By MICHAEL RACHO
Life is captured in memories, snapshots if you will. We think back fondly on specific moments in time and we keep them in wooden frames on our walls, pouches in our wallets, and albums on our smart phones. These memories are now frozen in time forever and those who keep the memories with them will never let them go.
Ommel Trinidad captured these memories wherever he went. A primary school teacher at PAREF Northfield, Sir Trinidad had taught for 13 years and all of his students loved him. He was strict, no doubt about that, but he also knew how to bring about the best in his students. If they were having trouble, he would go out of his way to help them. One example is when he would train students for elocution contests, carefully giving them advice so that they would be able to stand out on their own. He captured these moments on his camera, moments everyone looked back fondly on.
But the reason he was so well loved is that he went beyond helping his students in academics. He would help students find their home in school—he would become part of their family. Indeed, some students who had problems with their fathers would come to him. When they were sad and in need, they would go to him, and with a smile, a joke, and a lot of laughter, he would make them feel better. He made them feel safe and taught them that school really was their home away from home. These were the memories built with him, and he would take pictures wherever he went. Many students’ fondest memories of him are when he would take them out for food and they would talk about their subjects and their families and their lives.
Parents loved him too. They would come to school to ask how their children were doing and he would chat with them, and would tell the parents of their child’s grades and academic life and how they fared with others. They could see that he was a large part of their children’s lives and they could see the impact he made on them. They could see that even if their kids were away from them that there was someone they could trust to take care of the kids and help them grow, not just as students but as people as well.
As it were, he made an impact on the lives of the parents, too. He would befriend them and talk with them about his photography, his life as a teacher, and every little detail in between. He gave the parents pictures of their children’s happy lives and they were absolutely and truly grateful for them. More memories were made, and more people captured them.
Sir Trinidad passed away on May 30 when he lost his battle to chronic kidney disease. The sickness was evident in his body—he lost a lot of weight and was transformed into a much thinner man. Not that you could tell if you didn’t know him—he was always smiling, always laughing. If you saw pictures of him from the past, you would assume that his diet was just really working out for him. He was that happy. He didn’t let his illness hold him down. He would come to school and teach, just like he did for the past decade. He never stopped caring for his students and never stopped being their father away from home. The motto of Northfield was “Fortuna Favet Fortibus” or “Fortune Favors the Brave.” With his unyielding attitude toward teaching, he taught his students what that motto really meant. He was brave even in his hours of trouble and he never stopped working so that his students would prosper. Fortune favored him by allowing him to give one last lesson to his students—he managed to finish his final school year before saying goodbye.
They say the legacy of a teacher has no bounds, and that could not have been truer than it was for Sir Trinidad. During his wake all his students from his life of teaching came to pay their respects, many of them had already graduated but they all came home with their own remembrances. And when the wake was done they would gather together in their homes and toast to his memory. He captured their best moments growing up, and they made promises to keep his memory in their hearts. Wherever they would go, they would carry his teachings with them. And when they themselves teach others to be kind, part of those lessons would come from him.