The Earliest Memories of My Life

I believe my parents lived briefly in Sta. Ana, Manila but it was in Pasig where my eldest brother and the rest of us were born. I am not sure exactly when they moved but that would put my parents in Pasig by 1974. By 1975, Pasig became a town in Metro Manila after being the capital of Rizal province for a long time.

When they first moved in Pasig, they rented a house in San Joaquin. It didn’t take long until they moved again this time to a two-storey house where we stayed until I was six or seven.

The farthest that my memory can take me was when I was maybe a year and a half or two years old. I remember being surrounded by and looking at my brothers. It was almost like an introduction. They were all looking at me like it was the first time that they had seen me. And after a few minutes, I could see them talking to my mom except for my brother JR (Freddie) who stayed by me and played with me. And then he got scolded because of something like pulling my arm.

I know I co-slept with my parents, my dad on the left, my mom in the center and me on the right, right against the wall I guess so I wouldn’t fall. We slept in a queen size bed. The headboard was a curvy wood much like the parenthesis sign only horizontal, with the vertex pointing up. It had a beautiful carving of two birds . My brothers slept on a banig (mat) on the floor in the next room. Although there was a frame, there was no door panel.

There was a window on my side of the bed where my mom and I used to look out as we waited for my dad. The windows slid from to side to side but not as smooth as shower doors slide. It was all just wood carved on the top and bottom ends allowing the window to slide through the frame. I remember sometimes we had to push a little harder to make them move. The window panes were capiz shells framed in wood painted in dark dark brown.

By this time my dad had already quit truck driving. He drove a trike instead. I would always catch my mom look twice every time a trike would go by and I’d see the sparkle in her eyes disappear when it was just another driver and not my dad. Somehow at a young age, I felt how much my mom loved my dad and that she was always happier when he was around.

WWF (World Wrestling Federation) was popular then. Every Wednesday night my dad would buy Reno (liver spread) and a bag of hot pan de sal. And then we’d gather in front of the television watching Hulk Hogan drop his arm at the first two counts but keep it mid-air on the referee’s third tap on the ring floor. We’d all get excited! We talked back at the TV and said things like “Bring it on!” “Now you just got him sooo mad!” even if it happened every week anyway.

Pan de Sal

Pan de sal is our own version of the dinner roll although it is usually served during breakfast.  They are usually bagged in a brown paper which is then crumpled close to lock the warmth in. They are also baked and sold during snacks- first between lunch and dinner (around two thirty to 3 o’ clock in the afternoon) and then after dinner before bedtime (around eight thirty to nine o’clock). They are usually only good served fresh that’s why they are sold and bought at specific times of the day and immediately served.

We always had silly moments. I remember once when I woke up alone in bed and I was crying and my dad picked me up. He offered me my favorite breakfast which was hot pan de sal dipped in sardines in tomato sauce. And then he asked me “Iyang“, (Eeh-young) “Who left you alone in bed?” It was like my dad was encouraging me to tell on my mom.  I then pointed to my mom. It was silly and funny and dear to me. It was the beginnings of my dad being my hero. You know what’s funny is that we do the very same thing in my house now. I let Jeff be the hero.

Iyang or Iyang ko (my daughter) is what he used to call me actually until I was a teenager. It is derived from iha or hija (eeh-huh) which in Spanish means daughter.

In the afternoon, my dad used to make me take a nap. Oh I dreaded it! You know, because I just wanted to play all day. He always promised to buy me snack when I woke up. I always wanted this root beer called Sarsi and spanish bread which is basically a crescent covered with crumbs and sugar and filled with margarine and vanilla.

My mom spoiled me too with surprises or what we Filipinos call pasalubong. She always brought me something whenever she came home from school. The best one that I remember was a set of jack stones. I was jumping up and down and I remember my dad teaching me as I did not have a good control of tossing the ball up nor catching it.

I was the ‘problem child’ when it came to dinner. I had simple favorites like rice and soy sauce but ate very little. My mom would always make me finish my food. At some point, I got too thin and they got worried. Somebody suggested giving me a haircut because they said that my hair was too long (down to my waist) and that all the nutrients were going to my hair. So they did but it didn’t improve my weight anyway. Eventually, they prevented me from drinking right before every meal.

Meals were always on the table. My dad was strict although not so much about table manners. He just didn’t like too much conversations around the table. He told us about his brief experience in the military where they sat up straight and looked straight ahead as they shoveled food in their mouths. They were timed, of course. I remember our food that night was fish. And as you might already know, average Filipinos don’t serve fillet and we usually have to pick out the bones. So I was telling myself, there was no way we could do the same at home.

He definitely didn’t like the TV distracting us while eating. We could see the screen in the living room from the dining room. I used to get in trouble with my brothers because my dad would let it stay on in the beginning. But he would usually catch me glancing and not chewing, so he’d order one of my brothers to turn it off. My brothers then would look at me like they wanted to strangle me for not being discreet.

Many of my ‘firsts’ happened in the same house and actually before I was even able to read. I made a list of what I can remember.

First lesson on obedience. I remember my dad taking us to this new park in Pasig. It was so new that the wooden slides were not even finished yet! So my dad warned us to not use the slides but my stubborn brother JR used it anyway and sure enough it was no fun when his butt was slightly scraped.

First brush with death. There was a bad typhoon and the town was flooded. There was water in our house about up to my dad’s knees. That’s about a foot and a few inches. We then had to live upstairs. Unbeknown to my brothers whom I remember were watching the children’s show Lola Basyang, I sneakily went down the stairs and sat on the last step right above the flood level. But as I stood up, I fell forward and accidentally plunged into the water. My dad found me in the kitchen with the water containers. He said he almost tripped over me. I guess I ‘swam’ from the bottom of the stairs which was at the end of the living room. Either he found me soon enough or my angels were on duty then. After they wrapped me in a towel, they all gathered around me. My mom had an apologetic look mixed with a relieved look on her face and then she hugged me ever so tightly.

First lesson on recognizing good deals. We used to rent komiks or comic magazines from the next door neighbor for 25 cents for thirty minutes. But all four of us got to read it before we returned it. I still couldn’t read then but I loved looking at the illustrations. It was also my first exposure to Philippine Literature.

First physical fight. Once, when my parents were gone, my brothers put me in a boxing match with a four year old boy whom I could only remember as Ogie. I lost of course and in fact, busted my lower lip. That night I had my first really vivid dream.

First really vivid dream. I was getting even with Ogie and I was actually winning! I was pulling his hair with all my strength and he was tugging his head back but I was suddenly stronger than he was. I woke up feeling strong and happy that I was able to get even with him at least in my sleep! But then my mom (remember I co-slept with them) scolded me and said that she was awakened in the middle of the night because I was pulling her hair! I still laugh out loud when I remember this.

First lesson on physics. We once had a dog that was chained on the back porch. When I went in the house, the chain tripped me. And my forehead hit the edge of the cement floor. I had a knot on my head much like the shape of an egg. I was crying of course. And then after sometime, I noticed that there was a dent on the edge of that floor shaped the same as the knot on my head. This was way before I was taught that “no two things can occupy the same space at the same time.”

First lesson on entrepreneurship. This is particularly on “how to increase repeat sales”. We used to sell pigeons. If I remember it right, it was 20 pesos to 35 pesos depending on the age and color. But then the pigeons started coming back to us. And we’d keep it until the old buyer came back. And then guess what? My dad and oldest brother Frederick would sell them to the same buyer again! Of course I didn’t understand the logic but the buyers bought them back for five or ten pesos. Now I’m thinking maybe it’s sort of a finder’s fee. So then, my brother started teaching the pigeons to come back. He’d let them go and clap a certain way and then they’d be back. And he sold more pigeons that came back and for which some buyers paid twice for!

First exposure to gambling. My mom, my dad and my three brothers used to play cards. Pares- pares or pairs. Sometimes with real money involved. This was a really fun time for us. The house was filled with laughter. When I got a little older they taught me Pusoy-dos– game where the card number two had the most value.

All of these happened before or when I was four. 1986 at the latest. There was an instance though that didn’t make sense to me until I was maybe eleven and in my fifth grade history class.

First memory about politics. I remember being held by my mom while we were standing outside of the house. There were a lot of people marching, most of them wearing yellow shirts and yellow bandana and flashing a hand sign of the letter ‘L’. That instance only made sense to me when I learned about martial law and the Marcos versus Aquino snap elections. ‘L’ was for laban or oppose. (I just thought you, my dear readers might be interested to know that I am a Marcos. So more on this in one of my future articles.)

How about you? How far does your memory take you? Do we have any similar experiences? Or exactly opposite ones? I’d love to hear about them!

Post Author: Michelle (7 Posts)

Michelle grew up in Taguig City, Philippines where she finished her primary and secondary education. She took Bachelor of Science in Accountancy at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (Sta Mesa, Manila). Although she was unable to finish, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise that made way for "real world" experiences and even more colorful stories to tell. She now lives in Saint Louis, Missouri with her American husband and their two young Fil-Am's. Michelle is no longer a LiP writer.

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  1. John Miele says

    Michelle: Your comment about the WWF made me chuckle. Rebecca told me that in the 1980’s, her aunt had gotten a TV (The first in Bulala…She was already 20 years old) and a VCR. Her brothers used to go to Tuguegarao and buy WWF videos and bring them to Bulala, charging the other kids 1 peso to watch the tape. They would earn enough to buy more tapes.

  2. Bacolod Barry says

    Hi Michelle
    When my daughter was younger she also liked sardines in tomato sauce and rice. My wife said that was because she’s half Pinoy.
    Had a laugh about the pigeons, great story.
    one question, how do parents ‘get intimate’ with children sleeping in the bed? wait until the children fall asleep??

  3. Paul says

    Hi Ading Michelle – I can vividly picture the house you describe. We call them “century houses” and they are becoming rare.

    In our town, many had fallen into such disrepair (owner turned OFW) that they would be dismantled and replaced with concrete block houses. During the dismantling, one could see the expensive nara wood used for panelling the sala and bedrooms, as well as all other earthly possessions of the owner. Being a big kid (well, a much older big kid) at heart, I’d watch in excitement and amazement (how did so much fit into such a small place?).

    The sliding capiz windows are works of industrial art in my mind. Each piece/pane being exactly like the ones surrounding it. Add a good varnish to the window frame and the effect amazes me.

    As baketko (asawako) [my wife] and I are the same age, certain old USA television programs spark new conversations and ties between us. She’d watch TV at a friend’s house – the friend usually charged others a few centavos/centimos to watch a show, but friendship paid all debts back then. btw, she still has her love for sardines in tomato sauce (Ligo) and rice – something that’s never outgrowns!

    Gee, it’s like I know your story, but only from one of many told to me by baketko. 😉

  4. Danny says

    Kamusta ka Michelle,

    These memories are priceless, and not so different from my own. I was the youngest of 4 boys, your parents were very loving to you and your siblings, as were mine. I think we all have those certain memories of childhood, even the simplest of things.
    The farthest back I can remember is when I was 5 years old, and we visited my grandmother in Florida, this was in 1973, and we went to Disney World (which was fairly new at the time). She had just moved there from Maryland and retired, she is still there at the age of 97 years old now.
    The other thing that stands out was when I was 7 or 8 years old, my twin brother Denis and I were playing with my oldest brothers baseball cards in the basement, building “houses out of cards”. I must have slipped and hit my head..because later on, I kept asking my mom over and over where she was going, well it was a Tuesday night and she was going to the PTA meeting at school. We also had a bowl of ice cream that night, and I kept asking “Where is my ice cream?”…that is when my parents ask my brother, did something happen to Danny when you were playing downstairs, and then Denis finally said “oh yeah..he hit his head on floor”. So off to emergency room we went..and found out I had a concussion. We laugh about it today of course…and when I did get home from hospital that night, I got another bowl of ice
    Love these stories…keep ’em coming Michelle!!

    Salamat kaayo,

    PS..I wish I had those old baseball cards now, they would be worth a lot of money, my oldest brother Johnny keeps reminding me of this ..when the subject comes up..hehe…lol.

  5. Hudson says

    Hi Michelle,
    I remember when I was 4 years old( I have earlier memories, but this is my favorite to tell) President Kennedy had been asassinated and they were showing the funneral on the old packard bell television. I didnt understand about a video loop. All I can remember is I wanted to watch some cartoons, but for a week they kept prading him through the streets of DC. Why dont they just bury him I wondered.

  6. says

    Hi Michelle – I enjoyed reading this article, it really had some nice memories from your childhood. The part about watching the wrestling got a little chuckle out of me, because Feyma had the same experience while growing up. When Feyma first came to the States she always wanted to watch WWF on TV. I told her that it was all staged, but at first she just couldn’t believe that, I think. We always have a good laugh about that. Even to this day, from time to time I will tease her about how much she used to enjoy the Pro-Wrestling!

    Thanks for sharing this, Michelle.

  7. says

    Michelle, Thanks a lot for sharing your chidhood memories to us. I like the story about the pigeons. :smile: I also like WWF when I was a kid.. Still remember Lex Lugger?

  8. cris says

    Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for sharing some of your childhood memories.Yes I know “sarsi softdrink,very well, coz we own a carabao that my father used to till the land. No tractors then. Since we’re all studying, we stayed in Marikina while my father sleep in the farm (Antipolo) He will wake up so early and milk the carabao (it just had a baby) and bring it home, my mother will then pour it in a sarsi bottle and covered it with paper and im suppossed to deliver it to every house that ordered it before i go to school. I had to run from house to house so i can finish the task or i will be late for school. at that time, i remember seeing some of my classmates already on their way to school, sometimes, i felt like crying but somebody has to do it. It was a peso per bottle and i will get the payment every saturday, fr house to house also. It serves as our baon for school the next week. thinking about it now makes me nostalgic and happy coz it paves the way for me to dream to better our life….
    On the way from the farm to our house in the City, i will be seeing an airplane flying above me, i said to myself, ” I will be riding on one of those in the future”… when we dream, we have to dream big, afterall….its the only thing thats FREE.

    keep on writing, michelle

  9. DomAndres says

    Hello ading Michelle. I grew up in a barrio in Umingan, Pangasinan and i remember things when I was younger that were not commonplace nowadays. My earliest memory was when I was about 2 years old when I woke up alone in our house (kalapaw) crying and calling for my mom. I still remember the machetes (badang) put on the 3 sides of my mat, believed in our barrio to ward off evil spirits. I observe they dont do this anymore. Our fastfoods then was every Sunday when my dad would bring me to the marketplace, buy big pan de sal (they don’t sell those anymore)and go to our favorite stall selling bowls of broth beef/goat (pinapaitan). I still remember our trips to Lingayen, to the provincial capitol and the oyster viands (tirem) we had for lunch. I plan to visit the place again one day if only for those oysters. I remember floating down on banana trunks, on the swollen river near our barrio, with the other kids, every rainy season (June to August), with no fear of getting drowned, just holding on to the bamboo branches downstream by the river bank to get back on dry ground. Also, the rythmic thumping on a cold November night (November is rice harvest time) when people in our barrio make dudumen by pounding rice in a wooden dugout. We usually gather around one as kids, to play and eat dudumen by the moonlight listening to some singing or poetry contest (bukanegan or balagtasan)on the radio or playing sungka and hide and seek. My dad would also occasionaly bring me on his trips to the adjoining barrios delivering kabeng (locally brewed gin)on the carromata pulled by a horse. We had to cross several rivers and had to alight and walk on steep ascents to lighten the load. Those carromatas are nowhere to be found now, replaced by tricycle and multicabs, but those jaunts on a slow pace (on a carromata)has given me a load of memories I still remember with poignance, thrill and nostalgia. I presently live in northeastern Alberta with my baket and 4 kids,and its heartwarming to be reading about your experiences and your nice writings.
    Keep it up Michelle.

  10. says

    Michelle: Your childhood memories also reminds me of mine (also pandesal in the morning for breakfast). However, it was a totally different time period in Philippine History. I remember watching Shirley Temple movies, snow in US and interaction with American GI ( all called Joes) who were my father’s dental patients in the Philippine-American Army. My dream then was to see the United States and play in the snow. This dream was fulfilled in 1960, when I immigrated to US first as a graduate student and later as permanent resident and later as a US citizen. Cheers!

  11. says

    hello michelle
    wow your article explains of my experience in philippines.well i mean that everywhere i went i was called hogan by all the kinda big guy with very blonde hair.i have also been called hogan alot here to in usa.i could have probably signed autographs when i was there hahahaha kidding.i still remember alot about my childhood as well and i still feel like a youngster even now im allmost 40.
    salamat michelle for making me remember some good times in my life.godbless you and your family

  12. jonaky says

    Yes, there was a guy in the English village where I grew up, he did the same thing with pigeons. He just had the biggest local flight, so any birds he sold would soon see his birds circling in the sky above his loft. Including their relatives. They can see a long way, and they like to join larger flights … safer, and off they’d go back home.

  13. Ace says

    One word: Nostalgic!
    Haha! I really enjoy pandesal with Reno Liver Spread when I was young too… I even bring some with me in my lunch box back in my elementary days. And of course, WWE!!!! It’s always a favorite! Good column! Nice Michelle!

  14. Evelyn says

    hi Michelle. I’m looking forward to more stories from you .. Always hoping great sunshine in you life.

  15. andy says

    I guess I was always a realist when it came to wrestling but it is still a very dangerous occupation. When I was in my early 20, late 1960’s, I was attistant manager of a very large Walgreen’s Drug store. Now the hulkster was around yet and King of the ring was Paul De Marco. He bought all his vitamins and no doubt steroids from us. He really enjoyed attention and one day he asked me to annouce his name that his prescription was ready so people would come to see him. He was a very polite and nice man, not view he give in the ring. Anyway one day he came in with about 12 stitches on head and fore head. I ask If there was a little accident in the ring and he just laughed and said match was over and he was heading for shower whaen some lady picked her metal chair and smashed him over the head.
    Now days most understand this are just athletes put on show and that would not happen but then people still believed it to be true. I do really like your articles. That was just one of may this gave me.

  16. says

    andy, I have once seen a tv show where they were screening and training the aspiring wrestlers. It was not an easy job, that’s for sure. And ultimately, the show reflected values such as discipline, respect and humility. I think though that the Filipinos also fell in love with the drama of it, and the back and forths where else but on the microphone! Wahahaha!

  17. andy says

    Just one more thought that you gave me that I had forgotten about. When I was 6 and brother 4 and brother 2, when mom and dad where in the yard working we would run and dive over arm ao couch and roll. It was from watching the tumblers at circus. We called ourseves the fying undies. because that was all we had on. Man just one more reason I want to live there. We had to make things up because not many toys and no tv, certainly no video games. When I was there the last time and watch all the neighborhood kids playing kick the flip flop and laughing and having fun, I knew then that I made the right decision.

  18. says

    John Miele, I’m imagining how much fun it was for those kids. I bet they were talking to the TV screen, too. You know, me and my brothers could not believe it when my eldest brother told us that it was all scripted! We were all so heartbroken. :mrgreen: Wahahaha!

  19. says

    Manong Paul, some Pinoys have been hunting for those capiz windows! They’re beautiful, indeed.

    I still love sardines in tomato sauce. :-) When we ate it with rice, my dad would chop up shallots and put a little salt and a squeeze of calamansi. I remember my favorite brand was Master, and then I switched to 555 and yes, Ligo. My Manila Mart here in St Louis carries Ligo!

    Thanks for reading. Please say hi to your baket, Manong.

  20. says

    Danny, I’m good. How are you? I’m packing us up tonight for a weekend at Jeff’s country house. We have no internet there, but I’ll take my laptop as I’m sure we’ll sit somewhere with a free WIFI.

    Your grandma is 97! Wow! Now, she will have a whole lot of stories to tell. Hehe.

    And you have a twin brother! Another wow!

    Good thing they brought you to the hospital that night. Or else… you wouldn’t have had another bowl of ice cream. 😉

    I like it that you and your brother talk about those cards. A journey to our childhood is always dear to the heart and pleasant if not enlightening to the mind, isn’t it? And it’s free!

    Thanks for sharing your story, Danny.

  21. says

    Bob, Thank YOU.

    Man, wrestling was IT then! Nobody among us ever questioned why after all those blows and kicks and punches, there was hardly any blood in the ring! What mattered was we could actually predict who’s going to beat who. And still got excited over every match. Our whole family were Hulkamania fans!

    I wanted to buy a cd of his reality show and send it to them. Well, until his family fell apart.

  22. says

    Philmor, :-)

    I do remember him! What about the women who used to tag along with them? Queen Elizabeth? :-) And I remember the tag teams, too! The Rockers and there were these two goof balls that they let in first in every Royal Rumble only to be thrown away right the second they entered the ring! Wahahaha!

  23. says

    cris, I am sorry for this very late reply. The kids were not feeling well and wanted “Mommy” every minute of the day.

    Wow that was a unique experience and a great story to tell! I could picture you running and rushing and worrying that you’d be late for school. I like the responsibility given and in the process taught to children at a very young age.

    About the airplane, I have a classmate who is now in Canada who told me about his dream to ride on a plane someday. You are so right about dreaming big!

    Thanks Cris.

  24. says

    Manong DomAndres, I am sorry for this very late reply, Manong. Your childhood must have been awesome and very dear to you. And ah, you are my parents’ kababayan! I should make them tell me stories of their early childhood. My papa still fixes papaitan every now and then.

    Your memory is quite impressive and your descriptions took me to those times and places. I am specially jealous of the bukanegan under the moonlight!

    Thanks Manong for stopping by. I am back to my routine so I should be able to respond to comments more quickly. Please come by often.

  25. says

    David B Katague, I am sure you have quite unique experiences as a child and ah, with a dentist-father, you must have been born with a golden… smile. :-)

    Thanks David. I’d love to hear about how the US was in the 60’s specially in the eyes of a Filipino.

  26. says

    Ron W, Haven’t you heard that 40 is the new 20? :-) So you are definitely a youngster!

    I hope you enjoyed the attention from the Filipino Hulkamaniacs. Did you ever wave your hand three times and then put it behind your ear. Ah, you would have girls in their mid to late 20’s swooning all over you. :mrgreen:

    During Jeff’s second visit to me in the Philippines, he was called Stone Cold Steve Austin by the guys in my community. I told him I was gonna buy him a shirt with that name on the back, but he didn’t want it. 😛

    Thanks Ron for leaving a comment. May God Bless you and yours, too.

  27. says

    jonaky, My brother must have thought he was a wise entrepreneur. :mrgreen: I’m sure he realized later on that he actually disregarded every concept in Business 101. :-)

  28. says

    Ace, THANK YOU.

    Everybody, I would like you to know that Ace was my classmate from the first grade to junior high!

    Thanks Ace for leaving a comment. I hope you find the site entertaining and informative. Daan ka ulit ha!

  29. says

    Evelyn, I’ve never been greeted that way and oh, I love it! Sunshine has got to be one of the most taken for granted life blessings! Thank you very much.

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