I GREW up in Sitio Kawayan in Barangay Sambag 2 at a time when the place was still mostly green.
At the back of the old TB Pavilion was a fenced lot planted with corn. A few sambag (tamarind) trees towered inside and at the back of the caretaker’s house were bushes and a wet area where tangkong plants grew.
At the back of the nearby Aznar coliseum was another vast fenced lot owned by a Chinese trader and which also had a caretaker who planted it with corn. Coconut palms and a few trees also grew there.
Between the fences (at the back of TB Pavilion and at the back of the Aznar Coliseum) sprouted the houses of informal settlers. At one end of the sitio was the lower portion of the Guadalupe river and at the other end stood the fenced Elks Cerebral Palsy Clinic.
The riverbank was covered with bamboo plants and bushes; the water flowing in it clear. Beside the clinic we called simply as “palsy” was an empty lot covered with short grass and where clumps of bamboo also grew.
The landscape of the old sitio came to mind when I read the report about the plan of the Cebu City Sports Commission (CCSC) to encourage children in the city to involve themselves in street games “that most children played before the advent of technology.”
Call me fortunate to have been given a chance to indulge in those activities. In the vacant lots that dotted our old sitio, we played siatong, Japanese game, dakop-dakop, etc. On moonlit nights we played tubig-tubig in a space near the chapel, or watched our elders do so.
We learned how to fly kites and to challenge other kite flyers to a duel called sab-itanay using strings wrapped in powdered fluorescent lamp glass. We fashioned luthang from bamboo and waged group “battles” with it using green mansinitas fruits or wet paper as projectiles.
Ours was a world not yet dominated by video games. Television sets in our sitio were few and we spent our relaxing time around a radio set listening to soap programs like the “Diego Salvador” series, “Gabii Na, Kumander,” “Esteban Escudero,” etc.
Those were wonderful moments of my childhood and I am glad that CCSC members are planning to create an awareness of these old games in schools and the barangays as part of efforts to develop the athleticism of the city’s kids. I would add that it also makes children sociable.
That was one of the reasons why I decided to buy the lot in a suburban area where my family’s house now stands. When we visited the place I immediately fell in love with it. The lot was surrounded with green and empty spaces. I wanted my kids to grow up in that environment.
While my two sons have developed a liking for technology, spending time playing video games, they are also enticed by neighborhood kids to play the native games I played when I was their age. And I encourage them to go out of the house and let go of the computer, tab and cell phones.
One of the problems in the city’s urban areas, though, is that most of the communities are already cramped with structures and the only useable spaces are the streets and the sports complexes in the barangays. That limits the kind of native games that children can play.
In the present Sitio Kawayan, I doubt if the children can ever play siatong again. The game, which involves hitting a short stick with a long one and is won by the distance one lets the short stick fly, requires ample space to be enjoyed fully.
Still, there’s tubig-tubig, buwan-buwan, Japanese game and the like. There’s no limit to creativity and adapting to the situation—as long as one is being made aware of the value of those activities.