Our playgrounds before were far more different than the usual landscapes I see today. They were free, permissive, and less supervised. They had more adventures that let children explore, take risks, and become smart, brave, creative, interactive, and independent.
Since the advent of digital era, the world has never been the same. High technology revolutionized the way we live in the aspects of communication, social interaction, productivity, and business. The advancements were unprecedented and beyond imagination. Nowadays, many of us rely on our digital tools and applications available through our smartphones and computers to manage our busy schedules or even organize our life.They make almost everything in this world more sophisticated, easier, faster, larger…and in many instances, less personal.
There is one part of my childhood that I am particularly concerned about, because I think it is slowly fading away in the midst of rapid technological development. Outdoor play, which is a characteristic of early and late childhood, is becoming lost to virtual games that are easily accessible on the computers, smartphones, and tablets.
I could not help feeling nostalgic when trying to reminisce my childhood play. In a small, rustic barangay in the province of Tarlac, I grew up with my brother, classmates, and other children of my age in the neighborhood as playmates. The road in front of our house, the backyards, and fields after the rice harvest served as our playgrounds as we competitively try to outperform each other in our games that mostly involve motor movements, predominantly running.
In tagu-taguan (hide and seek), three or more children start the game with the selection of an it or taya in the local language (someone who will catch other players), by doing kompiyang (all participants lay one of their hands together and turn the palm up or down, after the chorus of “Maiba taya!” (the person who has a different hand position takes the it role). The it faces a tree (the base), with closed eyes, while chanting a couple of lines, which I no longer remember. The other players would run away to hide, and at least one of them must shout “It!” to signal that they are all ready. The it would start searching for the players and when the first one was seen, he/she needs to shout “Boom!,” and rush to the base. The former had to outrun the it to the base and shout “Save!,” but failing to do so would make him/her at stake of being the next it, unless the last person could do the save. We used to best enjoy this game under a moonlight.
Moro-moro was usually done on the road or any other area that has wide space for running. It is a game between two teams, who would base themselves at two opposite sides. We usually removed our rubber slippers and piled them together. As long as we were stepping on them, we were immune from being tagged by the opponents. The game starts when one member of a team leaves his/her base, another from the opponent’s side will run after him/her, and try to tag. If one succeeds in tagging the other, the latter will become a prisoner and is required to stand with one hand outstretched at the opponent’s base. The prisoner has to wait until his allies tag him, then he/she can run back to the base. In principle, you can only tag an opponent if he/she left the base before you did. The team who captured the most number of prisoners at the end of a given time is the winner.
Calling, calling is another game played by two teams. Each team on opposite bases will have to assign numbers to the members, which the latter will not disclose. There is one person in-charge of calling the numbers, positioned at the middle, equally distancing from both the bases of each team. The caller holds a handkerchief or a small stem of leaves cut from a tree. When everyone had been assigned their own numbers, the caller will start by saying aloud, “Calling, calling number … (followed by a random number).” Those who are called will run to the caller and both should try to snatch the handkerchief without getting tagged by the opponent bearing the same number, and return to the base. If one was tagged while holding the handkerchief, the other team gets a score. The caller can make the task more exciting by calling all other members at once.
I also remember the afternoons when we go to the fields for quail hunting. We brought a staff with us and we brushed the bushy grasses to get the quails come out. These birds do not fly that far and high. We would then chase the quails and do circular motions around the spot where it exactly landed, so it gets trapped there. We would then start searching for it.
After rainy days, we would also venture out in the fields with a pole that had a net on one end, to catch grasshoppers, the edible ones which are brown. These insects are ubiquitous in the grassland. Both the quail and grasshopper made a good fry. We laid them on a leaf ripped from a banana tree and feasted on them in a boodle fight. We were happy on this simple meal, stapled with warm rice, and dipped on a native vinegar with onion and garlic.
When I visit my hometown, I rarely see children play the traditional games we once had fun with. Most parents prevent their children from getting dirty outside. The children stay within the comforts of their homes in front of a glowing screen, with only their eyes and fingers in motion. The vast fields filled with rural tranquility and backyards where we ran barefooted have shrunk to small spaces as a result of civilization.
Where are my playmates now? I have lost contact with most of them when I started high school, when academic engagements have taken much of my time. I have not seen them for quite a long time, but not unheard of for my mother had still stories about them when I visit home. Some of them moved to different places in search of a better life. Many of them did not complete their races all the way to the finish line and have detoured to shortcuts, which they thought would let them escape the ordeals of life. They succumbed to poverty, young marriage, vices, and gambling.
Perhaps, that is just how the pattern of growth works. You need to take a step forward, move on, and everything behind will vanish to nothing but memories. Being a child is the best time of my life that I want to relive if I will be given a chance to travel in the past. I will be oblivious to the future again and the only thing that matters is the here and now…and play.
What was your typical playground when you were a child? Please share your stories in the comments section below or tweet it to @jaysonsnts.