- My sentimentality could probably be traced upon those rice fields I walked on when I was little. I grew up in the boundary of two small villages surrounded by mountains on three sides. The fourth mountain’s already too far to fence in our humble settlement, our little civilization in that forgotten side of the province. And anyway, it’s actually a mountain range that stretches too long – too bluish green, too distant and too far – from where my family and I used to live. Thus, the first strong feeling I had, was my wonderment at what could be there, beyond those mountains. Every time I would walk on those paths in the fields with some of the rice leaves touching my face, I would resolve to get out of the barrio to see for myself what could be out there, beyond and away.
The second sentiment, I believe, has something to do with slippers. In our place, walking was a way of life. By the way, am talking three decades ago when cemented roads was but a dream. It was common in those days to be walking three to four kilometers going to a place and same distance going back. Thus, a pair of slippers had the utility almost similar to having a car in the modern days. But a family with a dozen members could barely afford such – each child was accorded one pair a year. With a fair amount of walking, a pair could hardly hold up until the middle of the year. Our slippers usually had big holes in them. Stepping on the city for the first time when I was ten, imagine the consternation I felt upon seeing hundreds and hundreds of pairs being sold in the market. I think that was my first realization that we were very poor…
The third and possibly the strongest sentiment I had and still have, has something to do with learning. There were very few books in our house as there were some borrowed copies of old magazines and practically no writing materials. I think our mother endeavored to buy a pencil or a pen and a crayon set for each child every start of school year but that was it. We had to borrow or make do in between, practicing writing at the back of her student’s checked exam papers. No books were bought for us from elementary to high school, the slim family budget saw to that. My siblings and I all went to public schools during our primary and the books we used then were government- issued. The book ratio during my time was 1:3, that is, one book for every three students. All of us survived that phase, I guess. There really wasn’t much choice.
In high school, I saved for months to be able to buy my first two textbooks. It was mandatory for students to have a personal copy, our teacher was the author. The fateful subject was Practical Arts or Home Economics, in third year and fourth year. Going thru the texts of the slim book, I felt proud as could be. Putting coins in my Johnson’s Baby Powder piggy bank paid off, haha. ^_^