I grew up in a small Barangay called Dibuluan, in town of Jones in the province of Isabela. It’s 10 hours drive away from Manila, northern part of the Philippines. The people’s livelihood there is farming. Thirty years ago there’s only basic TV, no internet and we only had a corded cellphone. Our backyard was a huge land with a lot of coconut trees and vegetable garden. You walk a bit further was a paddy field. Below is the photo of the house I grew up with.
There was no public playground nor public swimming pool but there’s a lot of trees and rivers and streams that the kids can safely explore. There’s only one school where kids go to. It’s a public school 15 minutes away from home.
My mom and dad were businessmen and farmers. They had a buying station for dried corns.
My family also had a farm with a fish pond, lots of dogs, chickens, buffalos and cows. He grew tilapia fishes in the pond. It’s about 20-30 minutes away from home. I cannot remember exactly. I remember fishing on that farm with my family and my dad especially. Sometimes my relatives go there too. I have a wonderful calm memory of a very peaceful afternoon with my dad. I was napping in a hammock in the fish pond farm while he was just sitting there listening to a small radio.
No conversation but just us and the nature. It’s so calming. It’s noon but it’s not hot because of the cool wind. I feel safe everytime I think of that memory.
My mom loves dogs but none of us four siblings inherited that love for the animals. I remember always surrounded by lots of dogs, cats, goats at home. Not to mention some pigs in the far end of our backyard where in we need to help feed every now and then.
It’s normal to raise pigs and chickens and buffalos in every household in our town. It’s also normal to plant your own vegetables and my mom has a green thumb. She will plant not just vegetables but also plant beautiful flowers. She’s good.
Part of my childhood was seeing her planting vegetables and me helping. I remember being so excited every morning to see if the seeds I planted have grown. Also plucking sweet potato leaves from our own garden to put in our soup for dinner was a norm.
There’s no flower shop as well so we plucked our own flowers if we need to put some in church or the cementery or if we want to give them to someone special.
I grew up seeing corn being dried. Put in sacks and being weighed. I remember playing dried and threshed corns in the barn yard. Putting corn seeds to soft drinks bottles and having a competition who will make it full first.
That’s my parents’ business. From corns to bananas and even paper trees (also called GemeIina). My parents started planting bananas. Not one or two trees kind of thing but a lot of trees. Trucks and trucks of bananas. They are also buying from other farmers so they can sell it in a higher price in Manila.
I remember being in the farm while the hired workers planting paper trees. I realized how cool that was only now. Come on who plants paper trees now?
The picture of my childhood memory as I recall it now is very sunny in a very green and peaceful town.
That’s the reason why I called my child Summer.
Together with cousins and neighbors, we will play under the hot sun, ride bicycle, bathe in rivers, hunt birds nests hoping to get the eggs and eat it fresh. I even jumped in a very high river bridge which I think now it is very dangerous. I don’t remember the fear only fun! Thanks God I’m still alive.
Our hangout place if not under trees with hammock will be in the trees. We literally climbed trees and find our own spots and chit chat there.
This is us (my childhood friends) after few decades. We don’t have much photos playing together because we don’t have instant camera back then. Haha
Do I remember any toys? Not really. My parents don’t buy us toys that much. The toys we had were passed down toys from our cousins in Manila. We also didn’t feel the need of having too many toys back then. We are not that poor; it’s just not my parents priority which I’m glad they raised us that way.
I only remember this wooden horse we had at home that we used to play. Now it’s my nephews turn to play this.
Because of that we invented our own toys:
- We made jewellery (necklace, crowns, bracelet) out of coconut leaves and wild sweet potato leaves
- Bubbles out of shampoo and hibiscus flowers
- Built our own tiny houses from twigs and hays
- Climbed coconut trees, mango trees, pomelo trees, guava, alatiris trees and anything with a sweet fruit in it
- Made skirts out of coconut leaves
- Caught spiders and put them inside match boxes
- Cooked using toys out of stones, leaves and empty tins.
- We used to play in the rain
- Caught dragonfly for hours.
- Played hide and seek and lots of other childhood games.
My parents without knowing it, taught us to be resourceful and creative by allowing us to be with nature and giving us the space and time to play freely. Without them telling us what to do every minute.
Before I attended formal school, I did all these everyday. Even when I went to school I still have a lot of time to play after. There’s no tuition centers, no extra classes.
In school they taught us how to plant and beside our classrooms there was a garden where students were expected to water and take care of the vegetables. They even taught us how to make a compost pit. It’s part of the curriculum.
Every December, kids come together and sing Christmas carols. Yes, we literally made some recycled tins as our drums and sang house to house in exchange for some coins. No adult supervision. Only kids decide where to go, what time to meet and who comes.
Not until I turned eight and I was sent to boarding school half an hour drive away from home where there was a private school. My parents thought they needed to send me there to have better education.
I can only go back once a week. I became sad, always sick and don’t want to go to school often. I always look forward to weekends where I can go back home with my friends and be with my family.
I only figure out that the reason why I’m sick often is perhaps I don’t find the school interesting and that I don’t have lots of friends there who are allowed to play with me for a long time.
Back home our neighbors are our friends and relatives and we know each other. So our parents felt safe to let us play with each other in the neighbourhood or in each other’s backyard.
I’m glad after few years I adjusted and also gained great friends from that school. I also had some good memories playing with my friends in our recess time too.
I always wonder why do I love travelling. I am excited everytime I go to a new place with great outdoors. Then I realized that maybe because it is familiar and I love adventure as a kid. Also traveling is one way of play. We all need to play yes even as adults.
Before I always thought we are in disadvantage because we live in not so advance, undeveloped town compare with kids in Metro Manila who have all the access to different cartoon channels, malls and public playgrounds. But as I learn about how nature help kids, I realized how fortunate I was and how fortunate my parents was that we were living there when we were young kids. I don’t think they also realized that they raised their 4 kids in the most conducive environment. Lucky us.
I’m far from perfect but I believe that any amount of self esteem, healthy independence, resilience, creativity, resourcefulness and other good stuff I have now in me part of it came from the natural play I had when I am a young girl. (Not 100% because I believe parenting plays a big part too.)
All these memories were so precious and I only realized it when Summer, my daughter came to my life. She needs to be there learning and exploring and experiencing nature. She needs to find herself in nature and not to be house arrested. I hope that she will realize and understand the reason why I named her Summer.
I love my childhood and I want her to love it too. Writing this reminds me of what kind of childhood I had and what kind of childhood I want my kid to live.
The physical exercise and emotional stretching that children enjoy in unorganized play is more varied and less time-bound than is found in organized sports. Playtime—especially unstructured, imaginative, exploratory play—is increasingly recognized as an essential component of wholesome child development. – Richard Lou, Last Child in the Woods
If bringing my child outdoors and letting her play in nature will increase my child’s chance to be a better individual even just 10% , I will do it.
I believe not just me but all parents out there will grab that chance. That’s how we love our kids.
Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our chidlren’s health (and also, by the way, in our own). – Richard Louv
But it is a big challenge nowadays that’s the reality. It’s that love for my child versus busyness, gadgets, television and even my own laziness.
I don’t live in Philippines now but I will do my very best to bring her outside and let her play even though we are in the city. It’s a need in my opinion. I always joke with my husband about the need of dogs to go outside and to be walked. If dogs needs it, how much more a human being. My gosh I know it’s a lame analogy but it’s true.
I cannot just let her be in TV, books, toys and home or malls or restaurant every day. I will remind myself that it is a basic need of every kid to go outside and experience nature. It is her right to discover the world she live in.
I wrote another post about our nature parenting journey in here Embracing Nature in our Parenting
Hopefully by putting all these thoughts of mine into writing, it will help me out to consistently put it into action and will help my child to have the happy and sunny childhood that I want her to have.
Ah! I’m excited for our next nature walk tomorrow!! Till then:)