Oh, the 90s. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I was born in 1985 and spend my entire life growing up in the Philippines. We live in a very remote area. Our house is situated in the middle of sugar cane field. We have all the tropical fruits we like. In the entire neighborhood, believe it or not there is only one television, it was my grandparents’s.
Every morning, my grandpa will gather dry sugar cane leaves and make a bonfire. Sometimes, morning is cold. We will sit by the fire, facing the field and water buffalo peeing in front of us. What a scent, it definitely add a nice touch. I will sit beside him and he will tell me the story during the World War II. He told me lots of things about their adventures when the Japanese planes fly by and how they hide underground. Sometimes, he said, they have no clothes on, when they hear the plane, they have to hide.
I did not understand it back then, I thought World War II is not a big deal. After the long story, my grandmother will interrupt and say, she doesn’t know some of the things, she is little, go and take a bath. (Yes, Grandma is the boss).
I have many cousins, my family is huge. Most of them are my age. In the afternoon, we cross the big field to get to some duhat tree (java plum). It is their season and so we have to take advantage of it. I could not climb the tree back then. I have to wait for my older cousins to get to the top of tree and put the fruit in the bag tied to their waist. We will scream at each other and say, “did you get everything? is it all ripe?”.
After that, we will go home. Wash them carefully, put in a plastic container, add salt and shake it and voila, we have a snack. We will stick out our tongues and compare who has the most purple shade. One day, a kid came to our neighborhood, she is from the city. She doesn’t talk much. I do remember her name. Her parents call her “Ango”. It is short for the Tagalog word “PANGO” which means flat nose. She asked me if I know how to climb trees. I said no, I am little. I was 8 years old then.
She pointed at the tamarind tree. The fruit looks amazing. According to our neighbor, this tamarind tree bears sweet fruit. I like sweet. She said, do you want to climb that tree? I smiled and said, yes of course. My eyes are twinkling in delight.
I wasn’t scared, I was not looking down. Ango said, don’t look down. Little by little I realized I was on top of the tree. The branches are swaying like crazy and I am eating the most delicious fruit in the planet.
Tough life, I told myself. My mother doesn’t know I am on top of a tree and nobody will find out, nobody. After eating a bunch, I told my friend Ango that it is time to go. That’s the first time we both looked down and we were both terrified. A male water buffalo is tied on the trunk of the tamarind tree. It has huge horns and look really mean.
I was scared to death, I told myself, maybe we are going to sleep here over night. Well, lucky us, our neighbor came to the rescue and untied the buffalo. After that, I have never seen Ango again.
When night falls, we will all gather in my Aunt’s house. My Aunt makes the best rice cakes in town. Her house smells like heaven. Sweet sticky rice with coconut milk toppings, bake sticky rice with sweet sauce on top. She is a wonderful woman. As soon as she sits down and start pounding the rice, she will turn on her radio, I meant, full blast. It is dark and some horror radio program can be heard. It is her routine and I love it. I love the horror stories while playing hop scotch.
Our family live together in the same compound. Most of the people in our town are related to each other. My Grandpa loves boxing and so do I. I still remember when Mike Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear. I watched some of Dela Hoya’s fight and I still remember the Philippine boxing superstars before Manny Pacquiao took over.
Our weekends are not your ordinary weekends. We don’t go out and eat in a fancy restaurant. We go to the river, we have 3 or 4 big sacks of dirty clothes. Children are riding in my grandpa’s carriage. The adults walk. We will walk 3 miles to get to the river. We’ll set up shop. My father would cut down banana trees and will give it to the children so we can go swimming. They are really nice flotation device. The ladies are washing the clothes, the kids are playing in the water. We will catch some tilapia, tiny shrimp and crabs and my father would cook them. He is the best. We eat with bare hands, hot steamy rice on the huge banana leaves, tilapia, shrimp and crabs and we eat together. Then after long hours of our picnic, it is time to go home. Every one has a nice tan. Every one enjoyed it.
That was our life back then. There are no smart phones, no tablets, no computers. Our hobbies are making paper dolls, planting and running through the corn maze when it is rainy season. Talking was a big deal, conversations are amazing. We can talk until midnight while eating corn on a cob.
Now, technology, somehow ruined human interaction.Conversation is dead. Kids are getting lazy. Parents use gadgets as baby sitters. It is a sad sad world out there. But life goes on, change is the only permanent thing in this world. I am one of the lucky ones. I get to shower in the rain and make paper boats.
I love the 90s. I wish I could turn back the hands of time but now, I have my own kid. I am determined to share my adventures to her. I have a heart of a kid. I am 30 years old and all my mom friends would tell me, I act like a kid. I know what kids like and what makes them happy.
I hope this generation will somehow remember that it is nice to unplug and do something not just sitting all day long on the couch. Make real friends not virtual friends and spend more time with your family.