Lhiera Nicole Trinidad and Xy Aldrae Murillo 

“Starting November 2, five-day face-to-face classes will be implemented for public schools, while either five-day face-to-face classes, a blended learning modality, or full distance learning for private schools...” The sound came from your 24/7 turned-on television, which always served as background noise while working on your modules. You typically ignore what you hear, but this time, it was different.

You put down your pen and came to a halt. The news was nothing like you expected. It prompted you to get up from your seat, which you rarely do unless you’re going to the bathroom. Wanting to get a better listen to the stereo, you nearly ran over to it in a mad dash. From there, you hear the lines that will dictate the following days of your life, and it’s official.

The Vice President and Secretary of Education, Sara Duterte, gave the go-ahead by signing DepEd Order (DO) 44, Series of 2022, a modified edition of DO 34 issued in July 2022.

Is it the excitement that you are feeling? Anticipation? Or trepidation? It has remained unknown, unidentified, and unrecognized. You didn’t bother learning it, even now, as you are heading to school, riding in a public jeepney, and about to attend your first in-person classes after two long years. You asked for the change on your 20 peso bill just as you were nearing your destination. However, in place of the coins you requested, you were met with furrowed brows and mocking laughter behind the concealing masks of the passengers. Was that just the right and exact amount you paid? It wasn’t like this before. Back then, about three years ago, things were different. Merely uttering the magic word, “estudyante,” will get you the discounted rate.

Are the 20 pesos now not enough just for a trip from the street to the school? You are puzzled. But then you were off to the shed to wait. Demands from your new school have forced you to switch from tricycles to jeepneys. Now, your school is way farther away from you. Ten? Fifteen? Twenty? Thirty? Fifty? The fares are exponentially increasing, and you are terrified by them. But you have to, as there are only fifteen minutes left before your first appointment. 

Your classmates were all in their versions of exhaustion and haggardness, and you were just in the first hour of classes. From recalling the past lessons, reviewing notes, and anticipating the following discussion as per an announcement from the remnants of your digital mode of learning, you felt bombarded by the schoolwork—it was time to listen to your professor and the discussion. 

Your teacher assigned recorded seatwork just as you were getting a sense of the moment—the school environment and the physical presence of your classmates. Of course, did you anticipate simply having “introduce yourself” and “get to know each other” activities and other whatnots? While you are dwelling upon such, the absolute misery lies in that it will be done and submitted in person: no online task, no Google classroom, no Google document, and no Google itself.

After hours of a physical rollercoaster in your classroom adjustments and coping with your classmates, you went home. Vehicles were total, and you could not take a ride as fast as you should have. With other passengers fighting their way through the seats, you finally got a jeepney after half an hour. Then back home, you reopened your notes and took a deep breath. A little social media was enough, actually not yet, to replenish your exhaustion—you got more tired as you laughed at memes and chatted with your friends but got lost in the track of what you were supposed to be doing. With a blacked-out mind, you prudently worked on your academic requirements. 

Then, flashbacks of what had happened two years ago lurked into the corner. Comparisons can be drawn as vividly as a clouded memory of how different it was only in the past two years. All things change, as people say, but the two years that you may consider "lost" in the eyes of academic experience massively altered your genetic code as a student and even as a person. You still recognize yourself, but you hardly do it, and at the mellowest times, you are unknown to yourself. With changes comes the chance to grow, but with what happened with the world when the pandemic struck the earth, growth is at its lowest point for everyone.

It feels different now. You don't know if it is for better or worse, but the era of time has undoubtedly changed you drastically. Looking back at 2020, when everything was strictly digital, students and the academe were paralyzed to their optimal capabilities in pulling off education. A year passed, and 2021 plotted a pandemic full of half-baked resiliency, where some face-to-face activities in the class bloomed dimly. 

This year, the Renaissance of a student's postponed aim for educational success and enhancement is returning. However, Though 2022 came, and this should feel like 2019, as you might expect, face-to-face activities are back, with everything that has been experienced now with the economy and all, it feels odd and sad; it is just not the same anymore.