While sitting here on the bench and staring moodily off into space, old memories begin to plummet in my head.
Twenty two years ago, I was six years old then, I could copiously remember what kind of life we had. We resided in the small barrio of Naujan, the biggest town in the province consisting of roughly 70 barangays.
To make a living, dwellers had to plow their fields and plant various crops such as corn, rice and fruit-bearing trees. Life was not easy then, my father was a typical farmer, a tenant of a little four-hectare parcel. And my mother, a plain housewife busying herself in the different household chores and other farming duties which was unusual for a woman of her age. I salute my mom for doing manly tasks beyond her strength just to abridge the situation.
Confronted with the nasty realities of life, making both ends meet was nearly possible.We never owned a house even a smaller one by that time. However, we were asked to inhabit the emptied house which was owned by my father’s landlord. They were sympathetic enough to offer one of their houses that they had been using for quite sometime. It was built with essentially ingenious architectural design probably around 1960. The owner had soon moved to Manila due to subjective and business affiliations so it just served as their rest house.
Every summer, they had been spending their vacation in the old house probably to escape from the demanding schedules and punishing atmosphere of the city. We were then delegated to look after their most valued possession, their ancentral home. In fact, they even compensated us for using and maintaining the house. What a luck then.
Growing up, that house had become our home and fortress. I and my older brother, Gary (the one I’m next to) were born here, we’ d almost spent half our lives here, computationally speaking. It was a two-storey house with four large bedrooms, drawn-out balcony, and a living room. It was surrounded by towering palm trees which almost covered the entire house.
The vegetation cover around the area made the atmosphere more nonchalant and fascinating. I could still reminisce how beautiful it was during our early years there. My brothers and I used to play hide and seek in the expansive front yard, sadly, we neither had playmates nor neighbors to play or talk with. The house unimaginatively stood amidst the barren fields facing the east.
I’d loved staying in the balcony, savoring the fascinating view while discerning about the richness and nothingness of life. Gigantic trees, immense rice and corn fields and not so lofty mountains from far-off were the distinctive features I’d relentlessly seen from where I stood.
Either, I couldn’t forget the fact that we had to eat our dinners as early as six o’clock in the evening, it was well-practiced in the province actually, I’d to ask then why it was so and my parents would tell me that we should eat early so we could sleep early and be fully prepared for the next day’s drudgery. “Early bird catches the early worm”, perhaps that was their motto and I eventually tailed it.
As we’d been often doing, before sleeping we would listen to some adventurous and ghost stories in the radio, I couldn’t forget the epic story of Negra Bandida , a woman of strength and fortitude who madly fights against the injustices and cruelty they experience from the tyrants. Looking back, I couldn’t help but to mimic the sounds from the radio drama we’d loved to listen to, “ haahh pakatik pakatik yaahh…hahhh.. pakatik pakatik yaahh” ,these were the sounds mainly uttered by the heroine, Negra Bandida herself while continuously hitting the horse to make it run quicker.
I’d been also hearing my brothers and sisters repeating the same lines so my parents would chide us and stop us from making any unwanted clatters. Back then, we’re all stubborn so basically we wouldn’t sleep and still wait for the ghost story we’d been hooked about.
At 9’o clock in the evening, immediately after Negra Bandida, we would be listening to “Gabi ng Lagim” (Night of Terror – a collection of creepy ghost stories which transcends beyond one’s imagination. I wouldn’t forget those nights when I’d been struggling to sleep because of the horrors inside my head. Though it frightened me badly, I kept on listening to it. Then again, I’d become panicky.
One could easily please a child, and I wouldn’t be an exemption to that. Back in the old days, I’d love to eat “tira tira”, it was a hard, long and coffee-like candy which cost only twenty five centavos. Needless to say, I would eat four pieces a day until I cried in pain because of toothache. I’d also like to eat “dragon” a peanut inspired chocolate bar that swept me off my feet.
Like other kids of my age, I used to devote my spare times climbing trees, either the smallest or the tallest ones. Together with my siblings, we used to spend our Saturday afternoons, searching the woodlands for kerson fruits (aratiles), salamander fruits (bignay), and cotton fruits (santol). Before darkness had to strike, we would have been back home or else we would have received punishments from my father.
Still recounting, I had this nerve-wracking experience of almost falling from the tamarind tree. It was one afternoon actually before I went to school, I decided to get some tamarind so I climbed up there disregarding the fact that I was wearing my uniform, with my blouse and skirt on. After getting plentiful fruits, as I climbed down hastily, my skirt accidentally tethered to one of the delicate branches and so I lost my balance. I would have fallen and hurt myself if I didn’t hold on to that sturdy branch tightly, it had saved me from further injuries. Afraid to be reprimanded, I did not inform my parents of what transpired. Surely, they would have scolded me anyway.
On the surface, I consider my childhood’s experiences as the best part of my life. I’ll always look back to where everything started. The kind of person I am today is primarily inspired by the joys and sorrows that I had been through in the past years. And at this point in time, I choose to do what I love, and love what I do. With courage and optimism, I’ll choose to live my life the way it should be lived, so when I look back again, I won’t have any regrets.
When you fully comprehend that there is more to life than just here and now, you will begin to live differently. You will start living in the light of eternity. (Philippians 3:5-8 NLT)