Summer stories

Dearest T,

Last week Mama took you to the park early in the morning, just after Papa left. You probably have forgotten already. Today I’m looking at the photos I took that day. It was a short two-hour of playing outside. But it felt longer because you had so much fun. It melts my heart watching you have fun. I’m putting these photos online so that I won’t forget this morning that you made me realize how much I love you and how you’ve become a very important part of my life in such a short time.

Mama grew up in a barrio, on a small island. Back there we didn’t have much of a public park like the ones here in the Netherlands. Our public parks are more like small squares with a statue of some distinctive person with a flowerbed in front of it, and nearby a covered area for official celebrations, concerts, fiestas and sports events particularly for basketball tournaments (Filipinos love basketball). There certainly aren’t petting zoo, canals, pretty bridges and birds in our parks.

But we have the great outdoor as a playground. I would spend every summer in my aunt’s house in the barrio, and together with my friends (the neighbour’s children) we would be climbing the mango and kaimito trees in the garden, or go swimming in the Boac river when it was still pristine (it was killed by man’s greed).

Sometimes we couldn’t go on exploring because my good friend Katherine would be tasked to guard their small vegetable and corn patch from birds. Instead we would set up a make-shift house under a low coconut tree, where we would cook wild, inedible berries on discarded tins of sardines with real fire. In the afternoon before the sun sets, we would be eating boiled corn until we couldn’t get up anymore.

Sometimes my cousin Nilo would take me to the rice fields to check if the mayas weren’t eating his crop and while he haunted for birds, I would be playing in the brook gathering snails.

Mama started with a summer job when she was about 10 year’s old. My aunt would make ice candy (ice pops) from fresh avocados and coconut that grew in abundance in the backyard. My friend Katherine and I would sell it, all the way to the neighbouring barrios. We would walk about 6 hours a day, carrying a styrofoam box full of ice pops. Sometimes our profit was just enough to pay for all the ice pops that we ate along the way. It was hot after all. But we had loads of fun and we had an excuse to go out exploring to the most far flung neighbourhood in this part of the island, even the ones where we’re cautioned not to go. I will never forget the Mabato’s and the stigma that they carry. But they were enthusiastic about our ice candy and they always buy more than one.

It’s funny how our visit to the park brought up many memories of my summers. I hope that one day you would get the chance to climb the trees I used to climb and explore the nature that had been an integral part of who I am today.

There are more kinds of birds there than doves and ducks but they probably won’t come to you even if you bring them a whole loaf of bread. And you might have to eat the chickens and the pigs after petting them. That my dear child, is the reality of life in the barrio.

The doves and the ducks are your favourites.

Oh you keep on chasing them.

You found the goats funny but we didn’t have food for them so they weren’t coming to you like the birds.

It was a hot morning. There was a heatwave in the country.

You keep on climbing on the fallen trees.

You fell several times but you just keep on running and stumbling. Your laughter melts my heart.

We’ve found some ants. You killed some of them. One day you’ll learn your power over animals. I hope you’d be careful with it.

This pair of sandals was the most expensive shoes we bought for you. But you’re using them very well.

Mama is happy that there are public parks like this where parents and children can go and safely play without costing them a cent. I wish there were more places like this in the Philippines.