When I was ten years old, after having moved to Eastern Rizal, my brother, myself and our neighbor went around exploring the neighborhood.
Brookside Hills then was a neigbborhood of 14 enclaves of bungalows and split-levels connected together through snakelines of semi-asphalted roads. The enclaves were surrounded by rice fields. Linked to the rest of Metro Manila by Ortigas Avenue (still an avenue then because it was lined by trees and not just concrete posts now), we felt like we were in the probinsiya because of the mixed smells of rice fields, carabao dung, and dew in the morning.
Each one of us on bikes, we pedalled to an old abandoned, empty water tank up the hill. A flat cylinder four storeys tall and about a hundred feet in diameter, it looked like a huge red (because of the rusty iron wall) pill visible from Ortigas Avenue I would notice getting bigger during the (then) half hour jeepney commute from Lourdes School Mandaluyong where me and my brother studied to our bungalow at Berkshire Street in Brookside.
Getting inside the empty Red Pill, I was immediately drawn to throw a pebble at the rusty iron wall.
Gee, that was loud.
Looking back, I realize it was second nature on my part to fill an empty space with something. Even if it was just sound.
Growing up, there were things I wanted to say. I still remember wanting to speak to my Ninong in the US via long distance over the phone Christmas Day while the rest of us were in the house my mother and her sisters built in Sampaloc.
I just wanted to say "Mano po, Ninong" over the phone and "say Merry Christmas" to somehow bridge the gap of not seeing him for more than a decade after he and his family migrated to California. My dad would have followed suit with us in tow if it weren’t for my Lola who requested that he does not separate my mother from her. Our lives would have been different.
"E wala namang kwenta ang sasabihin niyan!" came a dismissive pre-emptive judgment from the one holding the phone.
Used to not showing my raw emotions, I might have just turned around and decided to forget it.
I had nothing to say. Maybe I just silenced it all.
In the years that followed, I discovered the Sony Walkman and how it filled up my head with sounds. To fill in the silence, I enjoyed every chance to fill up my head with music, audio books, the radio, and how I could physically feel the sound move from the left to the right, to the front and the back of my skull.
I had nothing to say, so I filled up my head with noise.
I enjoyed loud music, as loud as possible.
I was consuming words as well. Read each book in our book collection from end to end. Topics ranged from health, fiction, poetry, Great Books, science, geography, astronomy. We had encyclopedias. I knew which volume contained all about snakes, whales, manatees, dolphins. Where cetaceans were, where crustaceans were.
I had nothing to say. So I wanted to hear what others said instead.
Flash forward to me at 52. I find I now have something to say. However, the moments which allow me to hear my own thoughts are few and far in-between.
During Wednesday night when I attended a media welcome for millennial bloggers from Southeast Asia, I found myself feeling repulsive to the loud music by the (also) millennial band. Oblivious to the noise, the millennial bloggers spent a good half hour taking selfies, groupfies, the boodle fight table, the obligatory hold-the-sponsorproduct or pose-with-the-sponsorlogo, all the while seemingly having a good time while making sure their permed dos, matte makeup and hipster outfits are not ruinned, while they make reprises of their best pouts and duckfaces.
What can I say? They mastered the millennial formula to be famous with the thumb generation.
Yet I was reminded of how I was like at their age. Filling oneself with as much experience and stimuli as possible to have something to say. I waited decades to finally have the kapalmukha to have something to say and to believe that someone would find value in what I say.
But I must admit I admire how they are able to quickly distill days or hours of experience into a few phrases, few sentences, few photographs what would otherwise take me volumes to fully and painstakingly elucidate.
Or maybe what really matters is how big one’s reservoir of experience is.
The Red Pill / Empty Water Tank reverberated a pebble throw and transformed it into a resounding gong.
What mattered was that the tank wasn’t empty, it was huge. And it was filled with the best sound conductor–still air.
I no longer feel I need to put on headphones to fill my head with ideas. I now put on headphones to shut the world out, while listening to music that makes my soul move from left to right, from front to back.
Only then can I hear my thoughts.
Hopefully, you would like to listen to my thoughts, too.
#childhood #musings #anecdotes