TOWARDS Christmas Day, I’ll try to focus on just pleasant things.
I finally caught up on the Facebook group page “Classic Bai: To the Titos and Titas of Cebu” and the posts gave me no small joy and amusement. The 77,914 members so far of this group put their memories together about things and practices of their own long agos.
Each post sends you saying “Bitaw, noh?” Others I never saw in my childhood. Such was a toy called footjump. How was it played?
There was this post of an old public bus. Passengers boarded from any of the sides of the bus. Where the desired row was, there they boarded.
When I rode these buses to take a ferry at Santander for Dumaguete, I never worried about dust from the road or smoke-belching buses ahead. The air was cleaner then.
I enjoyed seeing again photos of those round paper balls and their rainbow colors. Children would bounce these with their palms or the inside of their ankles in a game of “takyan.”
Visayan expressions might still be uttered somewhere but I stopped hearing them in college. “Ilaw-g ti ka (I’ll feed you to) sa terong” was a common threat if children misbehaved, or if older children were still not home by dinner time.
Was “terong” a monster? If so, how did it look? Descriptions ranged from “bakunawa” to “sigben,” none of which I could imagine, other than that it must be ugly, perhaps a scaley, man-eating beast.
“Naka pesos” meant a heavy tongue-lashing, enough for one at the receiving end to retreat to his room red-faced and grounded for days. In my childhood, a peso could buy you lots. With your five centavos alone, you could buy five pieces of “cay-cay,” a saucer-sized cookie with ground peanuts and caramelized sugar. A peso then was a hefty sum.
“Mirisi,” “Maayra,” and “Da, gigabaan lagi” were common admonishments to naughty or headstrong children. The Visayan version of “Serves you right!,” it usually had some extensions like “kay gahi man ug ulo (for being hard-headed).”
Sometimes the whole expression was “Mirisi kang iringa ka, kay nanungkab man,” likening the misbehaving child to a cat that steals food and instead gets its paws caught in a trap.
One post sent my head reeling--“Nakaabot mo sa Lane Theater, Avenue Theater, Gala Theater, Gems Theater, Royal Theater, Rene Theater, Rex Theater, and Star Theater?” My parents were regular movie goers and sometimes brought us along. But I heard of only the first three. Where in the world were Gems, Royal, Rene, Rex and Star hiding?
How much was the jeepney fare then? P 1.50, said one. Twenty-five centavos, said another. I paid 10 centavos. Right, I get it; the smaller the fare, the older you were.
Nowadays as I try to patiently wait for the go signal, I start missing the traffic officer of old, standing on a wooden pedestal, complete with an umbrella. Instead I see junction boxes that no vehicle or even traffic guy really minds.
So, once when traffic stalled right within the junction box because two drivers refused to budge, I could only utter “Mirisi, nanungkab man.”