Growing Up At the Beginning of the World #1

     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.

     The house I grew up in stood at the edge of an uyapad, a wide expanse of rice fields. I spent most of my time time in the city for school, but I would return to Dumalag on most weekends and for entire summers. I remember the sky was always so very wide and blue, the clouds white and fluffy, tearing off here and there into animal shapes.

    It was warm year round, but summers were cruel. The sun would beat down on the barren fields until the mud shriveled into gasping cakes of dirt.

     I would go around back where the concrete wall has crumbled down, skip over the gutter, and run freely to the yellow piles of dried hay left over from the last harvest. Kids from the neighborhood would be there before me, bouncing or burying themselves in the pile, sending straw flying everywhere. I would dive in guiltily, exhilarated yet cautious of the allergies my nanny said I had.

     Sometimes, we would chase small birds scurrying through the cracks in the ground, hoping to find hidden eggs. I don’t recall ever catching a bird or finding a nest. Now I realize the other children might just have been exaggerating their own backyard adventures.

     My brother would fly a kite, called a burador, if he’s lucky to get an older cousin make him one that actually flies. Sometimes he’d let me hold the spool of string. I liked the sensation of the kite trying to pull free, marveling at the physics that lets me feel the struggle of a thing so far away. My brother’s kite occasionally got tangled up with another kid’s. This was sure sign of trouble, so I’d walk gingerly back to the house, careful not to get my rubber tsinelas stuck in the broken ground.

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


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