Udis the Great
(c) Dr. Udis Sanchez Manalansan-Lord, Ph.D.
I grew up in the backward barrio of San Pablo. There was no electricity, indoor plumbing or running water.
We used water pumps for our water. Oftentimes, we took a bath in the river where the ladies washed their laundry.
That river is where the carabaos were washed after plowing the ricefield.
We used to climb on trees and jump on the river. You could hear childrens’ laughter while chasing one another and splashing water at each other.
I never saw a fight in San Pablo. Children played together and shared whatever toys or food they had.
The elders did the same.
The elders spent a lot of time talking to the youth. They told us stories about what life used to be. They taught us how to pray.
We prayed a lot.
When it did not rain, we had a procession. The men carried lifesize statutes of Saints on their shoulders.
The women and children prayed the Holy Rosary and sang prayers. We lighted our way with kerosene lights.
Ours was a very respectful culture. If we met old people at night, we kissed their hands on our forehead, and they blessed us.
We did not call people older than us with their first name. We always addressed them with respect. We called them Granny, Aunt, Uncle, etc., as a form of respect.
We did not raise our voice or use profanity.
There was a chapel where we gathered to pray all the time. During the Lenten season, we sang the life of Christ, called the Passion, day and night in the chapel. We took turns singing and praying.
We did not have any money, but everybody was kind and respectful.
The roads in San Pablo were mud road in the monsoon season and thick dust in the summer.
Our form of transportation was riding a carabao or if we have ten centavos, which is worth about a penny, we rode the jeepney to Sta. Cruz, a nearby little town.
It was in Sta. Cruz where my mother and I used to sell banana leaves, santol, guavas, mangoes and charcoal.
My mother used to climb tall trees with her bare feet and hands. She carried a bolo. She cut the trees. Then she burned them underneath hay for about three days. She covered the burning hay with dust and mud.
After three days, she dug the burning charcoal. Then she burried it in dust for another three days.
After that, we took it to Sta. Cruz with the banana leaves, mangoes, bananas, santol and caimito (apple star).
After my mother and I sold our charcoal, banana leaves and fruits, we bought some rice, cabbage and shrimp.
When we got home, my mother cooked. We ate as if it was the greatest meal on earth.
We joked around as we ate.
I can hear my family’s laughter about five houses away. There was a lot of laughter and happiness in spite of our poverty.
I did not know what groceries were until I attended high school in Sta. Cruz, because in San Pablo, we went to a Sari-sari store to buy five centavos worth of soy sauce, ten centavos sugar, etc.
We were dirt poor.
I never had commercially made toys. I tied rags and pretended they were dolls. I used clay to shape people as my dolls.
We played a lot of games with hand made toys.
I remember, I wrote a letter to the then President John F. Kennedy to ask him for a doll because my father told me that Americans are kind.
However, before I was able to buy the stamp to send him the letter, he was shot. So I never had a doll.