Burning Answers Pt. 2

Fondest memory of living in the Philippines?

I remember random bits and pieces of the Philippines at times, but the most memorable thing I can think of is probably my daily routine while attending my school as a Pre-1st student (Pre-1st is a grade that exists between kindergarten and 1st grade. As far as I know, it’s exclusive to the Philippines).

Every day I would wake up, clutching my favorite pillow as the AC droned softly to cool the room and prevent the scorching Philippines heat from entering the house. My atteh, or housemaid, would drag me to the bathroom and run her hand through the water she collected to make sure the contents would neither scald my skin nor give me a mild case of hypothermia. Humming a soft tune, she would apply a dollop of shampoo onto my hair and massage my scalp before rinsing it off with a bowl of water. Meanwhile, I would grab the soap and rub my entire body until every inch of skin was covered in bubbles. As a kid, I may have hated baths, but I loathed the heat even more. The only way to stay somewhat cool outside was to wipe away any grime you had on your body before stepping outside. If that meant coming to terms with longer baths, so be it.

After my daily cleansing, I would rush into my school uniform and try to head out before my mom found out that I wasn’t wearing my least favorite article of clothing: socks. Socks seriously sucked. Try wearing long socks in 105+ degree weather and tell me if you enjoy them. Of course, my mom would catch me before I could head out and force the devil’s tubes onto my feet. Disappointed, I would trudge into the back seat of our car and await another day of school.

Mornings, before class started, were always fun. My best friend Arthur and I would go to the toy corner and create tracks with pipes for our fluorescent colored marbles. Our mini roller coasters had thrilling loops and twists that almost always led to our marbles bouncing off the pipes and spiraling into a fiery death. We’d both laugh like villains and reload the marbles at the top for another go at the coaster with a higher failure rate than AP Physics. Eventually, our laughter ceased when our teacher shushed us and urged us to take out our journals. The class was mundane, but learning was always something I enjoyed. At least we were inside and out of the sun’s rays.

After grueling several hours spent on the oh-so-difficult Pre-1st curriculum, I would head outside to meet my favorite person: the ice cream man. In the blazing afternoon sun, nothing is more refreshing than a cool popsicle. I’d order a green apple Jelly Tongue ice cream bar, my personal favorite, and lick the ice off the edges until the inner jelly thawed out and became a floppy figure that closely resembled a green tongue. Delighted with the flexible ice cream, I would shake the treat and nibble at the jelly to delay my imminent heat stroke. For a moment, the heat wasn’t such a nightmare, for it made my jelly ice cream that much more enjoyable.

For my ride back home, my dad would bring his motorcycle and let me sit in front of him. Cradling me in his arms, he would rev the bike and speed down the gravel road, allowing my face to bake in the warm airs that whipped around us. Sometimes, my dad would even let go of the handlebars and let me steer for a second or two. It was beyond cool. For those short moments, I was in charge of the speedy vehicle. I imagined myself as a professional biker zooming through the streets. As we approached home the sun would begin to set. Temperatures cooled and I would quietly say goodbye to the heat until the very next day. I requested that it not be as brutal in the upcoming days. It rarely listened.

This was my routine. Even though back then I dreaded the Philippine sun and the heat associated with it, there are days where I’d give anything to relive those moments under the sweltering sun.

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