Bitchy Ma’am Tessie

SO BELIEVE IT or not (believe it), I wasn’t always a self-deprecating dumb-ass who barely got through her acads. At one point in my origin story, I was actually pretty smart. Book-smart, math-smart — that brand of smart.

Unfortunately I peaked in grade school. Back then my marks were high enough to land me a spot in the Honor List even though all I ever did was show up. I never studied at home and I watched a lot of TV. The only time I truly cared was when we had to grow a plant for Science and I treasured my munggo seed like it was a mother’s most precious orchid. (I used to love botany, remember?)

One of my teachers then was Ma’am Tessie, a plump bespectacled guráng who put on smeared lipstick like an impish Bratz doll. Spoiler alert: Ma’am Tessie hated my guts.

Ma’am Tessie nagged at me in front of the class every time I failed to do an assignment. She singled me out for making mistakes and she even read my wrong answers aloud. “Tinamad na naman an dáyo” was her favorite line, because she also mocked the fact that I lived in a small barrio away from the main town.

At first I thought she was just doing her job. She could tell I was lazy coaster so maybe she was pushing me to work harder. But she also poked fun at my weight (and financial status) by saying things like, “Warâ kamó pagkáon sa baláy?” She made fun of my crooked teeth, my facial moles and my tattered pair of shoes, none of which had anything to do with subject-predicates or improper fractions.

One time when I was too sick to go to class, my mom asked our neighbor to hand Ma’am Tessie an excuse letter. When I showed up the following day, the first thing Ma’am Tessie talked about were “absences.” I was so ready to get another sermon for, I dunno, being sick — but Ma’am Tessie had another target that day. She called out a classmate — a boy named Hanzel, like Hanzel and Gretel — who also missed the class but did not give an excuse letter.

“Si Jolina ngánî na taga-bundok may súrat, tapos ikaw warâ?” Ma’am Tessie asked Hanzel, although the question sounded more like an exclamation.

“Tinulungan ko lang tabî si Papa magbenta kí báboy sa plása,” Hanzel explained.

“Pakiarám ko mán sa báboy sán amâ mo!”

We never spoke, Hanzel and I, but I never forgot how his shoulders slouched like a comma in shame upon hearing Ma’am Tessie’s remark. I didn’t know of the word “empathy” then, but I could tell that this teacher had none of it in her system.

If only Ma’am Tessie spared Hanzel and nagged at me instead. I could take the verbal beating anyway. I just reminded myself of Princess Sarah who was enslaved by Miss Minchin or of Trudis’ sister Oreng who was devoured by bulldogs — other kids definitely had it worse.

There was one time, however, when I finally caved; Ma’am Tessie finally made me cry.

It was about a take-home Sibika project for which we had to draw the maps of each rehiyon. Ma’am Tessie was furious when she saw my work. They were basic Crayola drawings but to Ma’am Tessie’s eyes they were the next iteration of Juan Luna’s oeuvre. So one morning she hushed the entire classroom, ordered me to stand up, and demanded that I admit in front of the class how I made somebody else draw the project for me. She was adamant that no child could’ve possibly drawn those maps. But since I drew those maps, I insisted they were my own.

“Ayáw pagbubúwâ!” she yelled in her signature croaky voice. “Dáyo ka lang didí, ‘wag kang sinungaling!”

That was my first brush with moral confusion. An adult just accused me of lying even though I knew I wasn’t — so what do I say? I could see the fat vein on Ma’am Tessie’s right temple throbbing and growing like a plastic balloon on the verge of pop. Should I lie just to calm her down? But if I lie, wouldn’t that be a graver sin to Jesus? And if Jesus truly loved me, why couldn’t he show up and tell Ma’am Tessie the truth?

I didn’t know what to do, man, so I cried, uhog be damned. The scene felt like a GomBurZa execution, only there was no Gomez or Burgos or Zamora with me — I was sobbing all alone. Ma’am Tessie eventually asked me to sit back. She started a homily on cheating and dishonesty while I rested my head on my desk, my inaugural bow to defeat.

I never told my parents about what happened. I was taught that important conversations were For Adults Only, so I was scared that maybe Mama and Papa would side with Ma’am Tessie. I wasn’t even sure if I did or did not do something wrong. Maybe lying wasn’t an absolute sin after all.

But my claim about being a smart kid wasn’t a lie. Upon graduation I had offers of full scholarship from two reputable high schools (I chose the one that sounded cooler). It was in high school when I became the fuck-up that I am now, but I will tell you more about this later.

For now it’s good enough that you meet Ma’am Tessie. I never understood why she hated me, or if she even hated me specifically. Maybe she was just inherently mean and I was an easy target, who knows? But if you’re a teacher — and even if you’re not — just don’t be a prick like Ma’am Tessie. You could ruin a person’s life or, y’know — you might end up in some girl’s blog.


  1. rAdishhorse

    Naalala ko yung mga time na nagiging mahabang homily yung buong umaga.

    Nakaka-trauma teacher mo. Kawawa naman yun iba pang students nya na natulad sayo at kay Hanzel. Siguro nag te-take pride sya na taga bayan siya at taga barrio ka. Galing din kasi ako sa barrio. Ang iba lang yung mga teacher ang dayo sa amin. Yun siguro dahilan kaya wala akong na-experience o nabalitaan na ganyang klase ng pang-bubully. Pero tingin ko, wala ka nang “bad blood” sa kanya. Kasi ang galing ng pagkakasulat mo. Ang effective nya. Hehe. O siguro “vindictive” lang talaga ako. Hahaha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jolens

      Baryo kids reprezent! Hahaha. 🙂

      Nako, that’s the word: “bully” talaga siya. Hindi lang sa amin ni Hanzel e, pero siguro ako ‘yung napuruhan kasi nga taga-baryo kami. Hmp.

      And yez, waley namang “bad blood.” Hindi ko na nga alam ba’t ko sinulat ‘to e, haha. Tengs, rAdish. 🙂 Teka nga, tatapusin ko na ‘yung mga comment ko sa site mo haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ela

    I’ve read a lot on Reddit about people’s experiences with similar teachers. I’ll never understand why some teachers hate their students. Also, if you hate kids so much, why the hell are you even in that line of work??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rAdishhorse

      “Also, if you hate kids so much, why the hell are you even in that line of work??”

      Maybe because, not all teachers wanted to be teachers in the first place. In the same way that not all prostitutes wanted to be prostitutes when they were young. Ditto with engineers, call center agents, jeepney drivers, etc. Some of them wanted to make movies, be a rockstar, write novels, become movie stars, etc. Some people have limited choices, opportunities, living conditions, etc.

      So what’re you gonna do if you’re stuck in a job that sucks (I heard most teachers are overworked, underpaid) but you couldn’t quit because you need to put food on the table? You become that bitchy teacher and you take it out on kids like Jolens simply because she can color her maps way better than you do.

      There are many possibilities. And it’s not simply because there are teachers who hate kids because they’re bad people. Of course, it’s also possible that teacher Tessie is just a bad person. But to generalize all teachers like her without understanding the situations is just plain fhlslsjs

      Liked by 1 person

        1. rAdishhorse

          Of course, there’s no excuse for that. As being in a bad situation/living condition (e.g., poverty) does not excuse one from doing bad (petty crimes). I merely reacted to what you said. Like if I hate working in a corporate world, why don’t I put up my own business or become a freelancer? Something like that.


      1. Jolens

        I agree with all my heart, rAdish (wuw hahaha). I should’ve included this angle in my post. Sana nagpahaging ako sa inter-class conflict even among the lower middle class, at sana inugat ko rin sa struggle ng mga guro bilang mga “overworked, underpaid” civil servants ang pagiging bully ni Ma’am Tessie.

        Salamat at ni-raise mo ito. I will keep this in mind para sa mga susunod pang kuwento. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Jolens

      True, Ela, I also never understood why this teacher hated me. But I guess rAdishhorse has a point: some of them never wanted to be teachers anyway. Hopefully we can one day overcome issues that force people to pursue careers they don’t enjoy; maybe then we can have better, kinder teachers. 🙂


  3. Mitch

    God, what a despicable old hag. I can’t imagine being in your shoes and receive that kind of treatment, especially from a person who’s supposed to help nurture young minds. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that people like her actually exist. Ugh. On a happier note, I kinda like your self-deprecating humor. Hehe. Although I can tell you’re really smart. And not just book-smart. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jolens

      Thanks, Mitch. I agree; some teachers can be really harsh to their students. I should’ve raised the discourse a little higher though by mentioning the fact that most teachers are also being abused by the system (they are indeed overworked and underpaid, as mentioned by rAdishhorse in the comments).

      Unfortunately hindi na ako book-smart ngayon. I’m straight-up book-stupid, if that’s even a thing haha. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mitch

        I agree with that sentiment, too, to some extent. I have friends who chose that as their profession and have heard them complain numerous times about the abusive system. They can sometimes neglect the teaching part because most of their time is dedicated to creating lesson plans and submitting an avalanche of paperwork, which kinda defeats the purpose of teaching, don’t you think? I have to point out, however, that being overworked and underpaid is no excuse for handing out abuse to children. Instead of railing against and fighting the system, some people choose to pick those who are weaker than them. I don’t think it’s acceptable to vent out one’s frustrations by ridiculing and bullying anyone, especially those who have nothing to do with one’s misery. Not all teachers who felt abused by the system are like your Ma’am Tessie, thankfully. I believe it’s high time people practice personal accountability, no matter what profession we’re in. I think that’s what we Filipinos lack. We tend to complain and put the blame elsewhere. Our choices, after all, determine the kind of human we are.

        So, yes, I empathize with the likes of Ma’am Tessie who are probably overworked and underpaid but I also won’t refrain from pointing out their shortcomings. I would like to think, however, that she must have been so sad and miserable to have acted that way. I’m very glad, though, that you’ve come out of that experience without deeper scars. That’s really admirable. We can even laugh about it now since you’ve written this piece. 🙂

        Haha. How do you define book-stupid? 😀

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Jolens

          Oh yes, of course there shouldn’t be any excuse for abusive behaviour. What I missed when I wrote this story was raising the discussion by a few notches. Like, instead of focusing on Ma’am Tessie’s bitchiness I could have also mentioned what both you and rAdish have pointed out: that many teachers continue do their jobs well despite working in “very sad and very poor” conditions (Gray, 2018 haha).

          So I guess my point isn’t so much about making excuses for Ma’am Tessie’s actions, but more about drawing a bigger picture — or inducing a “bigger” social analysis — from a rather personal story. Sometimes kasi it’s nice to write with loftier ambitions in mind, ‘di ba?

          Book-stupid? Hmm, poor academic performance, I guess? Low grades, snail-paced learning — something like that. Hehe, ‘di ko rin sure e.


  4. Thea

    Jolens, parang lahat tayo may Ma’am Tessie sa buhay tangina hahahhaa naaalala ko yung sakin pero nung HS na yon. Minsan ako nalang nagreraise ng hand pero since hate niya ako di pa rin niya ako tatawagin 😭

    Liked by 1 person

  5. atenderunfolding

    Parang pinagdiskitahan lang talaga kayo ng teacher niyo to make herself feel better because maybe she was feeling miserable, which isn’t an excuse though. But I don’t think she hates you specifically. Tingin ko naghahanap lang sya ng butas sa lahat and you happened to be the accessible target nung araw na yun. 😔

    Liked by 1 person

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