Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sali ka?

In elementary, I wasn't one of those prim little girls who played with dainty dolls under the shade all day long. I was a monster. I ran with the boys, got my knees scraped and turned up for class after lunch sweaty and smelly with the best of them. I thought crushes were a silly pastime for girls who had nothing better to do. I was too busy playing outdoors to consider the opposite sex useful for anything else other than handy teammates in Prisoners' Base and patintero.

I was lucky enough to go to a school with a lot of room to play outside. We had a huge square quadrangle with two prominent flights of stairs conveniently located on either end to serve as bases for Prisoners' Base. There was an alley next to the gym where we could play touch-the-body. We even had a slightly-forested backyard, where we could conduct games of subterfuge and fantasy. Recess and lunch time were truly the best parts of the day.

Although I dabbled in all kinds of jump-rope games, I was particularly skilled in five-five. The rope rarely caught between my feet and it took a long time before I would be one of the two bored kids turning the rope in their hands. If someone found themselves facing rope-turning duties, she could ask another girl to save her. The willing savior would have to perform a very difficult jump-rope obstacle course. She would have to touch the ground, her knees, her hips, her shoulders, her head, spin around and jump out without the rope ever touching her. All this while jumping inside a spinning rope and to the song "Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the gound..." When it got to the part with the shoulders, it was customary to spin the rope faster. This is where it got vicious. The kids spinning the rope, faced with the prospect of freedom, would become possessed and flip the rope with mad speed. The savior, if unfazed, would complete the task and come out a hero. If it didn't work out, the girl she had set out to save would be condemned to a potentially long sentence of rope-turning. On the other hand, the would-be rescuer would find herself tangled in a rubber band rope in a most undignified fashion. Getting a bunch of rubber bands caught in your hair is not a pleasant experience...I imagine. I told you, I was very good.

I didn't have a bad time with Prisoners' Base either. I was one of the fastest runners in my class. I could run for long periods of time, wearing out my pursuer. Then I would turn the tables and make him the hunted. A friend of mine used to complain that girls were at a disadvantage because of our hair and uniform. Since we sported long hair and wore skirts, the boys had more things to grab, hence making it easier to tag us. There were many painful episodes that ended with patches of hair getting ripped out of someone's head. That didn't stop us girls from getting even, though. After a game of Prisoners' Base, most of the boys would discover they had buttons missing and sleeves torn nearly clear off the rest of the shirt. "So that's what the ripping sound was when Kubi grabbed me." Apart from getting their butts kicked by a bunch of girls, they would later have to explain to their furious mothers how their immaculate white shirts had transformed into dirty tatters.

One PE class in second grade, our teacher decided to take us out to the quadrangle to play a wholesome game of patintero. I remember being assigned to be leader of a group, but for reasons now forgotten to me, we were banned from play. My rag-tag team was sent back to the classroom to listen to the laughter of our luckier classmates from afar. We were victims of an injustice, ostracized from our peers. The four walls of our classroom witnessed a tragic tableau of an undeserved exile. Tears ran down mud-stained cheeks and many hung their heads in misery. Being eight at the time, it was that dramatic.

I remember a friend of mine who was wise to the rules of normal patintero. While everyone else was trying their hardest to avoid the guards to the different...er...portals, she would skirt around the cheering crowd and run to the other side without a scratch. It was a straight arrow to the finish line. The last guard would stand there dumbfounded and wondering how she had managed to get past him. After a couple of rounds, she was eventually found out. Her previous wins were nulled, and the rules of the game were reiterated: "No, you cannot run around the crowd to avoid the guards."

These memories came running into my head when I read this great article in the Inquirer about the "Larong Pinoy Campaign." A number of organizations lauched this campaign to revive the dying interest of children in traditional Filipino games. The groups involved in the project enumerated many advantages of playing outdoor games. These are just some of them: children develop their skills and values through social interactions in these games; outdoor games provide good physical exercise, therefore ensuring optimal muscle development; and the presevation of these traditional Filipino games will help keep the Filipino identity alive in younger generations.

After finding out that the Philippines is the most corrupt country in Asia, it's refreshing to read something like this in the newspaper. It's good to know that there are still people looking out for the ones who really matter: the kids. It's heartening that there are still those who see the Philippines outside of its political misadventures. Being Filipino doesn't have to mean belonging to a country run by celebrities and a president who is the greatest pretender of them all. It doesn't mean belonging to a country where fresh graduates have to toil away in draining call-center jobs just to get by. It doesn't mean belonging to a country that exports its nurses and allows its own health sector to practically disappear.

Being Filipino can also mean belonging to a country with a rich cultural heritage. It can mean belonging to a people whose love for their art and games shines through even when the going gets tough. It can mean belonging to a race proud of who they are and are always mindful of their history. Being Filipino means having a spirit that cannot be broken even as our country plummets into dark times.

4 seen below:

trench said...

Nothing wrong with running with the big boys! haha. i added you to my dailies. :)

laizo said...

touch-the-body was a major part of my childhood. perfecting techniques of avoiding flying balls and honing skills of throwing said ball. i remember such terms as "flying!" (lobbing the ball to fake the..er..targets) "kidjas" (slightly touching the target or his/her clothing with the ball) and "solid" or "no solid" rule which prevented the players from throwing the ball realy realy hard. :D (sigh) the good ol days :D

Marni said...

reading this brought me back to my childhood. I think we call patintero "tubig-tubig" here in Cebu. Prisoner's base sounds familiar. Is that where when you get caught/tagged, you have to stay in the opponents home and wait for your teammates to save/free you? I forgot what Prisoner's base is called here.

kubiyat said...

trench: thanks for the link, and taking the time to comment. hehe, yea, it's fun to be one of the guys. :)

laizo: and remember double life? when someone needed to go to the bathroom, another person could have their "life." it got awkward if you were hit. who should sit out, you or the poor guy who went to the bathroom?

marni: hi! thanks for dropping by. yep, that definitely sounds like prisoners' base. when we got captured, we would make this long line with our sweaters to give our teammates maximum saving reach. :)

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