Confidence in my heart

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo December 16,2016 - 10:03 PM

Hannahmae cried when she saw the number she picked from the fishbowl.

The number one was boldly written on a small piece of paper, and it meant that among the nine contestants of the declamation contest, she would have to go first.

Tears slid down her eyes as her sister comforted her and told her that she should not worry about being the first performer and instead, “continue to keep the confidence in her heart.”

I was seated behind Hannahmae.

I saw her tears.

I heard her trembling voice.

It was not the best seat of the house; but I had nowhere to go because that was the spot I needed to be in that afternoon as the host of the Christmas Festival, an event organized by the Cebu Daily News’ Marketing Department, which featured declamation, oratorical and Christmas decor–making contests.

I listened to the conversations of the other girls and heard how nervous they were, how they practiced for less than a week and how determined they were to win because their schools were rooting for them.

They were entitled to those feelings.

Performing in front of a crowd is no small feat.

The competition was held at the SM City Cebu Activity Center, the event stage located within the Food Court area, where a multitude of people passed and paused to check what was going on that afternoon.

Sitting behind them was a nerve-racking experience because I felt immense pressure, pressure which was too much for an eight-year-old girl to handle.

But Hannahmae handled the pressure very well.

She wiped her tears and listened to her sister’s advice.

A few minutes after, she smiled and was back to her usual chatty self and reviewed her lines with her seatmate, Mary Joy.

I imagined her to be my daughter Antoinette, and I started panicking.

I have performed onstage ever since I was five years old in barangay programs, in the church and in school activities. My mother was my coach, critic and personal assistant. Not once did she ever tell me that she was nervous.

But that afternoon, while I was trying to think of nice words to say to Hannahmae, I understood why my mother never told me that she was also near tears every time I went up onstage.
I felt the tension went a notch higher when I was onstage to announce the winners.

Everyone was rooting for their contestant. Each person in the audience cheered for their school’s representative. From where I was standing, I saw teachers clasping their hands in prayer and I could almost hear them praying: “Please, Lord, let my student win.”

For every name I called to receive an award, rounds of applause and merry cheers followed. But for every name I did not call, there were disappointed sighs and sad faces.

I had lost and won competitions many times as a child and as a teenager.

There were times when I won first place, second place, third place, and I felt good. Because the medals, certificates and the moment when the lady of ceremony announced that I was one of the winners was an affirmation that I succeeded.

But there were also many times when I ran to my mother’s arms, crying, wailing, disappointed because I failed to advance to the final round in a spelling bee contest or that I did not make it to top three winners of an oratorical contest.
When Hannahmae was not called as part of the top three winners, I cried inside.

I wanted to rush to her side to tell her that a plaque or a P1,000 gift certificate does not measure her strength and performance as a performer.

But I did not know how to say that to an eight-year-old girl.

So when the spotlight dimmed and the music turned off, I approached Hannahmae and I told her how I enjoyed her performance. “You made a good first impression,” I said. “I hope to see you in the next contest.”

She smiled as she replied: “Yes. With confidence in my heart.”

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TAGS: Christmas, christmas festival, confidence, contest, contestant, declamation, decor, decor-making, fishbowl, Number, performer, trembling, Voice

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