Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Childhood-Revisited

Somewhere in time, but not too long ago; the word “Internet” was still an alien word. Computers were perceived to be chunks of machines that performed sophisticated work for governments and big companies. Robots and remote controls were starting to ring a bell thanks to the television, but the boob tube still has to prove its worth to the eyes of the ordinary kid.

What was supposed to be worst back then for being a child was to be stuck in one corner of the house while the rest of their playmates are out having fun. We loved staying under the sun so much that we would draw images of the sun on the ground to scare away the patches of rain clouds that would threaten it. The more and the bigger we make, the more effective it gets. Yes! Basking in the sun was the order of the day. If you are blessed to grow in a tropical country where one doesn’t have to worry about frost bites, then you will know what I mean.

I was raised in a small part of a town where the sugar cane fields are bare and dry in the summer time. We had different kinds of trees teeming with fruits and crystal clear streams flowed by. As a child I was both timid and sociable. I can either play alone with my favourite toy soldiers, or I can join with some other youth in the neighbourhood. Some of the kids were handy in making improvised toys. One guy I knew of fashioned slingshots, guns, tag-a-longs, airplanes, etc. out of woods, cans or papers. Me, I was different. I brought along my Japanese-made electronic robot, race car models, automatic machine guns (with matching helmet), NASA moon rover, yet we managed to play peacefully somehow.

Poorer countries usually do not have designated play grounds especially beyond the cities limits and towns but we never complained about it. Instead, we frolic in the fields of the wide open country spaces where the grasses are greener, alive with different kinds of insects and animals. Under the clear blue skies we would chase dragon flies, butterflies, lizards, and grasshoppers until we were all tired. They come in blue, green, red, yellow differing in sizes, wingspan and shapes. These winged creatures would hover over the grass as if enticing us more to catch them.

Children really never run out of games, songs and rhymes. Most are native to us while others are foreign in origin. We played to our heart's content (without getting sunburn, killed or maimed) playing siyato (a stick game), taguan (hide and seek), sikyo (hide and seek with tag), tumbang preso (prisoner defending a base), ocho ( chase game in the form of 8), kuryente (tag and freeze), pitik-bulag (finger flick with action guessing), rubber bands, text cards, sipa (ancient kick ball), going to market, lag-lag panyo (hanky dropping behind a circle of players), patintero (a game of tag from square perimeters), luksong-tinik (jump over torns), luksong-baka (jump over a cow), Jack en Poy (scissors and papers with a song), kapitang-bakod ( chasing fences), touching ball (a form of dodge ball), piko (hopscotch), espada (fencing), and pa-gulong (tires).

Children back then were also pretty ingenious on inventing more games and adventures for the hot summer nights. Dusk meant we would hunt for the elusive golden cicadas that made loud buzzing sounds from the trees. We would climb to trace the source of the sound from tree to tree and once we find it, we patiently scratch with our forefingers the tree trunk. For some reasons the poor thing would crawl down to its captivity.

Although not too many children are allowed to play extra-hours in the night, a few brave souls would dare escape home and be frivolous under the full moon to engage in a dreaded form of hide and seek called Bimbiw. Now, if you are the unfortunate one to be designated as the “It” that guards the home base which was a huge Acacia tree, then you got to have the nerves of steel to look for the players in the dark while at the same time keeping an eye on your base known to house several creatures that lurk in the night. Most often than not, it turned out, the players were way fast asleep in their homes while the poor guy diligently defended his base. Yes, there were also memorable nights when we would marvel at the fireflies illuminating like Christmas trees in December. Catching a bunch and placing them inside ventilated jars quickly turned them into glowing lamps that float in the dark.

Where else in the world would kids be playing with spiders? We don't run away from these arachnids. We enjoyed them like you would your PS3s nowadays, minus the swearing and the killing of course. Housed in match boxes, each gladiator is separated by a spiral divider. Their fighting prowess and agility on the sticks was awesome, and battling with the best around different neighbourhoods could even take days.

Summer time was also synonymous with fiestas, good food, games, parties, travel and before you know it the rainy season has come and the school season opens once more. But this never dampened our spirits as kids. We even welcomed the coming of the rain quite in advance better than our government weather station. How? Soon as the June bug starts to fly upon the tree tops. Children have different ways of playing with these lovely creatures. Aside from our favourite beetle wrestling, we tie their small bodies with strings and made them fly round and round like remote controlled toys. Heavy downpours also meant getting soak in the rain running around with other kids as parents watch with envy from their windows.
As a grown up man I recall all of these with a smile. My childhood “battle” scars will always remind me of the best days of my life when it was always fun to be young, carefree, energetic, and innocent. The only thing that would bother you about most as a child is, “so much to play, so little time”.