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NOSTALGIA: Thank God I was a country boy

CLARIN, Misamis Occidental (MindaNews) — Sixty years ago, the countryside where I was born and grew up had neither electricity nor paved roads. Nonetheless, we were happy and content. I am not totally against innovation, I just can’t help aching for the yesteryears when my world was greener and life was simpler. Scenes from the 1960s. Welcome to my childhood.

During our time, pre-school kids male or female alike usually wore nothing other than the clothes we were born with – our skins. Exposure made us immune to allergies and toughened us against the elements. Slippers and shoes were cumbersome, besides they were not needed. The thick calluses of our feet did well against the rough ground. We spent most of our lives in the open, mindless of dawn’s chilly mist, daytime’s gusty wind, blazing sun, spell of rain and the ominous darkness of the night.

We had limitless energies to match our boundless playground. Our swift and tireless feet were the primary means of transportation. None of my playmates was obese and only very old folks wore eyeglasses. That was before the advent of televisions, computer gadgets, fancy-snacks and broiler chickens.

Rice-farming was everybody’s occupation in our barrio (Mialen, Clarin, Misamis Occidental). Water buffaloes or carabaos were a common sight. Virtually each family had at least one of these mammoth quadrupeds to move farm implements. The fearsome horned brutes could trample and gore a man to death. Yet they were treated as indispensable household members. Their usefulness far outweighed the risk.

Tending the Carabaos was no simple task, yet, little boys as young as 6 became vets and beast-masters. We bottle fed weak newborn calves and nursed the injured or sick. We trained juveniles and commanded adults to drag loads. We even knew how to break fights and capture runaways. We were not afraid of the buffaloes – it was the buffaloes that were afraid of us.

We understood their body language whether it conveys pleasure or pain, contentment or complaint. Their eyes betray their thoughts whether it is rebellion or respect. At that early age, we learned to radiate confidence, a commanding presence that put even brutish creatures under control.

The buffaloes looked up to us not only as master but also as friend and benefactor. We sat or lay on their backs while they fed on the meadows. We loved to caress their huge bellies feeling for lice and ticks which we fed alive to the chickens. It was blissful moments for the buffaloes. They would stand still and close their eyes to savor the heavenly sensation. When the sun is up and the heat would bite, boys and buffaloes retreat happily into the river.

The river was our favorite playground. There were large vines dangling from the trees on the river bank. We would swing with these vines from tree to tree like Tarzan. We’d compete in swimming, breath-holding, high diving and mud wrestling. After the high-adrenalin fun, our ears would hum as legs start to wobble due to hunger. We’d spend whatever strength left scouring bushes and climbing trees in search for “fast foods” that Mother Nature freely provided. Fresh fruits and other edible stuff were plentiful – though it took skills and guts to get them.

\When the buffaloes come out of the water, it would be time to pasture them again before we go home. While they nibbled on the green grass, we took time to nip the river leeches sticking on their hides. The insatiable blood suckers had been helping themselves for hours but still would not let go. Blood lust brought them to a horrible demise… out of their watery habitat into the nest of angry red ants that brutally devour them alive.

After tying bundles of dry twigs for stove fuel, we would hurriedly gather bamboo shoots, gabi stalks, fern buds and other wild vegetables which we wrap with green banana leaves to keep fresh. These were our peace offerings … valid alibis to appease our parents’ anger for coming home late. To be continued.

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