Our family has always resided here in Bacoor, Cavite. But it hasn’t been this crowded with nearby slums or polluted riverside. The river used to flow freely, with plenty of fishes, healthy trees and a “bukid” only a few blocks away. It used to be fun. It used to feel more like home. Unlike now.
The trees are gone. From where they used to stand, stood now poorly-constructed two-story houses, shanties, and huts even. The river nearby only houses garbage, deposits from those who don’t have poso negros, and animals that thrive only in dirty esteros.
My childhood composed mainly of being taken care of by my older brothers, going to peryas, and to the bukid, learning how to ride a bike too big for me, and reading my first fiction books. I don’t remember vividly the feel of the grass, or the river alive with fishes where my brothers used to swim in. I remember them from stories.
Life then was much easier. There were no raging rallies, price hikes, and call for impeachment almost every year. The one thing I considered a problem then was not being able to ride a bike at the age of six. Bikes then were like the cell phones today. It was the greatest thing a kid could have. I used to think there was a conspiracy to not let me ride one, because I noticed all the other kids have their own bikes already, tramping the streets happily, while I look at them from the gate slightly brooding.
I formulated a number of theories for such cruelty. For instance, I thought that it had something to do with sexism, although of course I didn’t know then the term. I observed that most boys have bikes, but no girls were allowed to ride one. I was hurt, especially to see my brothers enjoying the privilege. Another theory was that I am off to better things than mountain biking.
Eventually I stuck to the latter theory and focused myself more to reading books given by my eldest brother. Slowly, like a bud blooming, I realized that both theories were connected.
If my parents hadn’t been eager to shun me away from biking, I would have grown up and belonged to the kids now loitering in the streets beyond curfew hours, or those that are now pregnant.
Yes, they are now those teens whose parents are too lax about their curfew, those who would give them what they wanted; bikes for that matter. Now, I’m not so bitter that I hadn’t own a bike. And I never regretted reading a single book my parents or brother bought me instead, as kids from my street were busy riding their bikes then.
Now I see our street lined up with things and people that didn’t use to be there. Sadly, most of these things are unpleasant, and which were my frustrations as a kid. Now, I realize that not everything is as it seems. Cliché. But I’ve proven it, and I’m not so cautious as to using it. As I try to remember the days when I was still a kid, and the other memories from stories, I wonder what would become of the nice things and people I have come to know presently. I shudder to think that they—or we—would end up as dregs of society someday.
(original post date: January 26, 2006)