Remembering My Childhood and Other Memories: A Reflection
By Vladimir Matias, LLB
Back in the 80s during the waning years of Martial Law, when there was no permanent wharfage structure in the municipal pier, downtown Claveria, Masbate also locally known as poblacion ( A Spanish word for downtown) was not only the epicenter of commercial, cultural and political activities of various colors but also a mecca where I spent 12 years of difficult childhood. Originally an island belonging to the Visayan group, Claveria lacked nonstop electricity and consequently, families did not enjoy the modern conveniences of television, telephones and household appliances (this scenario holds true until now); yet, what I knew was that Claverians were deeply religious and industrious people and that young kids of the yesteryears, including I were often seen playing near-extinct altruistic games such as taguan (hide-and-seek), tumbang-preso (hitting-the-can) and shatong (I don't know the English translation.). Although Claveria still remains an impoverished and largely undeveloped municipality - like its mother province Masbate and ultimately the Philippines. Children whom I played with are now mostly professionals such as teacher, engineer, doctor and lawyer.
How I missed them so much is one of the reasons why I am writing this piece. It is completely saddening to realize that after all the joys and the revelries we shared, the team spirits of camaraderie and sportsmanship we learned are now things of the past. Blame that on grinding poverty or on the deplorable educational system or the wrong familial upbringing. I may have remained loyal in practicing godly virtues but unfortunately some of my childhood buddies, definitely due to environmental influences, have failed to adopt and adjust to changing phenomena. To be direct, most of us have had to leave our beloved town in favor of progressive places such as Legazpi or Manila to study or work; as a result of which, it has become a rare privilege for us to see each other. One time, I had the occasion to greet a long-lost childhood buddy, he didn't respond to my invocation quite well not because he could not recognize anymore but because he felt we are no longer on the same horizon. That's greatly saddening. I knew him to be kind, polite and accommodating but times surely have changed and I should understand that whereas some individuals are more confident now, others are not that perky.
Schools are supposed to teach values but more often than not, they are alienating the young insofar as they dictate upon the child's path and shape one's outlook and views. Most people say schools often produce first honors, salutatorians, and valedictorians but seldom they produce transformative and determined community leaders who can really effect meaningful changes in the society, especially in the countryside. And some national institutions such as the government Department of Science and Technology (DOST) regularly awards scholarships to academically-inclined students with the objective that these scholars can subsequently help in altering the socio-economic terrain; to everybody's dismay, upon graduation, these scholars suddenly betray that cause and cannot really do as much due to personal reasons as always. Unfortunately, some of these student scholars are actually my childhood buddies , who for a one reason or another had chosen to stay away from the mainstream and pursue their own personal ambitions. Oops, I was an honor student and also, a one-time recipient of a collegiate scholarship. I also admit that I cannot really do as much in helping turn the municipality into a progressive one.
There were two childhood buddies of mine whom I fondly remember not that I am personally attached or close to them but because Of their versatile character. The first was a good and charismatic leader. An eternal optimist, he usually made frank decision, we his former playmates, candidly followed. He was not an opportunist nor boastful, nor conceited; he was just simple. During our afternoon taguan sessions, many times we had had to hide ourselves behind the sleek banana trees and though we were soiled and already badly smelling, our leader was still very much IN in winning the game. From him, I got learn, to a large extent, more of that winning or never-say-die attitude. He has chosen to be a legal advocate just like I, yet I know, he is still very much a MAN to beat. And even though, some of local families, including mine had been or has been indebted monetarily to his nearly-affluent family, I still believe him to be a person of good virtues. I am speaking of a man none other than Dindo Pancho. How are you now, buddy?
The second playmate I fondly remember was a talented and cheerful cheerleader. In Educational Psychology, we learned that children at a certain stage are a little bit egoistic or self-centered as proved by behavioral scientists such as Edward Lee Thorndike and Sigmund Freud. But while other children around her were concerned so much about their personal stuff, she was the girl I knew to be mapagbigay (selfless) and a true-blue extrovert whom you can always count on for moral support. motion pictures were unheard of in the town due to absence of electricity; so, she cunningly improvised a way on how we could watch movie in an inexpensive alternative. Utilizing burned and unburned phosporo sticks to serve as movie characters, she craftily laid out scripts she and other buddies read while simultaneously moving the matchsticks to vivify screenplays. That was the finest amazing innovation I've known from her. She is now a public school teacher. I am referring to a woman named Aniana Constantino whom we affectionately called Nenen. Dindo, Aniana and I did not grow up to be close friends. In fact, the two of them are older than I; reason why I don't have the opportunity to be their classmate. But, no matter what happened, I still respect and count them as older brother and sister.
Nonetheless, It was really quite hard to avoid the inevitable; sad juvenile episodes. Formerly loquacious and adventurous child, I decided one day to go to my friend's house obviously to play with him. Upon entering their door, I saw him lying in bed, making me think he was still asleep but before I could come to him any closer, a familiar old man with a container at his back full of unknown liquid entered and started infusing that foul-smelling liquid - a formaldehyde- into my buddy's body through an unusually huge needle. I was stunned and startled. Oh my! my buddy was already dead; he was just 4 or 5 years old. UNESCO, an agency of the United nations, reported in previous years that in Third World countries, including the Philippines, a certain percentage of youngsters die of deadly illnesses such as typhoid fevers, dengue, cholera and the like due to faulty sanitation and scarcity of accessible medicine. My hapless buddy was no exception to that report; typhoid killed him. I no longer remember his first name but I am certain he was a del Rosario. To you buddy, wherever you are, you're definitely a brother to me.
Already, most of my childhood bosom buddies are already married and several of them have already started their own respective families. Let me avail of this occasion to formally offer my apology to those childhood acquaintances whom I may have wronged or inflicted pains before. I know I was a very talkative person and may have uttered inflammable phrases and clauses to the detriment of others. Guys, I am sorry for all those acts and omissions.
I hailed from an island full of Hispanic influences - Spanish names and surnames, Spanish words and Spanish religion- Catholicism. Actually, almost everything around me are Hispanic - thanks to the more than 300 years of Spanish occupation of the Philippines. In my incumbent work as an Orbitz travel agent catering to American customers, a few callers could not believe I am using Mexican names such as Valentino, Ricky or Alberto. The truth is that Philippines and Mexico have much in common; both are former Spanish colonies. While Spanish is no longer our national language, Filipino, the present national language, is still mainly Spanish-based: more than 50% of our words are of Spanish origin.
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