The limelight was not an unfamiliar realm to me, but if I had a choice, I wouldn’t even want to be there.
Bukod sa uncomfortable ay madalas din na-i-invade ang personal space ko. I thought it would change once I go to college dahil mas malaki na ang mundong gagalawan ko, but boy was I wrong.
“Oh my gosh! Ang ganda pala ni Tiffany?”
“’Di ba? They said she’s the class valedictorian din ng high school batch nila.”
I heaved a sigh as I heard the usual chatters from the students. Sana lang kung mag-uusap sila tungkol sa akin ay hindi ko naririnig.
Alice snickered. “Sikat ka na talaga.”
“Well, she’s one of the Campus Princesses,” Yna added.
I rolled my eyes at them. “Aanhin ko naman ang title na ‘yan?”
Nagpatuloy ako sa paglalakad habang nakasunod sila sa akin. At ganoon din ang tingin ng ilang estudyanteng nadaraanan namin.
“Huy, at least you’re one of them,” sabi ni Alice habang naglalakad sa tabi ko. “Ang dami kayang gustong maging Campus Princess.”
“Eh ‘di sa kanila na,” I muttered. “I don’t want it.”
Honestly, I didn’t want to study here, but these two pressured me. Kingdom University is well-known among the wealthy families and my parents wanted me to enroll here, too, since most of their colleagues were from this university. Academic-wise, it’s a good institution but I don’t like the concept of having “royalties” here.
Yeah. There are royalties in this place, but that does not mean they have a royal blood or something.
It’s like a caste system where the topnotchers in the entrance exam who are deemed “beautiful” in their standards are given the titles Campus Princes and Princesses. At sa mga hindi pumasa sa standards nila, they are called Brains of the Campus naman. See how unfair and discriminatory is that?
And just my bad luck, I was the fifth placer. I thought I’d just get a good or passing grade since I did not prepare much for the exam, but I underestimated myself. Or maybe the test was just easier than what I had expected. Worse thing was they posted the ten new princes and princesses on the announcement board. Oh god.
“Steff!” called Alice. “Let’s go. Gusto mo bang ma-late sa first day natin? Nasa room na si Yna.”
I let out a deep breath and followed her. Thank goodness wala pa ang prof namin nang makarating kami sa room.
“Uy, look, isn’t she one of the Campus Princess?”
“Really? Ang pretty nga. No wonder.”
I had to restrain myself not to roll my eyes at them. I appreciate the compliments but hearing them every few minutes was too much! Hindi naman ako celebrity!
“Good morning, class.”
Napatingin naman ako sa pintuan. Fortunately, nandito na ang prof namin kaya tumahimik na ang lahat. Nilibot niya ang tingin niya sa class. He met my gaze, and I was surprised when he beamed at me.
“Oh,” he exclaimed. “There are two campus princesses here.”
Oh, god, please no!
“Ms. Tiffany Damian and Ms. Alexa Natividad,” he announced.
Our classmates murmured among each other, trying to find out who he was talking about. Napatingin ang ilan sa akin. Some looked at the girl at the front row. She had long black hair and porcelain skin that highlighted her soft and pretty features. That must be Alexa Natividad.
However, unlike me, she was happy that they were giving her the attention. She confidently stood up and thanked those who praised her. Ugh. Huwag lang silang mag-expect na ganoon din ang gagawin ko.
“Steff, c-calm down,” bulong sa akin ni Yna.
I must be frowning real bad since Alice and Yna had to tell me to calm down. First subject pa lang sira na agad ang araw ko. I shouldn’t have enrolled in this university!
Buti na lang at saglit lang ang first class. He just gave us a syllabus and we filled out a student profile for his class. Since thirty minutes lang siya nag-discuss about the subject ay may free time pa kami na one hour before our next class.
“Where are we going?” asked Yna.
“Cafeteria na lang,” sagot naman ni Alice. “And please, Yna, mag-Filipino ka naman. You promised you’ll try noong grumaduate na tayo sa high school!”
I smiled upon hearing her remark. Yna’s half-Korean but she grew up in the States. She could speak Korean and English but she was still struggling with Filipino kahit na ilang years na siya rito. She could understand the basic words naman pero hindi siya confident magsalita.
She pouted. “Eh, nakakamali pa rin ako sa ibang ibang words, eh.”
Alice and I suppressed our squeals. Ang cute-cute ni Yna kapag nagFi-Filipino!
“It’s cute,” I commented.
Natuto rin kami mag-Korean dahil sa kanya. Since she couldn’t speak Filipino at all when we were in high school, we had to talk in English. In return, she taught us Korean para naman maramdaman din daw namin ang struggle niya.
“Hmm, so stay lang tayo sa cafeteria?” tanong ni Alice. “Hindi pa ako gutom, eh. Kayo ba?”
Tumango naman kami. Kasisimula pa lang naman ng araw.
We settled at the table on the farthest corner so we wouldn’t attract any attention from the students. I suddenly remembered the day when we enrolled. Paano ay dito rin ako nagmukmok nang malaman ko ang magiging sitwasyon ko.
That day, nalaman ko na nasa top ten ako since naka-post sa pagkalaki-laking announcement board ang names at pictures namin. Oh, the embarrassment I felt on that exact moment. Buti na lang at hindi lang ako ang nakaramdam no’n since I think may dalawa o tatlong nasa list na kasabay kong mag-enroll, though I couldn’t remember their faces anymore.
Only the names were retained in my mind. If I remembered correctly, the names included were:
1. Patricia Dominguez
2. Jessica Mishelle Morales
3. Ian Darryl Garcia
4. Patrick Reyes
5. Tiffany Damian
6. Charmaine Antonio
7. Calvin Gisel Villanueva
8. Kevin Anthony Fuentez
9. Lalaine Chavez
10. Alexa Natividad
So far, si Alexa pa lang ang nakikita ko.
“How’s Venice pala?” tanong ni Alice. “Ang tagal ko na siyang ‘di nakikita, ah?”
“Right, how’s our little chick?” dagdag ni Yna.
I shrugged. “She’s alright. Well, may pinapabili siya kay Dad kaya mabait siya these days.”
Alice chuckled. “Mag-ate nga kayo.”
I snickered in return. Medyo totoo naman. I would often act nice to Dad if I wanted something that I couldn’t buy or get myself. Minsan lang naman kapag kailangan ko talaga ng tulong. I still prefer to do or get something by myself.
We talked about the usual things—latest fashion styles, new music, what happened during our summer vacation, and other stuff. Yna said her grandparents wanted to see us again and she and Kuya Xander, her older brother, went to Yeosu during the last week of vacation. Meanwhile, Alice went to Hong Kong since Tita had a month-long business conference there.
“Omo! Look at the time!” Yna interjected. “We only have fifteen minutes before our next class starts.”
Nagmadali naman kaming magligpit ng gamit pero napatigil kami nang bigla kaming may narinig na sumigaw. I thought there was an accident or something, but two girls were craning their neck to see the guy who just came in the cafeteria.
“Isn’t that Kevin? He’s cute!”
“Omg, he’s handsome kaya.”
My eyebrows knitted. Kevin? He must be that Kevin. One of the Campus Prince. In fairness, he’s handsome nga. Sa standards ko.
“Let’s go,” bulong ko sa kanilang dalawa bago pa kami tuluyang mapansin.
We were already in front of the other door but the girl on the nearest table gasped and pointed at me. Oh, god, no.
“Whoa! Isn’t that Tiffany?” tanong niya sa kasama niya. “She’s really pretty.”
That was my cue.
I held both Alice and Yna’s wrists and dragged them with me. Dali-dali akong tumakbo palabas ng cafeteria kahit medyo nakakawala ng poise dahil naka-dress ako. When we were already a few meters away, I let go of their hands and breathed deeply. Bigla naman nila akong tinawanan.
“Steff, ano ba ‘yong takbo mo,” Alice teased.
“That was kind of embarrassing,” dagdag pa ni Yna.
My cheeks felt hot after realizing I must have looked weird running like that. I cleared my throat and pretended not to care.
“Tara na, male-late na tayo,” I said and the three of us went to our next class.