ALL THROUGHOUT my high school years, our family lived in a two-level apartment in Mabini, a few houses away from the corner to Tomas Claudio. This was our second house, having moved from my grandparents’ home in Ponciano. For the first time, we were separated from the rest of our many relatives and friends there (although a few years later, our aunt Pilar and Lolo Jose lived with us, when they finally sold the old house).
Despite all the unfamiliarity that came with moving, things like strange location and new people did not seem to faze us boys at all. On the contrary, each of us kids adjusted rather quickly. For one, because the apartment units next to us had teen residents too, we were bonding with them in no time. For a while, our elder sister even had a neighbor-boyfriend, while our eldest brother had made friends with guys in the area.
This had also been the time when our youngest sister had not been born yet, so that the Mabini apartment only had us five boys as its young residents, all trapped in one cramped coop. One thing funny about those Mabini days though. During the day, the five were pretty much out of each other’s hair at school. But come evenings, the moments we finally had together in front of the TV set had merely been short breathers, to yet another out-of-your-hair school day. As such, I really had very little recollection of what other activities there were for us boys together.
As for myself, one of the things I remember doing on weekends was read while sitting by the stairway. The bookshelf which contained much of my parents’ collection had long been out of reach inside their bedroom, when we had stayed in Ponciano. Now, in the cramped space of the apartment unit, they had no choice but to put it in the tiny alley near our bedrooms on the second floor. I remember spending most of my weekends sitting on the floor and leaning on the stairs as I skimmed through paperbacks, magazines, our old collection of comics and even movie mags and Cosmopolitan, which my mom loved to buy.
Overall, this had been what those few years in Mabini bring up to the surface whenever the memory crosses my mind. Looking back now, this old flick of staring down from the stairs has somewhat become an intimation that I would be doing the same again in these, my later years…staring down on what had been yet ambivalently expectant of what is next. As Mike of Asin had just recently told me, “…contemplating on the past while watching the future open, such is the destiny of – the watcher.”
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