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In Days Gone By, The Things One Did In Summer

I sometimes find myself smiling when I see some kids declaring via their FB statuses how bored they are this summer vacation. That is, considering the entertainment options available to their generation.

Boring... Nakatungangâ... Walang magawâ... These comical words stream down the News Feed intermittently.

When I was a young kid, one should never – repeat, NEVER – say walang magawâ when one’s Mom was within hearing distance. Else, one promptly got told the standard rejoinder, “Magbusisî!!!”

To the innocent, that simply means to play with one’s boy-thing. And not in a sexual sense, mind, because the rejoinder was often addressed to pre-pubertal boys by their Moms...

Growing up as I did in the Base, at a time when a generation of kids was growing up at the same time, there was always plenty to do during the summer. It helped that the streets inside the Base were always safe and, therefore, parents could let their children loose on the streets without fear.

Habulan was standard fare, as in any neighborhood, any generation. The rules were uncomplicated. One simply ran; and if one got tagged, one was taken prisoner and held until one was liberated by a wily runner from one’s own team. The game went on until everyone got tired and went home to face irate Moms who promptly complained about one’s sweat-soiled clothes.

Then, there was taguan. On some days, the hide-and-seek was confined just to the neighborhood. One hid behind a bush, crept into the silong of houses or inside a culvert that drained water into a canal. Other days, the taguan covered the whole extent of the Base! The tayâ had to ride bikes in search of hiding friends, some of whom had sneaked off to watch a movie in the old rickety edifice that passed for a theater; or had gone home to take an afternoon nap or watch a black-and-white Dolphy & Panchito movie.

A couple of street games involved tin cans. With tumbang-preso, one hurled a well-aimed tsinelas at a milk can standing in the middle of the street. With tapon-lata, somebody hurled a milk can as far away as possible, giving all the other kids time to scamper away to hide.

On certain mornings, the girls preferred to be by themselves and played that totally girlie game jack-istone. On days – such as when it rained – when we boys had no recourse but to play the game with the girls, we always got creamed! Talagang lampaso...

The girls’ fingers were so quick, steady and nimble. They could pick one of those metal “stones” sitting on top of another so effortlessly without moving the one under! They could do this even when the rules were varied to include moving the arm in a circle before picking the “stone” up. We boys could but stare incredulously! How could they – the girls – do that?

There were days when one just went off aimlessly around the Base, sometimes ending up in the dry bush at the end of the runway, careful not to tread on hiding snakes; or climbing frighteningly fragile aratiles trees for their sweet, red and miniature tomato-looking fruit; or exploring the countless WWII vintage tunnels the Japs left behind all around the Base.

Sometimes, bicycle gangs just spontaneously took off and rode into Dizon Village, along the dirt roads of San Salvador, into Mataas-na-Kahoy and back into the Base through the front gate.

Or, when the salagubangs were in season, one climbed the giant mango trees in front of the chapel to shake the beetles from off the leaves. As the beetles fell to the ground, the kids waiting below promptly picked these up, later to tie with a liting and enjoy as a flying toy. Some neighbors cooked these to enjoy as an ethnic delicacy.

When the brisk southeasterlies started to blow – signalling that the end of summer was near – everyone started to scrounge around for pieces of bamboo and papel de japon to make kites that would be flown over the wide open fields around the Base.

There were so many other things to get busy with: jump-bell, dyolen, turumpo, patintero, walking around using stilts... Not to mention getting started with this silly game that involved kicking and chasing a ball all over the place...

One went home tired but happy each day, ate a hearty dinner and slept for twelve hours. All part of this thing called growing up. No complaints about being bored and definitely no time left para magbusisî...

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