THE ROAD TO Barangay Kiagot Hills is not easy – it is exhausting, painstaking and a one of a kind uphill ride. The roads are not yet cemented, you’re walking – teetering – literally on the edge of a cliff and it’s hard to even get by aboard the motorcycle. A number of people have been killed by accidents, others, especially women, were molested and raped due to the fact that the place is dangerous at the onslaught of night – no lights along the way, and the place is shadowed by haunting trees and grasses. The place has only a few stores that provide only the barest basic necessities. If you don’t know the place well enough, you might get lost.
I lived in the outskirts of the same barangay – at the bottom of the hills, where I was caught between the rural barangay life and the hurly-burly urban life of the city. My house is the perfect place to witness groups of adventurous, high-spirited people hiking towards the famousMt.Apo. People “from the hills” would pass by, laden with fruits and vegetables: corn, mango, siniguelas, guava, and atis to sell in the city market. Every Sunday, people from the city would go to the cockpit arena located a few kilometers away from our house to gamble. During Lent season young people of different religious groups would ascend the hills to pray. When I was a child, my mother would drag me off with her to join the famous reenactment of the Stations of the Cross, for the road to Barangay Kiagot was once excruciating enough to feel the harrowing experience that Jesus once felt years and years ago. It was my personal holy ground.
When I was a teenager, I was willing to undertake new and daring experiences of climbing there. My mother wouldn’t give me permission of course, so I and my childhood friends would decide to secretly go there without our parents knowing. We had fun climbing siniguelas trees and chasing goats, although at the back of my mind, I was worried about my mother’s reaction if she found out that I had been there. Indeed, when I went home, she scolded me and spanked me with a broom for the first time.
At that time, I never understood why my mother would always seem very protective of me, making me stay at home most of the time and telling me off that I was not supposed to play with “the others” (my childhood friends). I felt a series of puzzling feelings I had never experienced before – one moment I’d feel lonesome and pretty dull, the next I would feel ecstatic and vibrant even if such emotions don’t really seem to fit with the mood of the day. Without me knowing, I was feeling the onset of adolescent stage.
Like the road to Barangay Kiagot hills, the road to adolescence can be dustier and tortuous than most. If you get lost in the curlicues, you might never find your way out. Then perhaps, maybe you’d have to find a new way out on your own. There are occasional ups and downs, and countless detours to choose from if you want to tread on less rockier roads. Whether that or anything else in between, adolescence is full of uncertainties and surprises. It’s as if you are opening a thick drapery of curtains apart for the first time – the landscape is wide open space, breathtaking and unexpected. It makes you squint.
You become an instant wanderer.
You struggle to make an environment that cultivates your own sense of belonging, for it would be tortuous if you didn’t belong to any single group. You may fall victim to certain bouts of mood swings – you became angry at the fierce sun for leaving the earth parched or at the dark sky for unloading rain on your head all of a sudden. You are passionate and emotional; you are like those wild green grasses growing all over the place. You feel adults want to trim you – prune you into something you don’t like. You feel they are insensitive, inhospitable, unemotional and tactless old-timers when they reprimand your sentiments. And indeed, it was a question that puzzled me before – how an adult’s mind works.
You go about stomping and stamping in life’s fissures and get scars. You witness death in so many ways and these in turn make you possessive of your loved ones. You could have promised your childhood sweetheart that you’d marry someday. Every sweet thing can turn bitter in an instant, or the other way around. When in some sort of a dilemma, you are like grass that trembles in the wind, and you feel like time is stretched like an elastic band. And when the elastic band snaps, it creates a sudden exhilarating and shattering series of impacts you have to face on your own.
This is adolescence for me .I’m sure others like me could say the same.
I CAME ACROSS an aphorism that struck me one day, as I was in the library trying to make sense of my free time. It says
When we were young, we wanted to change the world.
When were old, we wanted to change the young.
It made me laugh because I know that there is some kind of truth to it. True enough, most typical teenagers (and in most cases young children) are idealistic and at some point somewhat rational. They immediately notice bad things as they are, not like any other adult who would make an effort to have an excuse for its “badness”. On the other hand, because of the global trend of modernization, teenagers seem to be growing up too fast, as what adults would usually say nowadays. There is definitely a disjunction of ideals between and among the transition of life’s stages. But there is one thing that is true for both of them: they are part of the single life that you are living.
When you are young, you don’t understand how older people think. You will only understand them when you become old yourself. I’m not yet old enough to testify to this, but I know I will be getting to the same idea in the future. Right now, I’m already starting on the path towards it.
OUR BARANGAY, AS viewed by the city people, is harsh and unyielding.But in truth, anyone would feel that immense feeling of serenity that religious people bask in when they go there – a feeling of triumph and satisfaction from the hitchhikers as they pass by on its rocky roads. Now, the roads are not as harsh as before, because lots of people seem to flock to these hills to live a good serene life.
That particular road has become my own road to life. It was once rocky, unsteady and tiring for the soles of my feet, like the beginning to any other adolescent life. But now it has been smoothened by the passersby going about, whether on foot, or by motorcycle. Things change over time. As I tread and go up the hills once again, a pleasurable feeling of achievement washes over me. It brings back memories of those hardships I have undergone. It reminds me of the times when my friends and I went there without our parents knowing, to the topmost of one of its hills. We had scars on our knees from slipping and sliding up the road. All the exhausting and wearying experiences of climbing that hill was paid off with a magnificent view of the city – I could see the city tower, the school and the church bell tower. The lush greenness of the outskirts, and the blue-green life-engulfing sea on the other side met me. It was a breath of fresh air.
I picked up a small rock, and I let it fall down the cliff from where I stood. The sounds echoed through the crisp cold air sweeping across my neck.
This is home.