Plucking Leafs from My Tree of Memories
Photo taken in the early Seventies, in Luneta, Manila, Philippines
The First Leaf
I was about six years old when I first had the narcissistic idea that I would be great someday—when my father told me, “Para kang si Jose Rizal, ah! mahilig magbasa at magsulat.”
At the age of five, prior to entering kindergarten in 1976, I was already fond of writing, listing different things in a notebook my father gave me and of listening awestruck to his folktales and Greek-mythology stories. (Yes, at that age I could already write name-words; just ignore most of my spellings.) I used to list names of different kinds of animals, superheroes, countries, and even plate numbers and models of vehicles. (Perhaps, from this where my love for details and trivia originated.)
And, yeah! I would even draw the flags of different countries, the illustrations of which I would copy from the encyclopedias and books my father used to surprise me with. (I remember always feeling challenged every time I tried drawing the flag of Saudi Arabia, with which to this day remains to be the flag I’m most fascinated.)
Speaking of Rizal, I suddenly remember the name of my first-ever crush—Rizalina Driz, a classmate in Grade One (1977–1978), at St. Mary’s Academy in Pasay City, whose distinctively round face, “apple-cut” hair, and the prominent mole on her right cheek I can still vividly imagine. My father used to tease me back then: “Bagay kayo ng klasmeyt mo: Rizalina, tapos ikaw Rizal.” However, so young and virtually innocent as I was, simple smiles and silly stares sufficed what I felt for Driz.
The most enduring, earliest memory I can recall of my childhood was a typical child's naughtiness I did in 1975—an uncle who came from the United States for a vacation gave the children a very big chocolate bar (big, as in with a dimension of one foot by one-point-five feet by three inches).
The chocolate was kept in the fridge, intended to be divided among the children after the usual for-adults-only chitchats. Impatient as I was, I sneaked into the kitchen and spirited away the huge bar of gold from the cold treasure chest; and then hid under the mahjong table and started to feast on my delicious find…
I can no longer recall what exactly happened next after they discovered that the children's treasure was missing and they found me under the table with my shirt and face full of sticky sweet brown mess.