Chapter one – In Dapitan as a young girl


One of the earliest memories I had was the time when my sister was born. I was three, my big brother was four and we were waiting in the other room, my father was pacing up and down. Until we heard the midwife (my aunt) said: “it’s a girl!” We all rushed in the room, we saw some blood and the baby crying and my mom was on the floor. My aunt told us to “go away, we’re not ready yet.”

My sister was born
My brother and I waited
Then we heard her cry

Then, we had to move house. I must be seven, my brother, eight and little sister, three. The new house wasn’t far from the old one and I remembered being put on top of all our things in a cart and Dad and other uncles pushed the cart. That was nice, as we waved goodbye to our old neighbours and saw people on the streets on our way to the new house. My brother said not to move that much, as we might fall off. We first entered the house with a bag of rice and salt. My cousins welcomed us and they were to be our new neighbours.

On top of a cart
As we moved to our new house
Cousins welcomed us

Another memory was when our youngest brother was born, I was ten by this time and when we saw him, I thought he was the most gorgeous baby in the world. He had this massive black hair and his skin was all red, his eyes sparkling like diamonds, probably from crying. We knew we’ve got to spoil this kid.

Gorgeous baby
Eyes sparkling like diamonds
Our youngest brother


We’ve all had them. These were the times when life was full of roses and innocence, of experiments and fun, of being with families and friends. These were some of my recollections.

“You’re it!” I didn’t see her as she pointed to me, called my name and said, “You’re it!” I’ve got to look for them hiding around our street. It was getting dark so it was tough finding them. However, I knew Thor would be hiding at his usual place, my brother kissing our neighbour in one corner and I’d managed to locate Bethcha. Before long we had to go back to our houses and ate our dinner. Other days, we’d play patintero (try to cross my line without letting me touch or catch you), tumbang preso (hit the can), piko (hopscotch) or luksong-tinik (lit. jump over the thorns of a plant). Sometimes we’d rent some bikes and circled around our neighbourhood.

Easter Breaks. The only time of the year when all of us cousins stayed in our Granddad’s house. The number of times we walked back and forth the house and the chapel for singing the passion plays. The afternoons we spent splashing in that creek while Granddad washed the carabao, the still warm fresh milk that morning and the mangoes we’ve picked on the way to the farm. We all slept on the floor, some snoring, some talking, and telling each other’s stories, jokes and secrets.

Dad and Tito (uncle) Pabling. They were more than brothers. They’d spent hours and hours tinkering with Tito Pabling’s recently acquired old jeepney. Just like good mechanics, they’d come home with all those black smuts from the engine. Sometimes, they’d spent their afternoons unblocking the canal in our street. They were the best hosts, too – the New Year’s Day party was always a blast – all our relatives, friends, neighbours and everyone on Halcon Street would’ve confirmed that – we had to close the street for our party!

Dapitan. Our apartment in Dapitan was small – for our parents, 4 children, Granny, aunts and cousins. It was constantly full of people and activities. Our cousins from the province stayed with us once they started college. There were 2 bedrooms, one for our parents and one for all of us with 2 bunk beds; the rest slept on the floor. My classmates and I loved hanging out there; doing our homework and projects; lunch and merienda (snacks) were at all times provided. When I needed to concentrate at college, I’d wake up in the middle of the night to revise or just to have some peace and quiet.

Dapitan always in my heart

Grew up that’s always the start

Three apartments all in a row

Played hide and seek long time ago

With siblings, cousins, friends and foe

Sharing with them my highs and low

Shirts and shoes we always borrow

Days of innocense as we know

Made us who we are and smart

So sad that now we’re all apart*

*The Duo-rhyme

Halcon where I grew up

Place between two cities

Street always busy

Played with friends such a club

Stayed there till we’re grownup

We’re all pretty silly

Never forget Halcon

Close it on New Year’s Day

Reunion sway and gay

Had great parties till dawn

Memories to hold on

As now we’re all away

Memories of the past

Treasure them, gone so fast**

* *The HexSonnetta

When I was a kid

I’d climbed up and slid

All day fun with my siblings

Quick and mischievous

And ridiculous

Rough and tumble with all things

Simple things for us

No discuss no fuss

We also fought but made up

Partners in crime, too

What we have gone through

And we looked after our pup

Snippets of our lives

Sometimes we’ve got hives

Built memories to treasure

Laughter and crying

Failing and trying

Everyday for our pleasure***

***The Alouette, 

Here lies Nanay Sepa

Mother of my Mom and our Grandma

She was beautiful and her eyes so bright

She was deaf but had great sight

She cooked dinuguan with talong

And she was always strong

Remembering her today

Her little store where we used to play****

****An epitaph is a brief poem inscribed on a tombstone praising a deceased person, usually with rhyming lines.


The Captain and the Teacher. He was a Captain of the Ship from a Spanish lineage. Tall, dark and handsome, he always had a pipe on his mouth. She was a short, native Filipina, with big brown eyes, flat nose, and long wavy hair. She was one of the first teachers graduated under the Americans. They met, fell in love and got married. They had many children, my mother being the second to the youngest. They called each other “dear” until the end of their lives. He loved reading; he wrote the meanings of some words at the side of the books he read. She was a good business woman, bought some cloth materials in Quezon and sold them in Marinduque. He died of Parkinson’s disease; she followed after 6 months, perhaps from a broken heart… My grandparents’ story.

Look at this black and white photo
Golden anniversary of our grandparents
We were all there, some not even born
Most of them were not with us anymore
And so with this in mind, my homage

Tatay was my idol, a great reader
Died of Parkinson’s disease, still reading
He put the meanings of the difficult words
Wrote them in pencils at the side of books

Nanay, still beautiful in her old age
Long wavy hair, deaf as a post
Her cooking, shall we say, creative
Mixing things we normally don’t mixed

Tia Carol and Tio Fred, both in heaven
Both doctors, humble as pies
Good storytellers, took life leisurely
Spoke the dialect I cannot understand

Tio Alex, bless his soul, only brother
Worked in Customs, good looking
Tia Ludy, still with us, still elegant
Brought the kids on her own

My Mom, my darling mother
Pregnant with our youngest brother
My Dad, I still miss him, now gone
Memories in our hearts and souls

All siblings and cousins
Now all with own families
We used to play together
Our own family portrait


The photo made me remember my Dad’s mother, “Inang” which is a Tagalog word for mother (could also be a dialect from their province, Bulacan). My Dad’s father, “Amang” died during the Japanese occupation and left a young wife and two children, my father who was five and my Aunt, who was three. Inang managed that by sewing clothes for people, she first worked in a clothes factory and then did it privately. Inang worked days and nights so they could survived. I remembered Inang and her old sewing machine. She sewed our school uniforms. Bless her soul.

I simply love my family

They are my support group

Sharing pancit, lumpia and soup

In good times and bad times actually

Singing, dancing in rhapsody

Everything in one big loop

I simply love my family

They are my support group

Though apart trying to be together craftily

In times of need we’re there in a swoop

Always with a halloo and a big whoop

We cry, laugh and bond happily

I simply love my family*****


For the visually challenged writer, the image is the drawing of a girl’s face. The girl appears to be lying on her side. The image is from the Google Photo Frame.

When I was just a little girl

I was afraid to fly or swirl

I still do but trying to change

Learning new words, trailing new path

Lessons learned even calm my wrath

Say sorry even out my range

Cold and derange late on Sunday

To date or not to date I stray

Don’t wait up for I’m always late

Perhaps there’s other thing to do

And then you’re here out of the blue

Hurt me before, don’t touch the bait

And before eight made up my mind

That to unwind never debate

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