A Portrait of My Philippine Childhood
When I look back on the early years of my life in the Philippines, I wonder how I ever pulled through the throbs at all.
Mine, of course, is a sad Filipino childhood.
A happy childhood, I suppose, is not worth the while of my readers, who are already weighed down by their own misery, soreness and stings in the reaches of their body, and qualms about what the future holds for them and the people dear to them.
Worse than the run-of-the-mill sad Filipino childhood is the sad childhood spent in the Philippine capital Manila, a setting of ballooning population, large swaths of poisonous clouds, staggering unemployment, street crimes, and domestic abuse.
Even more appalling than the sad Manila childhood is the sad Catholic Manila childhood, with us Filipinos being dressed down to stay moral and never to stray from the unbendable tenets of the holy Catholic Church.
Our Philippines – Blessed and Cursed
People from all across the world have a weakness for sharing the woes of their early years and spend a great deal of time whimpering.
Still, some childhoods pale in comparison with my Catholic Manila version: the dearth of almost everything, the heavy-handed and discriminating mother, the loving yet often absent father, the abusive cousin, and the strict principles of the Catholicism that were handed down to the Philippines by Spain during its unspeakable 300-year colonization.
As if these are not enough, the Philippines lies within the Pacific Ring of Fire – a horrible place to be in the world with all its earth-shattering volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and typhoons.
Above all these things, the Philippines is a tropical country, beautiful but blistering.
In the southeast corners of the great Asian continent, the sun shines on our country of 7,107 islands and batters it with towering temperatures.
The Philippines' place in the sun creates a myriad of misfortunes for so many of us Filipinos.
It gives rise to the nasty mosquito-borne disease dengue and its equally horrible cousin malaria that prompt patients to pack in like sardines in public hospitals.
It gives rise to the so-called indolence of Filipinos that our great forefathers were quick to dismiss. Many of us would wait out the burning afternoon sun inside our homes, doing things like gossiping or napping that can hardly make us progress from being a developing country.
It gives rise to the string of smash-hit afternoon soap operas about alcoholic working men, loquacious housewives, children born out of wedlock, struggles, tears, and many more buckets of tears, drilling into our minds the should-be-outdated thinking that a man can have drinks and tons of fun and that a woman ought to be forever pious and her place is in the home.
Our Religions in the Philippines – Our Refuge
The heat and our unenviable place in the Pacific Ring of Fire drives us to seek refuge in Catholic churches, many of them works of art of long-dead Filipino and Filipino-Chinese craftsmen.
We huddle together with throngs of religious Filipinos on Sunday masses, festivals, Lenten season, Christmas day, the nine-day 4 a.m. Mass at Dawn that starts on the 16th of December and ends on the 24th, and the countless other occasions when we need help from our many Catholic saints, Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ.
Sure, there are many other religions that spawn in the Philippines, giving my neighbors and their families a much-needed emotional help and cheering them through the tough times that needless to say come often.
We Filipinos have a reputation for faithfulness. Of course, we know that much of it is just because of the tropical sun and the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Lesson from My Philippine Childhood
Being born and raised in the hardy Pearl of the Orient naturally makes us true-blue Filipinos strong as the Philippine carabao (water buffalo).
I have personally known wants, dreams, failures, and disappointments.
I have to stretch the boundaries of my physical strength.
I reach for the stars only to come down into a puddle of mud.
Looking back on my Philippine childhood, I can see a crowded Manila street strewn with shattered pieces of crashed jeepneys, a street I had to navigate with odds greatly against me and that leaves me wounded, injured, and aged before my time.
Yet I do not complain. There is strength in numbers.
There are thousands of us Filipinos who had a less than postcard-perfect childhood.
I draw strength from the millions of Filipinos going through the childhood I went though years ago.
I draw strength from the millions of Filipinos who choose to change the course of fate and take charge of the steering wheel.
I do not sulk and wallow in despair for I have drunk the cup of life down to its very silts.
I cannot complain.
At least, I had a cup of life and that is all I need to wake me up to another Philippine morning.
Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista
All Rights Reserved
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