There are some teachers I’ve had whose names I cannot remember, and there are some teachers whom I will never forget. Orlando “Orly” Darang belongs to the latter group. I heard the news that he passed away on All Souls Day.
When I was a high school freshman, I would sometimes go to the library and look at the old yearbooks. The teachers photos were usually accompanied by short descriptions. Mr. Darang’s description, year after year, usually began with “Tall, dark, and dark,” so that is how I first became acquainted with him.
He became my Filipino teacher in junior year and I found out that he was indeed tall, dark, and dark, with strong, muscular forearms to boot. He was a bit scary that first day of class, and he sternly warned us to always bring our copy of Noli Me Tangere, or face the consequences.
We later learned what the consequence was a few weeks later when one of our classmates forgot his book. He had to lift his chair over his head while Mr. Darang proceeded to lecture and discuss the lesson like nothing was going on. I don’t think I ever forgot to bring my book after that. I mean, if my house were burning, I would probably rush in to grab my Noli de Tangere so I wouldn’t have to face Mr. Darang’s icy stare the next day.
As the weeks and months went by, the ice began to melt and we began to see his softer side. His one pet peeve was when students began their answers with “Parang” and he would be quick to interrupt with his famous line, “Parang pero hindi?” which usually stopped a student dead cold, much to Mr. Darang’s visible amusement. A typical dialogue would go like this:
Mr. D: “Ano ang ibig sabihin ng sinabi ni Padre Damaso?”
Student: “Sir, ganito kasi iyan. Parang…”
Mr. D: “Ah parang pero hindi?”
(This dialogue gets lost in translation so I won’t even bother).
You would think that we would have learned to stop saying that word but no, almost every class there was someone who would inevitably say it only to realize too late when he or she was met with the dreaded “parang pero hindi?”
One day, one of my classmates, Raul, did the unthinkable and managed to parry that interjection. When he said “Parang…” and Mr. Darang promptly interjected with, “Parang pero hindi?” Raul didn’t miss a beat and answered, “Hindi sir. Parang pero oo…” and proceeded to give his answer, which no one heard or remembered because everyone was laughing, including Mr. Darang.
There was another time when Mr. Darang walked into the classroom and wrote on the board the words “oten” and “puke” in big, bold letters. There was some nervous tension in the room. Some girls giggled and some boys howled, and the word “bastos” could be heard muttered all around. Mr. Darang promptly addressed the issue asking why these words were considered as “bastos.” Was it simply because they were in Filipino? What if he had written “penis” and “vagina” on the board? Don’t we use those terms in biology class? So why does it sound clinical and scientific in English while sounding vulgar in Filipino? That was one of the classes which really made me think about the power of language and words beyond their dictionary meanings.
He was not all fire and brimstone and was actually very approachable as I would find out when it was composition-writing time. My closest friends know that Filipino is my “hatest” subject. I was a voracious reader of English books and I spoke Chinese and Bisaya at home. The only place I ever spoke Tagalog was in school so I always had a rough time understanding and forming words.
I told Mr. Darang of my difficulty and he understood my problem. He would gently coach me as I asked him how to say this, or how to say that, or what this or that word meant. I learned that underneath his seemingly hard exterior was someone who wanted to help. He had the heart of an educator who wanted his students to excel and perform their very best.
Today, more than twenty years after, I remember the life of a man who was one of those who shaped and molded me into what I am today, who is certainly much more than what I portrayed him to be in this meager piece. And as I pause and reflect on the brief intersection of his life and mine, it seems that I am just waking up from a hauntingly, beautiful dream.
Parang isang munting magandang panaginip…parang pero oo.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.