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.


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