I dropped out of second year high school when I was fourteen, auditioned for a play at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and realized that theatre was what I wanted to do and learn about for the rest of my life. Then three years later I learned about the Philippine Educational Placement test – pass that test and you get a high school diploma. I gave it a shot and passed the test.
I barely passed the exam, I remember arriving a full hour late for the test that morning in 1990. A few months later, a teacher at some high school in Pasay handed me a piece of paper with a big smile and, “congratulations, pwede ka nang mag-college.” I lost that piece of paper.
Then a few days ago, we were at the DepEd complex because three of my children needed to take the same test after being home-schooled for years, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to get that piece of paper that said that I was qualified to go to college.
One time, I was one of three choices to be the speaker at a high school graduation in an international school in Baguio. The headmaster vetoed my nomination telling the graduating class that having a high school dropout, and, in his own words, somebody who was “not successful” in life for a speaker was not a good idea. The graduating class then requested to have me speak to them at the last school assembly before the graduation.
I was once offered the position of Production Manager for a reputable theatre company in Manila. But when the executive committee met to discuss my appointment, the then managing director of the company opposed it since I did not have that piece of paper. I resigned before they finished their deliberations.
This past year, I met a city executive who’s a lawyer who said he cannot do anything to save 182 trees from corporate greed; lawyers and government executives who defended one corporate entity’s interest over that of the public’s; a judge who declared that removing 182 trees on a hill will have no significant impact on the environment. There’s a lawyer who’s a local legislator who is said to be a protector of illegal gambling operations in the city and another of illegal squatting in the city’s watersheds; an engineer whose idea of a public garden is more concrete and less earth space; newspaper editors and writers who sell frontpages to the highest bidder; a policeman who drives around town in a motorcycle without a helmet…
… they all have really impressive pieces of paper.
At the bottom of the certification I got from the Department of Education, it says – “This certification has been issued upon the request of Mr. Altomonte for whatever legal purpose it may serve.”
For whatever purpose it may serve, indeed.