OF HOOLA HOOPS AND PINWHEELS12” x 16”
acrylic on canvas“I feel stupid”, I grumbled to Inday as I slipped the candy-striped, Christmas-ey hoola hoop around my waist.
“Okay lang yan. Just put it around your waist and make circular motions so it’d spin. Like this,” and she spun around her hoop like a seasoned pro that she is.
After a few tries with the candy-striped hoola hoop, I finally managed to do some decent twirls with it.
“Wow, so this is how Deni Terio felt when he’s shaking his thing on TV!” I whooped in exhilaration.
Inday was my playmate, an only child of working parents who she lives with at the farthest door in an apartment block beside our house. On weekend mornings she’ll be standing in front of our gate bearing toys with her, like that day she brought a box of miniature kitchen set.
“Let’s play house. I’ll be the nanay, you’ll be the tatay,” she proudly announced.
“Who’ll play the baby?” I asked.
“Oh,” she paused to think and ran off back home. When she appeared, she had with her the biggest doll I have ever seen. It was, to my young eyes, monstrously big – bigger than either of us. She pulled a string on its back and it yelped “I want milk”. I had to blink and ask her if it’s alive because I sure am not going to feed it.
There was a time too when water guns shaped like TV cartoon characters were the rave in our street. Every kid had to have one. Mine was in the shape of Robin and my brother’s gun was Popeye. We’d all have loads of fun with it, playing cowboy and shooting water at each other. It was one of those afternoons when my brother and I were playing shootouts with the other kids in our street when Inday tapped me on the shoulder while I was hiding behind a bush.
“Psst, I want to join. Let’s trade guns. I like your Robin. You use my Olive. It has a stronger spurt” she said as she was pushing her gun towards me.
“But it’s an Olive. Who wants an Olive?” I complained. (Her gun was shaped like Olive Oyl. There was somehow an unwritten rule that boys only use male TV cartoon character-shaped guns and hers is, well, aside from being Olive Oyl, was also quite ugly.)
“But it has a very strong spurt and you can beat anyone with it. Come on, give me your Robin,” she demanded.
“No,” I held my ground.
Then she grabbed hold of my shoulder and she began to shake me. When I turned around, I saw beads of perspiration forming on her forehead, her lips started to curl and she began to cry shrilly into my face.
“Alright, alright! Give me Olive!” and I grudgingly gave her my Robin. With one swift movement of her forearm, she wiped the sweat and tears from her face, leapt from the bush with my gun and walloped like a crazed Indian out to make her kill.
That afternoon, I committed mass murder with Olive. I left all my opponents all wet and I was left high and dry. Inday approached me with a wide grin and my Robin held to her side. “I told you it has a strong spurt,” she proudly proclaimed. “Here’s your Robin,” and held my gun towards me.
With a devilish grin drawn on my face, I pointed Olive at her and spurted her several times with her own gun. She stood there for a while stunned. Slowly, her lips started to curl, beads of sweat formed on her shoulders and she gave out such a loud, shrill cry that the doves flew from their roost, the neighborhood dogs barked and lizards fell from the houses’ eaves.
“I hate you! I hate you!” and she ran off with my Robin. Inday’s Olive sure did make a powerful spurt.
It was a summer when salagubangs can be bought for fifty centavos at the talipapa a few blocks away. Every morning we’d run off to this manang who’d be selling it in a basket cage there. My brother, the other boys and I would carefully take our pick of these shiny-shelled insects. We’d pick our insect according to our personal preferences. Some would pick out the biggest. Others would pick out the ones that flap its wings most, while I would always pick out the ones with the brightest color. But no matter who prefers what, each of us would take one back gleefully to our neighborhood.
Back in our street, we’d tie our salagubangs with colored strings around their necks and spend the whole morning playing with them. We’d either have salagubang fights. Salagubang races. Salagubang tricks. A whole bunch of salagubang what-have-you’s that we could think of. And by mid-morning, we’d tire of our little insect friends. Some would put it in jars and give them names to keep as pets but would eventually end up dead the next day in its jar-coffin. But most of us, we’ll just let it go, let it fly off and live its insect life.
Inday appeared one day in front our gate bearing a big round jar that once held mayonnaise. In it was full of these crawling shiny-shelled salagubangs.
“Look at what I have. Ate Do bought all of these for me,” she proudly proclaimed.
“Wow, that’s a lot. Let me have one,” I pleaded.
“No!” and she held the jar back. “It is mine and you can only look,” she announced as she held the glass jar filled with those nice, shiny salagubangs tightly to her chest.
My brother came out of our house and saw her with the jar. He too asked her if he could have one and she vehemently turned him down. Soon enough, the other boys in the street heard that Inday has a jarful of these little living toys that a small crowd of our playmates started to gather in front of our house to marvel at her possession.
“Please let us have one,” asked Ronald.
“Yeah, you can be the bangka in our patintero,” offered Bubuy.
“You can have my Annie-Annie stickers if I can have that green one,” bribed Lengleng.
“No. No. NO!” she solidly refused all offers with her chin high and haughty like a princess. At that moment, she knew she has everything going for her. With her refusal she also delighted at the sullen pallor that descended on our faces.
“You know what, I hear from Tita Bong that they fry salagubangs in oil and eat them in the province,” my brother chirped with a gleam in his eyes.
“I bet they taste good. You want to try one of those?” Ronald piped in.
“I wonder how those salagubangs taste like with catsup?” Lengleng added as she licked her lips with her tongue.
Every one of us was now agreeing how tasty Inday’s salagubangs would be. By now, Inday was shaking her head in disgust at what she hears.
“No one’s eating my sslagubangs. NO ONE!” she protested with one arm around the jar and the other trying to shield her ear.
“Eat! Eat! Eat!” chanted everyone. She was slowly stepping back away from our small group of salagubang-hungry fiends, holding her jar of living treasures to her chest and turning her face from us when she slipped on the edge of the sidewalk canal in front of our house. She fell on the smelly, murky water in the sidewalk canal, dropped her jarful of salagubangs that it shattered and scattered all the insects unto the street.
Everyone of us became silent – stunned silence – the kind of silence before the storm.
Without a warning, Inday gave out her trademark shrill cry, waved her arms all around and stood up like lightning. She ran home in a freaky dervish, arms flailing all over and her dress reeking of the smell of the canal water. From a distance, we could all hear the loud banging of their apartment door and her shrill cry was now muffled by the walls of their home.
“Who want some salagubang?” declared Ronald with a gleeful yell.
We all helped ourselves to Inday’s scattered insects, played our games and by mid-morning, our street was filled with flying salagubangs.
By late afternoon of that day, Inday was happily playing bangka in our patintero.
________“Do you know how to make pinwheels?” asked Inday when we got tired of our hoola hoping around.
“Uh-huh. Why?” I asked.
“Let’s make some. I have some pieces of art paper and some barbecue sticks,” she commanded as she handed me the colored papers to make these pinwheels.
Staring at the pinwheels we did, it was a sight to see. We sat on the floor and we watched with enchantment at the different spinning colors stuck on sticks.
She suddenly stood, placed her hands to her waist and hollered at me “Hold the pinwheels and do the hoola hoop”.
I could only grunt at the silliness of holding a pinwheel and spinning the candy-colored hoop around my waist.
“This is for what you owe me when you shot me with my water gun. Hah!” she proudly exclaimed with her hands held to her sides.
Come to think of it, I thought, she never even did return my Robin.