once.in.a.while


A lady co-worker once admonished me: “Sometimes it is better not to look back, especially if you were very fond of that place, thing or person.”

She said this to me when I intimated to her of my big disappointment when I came home for a visit of my native town some years back.

In the memory of my youth, there was a small river at the back of our house that ran from the San Vicente River on the western end of the village flowing down to the banks of Manila Bay.

At that time, it was an active, busy waterway where little boats or bancas, loaded with youngsters who would then swim or wade ashore to catch some big crabs or alimangos.

Also, in that crystalline, unpolluted water, I could see myself catching my breath while trying to learn how to swim.

It was lots of fun.

In the backyard, I remember there was a big mangrove tree or bakawan which had an L-shaped branch which was good enough for me to sit on comfortably while curiously gazing at the many birds — the mayas, sarats, pipits and the occasional lawins.

That was then.

Until suddenly, one day, I came home and found it was a different place.

The bakawan tree was gone, the once free-flowing water that was the source of some sustenance of the neighborhood’s livelihood had dried up, and the river bed was nothing but just darkened patches of clays.

Part of that now distant memories had now been taken over by the so-called new land developments cloaked under the disguise of so-called progress.

In my heart of hearts, I would love to go back to that moment of time when life was simpler, and images were exquisitely beautiful — the sun rising at dawn, the farmers trekking the familiar mountain trails, and seeing the townspeople standing still in solemn silence at the sounds of the Church’s bells at Angelus.

I also remember something else which was something out of the pages of my college life.

I had a classmate named Joe and in the campus we were the best of friends.

One lazy late afternoon of summer, we decided to take a stroll at the famed Luneta Park, now renamed Rizal Park.

It was the place to relax, unwind from a hard day’s work or just hang around for a quiet communion with nature.

While walking along, we noticed there were two coeds pacing back and forth, back and forth, their heads bowed, as if they were praying.

Joe and I came closer to them simply just out of curiosity.

Then it came clear to us that they were not praying but were looking for a lost item.

So we joined them walking back and forth, back and forth, hoping that we may stumble into that something, maybe a piece of jewelry or what.

“Excuse me, Miss, I don’t mean to interrupt you, but what are you looking for,” I asked.

She stopped momentarily, smiled at me and said, “We were looking for a pen. I think I dropped it here. It’s a Parker pen given to me by my Dad on my birthday.”

“Oh, I see. We must continue searching then,” so we intensified our search.

After about a half-hour or so we gave up the search.

She thanked us and as we began to part ways, I motioned them to stop and asked, “Would you mind if we invite you for a snack. We are very thirsty after all that investigative work that we did.”

They laughed, looked at each other and nodded, “OK where are we going?”

I pointed the nearby concession stand and we walked ever so slowly.

Her name was Margie, she told me, a second year UST pre-med student.

I could see that she and her friend were both clutching a big medical handbook.

As she spoke I could see her hair tossed playfully by the wind, her white-complexioned skin glistening under the beaming lights of the lamp posts.

I don’t remember now what else we talked about.

All I remember was I felt enamored by her kindly spirit, her youthful enthusiasm, her honest to goodness friendliness.

The sun was then setting down and sliding slowly into the ocean.

It was getting dark but my young heart seemed restless at the thought of them saying goodbye and time to ride back home.

I think I was feeling in love at first sight.

I managed to say a few sentences.

“Can we meet again here maybe next Friday?”

“Why?” they both asked.

“Well, who knows, we might find your Parker pen, so we can give it back to you?”

Margie laughed gleefully, “Oh, OK if you find it, the treat will be on us.”

Since then, many Fridays came and went — but there was no Margie and her friend.

All that was left was a memory of an innocent time of my childhood.

“Everything is changing,” continued my lady co-worker.

“You will only be disappointed if you try to go back — and finding that some things dear to your heart are not the same as before.”

In my life, I have seen many changes, not because of my own choices, but surely because of fate.

Walking into my past — was like immersing in self-discovery and re-discovering a world of untold stories of my life.

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