Malilong: How I spent my summer vacation

The Other Side

DO THEY still teach English composition in the elementary grades and high school? They did during our time.

I remember the formal theme notebook all of us were required to bring on the first day of school. The pages were called leaves and the number of leaves grew as we progressed to the next school level. Our teacher chose the topic to write about in our notebook, not less than 300 words, single space.

It was a struggle especially during the first week when the topic was always, every year, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” not only because my mind was still trying to readjust to the confining environment of the classroom but more importantly because like everybody else in the class I never really had a vacation.

Fortunately, while the teacher instructed us to be factual, he did not forbid us from embellishing the truth. So I let my imagination take over, romanticizing the most mundane things I did during the past three months. I wrote that I welcomed the early morning because it meant being serenaded by the birds even if I really hated waking up at 5 a.m. to fetch water from the spring, gather firewood and feed my mother’s hogs.

I gushed about the joy in uprooting the weeds from the farm and waiting for the rains to fall so that we could start sowing the seeds even if in truth, I suffered from the oppressive heat of summer, which was the only reason I prayed for rain.

In my last two years in high school, every leaf in my notebook was filled with embellished truths. In between, I wrote love letters for schoolmates, who were older but who did not take the formal theme writing exercises seriously. For a fee, of course. Ghostwriting was profitable and it was easy, thanks to many school years of “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”

I am therefore disappointed that I could not write about how I am spending my Covid-imposed vacation with approximate ease. The well has run dry and the truths are too painful and numbing, it is disgracing to even attempt to treat them any other way but painful and numbing.

Three of my very good friends died within days of each other last week: a lawyer, an engineer and a banker. The other week, a former secretary died, a couple of weeks earlier, a former messenger in whose wedding I stood as a sponsor. All due to Covid-19.

It is true that death diminishes us all, truer still when it strikes closer to home. Anty, Nelson, Joe, Loly and Virgilio. They were not just friends, they were like family. And they’re gone.

I will not oblige grief. Forget how I am spending my days off, my Covid imposition.


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