This is one of the lessons I learned so well from the hillside, the place where I grew up. My childhood home, my playground.
I will never be ashamed of my humble beginnings, I would not be who I am today if not for it. I will always be proud of the place where I come from, my own place under the sun. I bless this place.
(photo source: http://www.panoramio.com/phot0)
I was born in a nipa hut at the foot of the historic Hill 120 in San Rafael, Dulag, Leyte in the 1970’s. Before it came to be known as Hill 120, it was called as Bukid ni Anang by the local folks. According to my father this is so because the hill is part of the land which was owned by a great grandmother of his named Anang, a matriach of the Caamic clan.
My father was a son of a farmer, Baldomero Caamic Cabodil, who bought his farmlands by working as an apple picker in America and later became a member of the US Navy in the 1920’s. He saved his hard-earned dollars and in the 1930’s came home to buy his treasured land. He then married the most beautiful lass in Dulag, the 14 year-old Trinidad Caimen. Together, they built a home and managed their farm.
I was told that they grew many crops including sugar cane and produced “kalamay” (not the sticky rice cake, but the hardened sugar) with their relatives and fellow barrio folks as workers. I heard some of them tell stories about how the Japanese and Americans soldiers loved the freshly boiled kalamay during World War II. At least they shared something in common!
My father had always been proud of what he had made of the little piece of land his hard-working father handed down to him. He loved to farm.
Our little bungalow used to be surrounded by mango, avocado, santol, jackfruit, papaya, banana, guava and cacao trees. There were also those grown for their medicinal uses like the Banaba, Iba, and Libas trees we had. Soter or Lemonsito trees also lined the fence. Nanay would sometimes joke, “Baga kita hin naukoy ha kagurangan” (“It feels like we live in the jungle”). Tatay would just laugh as a reply.
And the backyard? You can bet to find more plants. It was complete with a nipa hut where Nanay wrote lessons plans and checked test papers. And it was an epitome of the “Bahay Kubo” song. We picked the vegetables and fruits we needed for the day and had them fresh from the backyard garden.
We always had an abundance of crops, vegetables and livestock. We did not have much money but we always had food, good food.
Tatay was a farmer at heart. He filled up my grade I enrolment form and wrote farmer as his occupation. It wasn’t until I was in Grade IV that I learned he was actually teaching in a state college in Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte. I will always bless him and this humble home he lovingly built for us.
I visit this hallowed place on holidays and I get the chance to reminisce on how it was back when I was a child. I mark the spots where we had our afternoon’s game of “Get In” (Patintero), “Bado-Bado” and “Sato”. Most of these are now dwelling places of young newly-married couples who are either my relatives or related to the spouses of my cousins.
I smile when I see the barangay roads where we used to have bicycle races. It is where I had my first big wound and had my knees skinned when I attempted to topple a coconut tree while learning how to ride a bike.
Then I turn my sight to the “Halublakan” (hollow block factory) across the street. I look for the high piles of gravel and sand which served as our “slides” when we were kids. We used to race going up these piles and slide down using coconut palms. And sometimes we would tumble down in a heap of arms, legs, sand and palms.
Remembering those times, I could almost taste the sand on my lips all over again. I could feel its sting in my eyes and its gritty roughness on my neck, arms and legs. I could hear the carefree laughter of those naive daring kids. I could even see this dark boyish girl in blue shorts and white top tumbling down, picking herself up, and running up the sandy slope again. That was me having a lot of fun!