08 August 2010

Number 2

In the old days, playing competitive football at Division level was never a big to-do. The Division Meet would always be played towards the end of the year. Frequently, there were just our next-door neighbors to play against; on some seasons, the high school inside the Base put up a team as well.

We would be at the tail end of the first half of a tiring RIFA season, so these Division Meet games were – at best – treated as no more than just light afternoon workouts.

If qualifying for the regionals was never really problematical, actually being there always was! For one thing, most of the cities that hosted the games were by the sea. Puerto Princesa, Lucena, Calapan, Batangas, Cavite... They all have one thing in common: they are seaside cities which have hosted the regional games we participated in.

The football was never the problem; the climate always was. On the pitch, we had proven ourselves time and again technically and tactically at par – even better than – with everyone else. That was until the February or March – the months when the games were frequently held – sun began to bear down on the poor Lipeño boys who trained in mild late afternoon temperatures day in and day out.

The climate was not the only handicap. The conditions at the athletes’ quarters were always – at best – really quite Spartan. I am not complaining; over time, we all learned to live with it.

That said, from the strictly sporting point of view, the quarters were never what one could call ideal for athletic competition. These were no more than public school classrooms converted into athletes’ dormitories. On good years, we were issued folding beds to sleep on. Other years, we were just issued mattresses and we slept on the floor.

Getting the boys to bed down to sleep was always a problem in itself. Boys being boys, there was always bound to be somebody trying to crack a joke or something even after the lights had been put out.

It could get hilarious, too. The delegation kitchen always served hard-boiled eggs and Milo as snacks before bedtime. This was the perfect trigger for a farting match. In Calapan in 1988, the folding beds were arranged in two facing rows. My boys of that year were not particularly timid about things other boys would take pains to hide.

One night after an egg and Milo snack, the lights out and everyone seemingly trying to go to sleep, one boy suddenly blurted, “Fire one!” That was followed by the most underwear-tearing loud fart you could ever hope to hear.

That was, naturally, cue for everyone to burst into spontaneous laughter. No sooner had I hushed everyone up when another boy from the opposite row – who had apparently processed his egg and the Milo – shouted, "Fire two!" And let loose his own big gun...

Getting good neighbors was something one always prayed for. In my first-ever regionals in 1983, our next door neighbors were a public school track team. Thin as the dividing wooden wall was, we were privy to lively female banter about paglalaba ng pante and sino ang maglalabas ng ihî sa arinola.

The very same team was up at 3:30 in the morning, limbered up noisily at 4 and then went back to bed at 5. I do not remember that they won anything for all their toils. The girls were probably sleepy on the track.

Another time, we had for neighbors a boys’ baseball team. They stayed up drinking noisily amongst themselves till the wee hours of the morning. By 3:30, some of them were taking turns on the tungâ-tungâ manual water pump just a few yards away to take baths. Whether they were taking baths to go to bed or in preparation for the new day, that was something we never bothered to ask. I do not believe they won any of their games as well.

The biggest problem each time the regionals came around was, of course, where to do number two. Number one was always easy; all we needed was to find a tree or a wall and that was it.

For public toilets, the host schools would have holes dug in the ground which were then liberally sprinkled with lime. For privacy, the holes would be walled with sawalî. My word, even in desperation, I never could number two in that! For one, it required squatting; who, pray tell, was trained to number two doing that? Next, if you looked down, you would inevitably see what everyone before you left behind – that is, if you had not already died from the smell!

Our solution, thus, was to always scout the city as soon as we arrived for an inn where we could pay short-time to take baths and do number two each morning. Even this was not without its moments. There was this motel we went to in Lucena where the sweet painted ladies would be leaving their rooms with their customers just as we would be arriving.

Another time, in Sta. Cruz in Laguna, a couple of the boys and I took a tricycle one morning to this sleazy motel which, we learned, had quite a reputation. When we gave the name of the motel to the driver, he broke into a wicked grin and remarked, “Ang aga naman...” We had to explain that we were going to do our toilet.

Things are a little different these days. I am told most public schools that host the regionals have toilets inside the classrooms. That is a relief!

In all fairness, we were always well taken care of and served good food whenever we were in the regionals. However, they do say that what goes in must come out. When time came for number two, that was when being in the regionals was not such a hot thing at all!





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