Sunday, March 11, 2012

Overpopulation and Childhood Memories

Overpopulation and Childhood Memories
March 11, 2012 6:12am

I celebrated my 33rd birthday in a way like any other day of my life on the 25th of February, Saturday – fifteen days ago. (Let me ‘like’ those who greeted me personally, others through Facebook and mobile phone and one good and special friend used both to my heart’s content)

After staying at home for lunch, and to complete my day I went to the Abellana Sports Complex Olympic size swimming pool in the afternoon – perhaps, next to our home (and massage parlor) – is where I take refuge more often, to wash away anxieties and stress.

It is common knowledge at home and to my circle of friends that I am not comfortable in a superb or even simple celebration. But I forgave my mom for preparing sumptuous foods (by my own standard and my favorite) – grilled fish and sea shells.

After “sweating” at the pool and my blood circulation increased after alternating freestyle and breaststroke for 30-minute slow swim, completing my 10-laps or 500 meter or half-kilometer, I went directly to the University of San Jose Recoletos – Basak Campus for the annual vocation jamboree of the Archdiocese of Cebu.

It was during my almost three-hours of stay in an overnight event dubbed as “an overnight experience of prayer, sharing and encounter” that I remembered my childhood memories and dreams – to serve the Roman Catholic Church as a priest and some other unforgettable reminiscences.

Don’t mistake me as a devoted Catholic; I was labeled as an atheist by my friends from Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS). But I consider myself a dialectical-materialist. Often, discussions about God, seems to me -- pointless. Why I went there is another story.

Of course, in a deeply Catholic country, almost every child has dreamt of becoming a priest – driven by childhood obsession of holiness and deteriorating cultural influences.

My memories as a child is so clear that forgetting or ignoring it is difficult.

Constructing a tree-house or deconstructing anything electronics and designing a mini-boat with servo motor was my favorite. It culminated when the lights in our altar exploded after I exchanged its electrical wiring. Of course, I don’t have any idea how electrical connections work before. My engineering background in college completed my childhood longing.

But playing traditional (Spanish inspired?) games like bato-lata, tago-tago, patentiro, balay-balay, marbles and an American inspired games like baseball (yeah, I played baseball before) and basketball occupied most of my teenage years.

Bato-lata was one game that hurt me when my stomach was hit by the slipper and I collapsed. The game-ended the moment I was hit and my neighbors joined me and offered first-aid at home waiting for my immediate recovery. I remembered one childhood-friend telling another friend to bite my little finger. We all laughed after and a typical childish blame-game followed.

Of course, I also like tago-tago, usually done after dinner with like-minded neighbors. Balay-balay, (hmmm) I always played the head of the family, or the leader. And sometimes, I end-up as a king or a general commanding the presence of young soldiers, followers and slaves.

Rarely, we also jog around the old Mactan Bridge (no other bridge before) and biking was an integral part of my childhood. Almost every morning I biked with friends for about four kilometers (round-trip) to buy freshly baked pan de sal (salt bread). Going to the nearest bake house wasn’t easy. We usually chose a seemingly eerie path surrounded by man-made lakes, trees, birds (egrets and tingkarul) and decade-old bamboo now replaced by an export processing zone. We did not compromise the longer path to the shorter one. It may not be eerie but messed up with dogs barking at the top of their lungs was too much for us even if it meant passing through a military hospital.

On weekends, we explored the mini-forest inside the military camp or swimming at Mactan’s white sand beaches accompanied by dogs in a time when all beaches are public and sea-horse abound. Or swimming in a man-made lake and taking good care of our cows and goats roaming around freely. While waiting for the sunset to finally hide, we also hunt lizards and birds, but never snakes.

Memories also included hanging out with fellow boys and experimenting sexuality. Group masturbation with fellow males or sex with the opposite sex became an experiment. Given the close-knit relationships within the neighborhood, it existed secretly.  Sexual secrets of fellow teenagers were shared, and we were elementary kids then.

My childhood was also a period of neighborhoods knowing each other fully. Respect was so high and we treated each other with deep regard. We were few then and when a friend or a family traveled for a vacation, life in the neighborhood seems dull. Seeing them again after a week or months of absence offered another hope to rekindle friendships and camaraderie. Sharing of stories never fade.

Now, I am 33 and my mom asked me how old am I. Now I am 33 and the world is full of people that it is difficult to identify who is who. Now, I am 33 and 15 days…

But what distinguishes my childhood memories and today is the obvious overpopulation, which limits economic development, limit life-long memories and friendships, prohibit collective undertakings and degradation of respect for other people. 

Often, good old-days and memories need not be captured on camera for only a great mind traveling in the elusive past can provide a vivid description and resurrect it in its entirety.


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