Don’t laugh at my simple happiness. You may do so at the risk of making me happier.
Watching local TV is in fact already a big improvement for one who grew up in a little barrio where the people’s favorite pastime was listening to drama anthology over the radio.
Before going back to the farm, peasants listened to the saga of a poor boy who started his career in a little town and eventually became rich and famous as a successful professional boxer in the big city.
Mothers and other women doing their laundry in the river brought transistor radios to monitor the daily struggles of their heroes and heroines. Some even tried to send their love stories, hoping that it would be dramatized, plus the accompanying theme songs of Eddie Peregrina, Victor Wood or Imelda Papin, and other so-called juke box kings and queens.
Others eagerly looked forward to the time slot of sexy drama series. The daily episode focused on sex and ended with medical advice on reproductive health by one who introduced herself as a lawyer-doctor.
I started grade school at the early age of five.
That’s how excited I was in going to school. But the first week was a very difficult struggle. I had to leave home at seven o’clock in the morning. That meant missing my own favorite radio drama – the story of Kaloy whose flying saucer instantly came to the rescue by just calling, “La le li lo lu!”
You may laugh at our leisure as simply ridiculous and unproductive. But no matter what you say, our neighbors were happy with that simple entertainment. And I was happy too.
If Filipinos are among the happiest people on earth, I bet the rural people are the happiest among the Filipinos!
Maybe, listening to the radio made us more creative and imaginative because we always try to create a picture in our mind.
Or maybe, the success stories of heroes and heroines of radio dramas were diversions from the real economic hardships and struggles of peasants. At least, listening to radio drama served as a palliative amusement, albeit fleeting.
I haven’t gone back to our barrio for decades now. Maybe, our relatives, neighbors and friends have shifted to watching telenovelas since the time our barrio had the luxury of electricity.
During my elementary school years, the idiom “burning one’s eyebrows” may become literal if we were not careful in reading while using the kerosene lamp.
We read books, too, because we had some in our public school. I brought with me even the optional ones, including a hard-bound book which contained nothing but poems about Imelda Marcos.
Those were their years, you know. We sang “Bagong Lipunan.” Pupils in the primary grades stayed at the “Marcos-type” school building, while those in the intermediate used the “Bagong Lipunan” building. In front of the buildings, yellow-leaves camote crawled, known as “Imelda” variety.
I loved reading what were available. I enjoyed a particular story of a group of animals, including a bird named “Tireret.”
“Tireret” was the savior and every time he saved another, his friends would say “Thank you, Tireret, thank you.”
I don’t remember any nursery rhyme. As activist-artist Gary Granada said, why should you expect the luxury of nursery rhymes when the basic services of a nurse are not even available in the barrio.
There were a few classic children’s stories I can recall but I cannot relate to most. However, that “Thank you, Tireret” line stuck to my mind as I continued reading other books which I religiously brought to school every day, using a colorful net bag.
We did not talk about environmental-consciousness then, but we were already using that recyclable net bag, thoroughly cleaned after taking out the dried fish and other stuff bought from the market. I seldom see that kind of bag now. No wonder then that coastal clean-up activities usually yield an enormous volume of plastic bags!
There were a few times when I also think of “if onlys.” If only, I studied in private schools with complete and modern facilities; if only I had good reading materials at home during my childhood; if only we had cable television where I could watch shows with substance; and so on and so forth.
I could have been better.
But I am not really sure. No one can ever tell if I would have been more successful and happier if I had the same heavy bags that have to be carried by nannies of today’s gradeschoolers.
After all, we react differently to the same situations. We may react positively to a seemingly unfavorable circumstance, and vice versa. In the end, we are made of our unique experiences.
Today’s children have the luxury of developing good language through cable television’s shows for kids. As they cheer to Linnie, Tuck and Ming ming, Nickelodeon channel’s wonder pets, riding a flyboat to rescue other animals in danger, I can only smile and say, “Thank you, Tireret, thank you.”
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Danilo Balucos, the first business manager of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center, left to pursue Law school, passed the 2006 bar exams and is now a partner in a law firm in Davao City).