By Nestor Garcia
Before or after school, but mostly after-at Butuan Central-me and my three best friends slash barkada would take a “baroto” crossing the river to the house of my classmate in Baan Riverside to drink Pepsi, engaged in silly small talk and then go home.
But the drinking was really more of an excuse, the river cruise was the magnet that pulled us together because it thrilled us crazy, riding the waves, at times colored yellow or pale green as our fingers teasing it.
Of course our parents, teachers and classmates didn’t know, it was a top secret among us four. We did it almost every day, sometimes cutting classes right after recess time. I went home in Burgos Street very thirsty and my mother wondered why. I never told her or she’d kill me.
Burgos Street used to be a dirt road and muddy when it rains. At the back of our house were tall cogon grasses grow where we spotted a snake and papa caught and killed. I wondered what was the tiny reptile’s crime that he was punished to death.
Lake Mainit! The first-ever huge fresh body of water I saw I thought it was connected or part of the sea. My family was attending a wedding at the lakeside village and I wondered they never mentioned taking a swim there. It was all I wanted to do.
Early morning when everyone was still asleep I took a stroll at the edges of the lake, imagining of dragons lurking deep below.
I came across a fisherman and a boy my age carrying a medium size fishing boat to the water. I ran and helped. My feet got wet and my shoulders got heavy but didn’t care. It thrilled me and I felt proud of myself but I knew if I told my family they would not like it and criticized me.
Years and years passed and I have grown a young man and even much more. I went to college at Mindanao State University (MSU) and lived at the dormitory. Semestral breaks I went home where my family has transferred to Alviola Village area.
My three best friends now remained two kidded me I now live like a hermit as they perceived the place was too far from the city proper.
Evenings, they dragged me to a downtown corner called Suez Canal famous for barbecue hanging rice, coke and beer. Either, we stood or sat around with other friends and the bonding’s complete. It was the best time being young and full of ambitions.
Today, I have not seen or recognize those places again, the landmarks of my young life. They have transformed but so did all of us but they remained in my memory, one that can never be taken away.
Editor’s note:The author today resides in USA but occasionally comes home as a balikbayan.