Thursday, April 15, 2010


SUMMER SWIM. High school seniors take a break from their studies at Holy Angel Academy to take a dip at the new Paradise Swimming Pool in Angeles, a cool way to start the summer vacation. Dated 1940.

School’s out and summer vacation’s in!
Suddenly, malls and shopping centers are full to the rafters with packs of young people—mostly students finally free from their classes and lectures. In the malls’ coffee bars, computer game shops and movie houses, they hang out, celebrating the first few weeks of their well-deserved break from the rigors of student life.

For us, students of the 60s and 70s, there were no malls, no Starbuck’s, no Boracay to relax and chill in. Summer vacations simply meant longer sleeping hours, more cartoon shows to watch and more time to play with our next-door neighbors. But, then as now, the coming of summer was always met with feelings of great expectation and exhilaration by book-weary kids, a chance to recharge, see new places, or simply laze around.

As elementary school kids, I remember our summers as days of endless play. Morning began late, way past 9—except when our barber gave us home service haircuts every after two weeks. That meant waking up at 8 to be first on the bench—we were 6 brothers in all, so it was important that I get to be trimmed first.

After breakfast, it was off to TV watching, starting with the Far East Network staples that emanated from Clark Field like “My Favorite Martian”, “McHale’s Navy”, “Gilligan’s Island” and “My Mother, the Car”. I favored the Harveytoons over the Merrie Melodies only because I liked Casper better than Mighty Mouse. Uncle Bob’s Lucky 7 Club, of which I was an official member, also aired mid-morning.

We were required to take our siesta after our 11 o’clock lunch, which I really disliked, but as soon as we were awake, we had our non-stop afternoon games which we played in our spacious backyard. Our favorite summer games were piko, tambubung, siyatung and jumping rope. When we wanted a change of atmosphere, we would hie off to the old house next door—the Morales house—which had a garden full of santan, the nectar of which we sipped. On the expansive cemented grounds, we flew our paper kites—karang-karang, rode our bikes and played salikutan (hide and seek).

The town river, Sapang Balen, was just behind our house and when our parents were not watching, we would go down and either hunt for butete (tadpoles) or catch tulang karayum (dragonflies with needle-like tails). Our gallivanting would end up at 6 pm. and after dinner, it was back to TV watching that strated with “Lollipop Party” and end with “Wild, Wild West”.

Our daily routine was almost always like that—and on days when we got bored, our parents would take us in our big Oldsmobile to Balibago, to the Del Rosario Compound Swimming pool where we got free passes to swim in any of the 3 pools there. Going there was always one big production number as we had to prepare our “salbabidas” a day before, made from tire interiors.

Sometimes, we also had sleep-overs with our cousins in Balibago, and I remember spending a few summer weekends with my Castro cousins. Late evenings, we would play pick-up sticks under our bed sheets till we wore ourselves out. The next day, we would be treated to ice cream scoops at nearby Spic ‘n Span.

When we had a spare peso or two, our parents would take us even further—to Angeles, which seemed like light years away from Mabalacat. There, we would either watch movies at Family or Rizal Theater or explore the side streets of Culiat—as my mother would call the city then, often picking a comic book at Josie’s Variety Store.

Compared to elementary, our summer vacations during high school seemed so much shorter. We pretty much stuck to the same old schedule, although our parents now added an exciting trip either to Baguio—where we had relatives—or to Manila where we ended being forced to socialize with our more cosmopolitan cousins.

My worse high school summer was having no summer at all. Having failed my 2nd year algebra, I had to take remedial classes for a full month, which further reduced the number of my summer lovin’ days. I passed anyway, but I’ve never felt so miserable in all my life.

Summertime was also party time! I remember organizing reunion parties, even if my elementary school classmates and I had only been apart for months. We usually held it in somebody else’s garage, complete with cheese pimiento, pineapple punch and 45 rpm music. We felt so hip, so cool and so adult!

In college, in my desire to finish my Communication course after wasting some semesters taking up Chemistry, I used up all my summers to take extra subjects. There really was no summer break to speak of and I ended up an Octoberian graduate.

In the corporate world, summer vacations do not exist. Work is a whole stretch of days, weeks, months, years and decades. It is a cycle that knows no long pauses nor extended breaks, discounting official holidays. Yes, we do have leaves, R&R’s, company trips—but nothing compares to the good old summer vacations: approximately 60 restful, lazy, empty days away from school and authority, where you can choose to do nothing and not feel guilty, and where the cares of growing-up seem a world away.

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