Looking for Groundhogs

We looked for groundhogs in Metro Manila.

There were four of us – four friends of around 10 to 13, our townhouses just a block or two away from one another.

I think it was Joseph who first called out that he saw a hole that seemed wide, deep and mysterious enough to capture pre-teen imaginations. To this day, I don’t know why it was the first thing he thought of saying, but it was: “There’s a groundhog.” I don’t know either, to this day, why the rest of us said, ‘yes.'” It could’ve been a baby basilisk’s hole, for all we knew. So we spent the rest of the day making up stories of how a groundhog could have probably made it into our little village.

When we weren’t imagining groundhogs, we were hitting each other with water balloons. The fights were classic, and for added epic-ness, we usually did it at night

Or we would play basketball in our weird T-shaped court. It had an interesting homecourt advantage. Shoot the ball too high or too far to the left, and it goes straight to the creek  that separated our townhomes from the next village.

On other days, we would go to one another’s houses, playing different computer games, or watching one another play. We’d break for lunch, but resume right after.

Most afternoons, though, would have us playing mega-patintero, or ultra-cops and robbers. They were mega and ultra games because we’d get more kids to join in the fun. The more numbers we had, the more fun and competitive it got. e d

I honestly don’t know where my friends had gone, really. Joseph had long since moved out. The rest of us still live here. But we had drifted apart when we grew up.

 

Yet, the memories of playing together, remain.

 

A lot has been said about the kids today not having the same games and fun that we had before. About the games before being able to exercise the body more. About the games before including a lot of other people. About games before that didn’t require radiation to stare you in the face for many hours. About how even though there were gaming consoles then, we still had to visit one another and trade games.

 

Yeah, a lot’s been said about that. So let me add a new dimension to it instead. What I think about is what memories the kids today will have. What social memory will they carry with them?

 

Playing together might be one of the social phenomena we have overlooked as we progressed. True, we are supposedly more interconnected through games on Facebook (and now, Google+). Yet, playing together physically allows us all to grow socially. I just do not see Online games, Warcraft, PS3 games, and PSP games creating memory and social learnings for me.

 

Playing together teaches us how to compete with one another without killing each other, how to tease, how to fight with one another, how to be friends again, how to hope together that the ball hasn’t been eaten by something mutated down there in the creek, and even how to look for groundhogs.

Maybe I’m just waxing nostalgic, and I’m sure the kids today will figure something out. But hey, at least I’m sure I have something to be nostalgic about.

Gallery

Airing a Concern

 

It’s nice to find more people running these days.

 

Sure, it might be a fad for all we know, and it might slip into the realm of forgotten sports-fads to share a space with badminton and golf. Yet, while it’s here, it is most welcome.

 

It’s inspiring. You get to help a lot of people (assuming the Fun Runs really do raise substantial amounts of money for their charities). It’s cost-efficient – you don’t need to rent a court, no balls, no rackets, no special shoes, and you don’t need to find 3 or 9 other people to have fun. Running on a treadmill doesn’t give you the joy of being outdoors, and of saving what you spent on gym fees.

And it’s healthy.

 

Or at least we think it’s healthy.

It probably is, if you run in some parts of the city, where there are more trees than cars. Yet more often than not, the runner not only runs against his own time, capabilities and mind, but also against the harshness of the air s/he breathes.

I ran in the Mizuno Infinity Run, and it involved an arduous crossing and conquering of the Buendia-Fort Flyover. Even at 6AM, with as little cars as possible, you get to inhale the difference between the Buendia and Fort Bonifacio skies. It might be an exaggeration to say that you could almost see the smog trying to choke your windpipe as you enter Buendia, as well as how the smog finally surrendered as you left it on the Flyover. But my lungs sure felt the difference.

 
Okay, so you can probably say that I was tired, and that’s why I felt the toughness in breathing. However, one can see the difficulty that runners’ lungs face in the very areas we think are “running grounds.” The Ayala Triangle has this one area booby-trapped with buses. The behemoths just spew their foul air onto pedestrians and runners alike. Runners in the Greenhills-Ortigas Area face the same problem. Then there was the Intramuros Run which made me think twice about joining because of the pollution. The Quezon Circle Fun Runs, too. Even the Bonifacio Global Center is not as safe as it once was. More high-rise buildings are going up, and along with them the number of cars going in and out of the area.

 

If there is anything that this running craze will teach us, hopefully, it’s that we need to take better care of our city’s air. Or at the very least, call our attention to the fact that this level of toxicity we force into our nostrils is not acceptable.

We need it not just as runners. We need it as human beings.

 

 

FIELD OF DREAMS

The Azkals have opened up avenues of dreams many thought had been closed for Filipinos.

I took up football in Grade School, but I never saw it as something I could play at a varsity level, or even something I’d be playing for fun in college or beyond. My football career ended when I was eight. Whenever we saw our peers in the Football varsity, we often thought of their futures, and how they were not as lucrative as those in the Basketball varsity. After all, in a country that worships the basketball gods no matter how hopelessly high-placed their altars are, what place do dreams of victories on fields have?

Yet today, as the Rizal Memorial Field’s beautiful reconstruction, the fans drenched to their underwear, and the international presence have proven, many dreams have come true, and are about to come true.

Today, more than at any point in our history, a kid can pick up a football and not be looked down on by the guys who, for some reason, feel more macho about playing basketball. Today, more than ever, kids who dare who take to the field more than to the court because they understand that on the field height does not matter, will find hope and solace that a country will be standing behind them. Today, more than ever, the Philippines has found other ways to express its pride, more than competing in a game clearly not designed for its people.

Today, we saw it all coming together on centerfield: the players’ great skill, marketing, financing, and very marketable players (come on. Don’t tell me their being handsome had nothing to do with it), and a crowd that is embracing a sport the whole world has long been madly in love with.

We have a long, long way to go from our side to the goal on the other end, but hey – now that goal is in our field of dreams.