MY CHILDHOOD MOMENTS IN PLARIDEL
Quincy Jones L. Ondona
True enough, I’ve realized that one could never see the value of a thing unless that thing becomes a memory. When happy moments are made alive only in our imaginations, we tend to long for it, crave for it, though we know once it passes it may never come again. That’s the reason why I don’t want to be nostalgic; trying to think of the past and being hurt in doing so seems to be just a waste of time.
However, whenever I think back of my childhood I can’t help but smile, frown, titter, and make grimaces of the many stupid stuffs I’ve done before, stupid stuffs that altogether colored my childhood moments.
I was born and raised in Looc, a barrio in my native town of Plaridel. It’s a beautiful place, and superb or should I say. It hosts a handful of nature’s precious gifts, the Bawbawon Island, the azure Malanoy Sea and the decrepit Looc wharf. By the way, the wharf is being reconstructed today.
I could never forget my beautiful moments at the wharf. It was there that I learned how to swim. It has always been a custom among us friends to go there during Sundays when the grandiose M/V Don Martin Sr. 8 would have its usual docking schedule. However, I don’t know how to swim, so most of the times I just satisfied myself watching them doing their frenzy. To teach me how to swim, my friends came out with an ingenious but lethal plan one day. As I was sitting there at the edge of the wharf watching my friends swimming, one of them got out of the water and sneaked at my back. To my utter surprise, he pushed me into the waters. I splashed and I was in a great panic; I don’t know how to swim. Wanting to get out of the water alive, I flapped my hands like a bird’s and pushed my feet against the waters, crying and praying that I would successfully float and have a gasp of air. Thank God, I was able to do it. I did and was able to swim at last.
Confident of my newfound ability to swim, I would now join them in climbing the roof of the docking ship and from the top would make our dives into the sea. Most of the times, we became a nuisance to the ship’s crew who would always chase us away from the roof. But we have our own ingenuity, instead of using the gangplanks to get into the ship, we would climb using the ship’s huge cables going to the bow and from there it would be an easy assent to the top. We would now make our countless dives.
When the ship departs, we would gather and sit at the edge of the wharf watching the ship getting smaller and smaller in the horizon. One of our friends would then ask if who among us was able to ride on a ship. All of us would claim that we have, although none of us really had. Actually, I only had countless rides in a pumpboat but it only takes a little dose of imagination to fabricate my claim. Sometimes, I would even go farther to claim that I’ve been to Manila, and to prove my case I would point a direction in the horizon to show them that in that direction is the famous city. Instead of being awed, my friends would try to correct me and would point out their own directions. At times, it would turn out into heated arguments and even into fisticuffs. We were fighting for a thing that only lives in our imagination. However, I realized that for a child imagination is as real as the things that we can touch and see.
If one is sitting at the wharf, the sight of an adjacent island could never escape the eyes. We call it Bawbawon Island, an unspoiled island with white sandy beaches and tall coconut trees. There are myriads of plants growing in the island, some of whom we don’t even know the names, there are lots of corals also and a beautiful span of white sandy beaches unexplored and unspoiled by man. Adding to that is the yet-to-be explored caves which created a mysterious touch to the island’s fame. An old fisherman before even said that if one is to explore and follow through the caves he would reach Cartagena, one of the mountainous barrios of Plaridel and miles away from Bawbawon. It gave us wonders to think that a cave in the island could span a long way to a mountain barangay. We don’t know if it is true or not, besides no one have ever tried it yet.
With my friends, we would have our adventures to this island. Using a small banca, we would paddle our way through the blue-green seas and into our destination. Sometimes, we would take a swim at Baba Buaya, it was named as such due to an unusual rock formation which resembles that of a crocodile’s mouth, or to Punong Kalanggaman, a Cebuano term which means abode of birds. I’m not sure why it was named as such since I didn’t see lots of birds there but that’s how natives call it. There is also a portion of the island called Puting Balas which in English means white sand. There are many white sandy beaches on the island but mostly they are situated on the other side and are not visible from the wharf, except for Puting Balas. I think that’s the reason why it alone acquired the name.
With our fishing rods and spear guns with us, we would now be in a tireless haunt for fishes. Most of our catch, if there were any, were rabbitfish or danggit, mullet or gisaw, and other smaller fishes we could not recognize the name. The big fishes we roast and the smaller ones we eat raw. With leftover rice wrapped in dry banana leaves, it would make a filling afternoon meal.
Another place of fun for us was the mangrove marsh. We call it katunggan. Mangroves and nipa grow in this place with nipa outnumbering the mangroves. This nipa is used for thatching roofs in traditional Filipino homes. However, growing number of homes in Plaridel nowadays are using G.I sheets.
Sometimes during weekends, we would go there in the mangrove marsh to look for firewood. Dried mangrove branches are ideal for this. We would be there for about the whole morning looking not just for mangrove twigs but whatever wood we find along the way. In my basket were coco fronds, twigs of different trees, coconut stalk, coconut sheath and coconut fibers. One of my friends would bring his cart so that we can load our baskets, by this time heavy with wood, when we go home.
We would never forget to bring biscuits with us whenever we go there. At that time, it only cost one peso per pack. Some of my friends would bring lintoy or stickbread, others smagol, some bagumbayan and all other sorts. How sad I can’t find those biscuits sold in stores nowadays. It’s really nice to go back to those years and savor once again our childhood delicacies.
Being tired in gathering woods, it’s now time to relax and have a bite of biscuit. I would now pull out my smagol from my pocket, open it and enjoy the crisp in every bite. After eating, we would lie on the grass and look at the sky. It was beautiful. While looking at the sky, sleepiness would slowly slip in, we yawn as if lion’s roaring and have a short nap.
These were the usual childhood stuffs I and my friends would do over and over again, until one day; we realized that we’ve already grown up. Come a few months I would be in high school, I began to put away my toys, we stopped looking for firewoods, we stopped going at the wharf, and we stopped eating lintoy, and smagol, and bagumbayan. We’re treading on a new kind of life. Our voices have changed and so with our bodies. We began to feel attracted to girls more and more. We may never fully understand everything that’s happening but all we know is that our lives have changed. The revels of our childhood will now stay in no other place but in our hearts. Looking back at those years, it was then that I realized I had a happy childhood.
“Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: You find the present tense and the past perfect.”
Indeed, it is.