By Jhessa Gales
When I was younger, my mother used to sell ice candy in our sari-sari store. She personally made it in chocolate, milk with peanut, and buko flavors. My brother and I used to help her, without her knowing that we took it like coffee when freshly boiled and like ice cream when frozen. Unfortunately, no secrets can be kept for a long time; we were caught and never allowed to help again.
Ice candy became one of my favorite food, even until I reached high school. My friends and I would walk home almost every day just so we could buy some ice candy in a store. The store’s ice candy was different from my mother’s. It was just strawberry-flavored powdered juice. But it still gave me the same feeling. It was still soft like ice cream when it melted in my mouth.
One morning, the sun was bright and the sky was bluish. If I remember it right, it was Friday. I didn’t wake up late owing to my beloved mother’s voice. Like every other morning, Mama gave my brother and me a lecture on how hard her life had been and how easy our lives were. She asked us again and again why it was so hard for us to wake up early. “Leave me alone, Ma! I slept very late last night because I had to finish that book.” I said it in my head, but I pointed the book: Leave Me Alone, Ma.
When I left for school, Mama reminded me that I had been given enough money and I should not walk. I waited for a tricycle. “Malas!” I uttered when the tricycle that picked me up was driven by Boy Kamang. I wished it had been Boy Untol. In those days, my friends and I liked giving tricycle drivers nicknames based on how slow or fast they drove. I was OK with moderate speed, but Boy Kamang was just annoyingly different.
Our school was not far, but neither was it near. When we passed the bridge, I observed that the river was so clear, unlike the other day, when it looked like a chocolate drink.
Our classroom was not a normal room. We were using the science laboratory due to insufficiency of classrooms. We had long rectangular tables surrounded by tall stools. I was friends with my seatmates, and just like other students, we spent most of the day talking. When our classes ended, we decided to walk home, despite what my mother told me. We wanted to stop by the store where we often bought ice candy.
We walked on the national highway until we reached a large bridge. Under the bridge was the start of the shortcut to our village. We had to cross the river and then walk up a rocky hill with tall grass, which I found insulting, for they were as tall as I was or higher.
Thereafter, I felt surreal. It was so wonderful walking on the riprap. The water was clear. Jean, my cousin, was cracking jokes, and the rest of us laughed aloud. Our loud voices rang above the silent river and in the gigantic trees waving at us.
I looked at the sky. It was clear. I looked at the river. It was clear—a while ago!
I called my friends and shouted, “Baha!”
We became frantic. The chocolate-colored water was getting nearer. It wasn’t raining, and the weather was good, so the flood must be from the mountains. We decided to walk barefoot, not minding the sharp stones and other objects that we stepped on. What I had in mind was that I should live! I should survive! There was no time to entertain any physical pain.
Every second became harder for us to move, for the riprap was cut in the middle of the river and we had to wade through the water. The risk was at its maximum level. But there was no turning back. Going back was as dangerous as moving forward. So we decided to continue walking toward the opposite riverbank.
The riverbank was about twelve inches wide only, and some part of it was falling. We then climbed the hill up to the peak, and only up there were we able to breathe and thank heavens for not letting the mad river take us.
When we reached our favorite store, we bought ice candy from it. Each of us had saved six pesos for walking home instead of riding a tricycle, so each of us bought six pieces, or six pesos worth, of ice candy. Our lives could have ended due to our desire to eat ice candy. I wondered if I should have listened that morning to my mother, an ice candy maker.