… I was an insecure kid. I hated my dark complexion and my thick, curly, unruly hair. I was green with envy whenever I saw girls my age with baby-soft, milky-white skin and silky-straight hair.

… I was frustrated with my dimple-less cheeks. Once, in my desire to have dimples just like my best friend Eric, I used the tip of an inkless pen and daily pressed it against my right cheek. (For a time, I could see that my constant pressing produced a hollow. Unfortunately, I couldn’t bear the pain I had to endure daily for this beauty regimen, so I threw the pen and the idea of a bedimpled face out of my mind.)

— I wanted to be a majorette and dancer like my best friend Lala, a singer like my lady-like classmate Jolica, and a declaimer like my cutie childhood chum Eric.
… I was as thin as thin could be. The irony was, I never believed I was. I even resorted to reciting a poem during a nutrition month celebration when I was on the third grade, proudly delivering the following lines:
“ Ako’y batang malusog. Katawan ko’y mabilog. ( I am a healthy kid. I am chubby)
Kumakain ako ng itlog. Papaya at saging hinog..”   (I eat egg, papaya and ripe banana)

(Well, what did I get afterwards? Red cheeks, stinging eyes…I ran home like an Olympian after I heard the chuckles from the audience. Then, I stared at my reflection in front of our rusty mirror. Yup, I was not malusog (healthy). I was the opposite. I should not have stood there in front of hundreds of people delivering the poem. That was a major embarrassment—a constant source of needle pricks in the years to come.)

… I got disappointed when I failed the auditions for a singing contest in grade one even as I almost dislocated my hips as I sang and swayed to the tune of “Despatsadora.” (Well, I was the one “dispatched.”)

… I refused to acknowledge I had no singing voice so I joined another singing tilt during one of our santacruzans in our neigborhood and bravely belted Eva Eugenio’s lines:
“Hindi ako isang laruan, na kung ayaw mo na iyong papalitan. Ako’y may damdamin, marunong masaktan. Tulad mo rin akong puso’y nasusugatan.”

Again, I failed to get the nod of the judges, even as I was hopeful I would bag the grand prize. Not even a consolation prize was handed to me. Nada. This time, I thought long and hard. Maybe I was not meant to be a singer after all. After this loss, I clammed up. I only let go of my singing voice inside our rundown toilet while taking a bath. Fortunately, when I was in grade V, I was handpicked as a member of a choral group – my voice joined by squeaking voices of equally untalented lot, melting and dissolving in the chorus.

… I cried a bucket when told I would be replaced as a folkdancer in grade V because I was too tall for my partner. I felt discriminated as a dancer. I did not budge, though. I prevailed. Never mind if I indeed looked like a beanpole.

… I had a nasty, icky habit of finger-searching my head lice in the dead of the night, as precursor to my trip to dreamland. I got a kick every time I crushed the kuyumad (baby lice) against my thumb nails.

… I got hooked on placing bets in Sa Pula, Sa Puti – a game involving money (I didn’t know it was gambling) operated by perya (carnival) boys during fiesta season. For a time, I also enjoyed playing Kara Kruz (now this is gambling) with boys in the neighborhood, where we used three 25-centavo coins to flip and place our bets on.

… I was a voracious reader. I would devour the torn, musty Raggedy Ann books I
borrowed from the SSCS (Sipocot South Central School) library; read the stories of American kids born in the 60s and 70s and imagine I was one of the main characters in the stories I read.

… I was addicted to reading Komiks – Silangan, Hiwaga, Pinoy, Wakasan, Funny (I love Niknok’s adventures!), Precious ( I adore chubby Sincerely yours).
… I was an acting gem. I could internalize in front of an audience without being distracted. I could also cry a river just by staring at my reflection in the mirror (could be the frustration of seeing the imperfections).

… I loved the movies! – Bagets, Ready for love, Karate kid, Never-ending Story, Rocky, Superman, Starwars. I often wondered how I could magically appear in the films I watched. I thought there must be a hole somewhere in the moviehouse where I could enter and go directly to the exact location in a movie scene, and voila, I could interact with the characters!

…I was rough and playful. I enjoyed my exciting world of street kid games –Chinese garter, Luksong tinik, Luksong baka, Prisinorbes (prisoner’s base), Siyato, Taratsian (a game involving tin caps of softdrink bottles), playing marbles, lastiko (rubber bands), name it, I know it. I did not want to grow up and enter the world of adults whom I pitied because as I had observed and believed, being an adult meant saying goodbye to fun and laughter.

…. When I was in grade four, I got fed up bagging the first honors ( since Nursery I had been on top of the class) and secretly envied my classmates who ended up second and third honors . (Thank heavens, this crazy thought was only momentary. I breezed through elementary with the highest honors.)

…I joined beauty tilts, particularly the Mutya ng Agham, where in grade three, I ended up third runner-up, and in grade six, I finally seized the crown and scepter. (I always believed I was a flawed beauty though, what with my thick brows, thick hair, rough skin, dark knees and skinny frame. But since I lived in a third-class town, the judges thought I was already a first-class beauty. I guess, I had a more discerning eye than they).