Tuesday, September 22, 2015
That yellow structure on the right side of the frame, directly behind the basketball hoop, that's where I grew up - #16 Road 7, Project 6, Quezon City. That entire row of houses running the length of the basketball court - plus a few more meters on both sides, all of that's #55, actually. But my grandmother didn't like that number, so she just decided on her own that our house would be #16.
The house wasn't always like that. Back then, it was wooden, elevated high enough to avoid getting flooded during the rainy season. A creek behind the house rises dramatically during downpours. We had a "silong," under the house, which eventually was turned into three small apartments. When the "silong"was first walled off, an uncle, a bachelor at the time, used it as a pad. That's where I spied one morning that he had a girl with him. They would marry eventually and live in one of the "apartments."
Road 7 wasn't concreted back then - the asphalt surface was where I learned to ride a bike, skinned my knee countless times, drew a sun on when clouds threatened rain...
Road 7 had a unique light. Sunrise came from the rice fields across the creek, it would enter the window of the kitchen, the grills making a nice pattern on the floor. I took that light with my breakfast of diluted Blend 45 cup of coffee, into which I dipped my pandesal with Dairy Creme.
With the harsher late morning light that gets harsher towards noon comes Kulot, the taho vendor. Pre-lunch snack. If mom was in the country, Kulot would usually get a mouthful for shouting too loud and waking her up. She's up, I'll ask for some change for my taho. The puto vendor usually comes soon after Kulot leaves.
At the two in the afternoon, most of #55 (and #16, too) would be asleep, siesta time while the rest of the neighborhood would either be idling at any one of the few sari-sari stores, reading the week's comics (Hilaga, Holiday, Funny), or playing bingo near the row of houses near the balon (where that group of #55 houses in that area get their water) surrounded by kangkong and talbos ng kamote. For me and my gang of friends, that meant getting out our panungkit and net bags and off we would go to explore the rest of Project 6 and nearby barangays (Pag-asa, Vasra, Sanville, Carmel, etc.) for generous homeowners with fruit tree in their front yards. Depends what time of the year it was, the loot would either be or a combination of mabolo, santol, makopa, kaimito, duhat, avocado...
If we're not in the mood for fruits, then off to Alley 11 we'd go to buy fish hooks and nylon strings and the panungkit becomes a fishing pole. There's always dalag to be caught in that creek behind our house. If we're not too lazy to just sit at the banks, we'll chop down banana trunks, skewer them together with bamboo and the resulting raft can take us all the way to the public market area downstream.
The basketball court wasn't always a basketball court. We called it the "playground," the space wasn't cemented and that's where we ran around to our hearts' delight - all morning, all afternoon, in the evening we took over the street when there were less cars passing. There were monkey bars there when I was little, rusty, missing a joint here and there which was a castle, a fort, a car, a space ship, a house or anything our imagination wanted it to be.
One day, the main road where the jeeps passed, Road 3 underwent major repairs. The asphalt surface was removed in preparation for its concreting. It took a while for the cement trucks to come, and while the workers prepared Road 3 for concreting, #55 Road 7 (along with the lone #16 house) prepared areas of the house that may need concreting. And after weeks of digging, removing, grading, and whatever else needed to be done before concreting, the trucks came - and Road 7 was ready. It didn't matter what time it was that they poured concrete, we were there, the whole neighborhood each one with their own bucket to catch the excess cement that was pushed to the side when they leveled the surface.
If you wanted your kitchen or bathroom floor concreted, you caught a bucket-load, ran as fast as you can to pour that at your own construction project at home, and ran back to get more.
The concreting of Road 3 took a while, but by the end of it, a lot of the homes had concrete walls, floors, the pathways from the road side to maze of homes in the area were cemented too, and the playground... that was the time it was tuned into a concreted basketball court.
We were one of the first to have a television set in the neighborhood, and prime time TV meant having heads at our window in the evening. If my banig wasn't set up yet for the night, then I'd sometimes let some of the neighbors inside the house to watch a Friday special, Piling-piling Pelikula. At the end of whatever it was we watched, everyone would spill out onto the street to talk about it. Us kids would reenact some of the notable scenes such as the zombies in Panday running after Bentot Jr. We'll take turns playing Bentot Jr.
There was Mang Rudy, the handyman whom you called for anything from dog bites to changing the fuse to fixing a leaking pipe.
There was Mang Frank and his taxicab, Kuya Dan and his well-maintained owner-type jeep.
There was Mang Inggo and his vegetable garden.
There was Mang Ipe and his sari-sari store and Pool Table (or pul, chips instead of billiard balls on a square table with holes at the corners where you shoot the chips in).
There are more memories, I can actually leave this blog entry open and just keep on adding as they come, and I wouldn't be able to really say, "that's it, all 14-15 years' worth, give or take a few months after we moved to a new house in 1988 whenever I'd run back to #16 Road 7 whenever life makes an unexpected turn.
Our house, where I swear I saw elves climbing the sink, out the kitchen window and down the creek, was sold some time in the nineties. And the new owners tore it down and built that concrete multi-storey structure.
I believe that's when I stopped visiting Road 7, Project 6, Quezon City.
It's hard to see what the picture above actually shows - the dull gray of the road all, the imposing roof over the basketball court, and the walls. All I see is my wonderful childhood.