It’s now the height of the dry season, and I can’t shake the fact that very few kids are out in the streets playing with their friends. I know that we are still in a pandemic, but with Metro Manila placed under Alert Level 1 until today, I was expecting them to at least be out on the streets, a visible component of every community.
Here in Palanan, Makati where the Daily Tribune offices are located, I see children playing tag or riding their bicycles in the late afternoon until a little after sunset. But in my neighborhood in Pasay City, the kids have seemingly vanished. Blame it perhaps on the entry of foreign BPO workers who have taken over most of the apartment complexes and condominiums around us. They have eased out many families, since they are willing to pay more for rent.
When I was still a child, I was outside the moment after I had eaten breakfast. I would meet with my friends at the corner, and we would ponder what we would do for the day.
Often, an ordinary weekend would start with a walk around the neighborhood, calling everyone we could find outdoors. We would walk up and down the streets, talking about what had happened the day before. Summer months would mean the mango trees at the end of the street would be heavy with fruit. The branches would bow low to the ground, making it easier to pick a couple of fruits with a borrowed long bamboo pole. Or if we felt a bit more daring, we would just look for stones and try to hit them so that they would fall down to the ground.
The games we played would depend on how hot it was. We would play tag, cops and robbers (which we mispronounced as touching robbers), hopscotch, and a variety of jumping games, from luksong tinik to luksong baka. If the gates to the empty lots around the neighborhood were open, we would go in, wade through the tall grass and try to catch dragonflies or beetles.
Those were the more physical games. During the two months of summer vacation, someone would bring out his top and the gang would be playing with trumpo for the next two weeks. Later on, we would be playing teks, little cardboard cards that would be flipped in the air with a flick from one’s thumb and forefinger.
Later on, we would graduate to bicycles, roller skates and skateboards.
Mind you, I didn’t play all these games. I was never good with tops and teks, so often I would just watch the other boys play them. One time, I bought a huge pile of teks cards, and passed it on to my friend to play. By the end of the day, he gave me a pile of cards from the day’s winnings. Come to think of it, I don’t remember where all those cards went.
Until before the pandemic, the neighborhood’s little kids would be out in the streets in the late afternoon after coming home from school, playing these same games. That is, until computer games became popular.
With kids stuck at home for more than two years because of the pandemic, that was all they had to keep themselves amused. I can imagine all those kids have turned pale from not being under the sun. It’s a pity because those games really helped me find the friends that I kept ’til later in life. Not to mention all the free vitamin D you get from being exposed to the sun.