The Good Old Days
by Henrylito D. Tacio
Remember the good old days? Well, let's talk about the good old days…
"While growing-up as a little boy, happiness was going with my father to Davao City," says Edwin Bibera, who grew up in the small town of Bansalan, Davao del Sur but is now living in California. "Call me shallow but back then my measure of happiness was not quite complex. Something in the big city fascinated me."
After all, Davao City back then had almost everything: big shopping districts and bazaars (no malls at that time), lots of movie houses, glittering neon lights and yes, traffic. "Traffic is annoying to city folks but for a probinsiyano kid like me, it was a sight to behold," Edwin bared in the website of Bansalan (www.bansalan.com), which he maintained and designed. "I just loved watching lots of vehicles in different shapes and sizes."
Unlike in his town, which he described as "sleepy," Davao - in contrast - "is a vibrant place where anyone can go and do things." But in Bansalan: "Back then, we didn't have electricity and generator supplied our poblacion with electric power - but only from dusk till dawn."
Edwin also had the opportunity of living in the farm, which "was more work than play." "I didn't even like farm chores that much," he admitted.
"Pasturing goats was like training for decathlon. Skills that were honed by pasturing were: chasing goats, tugging the herd, hurdling fences, and the occasional dashing to safety when I stepped on those creepy and slippery cobras. Feeding pigs was not fun either. You should have heard my scream of pain when that heavy mother swine stepped on my unprotected foot."
Now, he lives in a far, far away land. "Los Angeles is one big city beyond my wildest dreams," he says. "This must be the pinnacle of city living with its modern lifestyle and diverse culture. I'm now thousands of miles away from my town. And an irony happened. Despite achieving my dream of living in a big city with its comforts and amenities, the memories of that small town I called home kept on creeping back."
What about Atty. Imelda Mabandos? When she was still living in Bansalan, farming was also a part of her life. "Every weekend, our whole family would pack up from our house in Villa Alde to our farm in Kilometer 77.
There, as a young girl, I had fun climbing trees, bathing with my sisters in the clean river near our farm house. We played with the river sand as our shampoo, stone as our soap."
Mango, the country's national fruit, was part of her growing up. "Mangoes had always been plentiful in our farm," she recalls. "So, my sisters and I would have a contest who could eat the most number of unripe mangoes with salt and vinegar until we were blue in the mouth."
Another memorable event: "On an evening when there was a full moon, we would play a tag game called 'tubig-tubig' or 'bulan-bulan' in the open ground of our farm house. Once tired, we would gather in the bamboo bench around the big 'mansanitas' tree and told each other stories."
Today, "I found myself in Germany, transported from having lived and practiced law in Makati City for thirteen years," she says. "The distance to Bansalan seemed to grow farther and farther. But my fond memories of it kept me near. Germany is a beautiful alien land to live and discover."
Closer to Germany is the Netherlands, the place where another Bansaleña - Leila Rispens-Noel - now lives. "During the first half of 1960s, life was simpler then in our town," she reminiscences. "We had no electricity and running water at home. We had a dirty kitchen and used firewood for cooking, which we gathered from the forest about five kilometers away from our house. Helping in the household chores was a daily routine."
All these practices were unthinkable among Europeans. "But in my town, this was just another heavy work we had to do and on the contrary, we really enjoyed doing it," she says. "Aside from fetching water, gathering firewood in the forest was one of my favorite preoccupations. I did not think it was a cumbersome task at all. It was the fun to be with the other children. For us, gathering firewood was just another exciting game we should never miss. Besides, no firewood and no water mean no food, and this was the harsh reality in life we learned to live with at an early age."
Life in those days was very simple. Leila recalls: "With fifteen centavos pocket money, you could buy two boiled bananas and a glass of red gulaman, a mixture of gelatin extracted from weed and plenty of water and ice cubes that was enough to quench your thirst.
"I thought I was the richest girl in the world when my father gave me 25 centavos allowance as I could buy a bottle of coke, the most delicious and precious drink I knew when I was a kid."
For his part, the Catholic Church had always been a focal point for everyone who grew up in Bansalan, according to Dr. Hilario Lapeña, who currently resides in Toronto, Canada and is the Director of Subject Recruitment and Medical Screening Services of the Biovail Corporation.
"Going to church was more of a social event for the younger set," says Bongging, as he was then known among his friends. "Sundays meant teenagers chilling out by the main entrance. I wonder if they really paid any attention to the sermons or was it just a ploy to see their crushes going to church?"
Farther from Canada is Alaska, where Bella Amor-Cintron now lives. She remembered with fondness the river. "I used to love watching the river from the bridge near AMC vocational school," she writes. "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."
One line of a song goes this way: "Those were the days my friend, we thought would never end." Perhaps the words of a Barry Manilow song would aptly end this piece: "I remember the time I knew what happiness was, let the memory live again."
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