This post is a part of EmpowerU Life Writing’s Final Exhibition: check out this post for more information!
written and performed by Cherry Lyn
Every story of a child is a story of happy memories. One of my childhood remembrances is playing ”home simulation“ (bahay bahayan). This is a traditional game in the Philippines, played by kids. It is an old traditional game that we always treasured. Bahay bahayan is a group of games where kids simulate a real family set-up.
Looking back, both of my parents were working abroad. Fortunately, we had grandparents that were very supportive in shaping us to be good individuals. I’ve loved writing this piece of mine simply because it teaches the importance of the complete and contented family that I had been longing for. Yes, I admit that I had a green-eye towards other people that I saw had a complete family and I did keep enquiring about why our parents needed to work away from us. Actually, I have one brother and one sister that had the same feelings. Although we were privileged to have expensive toys and stuff, a major piece of my heart was missing. And playing was one way to disregard my missing piece. Playing bahay bahayan made me feel whole and that for a short period of time I experienced a happy and complete family.
In the summer of 1981, I was 10 years old while my younger sister was 4 years old and my brother was 11 years old. We lived together under the care of my grandparents since our parents were working in another country. They made tremendous sacrifices to provide a higher education for us, wherein education plays an important role for the Filipino people. Our grandparents were very strict and yet very loving towards us. The head of the family and the ruler was my grandfather (Lolo). He was the one who made the rules at home. While my grandmother (Lola) was the peacemaker and served as the light in the darkness we encountered. The first rule was to obey them no matter what. We were to obey them when they said not to talk when our mouths were full, or to not talk if we were having our meal, or how we must have a siesta at noon time, and to never ever complain about what we had and to instead be grateful.
We were also told to be responsible, like to do all the tasks we were given. What were the tasks? Washing the dishes, sweeping the dry leaves in the yard, feeding the pigs and chickens. We were also told to pray. We needed to pray before and after meals. At around 3pm, after our siestas we had to say the latin prayer for the dead or for all the souls in purgatory before we could go on playing. And at 6pm, we would hear a bell ring and it was a sign to stop everything and gather in front of the altar wherein the image of Jesus and all the saints were, with lit candles, and we would start to say the angelus prayer.
Since our grandparents were strict, we were just allowed to play inside our wide green yard. It measured 1000 square meters and was divided into four areas. First was the front area, which was planted with several ornamental plants like orchids, different kinds of daisies and gerbera, which were planted by my grandmother. It was her passion to create a little paradise inside our yard.
The second area was the left side of the yard. That was the animal area where several kinds of animals were. In the morning it was my alarm clock. I could hear the crowing of the rooster, the snoring of the pigs and the voice of my grandfather talking to the animals.
The third area was the right side of the yard. It was planted with a lot of vegetables and fruits. I remembered if we did not have money my grandmother would harvest some vegetables and fruits to serve us as our meals. At an early age we were obliged to eat green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits from the yard, like bananas, star apples and many more.
And the last area of our yard was the backyard where you could see the harvested coconut fruit and materials, like a digging bar, bolo and huge chopping board. These were being used to make copra -- it is the meat of the coconut, using sunlight or by smoking it to make it dried. I loved to peel off the husk of the coconut using the digging bar. The digging bar was a long straight sharp metal bar that stood straight and was used to remove the coconut husk. Then next was the bolo knife, which was used to cut the coconut in half by cutting down the middle. The coconut water would come out and sometimes I would drink it because it was so sweet.
It was so much fun in the backyard because at an early age I was able to learn how to make copra. Our yard was fenced with bamboo and gated as well, all of which was crafted by my grandfather and by my brother.
Every day, we had a golden rule to follow, which was to have a siesta after midday. After lunch my grandmother would remind us to go to our bed. I remember she always slept beside us to make sure that we closed our eyes. My grandmother had a pretty face, very neat clothes, and she was the light in our family that gave to us and kept on directing us. One of her words of wisdom was that obedience is better than sacrifice and obeying them would pay off in the long run, although sometimes as a kid it was hard to follow those golden rules. It felt like being a bird that stalked down a narrow cage, helpless and with n0 choice but to follow.
Nevertheless, after two hours of siesta and being like Sleeping Beauty, my younger sister would hug me and kiss me like prince Phillip to break the spell of Maleficent. And I immediately would open my eyes wide while she would wave, saying, ”Hi sister, it is time to play now.” While we were rushing to go out, my grandmother would call us (oops!) to take our snacks. Our snacks were usually root crops or fried banana que. Our playmates were waiting outside now. Yes! Soon I would be free.
Seeing our playmates with a huge smile and saying in chorus, “Hello”, I would realize that this was it. Finally I was free. Then my best friend would point out to the left side of our yard all the stuff that we were going to use in building a playhouse. We would play Bahay Bahayan, wherein we would build our playhouse first and I would discuss the role of each player.
To start our game, first we needed to locate the proper place for building the playhouse. Get the bamboo that was sharpened on one side tip and dig it into the ground (or sometimes I used the digging bar). .After that, we laid out the four sides of the house. It’s time for roofing, using crafted coconut leaves and knotting with the long stems of root crops. Place banana leaves for the wall of the house. Finally, the floor was empty sacks and used cardboard.
After building our native playhouse, I would gather my friends and discuss the role of each player. Playing bahay bahayan, each member of the group would take the role of a father, a mother, and children. And at some point, some would volunteer as the family pet. They acted like a dog that kept on barking and was very friendly to each member of the family. Or it might be a cat acting arrogantly like it did not care. The money was made of cut-up newspaper that was used to buy food and other necessities. The activities were as follows: some would do the household chores, like cooking and washing the clothes, and some would go to the market, and the father and son would do the farming. All was set! Lights, camera, action!
Finally, we started the game with a smile in our hearts. I stopped playing after I realized that I was grown up and a real lady at the age of 16, but the good memories have stayed with me until today.