A Blast to the Past
by Imee Mabandos
When Edwin, the webmaster, asked me to write my memories of my youth in Bansalan, I had some doubts. One, I am not a celebrity. So, who cares what I did in my youth? Two, I am not sure whether my memories of old were really interesting. I was not delinquent enough.
Maybe, Edwin needed a space filler (Ed's note: No such thought). But what the heck! Blogging is so in these days. I may as well claim my space in the Cyberworld and declare:
Here I am. Let me embarrass myself!
Memory is a positive wonder. When one tries to recall the past, immediately, most that come to mind are the good and happy ones. And when I tried to recall my sometimes miserable adolescent period, they seem to me so funny and trivial now.
Now this will date me like a fossil is dated by its era. Remember circa ´70s? In the Holy Cross of Bansalan high school, the "mod" fashion then was the straight and glossy U-shape hairstyle. Nelrose Cedeno, Edna Dalman and Edna Macasaet were the epitome of this hairstyle. I used to envy them with their cool sassy hair.
Oh, the time I used to spend in front of the mirror trying to straighten my then curly hair. But try as I might, all my effort's reward is a headache. The damned hair had to be pinned down by black hairpins, or they stick out everywhere like I was just electrocuted. Added to this misery of a hair, was a friend who used to taunt me:
"Bastosa nimo uy, nganong naa man imong pubic hair sa imong agtang!" (Hey, you´re so obscene, why is your pubic hair on your head?!)
Ha ha, she thought she was so funny! And I used to laugh with her, even as I seethed inside. It is only now that I can genuinely laugh at this line. Growing older has its advantage after all.
Remember too the frequent black outs in Bansalan in the 70's? Well, I didn't feel so bad about it then. Filipinos have a way of making light their misery.
Every weekend, our whole family would pack up from our house in Villa Alde to our farm in Km. 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. Regrettably, kids these days in Km. 77 can no longer avail of such fun. The river is now almost dried up. Sad. How does one revive a dying river? If only I own the now balding mountains that feed it....
Mangoes had always been plentiful in our farm. 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. Ohhh, how we cringed from chewing the regular meal afterwards!
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. Meanwhile, the young farm men in our midst, would go to a single girl's house in the neigborhood to serenade.
This, after drinking some tuba (coconut wine) to boost their confidence. But with a father laying on a sleeping mat right in the living room where the young men were trying to woo his fair daughter with songs and embarassed chit-chat, I can very well understand the tuba apperitif.
Woe to the XYZ generation who have not known this romantic and gentle tradition, except in old Filipino movies. Emails, chats and mobile phone texts used in flirting and courtship these days seemed less gallant compared to the harana tradition.
I must admit that at that time too, I found the harana comical and amusing. But I was still a kid then, not grown-up enough to know how exciting it must have been. In hindsight, I am able to appreciate the beauty of this now extinct tradition.
December too is one of my fondest memories of Bansalan. It was at this time when the misa de gallo of the Roman Catholic Church was so well attended by its parishioners. Maybe, it still is. Father Pelletier was our parish priest then. Christmas carols blared through an amplifier attached to the side of the roof of the parish kumbento (convent) even before the rooster could crow in the morning.
It was a beautiful wake-up call for the faithful parishioners to brave the cold early morning air to go attend the mass. And the church was always full. Us kids used to love this ritual too. Going to church was the chance to wear our new sweaters, dresses and shoes. Such depth huh?
When one is young, faith's strength and meaning are not yet tested by one's intellectual awakening, nor challenged by life's pains and trials. Faith and religion are simply handed to you by your parents. Without question, you accept it as it is. Until you grow up. Then, you begun to question and decide for yourself to keep it or, leave it. I decided to keep mine.
December was also the time for me to play with the "bamboo canyon" until my nose and mouth were smudged with black soot. The "grunge make-up" was brought about by repeatedly blowing through a small hole in one end of the hollow of a meter long bamboo with liquified kerosene gas inside. When there was enough air blown inside, I would lightly lit this small hole with a flame in a thin bamboo stick to produce that booming cannon sound. This never fails to excite and delight me and my siblings who were my avid spectators. Ohh, the bliss of innocence, and ignorance of chemistry! The latter part I never got over with.
In the summer of '70's, another exciting happening in Bansalan was the basketball league. It was the main event of the town. I used to be a muse in one of the teams; but I can't remember now which. The most popular team then was "My Desire". How apt. It was the name of a local popular "baby bus" company which plied the routes of Bansalan-Digos-Davao and back.
During game nights at the ABC Gym, my friends and I would shout like crazy until we were hoarse cheering and rooting for our chosen team. Hilario "Bongging" Lapena, used to entertain us with a comic dance number whenever there was a temporary brown-out in the gym. He was a good dancer, and we had such a hilarious time with his clowning. The "clown" later grew up to become a doctor, happily married with kids, and presently enjoying the good life in Canada .
In one big championship play night, the town's "crazy woman" named "Nang Felisa", ventured to climb the beams near the roof. The crowd was mostly hushed. All were looking up to her while she was climbing the beams. But no one bothered to go after her. We were all spectators waiting for her antics to play out.
Then, she fell. Dead.
The crowd had a collective gasp. And some men took her away. Like nothing happened, the basketball game started. On with the fun and loud cheers.
But my "game spirit" was gone. I was not sure what to do, or, how to react. I saw how a "crazy woman's" life seemed not to matter. No one seemed to care that someone just tragically died in front of us all. Young as I was, I felt and thought then, that something was not right. I still feel and think the same way today.
Every person´s life deserves respect, no matter what her station in life, or, state of mind may be. If the mayor of our town dropped dead before the game at ABC Gym in full view of all spectators, would the crowd's reaction be the same? Maybe not. Or, maybe, just like me, the crowd did not know how to deal with the event. So, they reacted the way they did. Erase and escape. Each to his own way.
And Bansalan is a mainly Christian town, predominantly Roman Catholic. And I am a Roman Catholic too. And then... Life moved on.
I found myself now in Germany, transported from having lived and practiced law in Makati City for thirteen years. 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.
If I live ten to twenty years from now, my present will be another journey of the past. I hope the Bansalan website would still be here, even greater, to let me attempt another blast to the past.