ship. I didn't even know we had an "old" one. We were given handouts and he went over the school handbook and school regulations. There was scattered angry grumblings as various regulations were enumerated. Some of the students were having a real hard time with all the rules. The hair and clothing restrictions were just some of the things the students new to Brent had never dealt with before. Some kids really couldn't take it and went home after a few weeks. It was the early 70's and the anti-establishment rebellion was just beginning to show up at Brent. It would begin with a strong push by the Seniors to loosen the dress code restrictions that year. Apparently there had been a time when Brent did not have "uniforms".

I didn't know it yet, but I was witnessing the end of an era. The traditions and rules that unified Brent and bound us together would all too soon give way to individual freedoms. We were beginning to lose our identity. When I arrived at Brent, there still was an air of magic and mystery about the campus. The school was little changed from the days when it was a single building on a hill. Wandering around the campus, exploring the old buildings, generations of students whispered to me of their adventures among the pines. Brent and Baguio were being painfully wrenched from the golden days of the colonial past and thrust
helter skelter into the 70's. Faculty and staff fought to maintain the dream, while out in the real world challenging the status quo would soon lead to Martial Law. As I grew and changed, I too would struggle to keep my new home from changing.

But in August of 1971 I was a naive 12 year old boy and I really couldn't understand the other students and their problems with rules. I kept thinking
you should live at my house! Yes, there were rules which I had never had to follow before, but now at least I knew what the rules were. I felt liberated.


  1. I'd like to hear from other Brent students: how they felt about the rules?

  2. Day students had it easy. Fewer rules. I think I had as many as 6 "D"s at one time, and that worried me to death. I do wonder at the pictures of Brent students smoking in the 70's. In the 60's, they were so strict about no smoking, not even day-students off-campus. But, I guess a lot of worse things were to soon come down the pike.