A Lovely and Lonely Time of the Day

High School was a lonely period for me, especially during siesta. Looking back, I realize now that I had learned and experienced so many things during those lonely times.

I remember just lying in bed during siesta, since it was imposed, doing nothing but weaving stories in my head, listening to occasional sound of tricycle, watching clouds forming strange figures until the bell rang to signal the start of the afternoon classes.

I developed a passion for reading novels and, since I didn't have the resources to buy even a single book, was glad that a well-to-do classmate, Raul (or Iking), also contracted the same passion after I had introduced the Hardy Boys series to him. So I immersed myself in the adventures of those daring teenagers, imagining myself to be one their friends in solving crimes and mysteries. (Today I receive news that Iking died of cancer.)

Later, when Iking had bought almost all of the 64 novels in the series and I had sated my desire for adventure, my attention went to learning the piano. I learned the basic chords from Recera, and I would be on my own playing and singing the Beatle song, "Let It Be" in the auditorium when nobody was around. And that's how I learned the piano.

One of the hard knocks lessons I learned during this period was to just fight it out and not hold a grudge. That's what happened one afternoon when RamCims asked me to come along to the back of the building near the auditorium. In the middle of the bushes was a small clearing near the coconut trees that the mananggot climbed every morning and afternoon to gather the tuba. Earlier he had a misunderstanding and got angry with Ariston, so he invited him to fight with him, and he wanted me to go with him. So with bare fists, they slugged it out. It was bitter, but fair. He ended it with a right jab to Ariston’s face, with the words, “Ultimatum ni!” And that was it. They stopped and went on their separate ways. They didn’t fight after that nor held a grudge.

I also learned resourcefulness when, as a growing teenager, meal served on our plates was always "not enough" and we had to scour the kitchen for mantika, asin, limonsito, and sili which we would then mix with plain rice to create our concoction for a feast. It was necessary for us who, unlike some of our classmates, didn't have the luxury of having enough allowance to last the entire week.

Harvest time was particularly a boon for us. I remember one siesta time in 3rd Year High school when RamCims told me about the harvested mongo stored in several sacks just lying unattended on the first floor corridor below the dorm. We sneaked out of the dorm and got two handfuls from a sack and hid in the bushes near the basketball courts. There we used a washed empty can of sardines, built a fire, boiled water with the mongo inside, and waited until the mongo was soft enough to eat. We didn't even have sugar or salt for the mongo, but we ate and enjoyed the adventure, just in time to hear the bell rang to signal the start of classes.

There was another time when we just enjoyed the fruits of our labor and was never bothered with any worry whatsoever. It was siesta time in 4th high school. While most of our classmates were sleeping, and some were surreptitiously listening to a radio program, Verboten, I would prefer to roam the field and partake of the occasional botong. It was probably towards the end of our high school since we were given a lot of freedom. RamCims and I got a couple of botong near the grotto, but instead of opening them right there in the open, we decided to enjoy the coconut at the payag located right at the center of the rice field. It was empty at that time; the farmer was plowing some distance away. So, we borrowed a bolo and ate like hacienderos to our hearts content. It was sunny that day and the breeze was mild. Several maya birds were frolicking amidst the swaying grass and rice stalks, providing a calming ambiance while we sat there, enjoying the coconut meat and cold botong. Nothing disturbed the peace we enjoyed that moment. We were not in a
hurry. We just talked and enjoyed every moment of it, right in the middle of the rice field, while everyone else was asleep or listening to verboten.

Siesta time in IHMS was always quiet and lonely. But I enjoyed those moments. Those were actually the periods that have remained so memorable to me and so fresh in my mind. That's why even until now I still love this time of the day and am at peace with loneliness.

(nox arcamo)