I grew up in a small barrio located in a town where all the natives’ last names start with the letter R. Yup. I was (am no longer living there) a B in a town full of Rs; I was also a Bagagnan in a barrio full of Reonals. I am also obviously a hybrid since my father is a non-native.
What’s the point? Nothing. Just giving you some background. Let me start again. I grew up in a small barrio [stop].
I stayed there for 16 years. When I left to go to college, I thought “nice, my adventures will start now.” When I look back on all those years, however, I realize that my life in that barrio was one filled with all kinds of adventure. It was a good life, especially when I was a little kid. Typical; I took for granted all things that were familiar.
Here are some of my nice and not-so-nice barrio memories. Will add to it whenever a memory occurs to me.
- I turned five and I had a birthday party. Everyone in the neighborhood (which means everyone in Purok 5) was invited; everyone showed up. I was very happy and a candle-blowing snapshot of me proves that. Every one of my teeth was captured in that shot; that picture also shows that eyes can indeed “twinkle.”
- I remember our kiddie bike. My parents bought my sister and me a bike. There was plenty of space to cycle around in. Yup, it was a safe neighborhood. As far as I can recall, nobody has ever been hit by a car or a tricycle there. I remember driving up the hill and letting my kiddie bike fly on the way down. Pure, unadulterated freedom! I also remember when the balancing wheels were taken out; I felt so grown up!
- Speaking of bikes, my father taught me to ride his bike when I was 5, or was it 6? His teaching methods were a bit unorthodox (and could have been dangerous). I pedaled on (I had to pedal standing up because I couldn’t reach the pedals if I sat down) while he held the back of the bike to help me keep my balance. He pushed and pushed until we were going really fast – but when I looked behind me, I realized that I WAS GOING REALLY FAST; my father was no longer pushing the bike. I felt a moment of exultation. Trepidation soon followed and I (and my ego) came crashing, crashing, crashing down. My father told me to get up, and the biking (and crashing) lessons continued.
- I remember the bahay-bahayan games. Nope, we had no guy playmates and there were no Tatays; I, my sister Nene Lhe, and our cousins Bing and Lyn were the regular bahay-bahayan gang. Sometimes, Lot and Gemma plus Gem’s sister Aiza would join us. I remember one big fight among our gang. We were split into two camps (I, my sister and Gemma on one side; Lyn, Bing and Lot on the other). Each of the two factions had its bahay kubo, and these bahay kubos were facing each other across a very narrow street. Each faction threw things at the other; we started off throwing insults and we ended up throwing small stones. That’s when our parents intervened; they stopped us before we could start throwing bigger stones. Of course, our parents actually perpetrated the quarrel, at least initially. Who do you think built us identical bahay kubos that were right accross each other? In any case, the two groups made up and were fast friends again; I can no longer recall what caused the fight and what induced us to make up.
- We in our gang also played beauty pageant organizers. Naturally, we were the contestants and we asked our elder siblings and cousins to become our pageant judges. We made our own crowns, sashes and scepters. We used whatever dress we got our hands on. However, we had a mainstay costume – the petticoat. Usually, the contestant who would win got to wear the petticoat in the evening gown portion. We also had a finals night. We went all out in the preparations; we practiced a hula dance number and all of us had on matching costumes. After the “crowning” we went out and imposed our “crowned, sashed and sceptered” beauties on the poor folks of Purok 5. Fortunately, they did not mind. They even applauded our efforts; one of the sari-sari store owners even gave us free candy when we passed by.
- I remember when I, my sister and one other (I think it was Gem) scoured the whole barrio (and I do mean the whole barrio) looking for a nuno sa punso (dwarf) to wish on. We did this a lot of times. We stopped at every punso possible and chanted our wish for a ring of power. Obviously, we did not find the ultra-elusive nuno.
- I and my sister were a tandem when we sold Ice Candy (the homemade kind), Baduya or Sinapot (saba banana halves dipped in flour-sugar-water mixture then deep fried), Kalingking (just replace the saba bananas with sweet potato or camote sticks stuck together), and other stuff our mother cooked. We went around our barrio shouting “Hala (insert name of foodstuff being sold here)!” We earned money through profit-sharing, he he he he.
- I remember the Sta. Aurora. For several days, we would go around the barrio, singing prayers to various saints (San Pedro and San Vicente were my favorites so I always tried to come early so I would have first dibs); when we passed by an ‘altar’ along the way, we would stop and sing a few lines of prayer there. At night’s end, we would be rewarded for our efforts with a small paper bag filled with local biscuits and crackers. Local biscuits and crackers would be the standard ‘fare’ every night except the last one. During the last night of the Sta Aurora (the katapusan), a ‘rewards’ upgrade would occur. There would be all sorts of candies, soup, the undying biscuits, and drinks. There would also be a pabitin. Naturally, more people would be in attendance during the katapusan than during the regular nights.
- I remember coming out to the rice fields with our parents. We helped plant the palay seedlings. We helped clear the area of snails. That was when a leech and I met.
- I and my sister plus some of our friends also helped during the harvest. Actually, we went to the rice fields after the harvest. We collected the stalks that the hired hands missed. We put them on a sack (that’s right, they’re on the sack, not inside the sack) then, using two sticks, we started pounding them for all we were worth. After making sure that all of the grains had been collected, we went home with our “treasure” and sold her palay back to Mother.
- I remember my sister climbed a coconut tree; we needed young coconuts for a school project.
- I used to swim in the river. Back then, you could still see under the water. I almost drowned one time.
- Speaking of rivers, the river went bone-dry one time. I and other kids walked on the riverbed to and from school.
- Another time, the river overflowed after a particularly ravaging typhoon. The barrio was flooded. I and my friends took out the big salbabida and played in the water. Fortunately, we were in a rural barrio and it happened long ago when our river was much cleaner than it is now.
- I called the father of a neighborhood friend “Attorney sa kangkungan.” He never ever forgave me for that.