I have a sense of fondness towards fish balls—the one being sold on the streets, not because it really taste good, but because there’s something special about it that reminds me of my past.
Yesterday, I paid a visit to a once familiar place—the old sleepy subdivision in San Pedro, Laguna where I used to stay during the period of my “OJT” back in 2006. The nostalgia of the times gone is what urged me to go back and reminisce.
The first thing I searched for, after reaching the place, was the small sari-sari store that my old friends and I used to chill out with. I remember the many nights of joy shared in this little space, the many sticks of fish balls and the many stories of love, frustration and future dreams.
I remember that once upon a time, there are four young dreamers unified by the same fate, four innocent young men who wish to bring change in each of their deprived situations. I am one of those four youngsters and I must say that life must be really hard for the rest of us back then.
We were all independent lad who came from different provinces. We all came from poor families and all depends from the scanty allowance remitted by our parents. We’re all enrolled in the same college, trained in the same company, lived in one subdivision and shared one dream: to be successful.
I still can recall how we marvel after seeing rich people driving luxurious cars and living in beautiful houses in our subdivision. We wish that someday we can own that too. We also envy those college students partying after class in a nearby bar. At times we got tired computing how much spare money they have to afford such social gathering frequently. But sometimes, we cringe at the thought that they weren’t doing well in school and that partying is one way to vent their frustration. Such situations, reminded us that we’re still lucky that even partying for us could mean hanging out in our favorite sari-sari store, enjoying some sticks of fish balls while chatting anything about life. At least with this, even without the flashy disco lights and bottles of beer, we’re doing great on our studies and our situation was our inspiration.
I can never forget what Nanay Tess (the storekeeper) told us: “There’s no way to go but up”. We may hit the rock bottom today, but tomorrow we will have more than enough, but that would only happen if we will cling to our dreams.
And yes we did. Couple years passed and we’re up on our “OJT”, same with our studies. The time has come to leave the place that cuddled us in our struggling years. It’s time to leave the sleepy subdivision and the unforgettable sari-sari store in it, the fish ball stall, Nanay Tess and her advice, and most of all my friends who just like me who believed in the power of dreams.
The night before we packed our bags, we agreed to spend some of our earned funds from our allowance to celebrate our triumph. We rushed to Nanay Tess to have some beer and of course our favorite fish ball on our table. We were so happy that we made it against the many rigors which came to challenge us. From there, we made a pact under the power of friendship that we will do well in the years to come.
That night was the night we promised to always keep in touch.
A decade has passed and I was back at the very place. I realize that there were handfuls of changes made on what I thought a sleepy subdivision. Nanay Tess and her sari-sari store were gone. Gone was the fish ball stall and is now converted into a burger stand. And above all, gone was the friendship that was born a long time ago.
As I glimpsed of the changes brought by time, I can’t help myself but shed tears. Really, there’s nothing permanent in this world—only change, and time is such a big factor.
To this day, I don’t know where my old friends are. We did not keep our promise to always keep in touch. The last time I heard of them, they are in different parts of the globe while I stayed locally and found a decent job which somehow relates to what I studied back in college. I am not yet successful, though but hopefully soon.
Perhaps, my comrades—the three of them— are all doing well now. But I know, just like me; they also miss the stick of fish balls and the bittersweet memories.