Malilong: Losing our innocence

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

WHILE in the room where my granddaughters were attending virtual classes, I overheard my third-grader’s teacher asking her pupils what the Holy Week meant to them. “We’re going to the beach,” an excited voice rose above all the others. “It is owned by our relative.”

Such sweet innocence. I’m sure even the teacher did not expect him or any of the children to say that Holy Week meant staying at home to meditate. While many of them will not be going anywhere because of the pandemic and will probably have time for family prayer, the school break will mostly be spent with their phones, tablets and other gadgets, playing Roblox and other online games.

Which, in my book, is just fine. Let the children enjoy their childhood. It’s not going to last long. Allow them to store enough beautiful memories to console them with later in their lives when the problems that come with adulthood begin to pile up.

One afternoon many years ago while I was driving home from Talamban, I saw a group of schoolboys playing sandlot football in the school yard. I pulled over and watched a game that until now I would remember with an equal measure of contentment and sense of loss.

There were more than a dozen of them, their faces dripping with sweat which glimmered in the fading sunlight, and in white shirts that were turning brownish from the dust, chasing a black and white ball in the narrow field. Their competitive spirit was evident.

There was also so much laughter even as bodies and feet clashed. Once in a while, someone would fall to the ground after contact but he would quickly get up by himself or be pulled up by the nearest boy and rejoin the action without even bothering to shake off the dust. I did not see anyone remonstrating with anyone over a foul or something. They did not even have a referee.

I remember that game not for its quality, which was sorely lacking, but for the amazing character of its players. They were young and innocent. I wonder if they retained their innocence after they lost their youth.

Most probably not. Perhaps, they had not even fully spent their youth when all innocence gave way to malice and evil. And pray, tell me, who corrupted them? Who buys the votes in the SK elections? Who hires the children as drug runners? Who teaches little children to sneak into homes and steal, assured that the law will not punish them?

A few weeks after that unforgettable experience, I played with my IBP basketball team against a team from the clergy. The game was no more physical than the sandlot football played in the school yard but unlike the children, we were incapable of laughing off the bumps when bodies clashed. We were not innocent anymore.

Let the children be. If we can not even restrain ourselves from going to the public market to buy ingredients for our binignit, what moral right do we have to tell them to stay away from their gadgets during the Holy Week?