Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Playground

I can still recall the quiet afternoons with much vividness like a familiar echo bouncing off my ear.

It begins with a visit to the pediatrician for a check-up. The pediatrician, as I remember, is a youthful lady who holds a clinic on the fourth floor of the Manila Doctors Hospital. First impressions tell that she is a very sympathetic doctor. However, one must keep an eye on her for the moment she grins and shows off her canines, an injection must be forthcoming.

Across the street is the Tourism Building where a bubbly aunt works but we never gets to visit whenever we find ourselves in the area. The reasons are rather trivial, but as far as I know, nobody wants to take a time-off from work on a weekday afternoon just to have a chat with a relative you would most likely see on a weekend family reunion.

Finally, behind the Tourism Building is the Luneta Park, which used to be the crown jewel of the city before Robinson's Ermita was expanded. In those days, it was the ordinary folks who take a stroll there to have a break from the toils of living. The last time I checked the park out, it was the Balikbayans who were paying the park a visit along with their families.

With the clinic just a cartwheel away from Luneta, it was easy to persuade my mother to wander around the park. After all, it was necessary to shake off the feeling of being violated after a big needle had pricked your skin. Knowing what is best to drive away the trauma after a steely intrusion, she would bring me to one of the best kept secrets of the park, which kids of my time would outrightly declare the next best thing after Manila Zoo.

Hidden beneath the thick foliage at the elbow of T.M. Kalaw and Rizal Avenue, the playground with no name is a sensation for kids untainted yet by the material wonders of the mall. It precedes the space-age amusement parks found in the plains of Santa Rosa and the grounds of CCP; the toy kingdoms whose land area and deluge of squeaking, scampering tykes rival those of a department store; and the token-guzzling video game arcades inhabited by teenagers who claim to be "refugees" and "exiles" from a nearby, "war ravaged" school.

Going back, mother and I would limp our way from Manila Doctors to the playground. There was no need to play Patintero crossing Kalaw for seldom do cars pass in that four-laned boulevard. Besides, the moment they see my mom's aluminum crutches, the glint from the sun reflecting on its metallic skin would immediately make them step on the breaks.

Like it was already a reflex action.

The entrance to the playground is located on a narrow road beside the Tourism Building. I remember the sight of the five goldfish made of stone behind the chicken wire fence, whose wide mouth forms a long tunnel would compel me to run towards the main gate leaving my mother shouting from a distance.

"Anaaaaaakkkk huwag ka tumakbo at baka madapa ka!!"

Entering the playground, one would immediately notice the pastel colored slides whose arching tongues occupied by kids racing against one another to be the first to reach the bottom. This is where I would spend countless hours warming my butt as I slide down until my tiny feet land on the ground only to climb the stairs and slide again.

Next to the slides are the see-saws and swings whose back and forth pendulum motion attract the adults who are supposed to be looking after their kids. Perhaps, it must be the sheer pull of gravity and the breathlessness of being in mid-air that reminds them of a long-lost childhood being relived in that moment of pure bliss. The grounds where these implements are found is encircled by picnic tables. There are no food stalls inside the playground so packed sandwiches and juices contained in tetra packs are the sources of nourishment for the tireless children.

The playground boasts other attractions including a life-size diorama of life during prehistoric times. There, one could mount a stone replica of a Stegosaurus whose striking appeal makes it a favorite spot for a Kodak moment. There is also an oversized Hippopotamus not far from the diorama, whose gaping mouth can sit ten children for a souvenir picture.

Days, months and years come and time passes without us ever noticing how we have outgrown the simple joys of running around a playground, until one fine day; one random look at one's childhood photo album and the memories come to life again, reminding, how long it has been.

"It's been more than twenty years ma since last tayong nandito"

Shrugging off the sinking feeling of nostalgia, I pushed my mom's wheelchair in front of the pastel-colored slide still occupied by children who could already be my own. The scores of goldfish, whose mouth forms a long tunnel could not swallow my big frame anymore. The Stegosaurus and the oversized Hippo, who's classic spots for taking children's photos still appeal to the camera phone and digicam owners of this generation. It seems nothing has changed inside the playground,

Except that time has already aged me and my mom.

It was nearly sundown and we still have to cover the entire stretch of Luneta before ending our tour at the Ocean Park on the other end of the park. Despite being short on cash, this was my belated mother's day treat to her. As we passed by a young mother clutching her toddler in her arms while resting on one of the benches, I brought my mom's wheelchair to a halt. Approaching the lady, I sought a very big favor.

"Excuse me po, puwede kayang kunan ko kayo ng picture ng anak niyo?"

"Para saan?" She asked warily.

"Ummm, para sa amin ng mom ko."

"Mga kasing edad po ako ng baby niyo nang una niya akong pinasyal rito."


Jason said...

*sigh* good old days...

masarap maging bata... walang alalahanin, walang sama o bait

john stanley said...

i remember the days when my mom and i go to church every sunday. i was 4 then and i always look forward to our walks in the park and us sharing my favorite cotton candy.

wanderingcommuter said...

aaahhhhhh. nostalgia of the good childhood days.

nalunod mo ako dito... galing!

Knox Galen said...

Wandering Commuter: Last minute change of plans ang ginawa ko. Nagpapasama kasi nanay ko pumunta sa Robinson's para bumili ng school supplies. Eh ayaw kong maglibot sa mall, nahikayat ko na lang siya pumunta sa Luneta.

John Stanley: You should write about your childhood. And if you find the time, bring your mom to the places which used to be your pasyalan. The sheer feeling of recollection and nostalgia would leave the two of you breathless.

Jason: Masarap balikan ang kabataan lalo na't alam mong kabilang ito sa iyong magagandang alaala.

jinnakexds3 said...

aawwww... very nice post! made me wonder what has happened during my childhood days.
it's good to know that you still remember vividly what happened years ago.. i'm actually having trouble on remembering them.
nice post!

Knox Galen said...

Jinnakexds3: Remembering is what all I've got. The prospect of forgetting scares the hellaoutofme.

Welcome to my blog pare.

jinnakexds3 said...

thanks! i'll stay tuned..
and yeah, i'd rather remember all of them if only i could. (sigh)

Knox Galen said...

Jinnakexds3: Go back to the places you used to visit and you will remember all of them like things happened yesterday.

Thanks for tuning in, expect me to do the same.