11 October 2010

The Fiesta and the New Year

We used to have a Tito who lived with us while we were growing up inside the Base. The very same Tito gave my brothers, sisters and I these really nasty pet names such as Igbaras, Kurdapio and Pantarorong.

I will not tell you who had what pet name.

Tito lived with us for the five-day work week and then went home to Nasugbu for the weekend. When he did, it was never quite the same. It was always fun when he was around.

We took the cue from him and called each other the very same nasty names; until somebody got pikon. If nobody did, the names drew insane childhood laughter.

Tito had a couple of terms for when Mom and Dad were in spanking moods. When Mom stooped to pick up her tsinelas and started to chase after any of us children, Tito referred to that as the piyestahan.

Kasi daw, Tito explained when we started to have minds of our own, the pak-pak-pak which followed resembled that of fireworks during a piyestahan.

In retrospect, perhaps it is fair to say that Mom’s tsinelas did not really hurt all that much. What drew the wails nonetheless was – I suppose – being the object of Mom’s ire and the unfairness of not being allowed to reason out; else one got more of the piyestahan.

When Mom had a particularly tiring day and any of us happened to be particularly malikot, then when Dad arrived she would make sumbong as a matter of course. “Naku ‘yang anak mo ang tigas ng ulo! Paluin mo ngâ!”

I suppose Mom never really learned that when Dad was coming from work, he was probably dead tired and, therefore, naturally ill-tempered. So out went Dad’s sinturon.

This my Tito referred to as the Bagong Taon.

Now the thing about Dad, when he got started, was that he did not seem to know how to stop. Unlike Mom’s tsinelas, Dad’s sinturon really hurt. Because whoever was the end of it naturally started to wail, Dad would holler, “Tumigil ka! Hindî ka titigil???!!!”

And so the Bagong Taon continued… Naturally, so did the wailing… What was it with parents in the old days? They kept hitting but kept telling you to stop crying? Even as a kid, I used to think that was the dumbest thing!

Of course, if that was me being hit and I told Dad as a condition that I would stop wailing if he stopped hitting, a lot of good that would do to me…

When Dad really got out of control, Mom – who started everything, remember – would panic and then try to intervene – sometimes with the whole sorry episode ending with the two of them fighting and me sobbing and thankfully forgotten in one corner of the floor.

That was the stupidest thing, I used to think even as a little kid. She was the one who asked Dad to have a go at me; then panicked when Dad simply complied. Tsk! Parents!

Earlier in the evening, there was a news item on TV Patrol saying that a children’s rights advocate group was lobbying for an anti-corporal punishment bill to be passed by Congress. Huh? What is this world coming to?

If the bill becomes law, it means that parents – and teachers – can go to jail for anything from a month to six for being found guilty of using corporal punishment. In short, for doing something parents naturally do…

The piyestahan and the Bagong Taon might have hurt while I was a small kid being given the treatment; but I would like to think I turned out none the worse for wear for the simple matter that it was all part and parcel of growing up! I actually look back at those days with a glint in my eyes – with humor even!

Everyone I grew up with as well as classmates and friends in high school had similar – probably even worse – stories to tell. The bill, unbeknownst to the proponents, indicts older generations. And I, for one, find it unacceptable…

Of course, if a child gets really hurt – as in really hurt – that is a totally different matter altogether. But why even think of attempting to deprive a parent of the right to discipline his or her child the way he or she feels appropriate? How many parents, pray tell, will really want to hurt their children in a way that will end up with the children needing medical attention?

Does anyone really think the American model of a child being able to call 911 if a parent so much as lifts a threatening finger is really – as in really – good for the child? There will be those who will agree with this model. Personally, I say leave it to the parents! There are laws against doing bodily harm to anyone, anyway.

But to make a meal out of the palô? Talk about going overboard over a non-issue! Please! Let us leave our legislators to the more substantive and pressing tasks they need to act on…

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