During elementary years, like the rest of the kids, Anne experienced both ups and downs, good days and bad days. Thats life for her, to experience both the worst and best version of it to be able to have a meaningful and colorful journey.
Every morning, her father would cook for them and at times the children were in charge of cooking if ever one of their parents isn well. But in poor families, most of the children, even young ones like in elementary grade were already used to doing all the household chores like cooking and washing their clothes, they were trained already to do different tasks, and there was no other choice.
Coffee was always present during the morning so Anne was so addicted to it that she has no appetite to eat if theres no coffee around. Her father would always make a native coffee, using a made-up cloth strainer. Its her favorite drink, coffee in the morning, and even in lunch as if every meal she had a coffee on the table. Coffee seems the important drink in the family, its like water to them that keep on energizing their well being.
At times, their mother would bring home a sack of milk or sack of bulgur rice (brownish, and with larger grains than the usual rice). At that time, those sacks of milk and bulgur rice were the supply coming from the government.
Some said, there were many foreign sponsors from other countries who donated it to the country, maybe they have seen that most of the children in the countryside are mostly malnourished.
Anne would never drink the milk because she was a lactose intolerant child, whenever she drinks it her stomach would ache so she just prefered to mix it in the rice meal. Its so appetizing and tasty to her to have a bowl of rice with milk powder.
Because they have more peanut crops on the farm, her mother would always make more containers of peanut butter for their own consumption. But she won eat the peanut butter, she didn like the taste either. Thats how picky she was in food, but shed like to eat peanuts in raw form, roasted or boiled form only, not the liquid form.
She was walking every day going to school, with other kids they would always find a shortcut and its the rice field going to school. Theres an alternative road, a good one though its not a well-built road (a typical road in the farm) the children will spend more time walking if theyll choose to traverse on it.
Upon arriving in school, at that time most of the teachers were still not there. The school was in a very remote area so its hard for the teachers to come on time due to the unavailability of public transportation, no buses, no jeepneys because no one dared due to a rocky, muddy, slippery road going there. Teachers need to traverse many kinds of alternative roads just to go there, uphill, downhill, and lots of rocky turns. Only large trucks of sugarcane could venture to go there but its seasonal only.
So Anne and her classmates at times would meet their teachers halfway on the road from the main town where they came from. They would meet at times at the riverside, watching their teachers across the river, crossing, traversing against the current of the water barefooted.
Then the pupils would help their teacher to carry each their baggage, books or school materials, each helping their own adviser. It was already a default habit for them to meet their own adviser at that time during morning and to accompany them also upon going home during the afternoon after classes ended.
In the school, the teachers were handling at times two sections in one period in one room also, simultaneously.
But at her time, the grade 3 and grade 4 were always in one room, same with the grade 5 and grade 6. They just make an invisible division in one room due to lack of funds from the government.
Whenever one teacher cannot make it due to some unavoidable circumstances, the teachers were doing their initiatives just to continue the class of the missing teacher. They will merge the classes into one, and they could really manage to teach the class effectively without further disruptions, thats how effective, efficient, motivated and resourceful they are.
Since its a mountainous area, it was mostly often became the nest of most rebels. There, they hid through the mountains and thick forests. During the day, you could not identify them because they acted like nothing as if an ordinary citizen except to those elders who were natives there with owl eyes who could see through a person even in the night and day.
They called themselves ”Protector of the People ” especially the oppressed and the poor. Most of them were good and kind but there were always those bad guys, even in the disciples of Christ, one of those twelve was a traitor that could make a stain among them all.
The most abusive rebels were those that weren really residents there, they came from other places with different dialects. They would demand much at times to the poor people and would threaten anyone if they couldn give.
The resident rebels were more considerate and respectful compared to the nonresidents; they, at times, helped the civilians in plowing the fields, doing the farm works and defending them from abusive people.
They always went out during the night together with their troops to go house to house, sometimes theyll ask for rice or any goods to the people.
They were also convincing and recruiting anyone to join them, anyone even young children or adults. Some of the young boys joined them like 10 years old and below, most of them were only enticed to hold guns maybe.
But Annes mother was always firm to her principles, she would never allow any of her children to join them. Shes very brave in defending the rights and future of her children. They cannot convince her to give one of her children though she had many. She would give away anything, any goods to them but not her children. Though she was poor, she never gave away anyone for adoption. Shes the decision maker, disciplinarian, breadwinner of the family. While her husband was only supportive of her decision, her husband rarely talks and gets angry even at her children. Hes just content to listen and do all the household chores like preparing meals for the family. Hes the one who took care of the children too when anyone got sick, he would always massage them and he had a bit knowledge too in traditional healing like some of the practices of faith healers.
Her mother always strived hard to send all the children in school. She has a great plan for them, she wants them to finish schooling and not to follow the footsteps of their uneducated parents, like them.
Anne remembered the day when shes still in 2nd primary grade, her mother came tired from working in the farm and sugarcane field.
Her mother cried in front of her, she hugged her and told her,
e my only hope. You are my only hope to help me out from this very poor situation, my hope to help us. ”
Anne always remembered that scene until she grew up. Her mother knew shes bright, studious, loves to read and always on top of the class. Her mother would not let her help in the farm, but to babysit only all her younger siblings in the house every weekend or every non-school hours and vacation days. Anne rarely went to the farm, but once or a few times only with her elder sister, and at times she couldn help but to fall asleep in the field under the shadow of the sugarcane, below the scorching sun.
During the day, the military would conduct its operation to check the presence of the rebels in the community. There were thousands of military men who came around carrying their high powered arms, buckling grenades, and heavy large backpacks. They also inspected every house, when someone had given a tip to them that the rebels were there.
And one day those military men happened to pass by in their house. They surrounded the house, they always went together as a pack. Annes house was surrounded by vegetables, and notably the vast crawling squash around them. They were hungry, so they stopped there to cook anything they liked. They borrowed a very big cooking pot and a very large wok as if they were like withches with the big cauldron cooking something in it.
They harvested all the vegetables they could see around the house, getting all the flowers and fruit of the squash and all the leaves of the veggies. And everythings barren after, there Anne discovered that the squash flowers were edible to eat through them and some of the stem of the malunggay tree. She thought it was strange to eat that maybe they were just all hungry. The banana fruit surrounding the house were also gathered. And also some other time they would catch a few chickens from them and theyll cook there themselves, those were native chickens raised by the family. Those chickens were also one of the sources of the income of the family. The family would sell it to the town in exchange for canned sardines, bread, medicines or fish.
Their arrival to the house left their yards almost barren at times, with few vegetables left to them. But on the other hand, they had given some kindness to them. Anne was so sick that time, so they gave her some medicines seeing her poor conditions.
Thats the usual scenario in the farm. The military and rebels seemed like playing hide and seek. The civilian all the time seemed trapped in between the two big rolling rocks. The civilians would prefer not to meddle with their own business and would always make a choice that won endanger their lives both from the two warring parties.
Anne went to school one day, at their nearest elementary school. Its still early in the morning, then all the military men came. Anne was not afraid of anyone with arms, it seemed she was already used to it. She passed by beside them, and one of them called her. The man gave her some candies and coins. She just accepted it, her mother warned her after that not to receive anything from anyone or any strangers.
Then the classes just went on, but the teachers were already afraid at that time. They heard and they were already aware that the rebels were hiding near that school and the military came in. Then, in the early afternoon, Anne was in her class when they heard many gunshots. The pupils saw many sparks and shootings outside the school, the teachers shouted and commanded everyone to duck and lie down on the floor. The teachers hurriedly closed all windows and doors, and they kept ensuring that no one would go outside until everything would be fine.
The teachers were all in panic and each uttered their own prayers.
Few hours passed by, and the gunshots had finally stopped. The teachers concluded that they were already far from the school. They never knew what had happened to those militaries and rebels who crossed their path unluckily.
Immediately, the teachers dismissed everyone upon checking that its safe now to go out. They then all decided to go home. So Anne and her neighbors and classmates went with their teachers upon going home since all of them have the same way. Still, the teachers were trembling with fear about what had happened earlier on that day.
Then, the next day, they heard a very bad news, a group of rebels happened to visit someones house, they were in plain clothes playing cards inside the house of a civilian. Its daytime, the military got the chance to throw a bomb to that house. All the rebels including all civilians were all dead due to the bomb explosion. They were all burned alive in one shot.
There the war never ended. The rebels would take revenge, a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye. Anne went to visit her grandparents only a few meters away from their house. But suddenly, the war began. They were everywhere, rebels and military. Both parties were aiming and shooting everywhere. Her mother was in their house yard, due to nervousness, she ran and shouted loudly for her children.
She shouted, ”Oh God, my children! My children, Hide! My Children, duck! ” My children, cover! ”
Shes running around the house like a crazy woman, shouting the same words, repeating it again and again. But she never hides nor ducks nor covers herself, luckily she was not shot by any stray bullets. Anne saw the bullets were everywhere, the bullets were flying here and there. The gunshots never stop until near nightfall.
The rebels and military men chased each other until they went far away from them. The helicopter of the military came. They kept on bombing the rebels and shooting them. But in one glimpse, their aircraft and the military mens skulls exploded. Momentarily, the encountered war between them had rested and ended.
Anne didn know who won and whichever group had been outnumbered.
Days passed by, everything went back to normal. The rebels were already on their tiptoes once they went outside. Then, after many days, it seemed they haven heard them anymore. Some whispered they temporarily went to other places.
Life went on, children continued their schooling and people went on their daily works, their farming.
One afternoon, Anne just arrived at their house and she had a habit of always checking her baby brother. At that time, the baby was the 6th child Marvin, the most notorious one among the babies she had babysat. A baby that won sit in a second but would always crawl, climb, run anywhere and had the habit of crying all the time. She cannot find baby Marvin in the house, shes wondering what happened. She felt a little bit nervous and asked her mother. Her mother told her this directly
” I gave away your baby brother already. Hes taken a while ago by Fe and will never come back anymore. Hell adopt them because they have no kids. ”
Anne never knew her mother was only joking and teasing her. Fe was the cousin of her mother. She and her husband lived far from them, a little kilometers away, it took almost an hour of walking to arrive at their house. And the road going there seems so scary, aside from the rocky, muddy road, there were very high bamboo trees around it, taller grasses covering both sides of the road and just all thick plantation of sugarcane in a distance with few houses. Their house was standing alone in a very secluded place.
Without further ado, Anne hurriedly hit the road. Shes a little bit teary and shaking, she wanted her baby brother back. Her mother called out her name but she never listened. She cannot hear anything once shes in war mode, shes trembling with anger and she will get her baby brother back no matter what. She loved her baby brother even though he was hard to babysit. She would gladly pick up a fight just to bring the baby back. She walked fast as the wind, and shes running through the road going to Fes house. She never felt afraid of the road unlike when shes in her ordinary mood. As she arrived in Fes place, she shouted them this,
”Give me my baby brother back! or else Ill destroy your house ! ”
Fe and her husband cannot help but laugh a little to little Anne shouting outside. They responded in a calm voice but they didn go outside to meet her.
”Anne, we only borrowed your little brother for this day only. Well just return him tomorrow! ”
But Anne never believed them. She looked for stones on the ground and she threw those stones on their rooftop and simultaneously shouting the same phrase, ”Give my baby brother back to me! Don ever get him to us! ”
She won leave unless theyll give her brother back, at that time. Poor little Anne, she couldn sleep or be at ease once she could not bring her baby brother home. Shes so serious and angry she only thought her mother was serious in giving him away for adoption. Shes only 9 years old at that time.
So Fe and her husband cannot do anything to convince her. They just gave the baby to little Anne. Annes face was covered with tears and reddish due to anger. She was very impulsive once she felt her rights have been stepped on or her loved ones would be taken away. Shes just a small child but terribly brave especially in times like that.
They went outside and they just let the baby boy walked toward his sister. Anne called her baby brother to come to her fast. So the baby just followed her. Without even saying goodbye to Fe, she turned her back and carried her brother into her arms going home. She didn mind carrying him even though the road is so steep, muddy and rocky. In the middle of the road, she changed the way she carried him, she put the baby on her back in a more at ease position. Though shes tired, she still carried him until theyd arrived home safely after almost an hour.
Her mother laughed at her as she arrived home. But she cannot do anything to stop her from getting back her baby brother. Thats how overprotective Anne was to her younger siblings as the fourth child in the family.
Then after many years, the 6th child was followed by the 7th til the 9th baby brother. There were 3 girls and 6 boys all making them a total of 11 members in a family including her parents. A little bit big family, ironically! That was typical to rural areas, one of their relatives got 13-16 children too in one husband and wife only, with no outside parties involved.
Guess why they produce a lot of children despite their poor life.
When you ask the poor family randomly, one of these or mostly these are their answers,
”Its good to have many children, for us to have help in plowing the farm, working in the field and doing all household chores. ”
And some of them would make fun of it and would tell you,
”Theres no electricity here, so we just sleep early when nightfall comes! ”
” There are no other extra activities here but to produce children! ”
And some would talk biblically, ”God said, Go. Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. ”
There are some advantages and disadvantages to having many, many children in the family.
But in Annes condition, it was a bit more disadvantageous even from the start. However, no one could control it, its outside anyones control and we couldn blame the father either. Blaming is not the best option. Sometimes, hard times can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Most of the time, everyone couldn see the benefits of it immediately, but theres a purpose in everything and you could only realize it in the latter times. For them, everyone has a purpose, everything thats happening has a purpose.
You will see it in the end why those things happened. And youll realize it, that everything is working on your favor.
Its up to you to choose how to see things really. You may choose to see things negatively and be remorseful or to choose to see the sunny side of things and be glad no matter what will happen.
Acceptance at times is the key when you
e put in a very tight situation.
Most likely the poor ones have a stronger faith than the rich ones. They have no one to turn to except to the most powerful of all in the universe. They lifted up all their worries to our Creator of heavens and earth to ease their difficulties. Its like putting all their burdens to the Creator of all. After leaving all the hardships and problems to heaven, they could then sleep tightly and to wake up the next day merrily, with newly gained strength to face anything during the day.
Know that most of them were not lazy. Most of the rich people would say, ”Poor people are just lazy thats why their lives never improved. ” They were working hard the whole day, from dawn to dusk to plant in the farm. During the harvest season, they would sell it in the market or any town near them. But the town folks and the middle class and upper-class people would always buy their harvested crops at a very low price, and at times would ask for free ones aside for a big discount.
Then they would sell those at a higher price in the market or grocery stores, at times double or triple to the price they got from the farmer. Poor farmer, Anne had witnessed it when she came to sell also in the market together with her parents. They left home as early as 2 am to sell bananas, vegetables, and fruits.
They put their harvest in a large bamboo basket then they will put it in a small cart to be pulled by their carabao. Little Anne would ride in the cart together with the large baskets of fruits and either her mother or her father would ride on the back of the carabao thats pulling the cart through the rope attaching to its neck.
Then, they will arrive in town almost 6 am, it took 4-5 hrs at times depending on the road or if there were no troubles encountered especially on the cart itself or on the tricycle and jeepney they had contracted in advance before that day comes.
Sometimes, not all produce could be sold in the market. They brought too much supply at times that they have no idea that the demands are not quite high during that time. Since their home was very far from that city or town, they
e always in a hurry, chasing the time in going home before the dark comes. There were no electricity and lamp posts on the road during the night and they needed to buy for their food and their other needs in returning home. So they would prefer to exchange those remaining fruits to some vendors there like fish or recycled clothing.
Poor people didn stop striving hard to improve themselves. However, the world isn fair at all times. The rich will be richer and the poor become poorer due to unjust treatment of the world.
Everywhere, either in private or public offices, like in hospitals, nobody would entertain or prioritized the poor even though they were almost breathless. No one would prioritize without bribing first anyone with money.
How ironic life is! The farmers and planters were the sources of supply in the city but they
e always hungry.
(first draft written 25th September 2018 6:08 pm)