The sound of the alarm got off at around 4:30 am. I can barely open my eyes.
I remembered last night was like hell. I slept at around 12:30 am ‘cause I was the last one to iron clothes and I had to do some scanning of notes before I go to bed. That night, sleep was not coming around to visit, I couldn’t dose off into oblivion. My friends were like heavy machineries operating, working their asses off. They were snoring like there’s no tomorrow.
An incessant, shrieking sound of sirens caused me to open my eyes and eventually woke me up. My friends were all asleep. Lucky them! I went to the terrace to see what the entire ruckus was about. Just as I thought, fire trucks all over rocketing their way to the arson. I glanced at my watch; it was 3:10 am – great! Why does this happen to me? On a night like this? I rolled my eyes in disbelief thinking about what I have to go through
The radio was in the background, with something like a Justin Bieber song on as I was preparing my things for the day. I was pissed that morning and everything my roommates were doing was unnerving, and also thinking about how stupid “the talk” was last night. It punched me in the gut every time it pierces my mind.
“Uy! Mga nursing students raw ‘yung mga nasunugan kagabi.” My eyes widened in disbelief. Poor souls.
“Kaya pala ‘yung mga fire trucks kaninang madaling araw.”
“May mga SMU students ba dun? Anung hotel?”
“Sunny side up yata?” We all laughed only to hide away the sorrow we all felt that morning thinking it could’ve been us.
Finished. Fresh and ready. All things packed. NOA check. Money check. Folders and pencils check. Ready for breakfast.
Johnrey, Manolito and I went first, grabbed ourselves a table and went to the counter to get our pre-prep meal. Tapsilog. Nice. It wasn’t what I expected from a hotel but what the heck! I was really hungry I could eat anything.
“Ate, pahingi ng kape.” I heard from a distance.
“Kirong, agkape ka?”
I gestured to get the coffee.
“Ilan?” said the beautiful hotel owner. I struggled whether to get myself a cup, since I know it’s gonna wreak havoc in my stomach which would cause a toxic gastronomical enigma.
“Isa lang po.”
Everyone was talking about the fire incident which was only a block away from our hotel. But in our table, all we did was laugh and tease Johnrey. After our appetites were satisfied, we went back to the room and made a pact.
“Pagkatapos ng exam walang magdi-discuss ng answers and questions kung hindi manlilibre siya ng pizza sa Greenwich!!!!” all agreed, went downstairs, checked out of the hotel and out of the building.
Every SMU examinee was outside waiting for the bus. The NCDC staff said our hotel would be the last to be fetched. Daaaaaww. I then saw Apling – a co-member of the MERT, and approached him. We started conversing about the fire incident.
“Ano daw ang dahilan ng sunog?” I asked for lack of interest in the news that morning due to a not-so-good mood.
“Dahil yata sa mga lumang motor na nakatambak dun. Motorcycle shop kasi ‘yung baba nung hotel.”
“Wala man lang bang fire exit dun?”
“Meron pero naka-lock. Tapos ‘yung hotel daw walang kabinta-bintana. Lumabas lang ‘yung mga survivors sa bintana ng CR.” Akala ko ba walang kabinta-bintana?
“Pa’no sila nagkasya doon?”
“Yung mga payat lang ang nagkasya …. . …” I shrugged, I even felt goose bumps. I stopped listening.
“Ganda sanang mag-rescue.”
Then these boys started demonstrating how to save them if they were there this morning. Cocky pricks.
Glad that conversation was over, I approached Maan and Owen. We were telling jokes and bidding each other good luck when I saw Bus No. 5 CLSU. Maan and I ran to where it was parked dreading the situation the NCDC staff told us about being fetched last. Phew! Two more vacant seats. Yey! We settled ourselves and put on our headphones.
Everyone has always something to say. On the bus, some were reviewing notes to the very last minute, some chatted about the fire incident and others were busy with their mobile phones. The noise.
Finally we’ve arrived, with all the knowledge that is about to be unleashed, I went to my testing room which was on the 4th floor, tired and calm.
The preceptor was nice judging from the smile she had elicited when I greeted her a good morning.
“Hmmhmhm. Seat number 16 ka, 1, 2, 3 …”, pointing to where the seats were.
I found my seat, thank you, and made myself comfortable. The room was painted in white and a wide, brightly painted green blackboard was in front. Two near-death ceiling fans were turned off and arm chairs stacked at the back. A typical classroom. How boring. I looked at everyone else in the room. There was this tall guy with long a hair holding an apple. Wish I had one. A girl in a T-shirt and black slacks chewing a piece of gum. So much for being strict, way to go PRC. Another one in a casual attire with a white envelope filled with chocolates and candies. Do you have to be so open about it? Jeez. Ang nakakainis pa, wala man lang akong kilalang kahit isang nilalang sa kwartong yun. Kahit loner ako, gusto ko parin naman ng kahit isang company na pwede mong pagsabihan ng worries mo, or just someone to talk to, to relieve the anxiety and stress you’re feeling.
“OK. Start na tayo habang maaga pa.”
Student # 15 is still not around. I’m very much uncomfortable about his/her tardiness. I hate it when there was no one seated in front of me.
I shaded all small letters to spell my name. I shaded – gambling my life and my future with it, wishing I’m shading it right – all those rumors about the board exam was really something, it gets in your head and stays there.
Test I – Fundamentals of Nursing. I dreaded the subject very much. I even forecasted this would be my lowest in all the 5 tests.
The other preceptor came and started distributing the last questionnaires, I then received mine and it read, SET B.
“Bago mag-start kukunin ko ‘yung brown envelope niyo ha?”
Before handing it to her I rechecked all shaded letters and saw Letter E in Pastores was not shaded! Oh good Lord!
Time starts now.
I opened my Test Booklet and started answering. I started traversing my unconscious mind and back for answers for an hour and 30 minutes. I had to decide whether to stay put and kill time or just get out of that God forsaken room and contemplate on my answers. I double checked again every number and submitted my papers to the preceptor and went outside. I grabbed my phone and texted my mum while my eyes started to shed tears. I told my mum the exam was so hard, it was as if I have not reviewed for the past 5 months. And in actuality, it was reaaaaaaally hard! I could swear, right then and there all my foundations of faith and hope were washed away by fear.
I went straight to our booth and grabbed myself a burger and a bottle of water which was our snack that morning. Everyone was so exhausted with the exam. At least, I thought to myself, I wasn’t the only one who thought it was really hard, out of the world, HARD.
Out of the blue, Sir James stopped by and bid us good luck.
“Kumusta ang exam.”
In chorus, “Sir ang hirap!!!!”
“Ah talaga? Be positive. Kaya niyo yan! Grab your license!”
“Woooohhh!” while throwing our arms in mid air, imagining ourselves in possession of our licenses.
“May tiga-Nueva Vizcaya na nakaligtas sa sunog. Nakatsinelas lang siya, tapos yung damit niya sunog sunog tapos ang dumi dumi niya. We took him in, pinakain ng merienda since kababayan naten. Wala daw siyang nailigtas kahit isang gamit except his NOA.”
“Isiniksik daw niya yung sarili niya sa maliit na bintana sa CR tapos dumausdos siya gamit yung alambre pababa. Hindi daw nagkasya yung iba niyang kasama sa bintana kaya hindi sila nakaligtas.”
We were all grief-stricken. I kept thinking, it could’ve been us, it could’ve been us. In my mind I could just imagine everything as if I was there. Watching them cry and scream for help, watching them while they suffocate, and be smothered by that thick black smoke. And then lie there, unable to breathe, still…. I shrugged.
It’s quarter to 10, off to the testing room again. Same old protocol, test booklets were given then again, the exam. I started off a little bit dizzy, maybe because I ate too much snack all my brain blood went to my gut. I hated that I couldn’t even keep my eyes open. The green blackboard hurts my eyes and when I look outside, it hurts even more. The sun was shining brightly; I was sweating like a pig. No one even dared to open the ceiling fan, is it out of order?
Exam-wise, it was easy. It was as if our reviewer, Sir Mallonga was behind me, telling me all the answers. It was like I was having auditory hallucinations. I smiled all throughout the exam. Then it’s over. I went downstairs to our booth thinking I’m gonna ace Test II.
The horror, our lunch was 2-piece fried chicken from Jollibee. I ate everything. It felt like my stomach was gonna burst and the seam of my uniform – oh don’t even start with the uniform! Everyone was talking about “how easy” Test II was. I coupled in since I’m pretty confident about my answers.
We were preparing for the exam when my bladder started to tell me I have to let everything out. It took us a hundred years to find a comfort room. Oh the relief! Off to 4th floor again for me. As I was walking along the path, I thought about my future. It was like everything flashed before me, my future, my life, my career and everything. I shivered. Is this some kind of premonition?
Test III – MS. Well, MS was my waterloo. The only thing I love about MS is when the topic is Cardiothoracic. Oh I love it. But then everything else is vague. During our review, I put almost all of my effort in this subject, I listened thoroughly to every word our reviewer says and jotted everything in my notes – – even the jokes. MS comprised two Tests in the NLE, Test 3 and Test 4. Logic is – if I didn’t do a good job in those exams, you know what’s next.
I was sitting there, sweating and I was very sleepy. I was in number 60 and I haven’t even shaded a single number on my answer sheet. It was the unholy hour. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and I couldn’t anymore comprehend what I’m reading so I decided to close my eyes for awhile. It was 2:45, that’s good. I’m on number 60, I still have some more time left. I closed my eyes and was relieved with the little darkness that was about to succumb. I opened my eyes, it was 3:12. I fell asleep! Curses and profanities dwelled in my mind as I answered the remaining questions. I looked back at some of my answers and damn that was really stupid to do since I answered most of them wrong (to my proper knowledge and belief). Cursing again myself for being so full that lunch. (I did mention I ate the 2-piece chicken right? I should’ve known better.)
It was exactly 4:00 when I finished. What a sigh of relief. I did it, but I do hope I’ll pass that test. All my energy was so used up I couldn’t even walk normally. I wanted to crash the sheets and never wake up. Thank God, Maan was already on the bus, I sat next to her and then took a nap. And when I opened my eyes we were already in our hotel.
I took the keys from the front desk, Maan following me behind. It took the receptionist ages to find our keys which pissed me off. Upstairs, the door to our room was open; I immediately checked my bags for any damages or things that might have been stolen. Then a man came out of the bathroom.
“Ma’am may inayos lang po kami.”
I just smiled. Ngayon pa nila naisipang magmaintenance kung kelan pagod ang mga tao. We were so adamant about crashing the sheets we didn’t even bother to change clothes. With our white uniforms and our stockings still in place, we went to sleep.