Writing this reminds me of an old Barbra Streisand song with the lines “could it be it was all so simple then, or has time rewritten many lines”.
Children growing up nowadays lead hectic and complicated lives, with a sensory overload of electronic games, cell phones, after school activities, and the internet. What I remember best growing up in a small town was its simplicity. The only electronic item we had at home was a radio and the town had only two stations, though if the conditions were right, we would get Voice of America and a Manila station. We didn’t have TV in those days. Cleaning the house? Most people had hardwood floors then, way before they became popular in homes again. So we didn’t have vacuum cleaners because we didn’t have carpets, or even electric polishers or special fluids to make the hardwood floor shine. What we had was floor wax and a coconut husk scrub. You spread the wax with a rag by hand while knelt on the floor and afterwards while standing up, you step on the scrub with one foot and start moving it back and forth. It’s hard to paint that picture here, but my Filipino friends won’t have a problem understanding it. And if you didn’t have floor wax, melted candle did the job just as well.
The one and only traffic signal in town was a small booth where a policeman steps in and turns a lever with a sign on top –stop on one side and go on the other side to indicate which street at the intersection stops and which one goes. Public transportation consisted of jeepneys and tricycles and if you had to travel out of town, you went on bus-like transports simply called trucks, because basically they were flat bed trucks with benches and a roof with no walls on the sides or the back.
Entertainment consisted of movie theaters, some of which were infested with bedbugs which bit into the back of your legs while you were sitting on the wooden chairs. One way to prevent this from happening was to spread newspapers on the chair before you sat down. There were a lot of restaurants in town and most of them served Chinese cuisine, but one of the perennial favorites was a Satti place, satti being local delicacy. It consists of skewered chicken meat, a special hot soupy sauce, and chunks of sticky white rice. Other entertainment venues were a couple of night clubs (Sky Room and Sea Breeze?). A frequent hangout for me was the local tennis club which was next door to our house. I learned to play the game in high school and became a member of the club.
Festivities like weddings or some other private parties thrown by wealthy people were considered whole day affairs because the partying lasted all day. This didn’t happen often but only on very special occasions.
When people exercised, it was usually a pre-dawn walk around the Jolo Wharf to breathe the fresh sea air, or jogging on the asphalt pavement of the airport runway.
The electric power plant of Jolo had a very loud (air raid) siren which blared at 7 a.m., 12 noon, and 5 p.m. to signal the start of the days’ work, lunch time, and quitting time respectively. People adjusted their clocks and watches based on that siren. How’s that for simplicity of time keeping? Would you believe that workers went home for lunch and perhaps a siesta before going back to work in the afternoon? Well, that’s the truth and I guess we got that from the Spaniards who colonized the country for more than 300 years.
Other things I remember but not necessarily about our town was going on a trip every year to Zamboanga City for the Fiesta Pilar. I had to be absent one or two days from school depending on what day of the week the fiesta was celebrated. One thing I looked forward to as a young child going to Zamboanga City was riding the calesa which is a horse drawn carriage and a main form of non-motorized transportation in those days. Another thing was begging my parents every year to buy me a helium filled balloon which string they tied to my wrist so it wouldn’t accidentally fly away. Other than celebrating the Fiesta Pilar, the birthdays of my mom and lolo Lawa (of Lawa’s Café, whose coffee addicted the town population to no end) were celebrated too. Mr. Lawa never failed to give his extended family a Christmas ham every year. Anyway, it seems that I’ve digressed from my main topic at this point.
I’m sure my townmates have their own share of memories of how simple it was in those days of growing up. My memory is not so intact anymore to remember all my experiences, but I hope this has awakened some forgotten slices of life in other people, and if that happens, please do share. Thank you so much.
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