It was in 1973 when my family migrated to Bislig Surigao del Sur. I was 5 years old when we moved there. This migration was part of the employment package given by PICOP (Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines) a paper milling company where for the duration of my father's stay was a foreman of that company. We were housed in a very nice village, they called, "Forest Drive." The houses were built about two to three meters above the ground, of similar designs varying only in color. Our house was right at the corner of Yellow Bell Street. It has two big bedrooms, toilet and bath, living room, dining room, and a kitchen. For somebody who came from a rather shabby residence in Manila, this house was a dream come true.
I can still recall the rows of elegant wooden houses which are color coded, reminiscent of the houses in the suburbs of New York City in the late sixties. The houses were not gated and everybody was neighborly. I remember going out of the house even on a sunny afternoon exploring the area without my parents fearing of my safety since it was a relatively peaceful place.
When I turned 7 years old I went to school for the first time. My sister and I attended at JMS De La Salle Learning Center. Similar to all kids who are attending school for the first time I was nervous. Especially so, I was not a reader when I went to school. Unlike today if you are not a reader even at seven years old, you will not be enlisted for Grade I. During the seventies it was a non-issue. Our teachers who were mostly singles and were from Manila as well were in mini skirts most of the time. Their lanky legs I enjoyed looking. Who could forget Ms. Alferez, my adviser who was so pretty in her long straight hair. Her patience and passion for teaching; however, overshadowed her physical attributes. Before the first quarter ended I could already read. Thanks to her.
There was also our Music teacher in Grade 1 and Grade 3 whose name I could no longer recall (I hope she forgives me) who taught us songs which up to this day I remember. Songs that I was able to use in my own class as motivational tools. We also had plays which were usually excerpts from Hans Christian Andersen's Tales. She played the guitar well and sang beautifully. I love musical plays. Thanks to her too.
Every morning, in our green and white uniforms, we would assemble in the school grounds for the flag ceremony. There I remembered singing the Bagong Lipunan Song, "Bagong bansa, bagong galaw, sa bagong Lipunan." The Martial Law song. I was utterly clueless of the nation's politiical state because as a child I found security in our new place. Although I hear the sound of a siren every night at the strike of 10 p.m. To me it was just a reminder that I was way past my bedtime. Only years after I knew that the siren was a signal of the start of the curfew time, and that it was because of Martial Law.
Our brief stay in Bislig was like a dream. Similar to a dream, the comfort and security I felt was fleeting. The reality soon was exposed and reeked a foul smell literally and figuratively.