By Eloise Caliao
IN front of our sitio’s chapel — Sr. San Vicente Ferrer — six houses from ours, is a lot where my childhood friends and I frequently met to play, talk, or just chill outside nearby stores. But it’s not every day that I joined them since my parents didn’t allow me to leave the house on school days, unlike all my other friends who could stay out anytime they wanted. I had to wait for five days of doing household chores and homework before the weekend finally came.
On Friday nights, the first thing I’d usually do was call out my best friend, Marie, who lives in the house just across ours. Sometimes, I’d just open their wooden door, the corroded spring that fastened it to the fence making a squeaking thud each time it closes. I’d wait for her in the living area, lying on their white couch full of cat scratch marks. Then we’d walk together to the chapel. Since my girl friends would bunch up earlier than the boys, we’d start playing girly games such as Chinese garter, jump rope, and sem-sem.
Then the boys would show up. “Okay, next game,” they’d tell us when they see us play games that question their masculinity, especially Chinese garter. Yet the games got more challenging having the boys around, as the fun meter rises. We’d play patintero, a game where one team tries to run along perpendicular “water” lines without getting tagged by the “defense” team. We also played the “Japanese” game, where we ran around the neighborhood “catching” members of the opposing team. I remember the banging sound when one player would run into the chapel’s metal doors and locks in the heat of the chase. The games made everyone run fast — as footsteps got heavier, slipper straps snapped one after the other. After all the frenzy, we would then play a game that required silence: hide and seek. We went on stealth mode, turned on our night vision, and resorted to guerilla tactics such as swapping personal stuff — shirts for boys, accessories for girls — to confound the “it.” Each time a game gets wearisome, we just start another one, as there were plenty of choices: jump rope, takyan and tumbang preso, among many others. When we got tired, we’d sit at Lola Enciang’s store or borrow the bench of Manang Salva, or when the two ladies are already asleep, just sit on our slippers on the dusty ground. Then we’d talk about the games we played, how much fun we had, our plans for the next weekend, teleseryes, and everything else. On Saturdays — my Sundays are spent preparing for the next school week, after attending mass with the family — we’d gather at the same place, same time, and do the same things over again. I value those moments of sharing our lives with each other.
But people — just as everything else does — change. I got into a fight that wasn’t the mere forgive-and-forget type with Marie and some of the girls that changed our friendship. Their making new friends from a neighboring barangay added to the tension, and I felt a sort of rejection directed at me. It hurt most with Marie since we’ve had each other forever, and I never expected anything like that from her (we didn’t smile when our paths crossed). The sadness inside me became as loud as the footsteps we used to make when we played outside. We were now playing something different, and I hated it the most, the only game I regret losing.
In time, we said sorry to each other and became friends again, but it’s never the same and will never be. Friendship’s a game and friends are not always the best players. Chinese garters, jump ropes, and slippers are not the only things that break.