1. What triggers remembrance? What makes the mind wander into that which is covered by years of cobwebs and dust? What perverted pleasure will the heart desire to seek the past after what was done and what was said? Will there be redemption in digging the graves, answers in finding rotten flesh and bones? It can only be the call of one’s true self. That which we wake-up to everyday.
2. We called him Bukol. I knew him as the elephant man long before Michael Jackson had his obsession. He was an only child whose mother doted on. We played with him regardless of the disfigurement of his face, the constant
yellow mucus coming out of his nose and that muffled sound that resembled his voice. His left hand was twisted at birth and never recovered. He was a hunchback who grossed us out. One day, the bullies stoned him for no
apparent reason. His head was bloodied and he cried like a wounded animal. His mother came and took him home. I realized then that her pain was more than his. Several days passed before he came out and played with us again. After my graduation from elementary school, I barely played with the kids I grew up with. There is no memory of when I saw him last. He must be dead by
now. His physical condition dictated a very short life. I remembered the times we played but I never knew his real name. He was Bukol. Just Bukol.
3. He was in his early twenties, a slightly built man with tattoos all over. He would walk the street and people would talk in whispers about the things he was capable of doing – how many he had killed, how many he had stabbed, how many he had robbed. He was the head of the local Sigue-Sigue Sputnik Gang. They would sit by the corner store and drink Ginebra San Miguel all day, make fun of people, harass the women and beat whoever they want. Their gang fights were staged in broad daylight as innocents scamper literally running for their lives. He was so drunk one night and slept on the bench of the local carinderia.They found him dead the next day with multiple stab wounds. The killer even left the broken knife buried in his chest. My uncle brought me to his wake. He had been dead for almost two weeks but money was not enough to bury him. He was the first dead man I looked at. And all I remember was the seemingly tears coming out the corners of his closed eyes.
4. Boyet was a BIR agent’s son. Next to the apartment where I lived was their big house. Boyet was a spoiled insensitive braggart. He boasted of what they had, who his father was and what he could do. One day he got into a fight with a kid from the squatters area whose family just migrated from the province. Boyet hit the kid with a rock on the head. Blood oozed and covered the boy’s face. As the kid cried, Boyet said something about how his father can buy the boy’s life, that there was nothing he could not do to him. A couple of years after, Boyet’s father left them. A few weeks after, Boyet’s family moved out of the big house. Life with all its inequities and unfairness could still deal justice as it should.
5. Television was a luxury. It was something I never had as a child. We used to watched through our neighbor’s window until someone decided to close them. Then we would go home and imagine what had happened, how did the movie end. Sometimes, the TV owners would be kind enough to let us in and we would sit on the floor unmoving, barely breathing, afraid we would make the owners angry and we would be asked to leave. Now, every time I turn the TV on, a satisfied and grateful smile always appear. The boy I would never let grow up would always have the remote.
6. The Police station was under attack. Apparently, the police intercepted a truckload of contraband that was being escorted by the METROCOM. I have not seen nor heard such firepower. By the time it was over, the Police
station was reduced to rubble. It was rebuilt a few months after with concrete walls all over. It was ready for the next attack. The people of Galas always were.
7. It was 1972. Martial Law was declared and the METROCOM raided the dreaded squatters area. The criminals and the gang members were hauled off
to jail. Soon the bulldozers came and cleaned up the makeshift houses of tin and cardboard. The tough guys drinking Ginebra on street corners disappeared. The streets were cleaner and a lot safer. The street fights
with knives, bolos and ice-picks were no more. Galas as I have always known it was gone.
8. April 1st, 1973. It was time to leave the place I grew up in. The market where I realized life and living would be but a chapter. A stop, like the jeepneys I took to Divisoria, to Quiapo, to Morayta. I could walk those streets again and still know the secrets lurking in their silence. I could find the dark corners that would provide respite from the heat, the lonely isolated vantage points where one nurtured an unrequited love destined to youth’s fear of a dead-end. But I would not. That would not be me. Regardless of my father burying my umbilical cord by the foot of the stairs of my grandfather’s house in Camambugan, I would not go back. Not to where I was born. Not to where I grew up. It was a realization accepted a long time ago. Devoid of misgivings, bitterness, satisfaction nor gratitude. Just destiny written on the palm of one’s hand.