We lived around the coastal area of Cebu City. I was born into a family of fish porters. We were a partially floating village. My grandfather’s main source of income was carrying heavy loads of fishes on his head inside a huge steel basin, from the coast to the market, which was few meters away. He also guarded the boats that docked for fisher-folks who needs to sell their day’s catch at the market. He was paid for keeping an eye on their boats from pestering kids like his grandchildren who loved to steal them for a ride and paddle through back and forth. I was canoeing before I knew the work canoe.
While searching for old photos, I stumbled upon a Cebuano Blog featuring 20 Before and After photos of Cebu, the feeling of “how it used to be” engulfed me. It was a bittersweet one. I could say my childhood was loads of fun. It was tough but for a kid- all I could remember were the moments of adventure. My grandfather loved us the way he could, and he provided for everyone the way he knew how. Having seven children living at a time where survival hits you first, education was not the priority. My mother was the eldest and only daughter, she grew up with 6 ruckus of brothers and parents who I think loves to kill each other when drunk. It was not a good environment for her (my mom). My mom had huge dreams but she found herself pregnant at seventeen (17), my father was eighteen (18). Mom gave birth to my sister on the day she turned 18 and to my brother less than a year after.
My siblings and me with the rest of the growing number of cousins grew up loving the sea. It felt like we had our own pool at our yard. It became a tradition that everyone should be able to swim. We were taught how as early as age 2. I know, I know, children are natural swimmers but the manner of teaching, looking back was a bit barbaric. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t complaining. Our uncles used to throw us to the waters early every morning. They would watch us struggle to swim- or watch us drown, basically. They’d jump and rescue when they see us struggling too hard. Yep, learning to run before learning to walk. That’s how we became swimmers.
Home, this was home for us. It stinks now but we loved it nevertheless.