My First Bicycle

February 18, 2008

On my way to the office yesterday, I saw a little girl learning how to steer her bicycle, a small one with training wheels. “Lucky little girl,” I thought to myself. When I was her age I only daydreamed to ride to bike, “daydreamed” because at that time I had never seen a real bike. My first idea of a bicycle came from an old magazine that was left in our house by a visitor from the city. Having lived in a very remote town, it was the first time I saw that two-wheeler thing and it haunted my curious young mind. I wondered how it would feel to ride on it.

My first close encounter with a real bike was when my father bought a new one, a big one, which he used in his job as the town’s mailman. It was to become the only bike in that small sleepy village. I had to wait for a few years before I was allowed to learn to ride. By that time, the bike was already old and worn out but it still worked—as if it purposely waited for me to help me learn how to ride. My father taught me the most basic skills needed in riding a bicycle. He taught me through the traditional way—he ran along with me every afternoon for many days. I was still a bit small for the bike but he managed to teach me how to operate it. “Maintain balance otherwise you will fall.” “Pedal, just pedal, to keep moving.” These were his constant reminders.

When I learned to get the bike going on my own, my young heart was pleased. My dream had turned into a reality. No longer was I daydreaming to ride a bike, I was actually riding it and steering it on my own.

My father’s rickety bike became my magical carpet taking me around the neighborhood whenever I was off from school or free from doing household chores. One early morning, I dared to bike to a nearby hill. The narrow road was a challenge as well as the climb. But the prize was worth it: the view from the hill. Sitting next to my bike, I was overwhelmed by the immensity of nature before my eyes—the sprawling ricefields, the rising sun, the animals in the nearby farm, the tall and big trees which have withstood weather and time, and the serene river which leads to the calm sea surrounding the town. The upward climb was not the only thing thrilling but the downward drive as well.

The old bike was also my escape. When I was sad, the first thing I would think of was hop on my bicycle and ride away to the seashore or dart toward the farm and lose myself behind the tall talahib grass.

On most Saturdays, I would look forward to visiting some of my classmates. As I steered my bicycle to their houses, I would see familiar faces walking along the way, smiling at me and sometimes calling out my name and waving as I passed by them. They were neighbors, distant relatives, family friends. One good thing about living in a small village is that you know everyone so well.

I have said goodbye to my old bike many years ago. It did not withstand time. I have had more bicycles, but the memories of the first bike I rode on still live on. Today, whenever I ride a bike, it makes me remember the small but beautiful village I grew up in and its warm-hearted and hospitable people. It brings back a vivid mental image of my father patiently running beside me as I struggled to maneuver the handlebars. It makes me realize that riding a bicycle is like riding through life’s stages: you have to keep pedaling and you have to maintain balance in order to move on.


Rainy Day Memories

January 25, 2008

While my sister was complaining yesterday morning about the rain, my heart was rejoicing simply because it was raining. There’s something about rainy days that releases certain thoughts and feelings that sometimes weigh me down.

The rainfall started to form a curtain outside the window conjuring a liquid flow of memories—flashbacks of images of better, happier, younger times — which made me swell on the inside.

There is, for example, the inviting image of champorado, a sweet chocolate rice porridge. It reminded me of my mother happily boiling sticky rice and adding cocoa powder to give it a distinct brown color. Once cooked, she would serve the champorado to her five eager children, all ready with their spoon and ricebowl. As a child, I delighted in the champorado’s taste which filled my belly with goodness. Little did I know that cooking champorado was my mother’s way of saving the family’s supply of rice. This she admitted to me recently over a champorado snack.

Then, there was the little lakes which form just below our window when raindrops fall. My siblings and I would tie a string to a rubber slipper, throw the slipper to one of the little lakes and let it float. For children like us whose family had no extra budget to buy toys, a rubber slipper was good enough as a toy boat. The first sun rays after the rain would disappoint us as we watched the little lakes dry up and disappear. It meant the end of our short boating adventure. But it also gave us a reason to look forward to another rainy day.

Then, this particular “raincoat” which my parents designed with their ingenuity. This “raincoat” was proof of the cliché, necessity is the mother of invention. They had no extra money to buy umbrellas for five kids so they “invented” a raincoat. What kind of raincoat am I talking about, you might ask. It was made of a big plastic bag, one that looks like a garbage bag. Only that the garbage bag is usually black and the plastic bag my parents’ used for the raincoat they invented was clear. I would try to make a sketch of the raincoat and post the image here someday, to illustrate my parents’ ingenuity.

My siblings and I would trudge along the street leading to our school wearing our parents’ innovative raincoat and singing silly songs.

Ahh, happy rainy day memories. There were too many of them rushing in my mind, too many to write in here. I have realized only yesterday that most of them happened in my childhood days. For a moment the rain made me feel like I was a child again, back in our family home in the province, rejoicing on the first raindrops hitting the ground and rooftops.

Life and Taking Pictures

August 29, 2007

Few days ago, I had dinner with my cousin and nieces who were born and raised abroad and are in the country for a month-long vacation. We chose a particular restaurant which serves native foods so they can have a taste of the traditional home-cooked meals.

In the restaurant, two tables beside us were occupied by teenage boys and girls who were giggling and having fun. They seemed to be a happy bunch. It appeared they were celebrating a special occassion. I counted four different cameras which were passed on to whoever would volunteer to take pictures. Stolen shots were taken. After each click, they would eagerly see the camera screen… and complain. “Oh, my pimples! Can we take have another shot? Please don’t focus on my pimples.” “Oh no, my fat belly is too obvious in the picture. Can we have another shot, please?” So, more and more pictures were taken. The group posed in wacky poses. Some smiled. Some stuck their tongue out. Some made face. Some raised their hands. One of them triend to hide her pimples by posing at a certain angle. The chubby girl tried to hide her belly by standing behind a seated friend. When they looked at the camera screen after the pictures were taken, they seemed satisfied.

When people take our pictures, some of us try to pose in an angle which we think will make us look prettier or a little thinner than we actually appear or in such a way that things such as pimples or fat belly or unruly hair or blemished skin will not be very obvious. But the fact remains that the pimples or the fat belly or the unruly hair or the blemished skin are still there. They exist no matter how we hide or cover them in pictures. Life is like having our picture taken. We often pose in a manner we want to be seen. But when stolen shots are taken, they capture who we really are.

So I Sing

July 9, 2007

When I was 8 years old, my father and I had to ride a motored outrigger boat to get to another town. A few hours after we left the shore, we noticed a sudden change in the way the boat was rocked by the waves. The sea suggenly got angry. I looked around us and saw no sign of land. It seemed to me like we were in the middle of nowhere. Around us all I could see was the line where the sky and sea meet. Above us the clouds swelled. The boat struggled through the raging waves. But after a few minutes, it’s motor gave up. The boatman tried hard to revive it but did not succeed. So we were left floating in the turbulent sea, praying another boat would pass by. The other passengers seemed worried.

I looked at my father and he just smiled at me. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Come, let’s sing.” And we did, softly. We sang children’s songs, most of them in our native language. The other passengers joined us in singing and we made beautiful music together in the middle of a troubled sea. After a while, a boat passed by. We transferred and were safely brought to the nearest town. The passengers who were strangers to each other when we left the shore parted as friends after the storm.

I look back to that day in the middle of the sea with nostalgia. I remember how singing had changed the spirits of the passengers on that boat, how singing had turn strangers into friends.

So today I sing, even if I am not a good singer. I have always been self-concious about my voice because I know I can’t carry a tune. Sometimes I massacre Vonda Shephard’s “Chances Are” and “Could I Have This Dance” or Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This.” I have never sung in public. I had once read a quote which says, one of the bravest things a human being can do is open it’s mouth and sing out loud. I guess I’m just not brave enough.

But I still sing. I sing even if I can’t come close to being brilliant at it. Most of the time I sing when I am alone. For my own amusement. For my own entertainment. I sing when I’m happy. I sing when I’m sad. I sing when I’m troubled. I feel there’s something in singing that can’t really be found in anything else. It’s a relief. It’s a catharsis. It decreases my sense of isolation. It feeds my soul. It restores my bouyancy.

There is a fundamental human need to sing. It is primal. It is an expression of the human species. Players sing to celebrate after winning a game. A jilted lover sings to express his heartache. A mother sings to calm her baby into sleep. Singing weaves the content of human heart and mind, and it is its intimate form of expression. Singing is a blessed thing. So I sing.

We Are All the Same

June 28, 2007

While on a day off, I didn’t know what to do with myself. The house didn’t need cleaning, the dog didn’t need washing, and I didn’t have blog yet at that time thus no blog needed updating.

In utter boredom, I decided to go out of my comfort zone called home and stop by a coffee shop to try their famous frapuccino. (This happened before I quit my addiction to coffee.) I chose to stay in a cozy corner by the glass wall. A few sips later I found myself carefully observing everyone who was in the coffee shop and everyone who walked by. I became an amateur social scientist for an hour or two or three. I can’t remember exactly how long, but I can remember that I tried to study my subjects well: I guessed who they were, why they were there at that moment, what they do, what they were thinking, where they came from and where they were going.

From my nook, I have observed that my subjects exhibited varieties. They looked different from each other, they didn’t have the same taste in fashion , they walked in different manner and pace, they had different mannerisms, they had different facial expressions, they had their own ways of greeting each other, they belonged to different groups, and so on and so forth.

Some of the people I saw were couples with their hands joined. A mother holding her baby dearly. A couple kissing. Children happily clinging to their dad’s hands. A group of teenagers laughing and poking at each other. An old man and an old woman walking hand-in-hand. A dad buying cotton candy for her daughter. A little girl having a birthday party in a fast food joint just across the street. And a happy teenage girl and her mom who looked fresh from a shopping spree.

I must say that my short stint as an amateur social scientist was fun. I realized that watching people from a distant is fascinating. Far away, people tell stories with their unguarded actions. And from where I was, I saw an intimate view of a universal truth: that even though we act and look different from each other on the outside, we are all the same on the inside. We all have the same desire to love, be loved, be happy, and make our loved ones happy.

Wordless Wednesday #1: Bald Tree on the Shore

June 20, 2007

The Sea and I

June 19, 2007

I feared the mighty sea when I was young, especially after a tragedy happened: a passenger ferry collided with an oil tanker.  Within minutes, the tragedy claimed almost 2,000 lives, including some of my distant relatives. The event has been dubbed as “the worst ferry disaster and the worst peace-time maritime disaster in history.”  As the years passed by, the fear of the sea waned and I began to cherish a love story with the sea.

I love the days I spend so close to the vast sea. In the morning, before the sun rises, I would head out to the beach for a walk, barefooted. I enjoy the gentle breeze caressing my face and playing with my hair. I love the feel of soft, moist sand between my toes. I would happily create a path with my set of footprints. And I would be delighted when a stroke of tide erases the marks I had left. I often wish those marks were the mistakes I’ve done with my life.

When I get tired of walking, I would sit on the white, powdery sand and wait for the sun  to stretch out its rays as if to say it already has awoken from a deep slumber. It is amazing to watch the sun rising up, little by little, from the horizon. It is soothing to hear the sound of the surf. The distinct crash and return of the tiny waves becomes the laughter of loved ones. It rekindles so many moments I spent with family and friends.

The gentle breeze brings the salty taste of the sea, and almost instantly I see fishermen in my mind. They are on the seashore, pulling out nets from the sea. I see people waiting in line to buy fish, children playing on the shore, and small crabs frolicking in the now heated fine sand. When the sun’s heat start to hurt my skin a bit, I know it is time to head home.

The sea and I are one. I take the passion  and drive from its waves; the hope, from the sun that constantly rises from its edge; the calm, from its white, powdery sand that never fails me; and the happiness, from the memories that it draws from my mind. Each time I look out to the sea, I see my life laid out in front of me.