You and I, many years ago, left Bansalan to venture and boldly go where we hadn't been before. For whatever our reasons, one thing comes to mind: to make life better. It's not that Bansalan didn't have anything to offer. In fact, Bansalan gave us plenty: wonderful childhoods, families and friends, hopes and dreams, education and character to prepare us to see the world.
Our previous writers: Leila (fondly called Lalay), Imee, Bongging (hi, neighbor) and others motivated me to share my own youthful days in Bansalan. All of them have shared memories of their childhood which I can definitely relate to. It's so pure, so humble, and so innocent. As mentioned, climbing trees was a great pleasure. Not a lot of toys but lots of games. I remember the spider fights in my neighborhood: a competition of who had the best and meanest spider to knock down or wrap the other spider with its web. It was fun playing in the dirt with marbles, “lastiko”, skipping ropes, “tumba lata” and other creative ways of entertaining ourselves. Boredom was never in our bloodstream. (I gave my godson here a set of marbles; he did know what to do with them. I felt sad).
It's interesting to see our common fondness for the river. I used to love watching it from the bridge near AMC vocational school. I loved the sound of the water hitting the rocks, big and small, creating sparkling white bubbles going down the stream. I used to watch those people washing clothes with the “palo-palo” and I totally envied those who fetched water from the river so they could water their plants. You see, we had to pay NAWASA to water ours, and we had plenty of flowers, trees and vegetables. I guess the reason why we loved that river is that, it represented life. It was vibrant, constantly flowing, and never stagnant (…and life is never stagnant). Now it is dry. I share your sadness.
A few years back my husband and I went to the Philippines to join a medical mission. He wanted to visit Bansalan. To him our town is a “shrine” because it is my birthplace. Sadly, I couldn't find Azun's Carenderia to show him. That's where I was born. The house where I grew up, the house that my parents built was not the same anymore. I used to have a wooden “tuklang” (a stopper) to open the window in my bedroom so I could view Mt. Apo, which to me seemed to be the Alps. Now, there is a tall building obstructing the view. One interesting observation my husband made was that everyone he met seemed to be stress-free. People were nice and they looked contented and happy.
The 70's were the years of reason for me, the beginning at least. Before that it was just pure fun and play. Not a care in the world!
When I started high school in 1972, I was very excited. It meant I was going to be a young adult and would soon have more privileges & freedom like my older siblings had: the “ laag “, “pamiesta”, “mamutong” (going for young coconut), “barkada” and most of all, the parties (it was called a “jam session” during my sister's time, disco during our time). I thought my turn had finally come to do all of these things. Well, not so fast! September 1972, Martial Law was declared. I had no idea what it meant. I just remembered a subdued sense of chaos and confusion. I didn't think Bansalan would be affected since we were a peaceful little quiet town. Early curfew was strongly enforced. I was not happy. My father said, “It's different now”. No real explanation. I didn't understand. Frustrations abounded because there really were no answers. I saw times change drastically for me. It was almost like “childhood interrupted”.
I distinctly remember being upset about one thing though: the junior/ senior prom was completely abolished. I was so looking forward to that prom. Some of my classmates were too. But High school happened anyway. We had so many things to share. One of my favorites was when the RVM sisters would wait at the guard house to check ID's and the hemlines of our uniforms. If the hemline was not below the knees, they were ready with their scissors to undo the hemlines. If the uniform was stiff with “almirol” (starch) we would fold the skirts back up when they were not looking or when we were off campus. If the uniform was made of soft material, we would roll it at the waistline, blouse out and voila , we had a miniskirt!
As Holy Crossians, we were to conduct ourselves within the guidelines of the school Handbook. The Handbook promised that each individual would develop into a well rounded student: academically, mentally, physically, psychologically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. I wonder if they were true to their words. Let's take a good look.
Academically: I give HCB credit. I think they did their part pounding and grilling our brains out. It was rewarding for me because every time I brought home an honor card, I got a “baon” (pocket money/ allowance) raise. No, I was not an A student, neither did I strive to be one. I just wanted my raise. I started with fifty cents a week. An honor card was worth a peso. There were several grading periods. It was a big deal. One of the changes that bothered me was the NCEE (National College Entrance Exam). It was discriminating to those who did not make the cut. My opinion was that every high school grad should have been given an equal chance to go to college and not limit their potential. Not everyone was good test taker. I also questioned why we were studying Asian history and not world history, why Philippine Constitution and not Philippine government. Mr. Vallar said we were to do as we were told. I only asked because I already had the books from my older siblings. I belonged to the hand-me-down generation.
Mentally: It was a blur. Lots of daydreaming, I wasn't thinking much in high school. Let's leave it at that.
Physically: Me being small and under five feet tall, I was not athletic at all. PMT (boys only) was changed to CAT (Citizens Army Training for boys & girls). Who said I was going to the Army? I dreaded those marching drills, especially because I was always the last soldier in the battalion lineup. I would carry this wooden rifle and pray to God that a war would not break out. I wouldn't even be able to defend my country. Girls scout was much better. At least we started fires the primitive way, we cooked eggs in a brown bag, and we learned how to tie knots which is very useful today when we pack Balikbayan boxes. And we sang songs like “It's a Small World After All”. I Love that song. (Now that we have this new Bansalan Web site, it truly is a small world). We did not sell Girl Scout cookies. We had our own version of Intramurals: “takyan”, “shatung”, and “tigso”. Annabelle Pansoy (Now Dr. Annabelle Yumang) ruled! She was the best in these events. Everyone wanted to be on her team. Yoly Urbina was the next best.
Psychologically: Our very first day with Mrs. Farcolina Badilles was enlightening. She said, “There is only one YOU in this world. There is no one like you. That makes you special and unique”. Instantly I felt special and believed what she said, although I did not know at that time what unique meant. Thank God for Mr. Webster.
Socially: Are you kidding? There was no J/S prom, remember? Honestly, we managed. Socializations were limited to hush-hush in-house parties which most of the time were chaperoned. Only those who had stereos could have parties anyway. Not in our house.
Emotionally: I want to talk about matters of the heart. Did you know that I got called to sister Diega's (RIP) office for entertaining love letters? Since when did this become a crime? I wasn't even interested in boys at that time. I think, if I remember correctly, Gigi Arriaga, Bing-Bing Tapang, Lisa Panes and some others were also called to her office. But who could control the “uyab” business? Can you spell hormones?
Spiritually: This, without a doubt, was instituted in full force. Prayer was a big part of my life. It still is. I prayed a lot about almost everything. I loved the spiritual retreats, my chance for self reflection, self-awareness and awareness of others. Also, at that time, the presence of military men in our town gave me an impression that there was danger going on. Bansalan always felt peaceful to me, but I prayed anyway. I must admit though I never kissed the statues in church. I saw this girl with “sip-on” (cold) coughing then kissing the feet of Jesus' statue. I just didn't want to catch the germs. Who knew then that I would become a nurse?
Now, did I become a well rounded person after four years of high school? Hardly. A few months before graduation, I was suspended for cutting classes. (Oh Bongging, how did you do it?). A classmate and I were supposed to solicit for a mission “something” contest. So, I thought it was official. No, it was a total misunderstanding. I received a major one-on-one sermon and “kasaba” from Sister Diega. She told me I was supposed to be a model student since my father was the president of the HSRDA (Home-School Relations Development Association). It sounded complicated but it meant PTA. Model? My name was not in the Handbook, and no one told me about being a model student. I was afraid my father would punish me, but all he said was, “You made a mistake, you fix it”. I love a man of few words. And that was the beginning of my understanding of what it means to be responsible for your actions and how to make choices. Thankfully, Bansaleños are so forgiving. No one remembered this, or at least no one reminded me of the incident or did it really matter?
Time went by swiftly. We are now busy doing “busy” things. Careers, jobs, businesses are in full bloom. We are taking care of our families. Our children are growing like weeds. Some of us would like to sell them (just kidding!!). Seriously, because of the choices we made (and choices we did not make) some of us have “wow” lives and some just plain “blah” lives. Some of our lives are glorious, and others not so glorious. But no matter where in the world we are, we have these experiences and all of God's graciousness to be thankful for. When I am overwhelmed with the routine drudgery of the fast lane we call life, I think of all the simple things of our past, the humble beginnings of Bansalan, it is safe there.