Road to RosalesBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
SAN FRANCISCO — A pile of fallen leaves meekly lay along the roadside.
They didn’t remain there for long for they were soon gathered up and thrown into the air, twisting and twirling as a car wistfully rolled by. As they spun round and round, its tornadic form started to subside as it drifted towards the dust-ridden sidewalk.
As the leaves commenced to rest, my mommy and I trotted passed them, again stirring those same leaves up and parting them in harmony in accordance with our very steps.
Naaalala ko nga nung six-years-old ako, me and my mommy would walk sa tahimik part of Golden Gate Park. From 9th Avenue we would walk; pass the Lake, pass the Tea Garden, usually underneath the cover of large cypress trees which at times, cut the sunlight into dazzlingly rays upon the park’s floor.
And it’s during these times of unique tranquility through the vast underbelly of the park, that my mommy found the time to bring up those ‘stories’ of hers.
You know those ‘stories’.
These are the stories about how life was back then: the hardships, the trials and tribulations, all packaged into an interesting but detailed tale which almost always involved one of the most universal facets that immigrants have used ubiquitously time and again to get their point across: their intriguing trip to school.
“You know, before…” my mommy would start, “… we had no electricity. We had no transportation. We had to walk miles and miles, many miles just to get to school. Me and your brothers… only had chinelas on and the road wasn’t paved… it was dirt road, dirt road.”
Simply put, this was the Filipino version of Little Red, Riding Hood, except instead of a little girl in with a hood, it was a girl with pair of chinelas and instead of going through the woods, it was going through all fields filled with bigas; a flat plain of bigas as far as the eyes could see.
She went on. “And when it rained… the road turned all muddy-muddy… and it’ll take longer just to get to school.”
And not only were these stories laden with dramatic audio, much of the tale was also graphic; the graphic usually being as surreal as they come.
“O... see that... see that therrrre… look... right there… see that…,” my mommy would say while pointing at her unshaven lower leg.
I’d look obviously at the imprint of a large gash the size of a quarter on her ankle that could still be seen to this day.
“See that… that’s from crossing those wire fences, and sometimes you’d get your skin stuck in the wiring and so it’ll scratch and scratch you… so that’s why there’s a gash there.”
EEeee... I don’t wanna see that. A nasty, ugly wound it would have been back when it was still nice and fresh that if I’m not mistaken, grew even larger, thanks to the maggots and stuff growing within the infected wound after enough time had passed of insufficient amounts of cleaning. Now I completely understand the importance of peroxide.
But apparently, just like everything else, all this is part of the whole story. Just like a horror flick, there won’t be any thrill if you closed your eyes.
“See that… that’s what I went through, eh,” she’d say.
“See now why you’re so lucky,” as her eyebrows moved upward in tandem, agreeing with her statement.
And that’s basically the gist of why she and many others like her go through these grueling and sometimes even awkward stories; to get to that simple if not irrefutable point: You’re luckier than we are.
And of course, the contrast of that with what I was literally exposed to, that being the vast beauty of Golden Gate Park, was drastic enough for even a little six-year-old like me to notice. Muddy roads that could swallow your foot, usually don’t happen in Golden Gate Park. Maybe during an El Niño season… but even that only happens every seven years.
And if that wasn’t enough to make their point as clear as day, there is a resounding belief that a little exaggeration never hurt anyone either.
My Uncle Rosalino, the younger brother of my mommy, seemed to have even more ridiculous stories about his trips to school that bears a closer examination for its truthfulness.
According to my close cousins, Tiffany and Pearla, they would recount stories that their dad told them of how he had jumped over cobras and other poisonous rattlers along the roads in our province of Pangasinan just to get to school.
Now who the hell jumps over snakes to get to school? Really now? Snakes.
I had to ask my mommy for verification of such stories but my mommy could only scamper out, “I don’t know what your uncle is talking about.” Hmmm…
To tell you the truth, I really don’t know where the truth lies within any of these stories. Most of the time, you’re pretty much stuck fishing out the truth from the sea of falsity which could take awhile.
But when you were a kid, you were never inclined to do such a thing.
You believed everything that was told to you,was the truth.
Just like the idea of Santa Claus.
It just made sense, even though years later, the idea of a guy going around in a red jumpsuit in less then 24 hours giving gifts to two billion children may seem a little absurd.
But this type of embellishment of the truth, where they are perceived to do ‘amazing’ things, has a strange but effective purpose. This was their own way of making kids like us look up to them, perhaps in demagogical way so that we’d idealize their lives as sort of magical in that even in such dismal conditions, their superhuman and enduring abilities were able to supersede it all. And so, since we didn’t have to suffer though what they had gone though, we, as “lucky” American-raised children, logically have to be thankful and achieve better than they have since we didn’t have to worry about cobras biting our ankles when we went to school.
Pretty much, it’s the old “shock and awe” idea in action. Just ask the Bush Administration. They know exactly how this idea works.
We soon reached 19th Avenue which basically is a large imposing residential freeway that sliced this beautiful park basically in half. As we stood there, cars raced pass; many at 50 mph which was definitely over what the little signs that shivered along the roadside were claiming the real speed limit was. The light turned yellow then red… and after enough cars had crossed the red light, there was a cessation of activity along the roadway.
With the blink of the green, we started our own crossing; all the while as cars to the left of us, started fighting for space to take a left onto Park Presidio. This was the days before the timers, where one would know exactly how many seconds they had left before they’d get killed. So basically, there was just one rule: RUN.
As we got to the median, the lights turned to a shade of yellow. We continued to hurry across like a bunch of ducks on the run while the sounds of the cars were revving in anticipation of their green light of life.
And it’s during these times, I do wonder… “Are you sure we’re lucky… because as far as I was considered, you never had to cross 6 lanes of killer traffic to get to Rosales, now did you, mommy?” - PDM