My childhood seemed to have stretched out longer than human time. Those childhood memories have a dreamlike quality. I have memories of the time when I was perhaps three, perhaps younger. I even have an infant memory, although I am not sure if this is a true memory, of me laying on the bed and a big dog entering the room and everyone getting excited. I remember being with my Yaya Yvonne in the second floor of our house in Capitolio and looking down at a group of carolers singing outside our gate. My Yaya Yvonne was the one who taught me to eat green onions. Yaya Yvonne got into trouble for stealing and I was told she ended up in jail — a point that my older sister used to rib me about — “Your yaya ended up in jail.”
There were four of us children: girl, boy, girl, girl. We lost a brother during the war. Mama had a miscarriage in Mindanao. I don’t know the details of what exactly happened but I like to remember this brother because I had read that forgotten souls get restless. He would have been the sibling closest to me in age. He would have been between me and my sister who really wasn’t always kind to me. Four years older, this sister was born in Mindanao during wartime. Family legend says she was born behind the bushes, as a Japanese patrol walked by. I wrote a version of this incident in my first novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept (aka Song of Yvonne).
When I was older, I considered my sister’s harsh character, and I wondered if her deprivation during wartime accounted for her lack of generosity.
Our oldest sister, who was twelve years older, had always been in her own world by the time I was around. She was the first granddaughter of my maternal grandfather who had been senate president at the height of his career. This sister was doted upon, and, because she was pretty, did some modeling and was featured in magazines. She had her own friends. I never really spent much time with her. She’s not even in the Christmas pictures that I found of my father, brother, sister, and me.
My brother, eight years older, was kind to me. He used to make toys for me, buy me books, and watch out for me. I thought of him as my ally.
When I was a child, we did not have electronic gadgets to play with me, so we used our imagination and creativity, and we read a lot. I remember games like “market-market” where we gathered leaves and stuff to sell. My father and brother made kites and stilts for us. Because I was small, I had coconut stilts. We played hide-and-seek, and a chasing game that was called buwan-buwan (moon-moon). We related with our pets — cats, dogs, pigs, turtles, monkeys. We wept when Mama had our pet pig Bruno slaughtered because he had gotten too big. We went swimming; we played bowling.
I tried to capture some of these magical moments in a book of sketches I made: Magical Years: Memories and Sketches. But there are too many details and feelings associated with that happy childhood, it is impossible to capture them all.
Stay tuned for more old photographs.
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