Growing Up at the Beginning of the World #3

     When I was a very young child, I used to think the world was a straight line. I knew of maps, of course, and that the world was round, but my mind, which probably couldn’t fathom how large the earth must be for me not to see the land bend, pieced together its own — and quite literal — worldview.

     So I decided the world was a line. And it began, in the fashion of Garcia Marquez’s mythical Macondo, in my hometown, Dumalag.

     These are my early memories of that world.

     Some late afternoons, a farmer would pass by just outside the bamboo fence of our backyard, herding ducks with a stick. The ducks would wade across the muddy fields, dipping their heads now and then for snails that somehow survived in the mud.

     On this particularly dry summer, someone had dug out an irrigation channel for the parched rice paddies. My friends and I would take turns stepping into the hip-deep torrent, pretending we were sitting in a swimming pool. Rich people had swimming pools. No one we knew had one. I would come home dripping, clothes stained yellow, and smelling strongly of the metallic minerals in the water.

Redbud flowers by our house.

 On one side of our house was a vacant lot overgrown with tall weeds. It might as well have been a forest. But beyond that carpet of green was a row of small trees that bore the most beautiful, purple flowers. The flowers clustered in bunches like grapes, each one small and tight, like miniature lilies, only blessed with more petals. I dared not cross, imagining snakes each time my foot sank into the green carpet, but on those rare times when we could get our hands on those flowers, we’d get some string and make necklaces.

Photo by Jojo Gabinete. For more photos like this, click here.


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