(10 January 2011, Cebu)
Strong rains, typhoons and hurricanes plagued that school year. One hurricane even took off our house’ entire ceiling and dropped it in the middle of the nearby rice field. Aside from literally sleeping under the stars for a night that year, I fondly remember it for the times when classes were cancelled for several days but we still went to school – in uniform and with bags fully equipped with books, writing pads and pencils.
My partner in crime was Keran. Our crime would start when, realizing that there would be no class (since our teacher hasn’t arrived after an hour or two), everyone else would head home. We would proceed to a roadside canal overflowing with water from the nearby rice fields along our way home. There was a small stream that flowed through the dirt road.
After dropping our bags in a dry area we’d excitedly gather clay. We piled layers of clay and stone to create a small dike strong enough to hold and to contain the flowing water into a pool. This was no easy task for third graders. We had to make sure that leaks were contained and that there was enough drain, otherwise the dike would collapse from so much volume of water. It was not easy to start over. Most days, we were successful. And we thought we were master builders then.
The fun part would come when the dike was already filled with water. At times, we would build small rafts from twigs and vines along the road. Making water spouts and fountains using papaya stalks was also a staple. There were also days when we would make small paper boats and we’d let our imaginations compensate for the other details. On other days we would chase and catch dragonflies and grasshoppers and have them swim in the pool. On drearier days, after building the dike we’d just laze the hours by sitting on the roadside and soaking our feet in the pool we created.
Inasmuch as there was fun in building the dike, there was also fun in destroying it. I used to imagine that a giant passed and decided to step on a dam. There was also a time when we covered all the drains and watched until the water tided and eventually ran over and destroyed the dike. The destruction of the dike would mean heading home for lunch after a morning’s heavy work.
We were getting used to these activities until one day Keran’s mother caught us and reprimanded us. The construction of the dikes stopped. Then the processions came.
The first two months of the new year were no different than the previous months. There were typhoons and heavy rains too. The canals during this time were repaired and culverts were put in place so we were not able to continue our business in dike construction. At the same time, we were already busted so there were higher risks. Classes were usually cancelled in the afternoon too. As our parish fiesta approached, Keran and I would usually stay in a “kapehan” (a store that sells hot coffee, more like a coffee shop for the masses) near our school. The owner’s grandchild was also our classmate.
We spent the afternoons listening to radio dramas and old people’s chatters until the chapel’s bell ring. We’d raise to the chapel and join the praying of the rosary. There were days when I was even tasked to lead the rosary. After the rosary, a procession with the image of the Holy Virgin is done towards the house of a local parishioner where the image would stay overnight. When the image arrives, there would be prayers, singing, and if we were lucky, snacks. This went on for several days until one fateful day, one of my cousins reported me to my aunt who stays with us.
I was leading the rosary and in the middle of it, I was sacrilegiously informed that I have to go home immediately. When I arrived home, I received a good amount of spanking from my aunt. I did not shed a tear but was quite disappointed. I was thinking that they would be proud of me had they known I led the rosary that time. After the spanking, I was ordered to fetch water from the artesian well.
As I was nearing the well, I saw the procession coming. I stopped and waited until it fully passed. Keran was there. Many were surprised and asked why I did not join the procession. As the procession was leading away from where I stood, I wiped tears on my face.
Our crimes stopped that day. In the school year that followed, Keran’s family transferred to another place. We have not seen each other for more than 20 years now.
(I searched his name in Google and it was matched to a monastery in Tarlac. He might be a monk now.)
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