Tuesday, March 20, 2007

ROLYPOLY PRODIGY (A Friend of My Youth - Part 2)

Torres High School, Tondo, Manila, June something, nineteen-forgotten ..

First year high school, first day of school. An unremarkable day, for the most part. Oh, some first-day crinkles and jitters, to be sure ! But none that familiar faces from grade school didn't smooth and soothe.

Unremarkable, but for a buzz -- that we had a remarkable classmate! Ten years old (while most of us were 12), accelerated twice, graduated valedictorian. Read tons, wrote up a storm. Arguably, a child prodigy, though no one argued -- except perhaps the teachers, among themselves.

Unbespectacled, Rolando "Rolly" Lampa wasn't your typical bookworm ("nerd" was not yet a word back then, you see) . He was a mite too chubby, cheerful, and talkative to be one. He was as boisterous as the next boy could be. Laughed loud, talked fast, choking on the words -- almost as though his tongue was hard pressed keeping up with his thoughts.

We soon pinned him down to a word: rolypoly (not yet as hackneyed as it is now).

Shy and easy to intimidate, I steered clear from the rolypoly prodigy most of the four years we were classmates. Still, one couldn't help catching whiff of some of his quirks.
  • Like how he devoured inordinate doses of Steinbeck, Hemingway and Buck (when my own reading fare didn't go much beyond Prose and Poetry and Diwang Ginto, our textbooks).
  • Like how he hang out at the public library, blocks away from school, where he wiped out the fiction shelves.
  • Like he would challenge what some teachers said in class (while I tended to swallow all, hook, line and fish) . He once reduced a teacher to tears and drove her to say: "You may be more intelligent than I am but not likely to know better."
  • Like how he wanted to be President of the Philippines when he grew up.
  • Like how he would first be a sportscaster while waiting to be President. I'd hear him regale other boys with his pre-pubescent basketball staccato: " ... steals the ball, dribbles, zigs, zags, goes for the basket, jumps, and converts!! He IS HOOOOOTTTT!"

In fourth year, the wall between us was breached. We both joined the Torres Torch (the campus paper) staff -- he as editor in chief, I as managing ed.

I wrote my own columns, wrote some of the news, contributed short and feature stories, but mostly did as he and Ms. Lozano, our adviser, bade.

Now, back in those days, I was soooo insecure about my writing -- and justifiably so. If Rolly was a walking dictionary, I was a twittering book of cliches. I couldn't write "bride" without adding "blushing." "Groom" without "dashing." "Baby" without "bouncing." "Live happily" without "ever after." Get the drift?

I loved it when we had to put our newspaper to bed. It meant being excused from class for the day, riding the school's rickety van to go to the printing press, being treated to a Chinese restaurant for lunch and Little Quiapo for halo-halo. But it also meant work, work, work (and some waiting for the printers to run our proofs). Last-minute editing. Proof-reading. And filling up unsightly white spaces in our paper.

I'd help fill up space with letters to the editor I'd sign my friends' and sister's names with.

One press day, Rolly wanted not just letters to the editor but a poem. I wasn't into poem writing then, but what the heck -- never say die! So I whipped up an inanity:

"Nina comes to school to take a test ... She's so confident she raises her head, and lifts her chin high up in the air ... The teacher comes, all are set ... Except poor Nina whose eyes are wet ... Poor darling Nina again forgot ... She studied a different subject."

!!! @#^!!

Rolly wanted to call it "Anna's Folly." After looking up "folly" in the dictionary, I understood why. But I only half understood why I choked back tears.

At an inter-school writing competition, before we graduated, our team would have gone home empty handed but for Rolly's three golds and two silvers. During recognition day, he took a special award for campus journalism. He graduated with honors (as I did ... ahem). Then he went to UP to take a double degree in accountancy and law. He became a young bank executive until a premature heart attack compelled him to slow down -- and then to migrate to Australia with his wife -- also a lawyer-CPA like him -- and son.

Can you blame me for idolizing the rolypoly genius? When we started corresponding a month ago - I told him his e-mail messages made me feel almost exactly as I felt light years ago when I wrote my poetic folly.

And can you blame me for wanting to publish this mail I received from Rolly Lampa last week?

"Hi Annamanila


Anyway, I just have to send this in -- consider it fan mail -- having just completed your magnificent Magnificent Mommy Moments and the Spotty Mommy Record sequels. Annamanila, you write like Kirsten Dunst acts -- you always keep the audience guessing when that hidden impish twinkle might break out into a full teeth-baring grin. Isn't that great?

Seriously though, why aren't you doing regular columns for the xxxxxxxxxxxx (this part made me gasp for breath -- too much -- haha -- so I blue-pencilled it - anna).

Congratulations on your wonderful relationship with Ernie. Who would have thought you'd fall for the godfather of all macho writers? My personal favorite from Papa Doc is "The Old Man and the Sea" -- if you only lived nearby we could have endless coffeeshop debate on this and other literary favourites.

You have this mantra -- the best is yet to be -- right? Right. I see you after retirement taking your blogsite writings nationwide via print media and you'll be all right. You'll do fine. I suspect you'll never leave academe, ever, but part-time dabbling in newspaper feature writing should turn your life full circle, back to Torres Torch days. Wouldn't that be, as Jack Nicklaus wonders, as good as it gets?



Rolly Lampa"

(P. S. 1 - I know, I know -- this should have been subtitled Egotripping 101.

P.S. 2 - As I draft this, he sent me another letter that again made me gasp for air. But ... uhmmm .... enough -- or I might fly like a hot balloon.)


Gypsy said...

What a great way to be reunited with a classmate! Hey, I forgive you for ego-tripping, girl. If I were in your shoes and the erstwhile class genius rains down compliments on me...I'd probably be the same! And I do agree with him, by the way. Consider this another fan mail..though not from another prodigy. Hehe.

houseband00 said...

I am smiling now, Anna.


I guess it's because of the pleasantly surprising e-mail you got and the subsequent flood of memories it released. Definitely not ego-tripping!

Leah said...

Its really nice to get reconnected to old lost friends. Its nice to read his email to you. And must I say, he simply told you what is real. And your blog is a testament to it.

So maybe you can encourage Roly-Poly to make his own blog so we can read his great writing abilities as well.

Gina said...

Wow, ang internet talaga, truly amazing! What a way to get reconnected with friends/ people who made a difference or have influenced you in the past. He sounds like he's got a brilliant mind! And should he decide to start a blog, we would really be interested to visit it. Who knows ,some of his wit & genius will rub off on readers like me!
As for what he said in his letter-about taking your blogsite writing to the print media, I bet it would be a success-more people will get to read your interesting and smart compositions. And what else can I say? Aren't I lucky to have stumbled into your site!? =P

Jerry said...

See, bilib na din sa 'yo ang idol mo. I bet he inspired you to be a better writer. Yes, Rolypoly's blogs should be worth waiting for. And whoa! --he has already a blog name na bagay sa kanya!

pining said...

RolyPoly is telling the truth. You're one of those bloggers worthy of an hour, if not more, internet time to spare :-)

faith said...

ms anna,

A guy who feeds on steinbeck like there's no tomorrow? Wow, if he had been my classmate, he would've caused us girl many a sleepless nights, hahaha.

And your writing prowess would've been the envy of all.

btw, the schoolpaper thing--that set off a lot of fond (wink!)memories.I was associate ed. to a brilliant editor too. He used to say that sportscasting is the most difficult job of all. He used to scare the living daylights out of me when deadlines came.

vernaloo said...

eherms...if I know you got a huge crush on rolypoly in HS hehehehe just teasing Anna :)

Anyway wow! Like what I told Prab, the way you write? They will never ever guess your age and thats a compliment ha :) You're so hip and cool :)

snglguy said...

So, any plans on writing columns for a major daily? :-)

dimaks said...

actually the mantra "the best is yet to come" is to fuel the urge on making things in utmost quality. you assume everything done as not the best, so you tend to do more -- unknowingly, perhaps, those things done were best in its own time :)

ischelper said...

wow! where have you been hiding all of these? very very hmm no words to describe. compile them into a book and i will be your first fan. makes me want to take out the pen and write too. well the keyboard actually and it is just infront of me. you are ver very good at writing and it comes from the heart so it touches. keep em coming.

Anonymous said...

anna, i know you! :)


annamanila said...


Thank you for understanding why I felt excited to blog about this. I am also the gypsy's fan. And I just know she would flourish in UK and who knows! ..... haha

annamanila said...


Flood of memories is the right word! It's more than just Rolly -- it's my lost youth. I am glad I have this blogsite to do honor to it. hahaha

annamanila said...


Rolly says he has "stage fright." Let's hope he will change his mind after reading the go-go comments here. I think he also has the notion this is a woman thing. But hey -- there's houseband, dimaks, prabs, singleguy, abaniko and a host of others.

annamanila said...


You're witty and your blogs are always interesting. But yes, this guy is a bit out of the ordinary. Pero ang bratty nya nung araw (Peace: Rolly!) --- but I guess if you know you're differnt, you grow a chip in the you know what or try too hard. Hey, nonono -- not really good enough for the kind of writing Rolly thinks I can do but I have published quite a few in the PDI, etc.

annamanila said...


Yes ... that's what I told him. I didnt tell that story about anna's folly because I had an ax to grind but because it was one of the events that inspired me. Whoa, I don't think he's no longer so rolypoly now.

annamanila said...

Awww Pining!

Ayan ka na naman, you make me blush (kahit mahirap makita ang blush sa akin dahil magkukulay talong ako -- hahaha). Truly appreciate, especially coming from a delightful blogger too. Sarap mong magkwento, flippityflop... talaga!

annamanila said...


So you were also with your schoolpaper and working with a brilliant editor. I am sure you learned from each other. (Di ko lang alam if Rolly learned anything from me.) Learning to write under pressure was a good discipline di ba -- for most things we do, hindi lang official.

Hey, bow din ako kay Faith ha.

annamanila said...


Sige na nga I will take it as a compliment. Bakit kaya medyo hindi ako nakangiti? Oooh na-missend ko nga sa yo yung HS avatar ko, nagulat ka pa. Ah ewan. I have going around telling people one reason why blogging gives me so much pleasure is I don't have to feel my age. What has it go to do with the essential me.

annamanila said...


Not good enough (yet). Rolly's opinion is biased. hahaha. thanks for dropping by. balik ka ha. hahaha

annamanila said...


Trust Dimaks to go philosophical and see beyond the superficial. Yes, I guess ... it smacks of a desire to do better and perhaps overcome limitations, especially those imposed by a declining body.

Thanks (soon to be) doctor dimaks.

annamanila said...


Thank you thank you. I know you're also one biased friend and you love me very much and that colors your opinion. Yes, you'd make one great blogger. I know how ur fans at the scrabble club adore you. Luv ya.

annamanila said...


What took you so long? Been telling myself, persist, persist -- sooner than soon he'll visit. See how kakulitan pays?! Congrats pala for making it to the finals sa blog awards. Galing.

myepinoy said...

That man must be more than great.

Remember these:
[Cogsworth:]You know, perhaps there's something there that wasn't there before
[Mrs Potts:] There may be something there that wasn't there before.
Just reading between the lines. Ha ha ha.

Looks like the name Rolando and nick Rolly are for great people ha. Just kidding.

Abaniko said...

I only got to read Steinbeck, Hemingway and Buck after college and he was already reading them in high school? Ibang klase. No wonder his prose is very impressive. I won't blame you for publishing his fan mail on this blog. Hehe.

Now, if Gibbs knows you, I must ask him who you are. Na-intriga tuloy ako. You write beautifully, Annamanila.

Heart of Rachel said...

Hello! I had a wonderful but tiring day. I don't have energy to write about it on my blog yet I decided to make a few visits.

I enjoyed reading your post. I read it until the end and now I realized I'm not so sleepy anymore. I think your post gave me some added energy.

I think it's wonderful to hear from someone you look up to and it feels twice as good to hear remarkable words from that person.

Thanks for sharing this experience and the uplifting emotions you felt upon receiving his email.

Take care Anna and thanks for visiting my blog.

gibbs cadiz said...

hello, anna, abaniko is right, you write beautifully! once upon a time we got to work together, but compared to what we blog about now, that was boring stuff, don't you agree? keep it up. am a fan. :)


Heart of Rachel said...

I forgot to reply about your comment on my blog. Those Godiva chocolates were sent to me by my parents. My mom said they are the best chocolates for her. I like Godiva but honestly, I love Reece's Peanut Butter Cups more. :) I've seen Godiva chocolates being sold at some large supermarkets here.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

julie said...

Annamanila, I enjoy reading your posts. You are witty. You should post more in PMN. Btw, can I add your site to my links?

annamanila said...


Rolly is an extremely talented writer.

When he allowed me to use his letters in my blog, he cautioned me not to overbuild him up to you all.

His exact words: "they might think I am some sort of closet Norman Mailer or some repressed man of letters who sold out to the more commercial professions a long time ago. No such thing ...."

The quoted conversation -- very intriguing. Aer you thinking what I am thinking you're thinking. Ay naku this is all so tickling.

By any chance are you also a Rolando/Rolly?

annamanila said...


Pareho tayo. We read Hemingway, et al in or even after college. Rolly wrote all those wonderful book reviews in our school paper and though I didn't check out the authors immediately, I kept them at the back of my mind.

Read Gibbs comments above about how we worked on a "boring" project before he joined PDI. haha

annamanila said...

Heart of Rachel!

You mean my blog is a stimulant as in coffee? It's really been a great day. I attended a dreamy debut party of my pamangkin and then I come back here with your wonderful comments. A good nightcap. And I will sleep happy.

Yes, let's keep on sharing the heartwarming and sometimes bitter-sweet as we blog our hearts out. I love your site.

annamanila said...


Tutuo yata when it rains it pours. First Rolly Lampa then you. Pati na sila Abaniko, etc.

Teka teka I didn't write this blog (around that fanmail) to fish ... but maybe i did. who knows what lurks in the human heart. hehe.

Gibbs, yes. You, especially you, have gone a long way. (Di ba nagpunta ka sa Japan .. hahah)

annamanila said...


Saya talaga ng araw na ito .. with new friends coming in. Yes yes yes will buddy you. In my language, that means link. Happy a happy weekend.

Abaniko said...

Ang dami mo nang fans Annamanila - si Rolypoly, Gibbs, ako, at marami pang iba. Abaw guid! :)

nao said...

dumaan ulit mother!!! (*winks*)

annamanila said...


Wow, the psychic rewards of blogging! Wala na ako ma-say!

annamanila said...


Daan lang nang daan, anak! -- nannamanila.


Anonymous said...

All you say is fascinating because you are my friend. But even if I didn't know you it would make a great book.

annamanila said...


I know you're not a 'posting' kind of person but you did this for me. Merci.

sexy mom said...

my my my, Anna...so you still do not believe him? too mesmerized to believe? but your blogfriends agree in unison. and bloggers do not lie! you have the style, the wit...the heart...as i said, you do good romancing the keyboard (it used to be romancing the pen). yes, dear, that is why we go back again and again to read your posts, even if you do not post everyday...:)

annamanila said...

Sexy Mom!

I know I sort of fished for this -- but I got more than I bargained for. I lack words (and you know how bad that is for a blogger -- haha) to say 'thank you' and 'truly appreciate.'

And you Dine, you can write up a storm too -- very prolific and now using a lot of imagery too.

annamanila said...


Thank you. I will check it out. Rustans siguro ano? I have to get it -- if only to add to my biodata. haha

dimaks said...

wee.. thanks for the wish :)

and yes, maybe thats why I prefer music without lyrics.

Prab said...

Aren't we all guilty of ego-tripping every once in a while? Besides, if anyone who read/will read this entry ever got a letter like that, I'm pretty sure he/she will be flattered as well.

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