That is Jovie Ann Decoyna, 24, from Benguet, youngest of the six children of a farmer and a domestic helper, and the highest scorer in last year’s nursing board exam, speaking.
Her statement reminds me of my own life “in the farm” which indeed was hard. Who else do I remember when I think about that life but my father?
I did not appreciate the agriculturist for waking me up early every morning to help him tend to his garden of egg plant, tomato, okra, chili, pechay, cacao, etc.
In fairness to him, I only spent few minutes in the garden every morning and afternoon to water the plants and help him uproot weeds or till a new plot. But I was only less than ten years old and the few minutes I should have spent in bed seemed eternity. It was forced labor. The sprinkler weighed twice as much and the well where I got the water was twice as far as when I was fully awake. And in the afternoon, while my playmates rolled and chaseed after bicycle tires or played bog-uy or taksi, I was there in the garden planting or watering animosity or uprooting whatever good will he had shown towards me.
We had no tv and I did not know about Voltes V or Heman my cousins from Manila would talk about when they came home for Christmas vacation. They seemed so intelligent, confident, clean and smooth while I felt sloppy, awkward and clumsy. I blamed my work in my father’s garden. The soil made my little fingers coarse, my sun tanned skin made me awkward, and the little muscles growing in my arms made me clumsy and that place of work-without-play made me want to run away.
And I did plan to run away.
To the left of our house was a rice field, after that a peace of land left to trees, shrubs and wild plants, and next to it the sea whose rumbling we could hear from the house when the weather is bad. To the right of the woods is a swamp that extended towards the river. And across that river is the poblacion.
I imagined somewhere between the woods and the swamp I could hide and survive by trapping and grilling birds. My father did not love me enough. Instead of letting me sleep or play, he made me work in his garden of tears. If he could not take care of me, I might as well take care of myself.
I try to remember what I planned to do when I was already Tarzan. How I would go about my day to day life while I was a run away child in the jungle. But as far as I can remember, all I knew was that I would run away and trap and grill birds. Maybe the rest of the day I would be making and setting the traps to catch birds, and at night, I would be nursing the wound left by my father’s cruelty. I did not also think where I would live or sleep at night. I only have this picture of me sitting under a tree and looking far away, sorrowful.
I did not attempt to run away because I was afraid of my father who seemed to read my mind. He warned me one day that if I run away, he would not look for me. I could try if I wanted to find out.
I never found out.
Maybe I talked in my sleep, and my mother who shared the bed with me and my sister SP was closely listening and reported my plans to my father who was sleeping in another room.
My father and I did not bother about kamote, alogbate and saluyot (local vegetable) shoots. It grew everywhere and all my mother or our helper would do was go out to the fields and cut them out and bring them home. In cities like Manila, they are very expensive.
Life in the farm is hard. I did run away eventually and I realized I miss so many things about it.
Decoyna said she was open to the idea of working abroad but, given the opportunity, would prefer to work in a hospital in Baguio.
She would rather be home too.