When our family left our hometown in Bulacan and moved to Laguna for good (maybe not) at the summer break of 2003, I was devastated. I was just thirteen then and as expected didn’t have that much say on matters like moving to another place by the whole family. During those times I was still very much into socializing with kids of my age and below. Although staying in the confines of our compound was already in my preferences, I was not yet that person who would prefer staying inside the house reading and doing arts and crafts than meeting anybody outside. Like how many of my current friends would like to put it, I was still pretty normal then.

A grave conflict between my parents and some relatives happened just a month or two before the ending of the school year. Before long, a decision was made by my parents that we should leave right after my sister and I attended the commencement exercises. And that we did despite of all my attempts to dissuade them. I didn’t have the right expression to describe my feelings then but now I do; I was completely f*cked up. It was not just about the difficulties of starting a new life somewhere. I’ve always been socially awkward but I knew I could make it. Corny as it may appear it was about parting with the place where you grew up and built all your childhood dreams and fond memories. I just could not accept the fact that we had to leave when we’ve been in that place longer than anybody else.

And so we went to Laguna where my sister was working, got a really small studio type apartment, and tried to start a new life. It could have been a great time to move to a different place. It was summer, a change of environment should have been very much appreciated. But no, it was a hell hole.

It was called a subdivision but even my parents who were trying rather desperately to uplift our spirits would not agree that it should be called one. The only reason why there were people living there were the semiconductor companies that gave them decent jobs. Tall grasses were everywhere. It didn’t have a gate or an arch and we almost did not see the entrance when we got there because the said tall grasses got the way fully covered. It was like the secret garden only less visually pleasant and without the mysterious appeal. It was far from civilization. The nearest mini-mart and supermarket was a long ride away with the view of rice paddies on both sides of the road, few houses, and more tall grasses. The place was also too small that you could literally go around and walk all the streets without getting tired and catching your breath. Walking around could perfectly give you the feeling of being enchanted. You would always end up where you started sooner that you thought.

Well if you don’t want to be outside, one can suggest that you have fun at home. I could not do that as well. The smallness of the apartment barely gave us space to move around. If you happen to have been born with a curse that makes you bump your little toes to furnitures in a constant pattern, the place would be a nightmare. To add to that, the heat was unbearable that we broke a borrowed electric fan in just a couple of months. I remember quite frequently going to bed fresh from a night bath and waking up in the middle of the night soaking in my own sweat and my mom telling me that electricity went out. Also, we were not able to get any of the appliances and amusements we left in Bulacan (that explains the borrowed electric fan) which means we didn’t have a television or a single book or even pens and a decent writing pad. We only got a cheap deck of cards which prints have faded due to everyday use and (thank God) a radio. I was never more updated in music in my entire life.

Needless to say, it was not a very good experience. But looking back, it quite oddly introduced some nice things to my personal development. I got more interested in a lot of things, creative, and explorative. That was what boredom and isolation did to me. (I actually think it does the same to everybody.) I got to pay attention to the way I view things and put some of my philosophies into words. Yeah, you normally don’t take a thirteen year old’s philosophy seriously but I still believe some of the things I’ve written then up to now. I even remember wanting to write some sort of self help book because I got none to read. You could probably imagine how I badly needed some help then.

My curiosity went from natural to ridiculous and even got me as far as analyzing relations between guitar chords and piano chords despite my dumbness in music theory, and growing beans on layers of paper and cotton. I even remember cutting off a small twig from a random tree and planting it. It lived. Nothing could be equally astonishing to that. I never really thought I had a green thumb until then. I also created numerous one-player games with crude materials. Playing them demanded no physical exertions at all but it was so easy to get lost remembering turns, counting gains and loses, and tracking items picked up. Yes, that’s RPG stored inside one person’s head; the absence of technology got my brain improvising things. But above everything, I got to appreciate the radio very well. It was 97.1 WLS FM’s Sunday retro jam particularly. They were cool back then.

What a way to start one’s teenage years right? So much for having good beginnings. But I believe I eventually subconsciously loved it and it was one of the reasons why I am what I am right now. I may not have a really awesome personality but I got a very well identified turning point in my life. And it’s something I could always laugh about. -aB

The above entry was submitted to a writing challenge. Created in less than two hours on a Friday night in the office, and with a structure that’s pretty much all over the place, I knew it was not going to win anything. But I’m sharing it anyway as it’s the only thing I’ve written that tells about a pivotal period in my life.

 

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