Our life 30/40 years ago and the youth today
By Joel B. Belinan
Looking at my elder son Miko on New Year’s eve, how tall he has grown not to mention his bigger than usual build, made me think how different kids today are. At 15 years old, Miko is over 5’8” tall already and weighs over 80 kilograms. He is not our average Igorot especially that I am just 5’5” while her mom is just 5’1”. I am not fond of comparing my generation to the present one but sometimes it’s worth looking at how we had spent our youth in comparison with how the youth now are doing. Indeed Igorots may have improved on their heights the past few decades that nowadays it’s very rare for an Igorot kid to be needing an NCIP certification for height waiver to be admitted to the Philippine Military Academy or the Philippine National Police Academy. These two institutions have minimum height requirements for their students.
It would be interesting to look at how kids of my generation in the late 70s and early 80s spend their daily routines and how the youth now do theirs. Definitely how we lived during our youth resulted in how we are today specially on our size and yes how we look at life. As for me together with my younger brother (Douglas) we grew up in Tabuk, Kalinga unlike our elder brothers and sisters who grew up in our home town, Besao, Mountain Province. Tabuk (now a city) is more like a lowland place and so there is a big difference on the life of kids there compared to that in the village where we were born, in Agawa, Besao. There is a common denominator though, having been born to a big but poor family (we are 8 children) we had to endure the hardships of life at an early age.
Our Tabuk life then revolved around the rice fields in a far-flung village. Like most kids of our age our main task was to care for the carabao starting as early as 4:00 a.m., the time to bring them out from the corral to the grassland for them to eat and be ready for the hard day’s work with our elders– farm machineries then were very rare. At around 6:30 we go back to the house to prepare for school.
And again in the afternoon after school we bring home the carabao after bathing them in the river. During weekends especially during the start of the farming season we make sure that before 8:00 a.m. the carabaos were fed enough so our father and elder brothers could make them plow (arado) or soil comb (suyod) the fields with peace of mind in preparation for planting the rice seedlings. While the elders were undertaking those tasks, me and my brother were usually tasked to prepare the food for maybe 10 to 15 people (with the hired laborers). When my age reached 11 or 12, I also had to work the rice fields with the elders.
During the harvest season, as early as 11 year old, I had to go along with the elders carrying sacks of palay which were more than 50 kilos. We brought the palay for drying on the cemented parts of the roads, then carry them back in the afternoon. During a sudden afternoon downpour, we had to race in carrying those sacks of palay to safety, otherwise it would be tantamount to ruining our family’s rice supply for the whole season. Between the planting and harvest seasons, there was the need for the regular weeding process especially on the tambak (foot path in between paddies) and ensuring the water supply (padanum or mananum) of the fields. Mananum had to be done for 24 hours which meant patrolling the area even during the night, otherwise, someone would “steal” the water. Such was our hard life in Tabuk. But my older siblings claim that it was easy compared to the life they had in our hometown, Besao.
Our youth was not only hardship, it was fun too. I and my brother were lucky that despite the hardship in our life then (even until now) we also enjoyed many things in life. We had experienced the thrill of picking mushrooms in the early mornings during the start of the rainy season. And this happens after downpours with a lot of thunder and lighting which according to the myth are the ones that bring out the mushrooms. We’ve also enjoyed picking gaco (small but fat frogs) during the first rains around small lagoons, and the process of catching fish by setting up traps in the canals and rice paddies. And by doing karas, the way of draining the water of the lagoons or any small body of water then collect the fish there, which is done only during summer when the water in these are minimal. Christmas and summer vacations were usually very much anticipated as we could get a vacation in Baguio or in Besao, our hometown.
How about the life of the youth today. They are indeed technically savvy with mostly no heavy physical work duty that most of their parents or grandparents had three decades ago. They eat usually processed food compared to the root-crop-based diet that mountain villagers had back then. In our case who grew up in a rice producing area, we were a bit lucky. Kids of today will complain if asked to carry even just an 11 kg gas tank compared to the over 50 kgs of palay we used to haul to the granary during our time. After school hours even at this time when kids attend online classes, their usual routine is either browsing the internet or chatting with their friends, or watching TV.
I need not have to elaborate more as everyone knows how a typical day of our youth goes. What is clear is that most of the youth today did not undergo the hardships we have had 3 or 4 decades ago and it might be a big factor why we have much taller, bigger, and yes, I may have to agree, better looking youth today. Igay da katiltil (they did not get stunted) or “mangan da gamin as feeds (referring to the feeds for pigs that enhance their growth)” are the common comments from my contemporaries when seeing young but much bigger Igorot lads. It does not however necessarily mean that bigger is stronger and more resistant. On the contrary, these younger ones in their 20s can hardly put-up with the energy of their elders who are already in middle age. I have always encountered young guys playing boxing or kickboxing who were lampa in tagalog or “softy” despite their big size. On the other hand, many boxers or kick boxers now in their late 40s or early 50s can easily outmatch young guys of this generation in terms of stamina, resistance, power of strikes and overall agility. I hope that even my son Miko will read this piece and others of his age, and take this observation as a challenge and an inspiration for them to do better in life.**