Batch 72 graduates of City Central School in Cebu City has scheduled a tour in Argao on August 4. That brought back memories of the few years the family lived in that southern town in the middle ’60s.
I studied Grade 1 at the Argao central school, in that campus visible from the national highway going to neighboring Dalaguete and which is surrounded by rice fields. We used to frolic in those muddy fields, like children often do. It was there where we thought we saw the image of the Virgin Mary atop the far off mountain. Or was it the clouds?
We lived in a two-story wooden house that had a lanzones tree that grew as high as the second floor window. At the back was an abandoned well. We had some few encounters with some “spirits” in that house. Or we believed they were spirits. I thought I heard, for example, the clanging of a chain in the yard when one time I woke up at dawn. Must have been an evil spirit in chain.
And here’s an interesting scene. I was reading a book facing my brother Wenie who was sitting in another chair when I thought I saw a hairy hand reach out to him from the window. “Unsa na manoy?” I remembered telling him. We both shouted in fear and the hand just vanished. Illusion?
One night, our father Tiyong and mother Juling failed to come home early so we children were left on our own. Suddenly, the wooden door of the house, which was a bit heavy, opened, bringing in the cold evening air. We huddled together in a corner shouting for help. Surprisingly, nobody heard us. Then Nanay Juling arrived.
My favorite playing ground was the beach where the old Spanish kuta (fort) that was already buried in sand was located. Tatay Tiyong owned a large fishing net that they used for pamaling just near the shoreline. The catch was good. Today, fishermen already has to go far off to the sea to get as much catch.
The scar in my right heel I got from a bicycle accident. I was in the back seat when my heel got caught in the wheel while we were moving fast. That experience developed in me a mild fear for bicycles, the reason why until now I don’t know how to drive one.
I could not remember how long we stayed in that town, probably 3-4 years. We went back to Cebu City after my father suffered an accident that almost took his life.
Tatay Tiyong was driving a soft drinks truck when the brakes failed, forcing him to ram the vehicle on the coconut trees (the other option was to fall off a cliff). He was pinned by the steering wheel while standing, dislocating the joint connecting one of his legs to his torso. He stayed in the hospital for several months.
I would like to think that my love for rustic setting was formed by my experience living in Argao. Indeed, given an employment opportunity in the countryside, I would prefer to live there than endure the anarchy of an urban setting.
–-Candido O. Wenceslao, July 30, 2007