Once upon a time, without the benefit of having iPhones, PSPs, Angry Birds, and before the word “tag” meant another thing, there was this outdoor game we boys (and some girls) virtually played before class in the hallowed grounds of Mrs. Soliven’s concrete court (that’s OB Montessori to you). I usually arrive at 6AM and see two or three kids hanging around at the time. On this very court, there are two poles that serve as volleyball net support, and these two became the “bases”; the “territory” in which we must protect.
I remember starting and saving the first base and look for someone to go and make the other pole as his base. It really depends on who’s joining and which side someone chooses. It’s either he’s a friend or a classmate or a school bus mate. My pre-determined base is located near the broadcasting booth while the other base is located near the “Liberty House” (beats me) of our school.
In this game, you have the beginnings of a lesson on draft picks and roster management. One of my best friends in the world, Jon Voltaire, who at the time, was thinner than a young Atong Redillas but is swifter than a Camaro, is usually on the other side. In those olden days, we always get to choose our “teammmates”. I’d normally choose Norman, who is arguably the fastest kid on the block who runs and steals bases like a rugged Quiapo snatcher. Then there’s Vishala, who moves like a more agile version of Gumby, with his rail-thin body and sneaky ways, he gets the job done. For my line of defense, I’d normally get the big, burly, twin brothers Michael and Duane, who’d block anyone who dares steal our base. Francis, who’s also one of my great friends, is a year older, and so we needed is veteran wits. Then there’s the fiery George, who until the time we were in high school, never lacked the energy to push through and we needed his temperamentally-impulsive-negotiating skills (whether you’re tagged or not) were always an asset.
On the other side, Jon Voltaire would normally choose Salus, who runs like a horse, capable of tagging you from yards afar because of his long tentacles. Macario is also in the mix, playing like Charles Barkley, talking trash and taking names. Mareon, with his field leadership skills. There’s Joselito, whom you might misconstrue as not apt for the game but his death-grip on you will prevent you from saving your teammates. Benito is always a fast player, he’ll jump on you like a hyena and maybe rip your grade school uniform off. Jose Paulo mesmerized me with his head-and-shoulder fakes and foot stomps; he may not run fast, but he’s wily and clever.
Whenever we get the chance to play with the “pang-hapon”(afternoon) boys, it’s always a thrill, knowing that there’s this AM-PM rivalry going on. I remember Luis, while he’s still a nerd during this time, you’ll already his triatlete potential, along with his one-sided hair and glasses during this time. Then there’s Timmy, who before I often confused with Luis, is deceptively fast accentuated by the floppy hair. There’s the school yard bully Michael James who always imposes his will while running like a Mack truck. Mark Bryan’s there, too, with the left-handed drives to the bases while telling a good one-liner or something. Darcy’s a tiny kid then, but helluva speedy fella; can jump through the fences and run like a leopard.
We also got to play “agawan-base” with the girls also, but only during the special events (OBMC field trips are ‘special’, yes). You were wary on going aggressive against the girls because if you did tag them in the wrong way, they’ll be very much at your ear when Monday comes. Pardon me for not remembering all the girls’ names who took part in this “sport”, but all I can remember is we boys must exercise extreme caution (and observe personal hygiene: no hyperactive sweat glands) in tagging and making these girls prisoners and stealing the bases from them.
These were the days before we played basketball and other sports, but I think you can judge kid’s character by simply playing this fun outdoor game. Without guilt, and without any form of scoring.
My childhood was fortunate this way. There were no distractions, only pure, simple fun that stole so much time in school. It was great while it lasted.
And then there’s the flag ceremony. I can still hear in my head that usual theme music that reminds us that we have to “fall in line” and sing the National Anthem and recite “Panatang Makabayan”, all while us boys were sweating like yaks and looking forward to the next “Moro-Moro”.