Memories of past summers

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza (The Philippine Star) - May 3, 2021 - 12:00am

It’s May and summer is undeniably here. Though the temperature hovers between 31 and 36 degrees Celsius, the heat index can go as high as 40 degrees. If you stand outside for just a few minutes, you’re bound to get that “melting” feeling under the scorching heat.

Despite the heat, though, I always looked forward to the merry month of May when I was a much younger schoolgirl. May was the last month of the summer break, the latter half of a season of doing nothing. No waking up early, no assignments or homework, no quizzes and exams and no allowance (hahaha)! This meant sleeping late and waking up close to lunchtime and spending most of my waking hours playing whatever was “uso” back then with my girl cousins (we lived in a compound). It could be jackstones, Monopoly, Chinese garter, gin rummy, scrabble, sungka, pekwa or mahjong, while my brothers and male cousins would be climbing trees, playing holen or teks cards, biking or playing basketball.

Because we had so much free time, we had to be very creative to while away the time. Back then, we didn’t have cellphones, iPads and laptops to distract us from talking to each other and playing together. When I was nine or 10 years old, my girl cousins and I even enrolled in Hawaiian dance classes. I think it was just an excuse for us to wear the grass skirt and bikini top. (That year, we danced to Pearly Shells at the family Christmas reunion.)

While playing these games, and if we had some money to spare, we would break for merienda and have halo-halo bought from the neighborhood sari-sari store at 50 centavos a glass. The “street” halo-halo was nothing fancy, with sago, langka, ube, gulaman, saba and leche flan (I don’t like beans in mine), but we all enjoyed it. Paired with a bag of potato chips or cheese curls, it was a delightful summer treat. Since there were no ice crusher machines back then, the store owner would have to shave a block of ice with an ice shaver to produce the crushed ice.

When the halo-halo wasn’t enough to cool us down, we would go to the home of my cousin Nina (now Nina Daza-Puyat) at the UP Diliman campus to swim. While there, we would also buy ensaymada with lots of sugar sprinkled on top, or Spanish bread from the bakery down the street. After swimming, we would spend the night at Nina’s house and just chat the night away.

The highlight of summer for me was always an out-of-town trip either to a beach or to Baguio. Back then, traveling to other countries was prohibitively expensive and travel destinations were limited. And so, we had to make do with domestic travel, which just meant a car ride. Domestic air travel was also expensive back then. My favorite beach destination was Matabungkay in Batangas, at a time when sunblock and sunscreens were unheard of. To get tanned, I remember how my cousins and I would rub a concoction of baby oil and Merthiolate or beer on our skin. What crazy kiddie things we did back then!

When I look at my kids now and see how they are languishing indoors all day because of the pandemic, I’m heartbroken that they have already lost two summers. Summers where they’ve been denied the physical company of their cousins and friends, and robbed of opportunities to build happy memories. I am hoping and praying that next summer my kids, and everyone else for that matter, will be enjoying the great outdoors once again.

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