Friday, August 19, 2005

Into the River

The older I grow the more earnestly I feel that the few joys of childhood are the best that life has to give. There is something fascinating in being a child, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever, and our dreams shooting the stars.

I have volunteered to be nanny last Saturday since Jean had some visitors from Manila and she was acting as their tour guide to the various tourist spots in the lion city. I brought Fergus to the playground at his usual playing time @ 4:00pm after the afternoon sleep and milk. Watching my son playing at the metal and plastic play equipment with some Malay and Chinese friends at the block playground, I can't help but wonder how different my childhood was with that of my son's.

I considered myself lucky to have spent my childhood days not in a big city but in a remote, almost "unknown" city in Northern Mindanao because I have enjoyed things that people in big cities did not. Even my son, growing up here in Singapore won’t be experiencing the kind of childhood that I have.

Growing up in an "Agricultural city", and being the eldest of siblings of eight, I learnt in a young age that life is no paradise. You have to do everything you can to survive. My parents, tried hard to raise this big family who were even more infested with cousins who were sent to us by their parents because they themselves cannot afford to raise them. I am fortunate enough to have parents that gave an extra hand to help people. And these values have molded me as I grew up. Sure I had my share of papa's leather belt, but discipline has always been a part of my family.

Fun in my childhood is not about acquiring expensive toys. It's about adventure. If I'm not busy copying drawings from my favorite local comicbooks, or if I'm not reading Mythology books that I was so fascinated at, I only have one place to go with my friends--The river.

Together with my childhood friends--Rolly, Glenn, Patot and my younger brother Roy, splashing and playing in the nearby river was always the activity of the day during summer vacations. What we like most about it was that the deep part of the river, which almost resembles a swimming pool, has a cliff of about two storey high on its side. And from it, we like to jump into the river shouting superhero names as we charge airborne. We always had fun doing that, and after being tired swimming and jumping down from the cliffs, we explore the surrounding bushed area commonly populated with coconuts, variety of trees, and high hedges. We then carve out niches unto these bushes, creating a makeshift camp. Having two camps, we then would battle in that "jungle" pretending to be real soldiers with our improvised, did-it-myself wooden rifle. In that place we learned some lessons the hard way too. Like why it's not a good idea to disturb a beehive, or why it's not good to pick fruits from its tree when the owner is there patrolling.

We continued to do that almost every summer until the area was bulldozed to give way for some new residential project. But the sweet memories of childhood with that of the river and my friends will always be cherished.