|17 The Chicken Fence
The International Philippine School in Jeddah
campus at the Ghornatah District was at least five times as large as the PSJ and PESJ
campuses combined. It occupied a whole block, with a circular road within it connecting a
dozen two-story buildings scattered along the walls of the block, and two buildings at the
center front. Behind the two buildings, at the center of the circular road, was a wide
fenced area consisting of a basketball & tennis court, a swimming pool and a function
The PESJ parents, before agreeing to
settle their children into the new location, demanded from embassy officials for a wall
between the two sections.
The good ambassador thought this was a
small request and should not become a reason to delay the re-unification (at least in a
physical campus) of the two schools, and thus relented.
There was a counter-proposal: the fence
should be constructed as gates which can be opened anytime, and which should be left
permanently open after a transition period, most probably after another school year.
There was a counter-counter proposal: the
PESJ should keep the keys to the dividing gates.
The late-night hotel room negotiations
would have put to shame the likes of Allbright and Holbrooke if they were around.
We worked late into the night to prepare
the final texts, and in the early morning, over breakfast, when the ambassador had barely
touched his coffee, we asked him to sign the documents.
When the gates, constructed from some
three-meter tall steel wire netting strengthened by steel tube frames, were finally
completed, two sets to cut off the circular road of the campus at two points, and a third
one to cut off the middle path-walk, the sight sent goosebumps up my arms.
One gate was situated just a few meters
from the main entrance, blocking the road leading to the left side of the campus, which
the PESJ occupied. Because the PESJ parents did not even want to use the main entrance, we
had to dig through the thick-cement walls to establish a side-entrance to our side of the
During a piano recital on a makeshift
stage erected near the back of the campus beside one of the monumental dividers, I got
clear camera shots of my two daughters behind the pianos, and from a fortuitous angle,
also a wide swath of the wire mesh. When, much later, during a vacation to Zamboanga City,
I proudly showed this set of pictures to my parents, my mother, who is a public school
teacher herself, cried out: Are your daughters serenading a chicken coop!?
The Ambassador & Director of All
Philippine Schools in the Kingdom took the rap when pictures of the wire fence reached
Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila.
Berlin wall had long fallen down, but
other walls were being erected.