Summer had come, and the sun was at its brightest, but the wind was cool still. A group of friends decided it was too lovely a day to spend inside a classroom. A plan was formed. We will all meet at my house and proceed to a nearby waterfall. Ton-ton falls it was called. The house where I lived during high school was inside the campus, and my parents worked there. Ten paces from the abode were one of the gates to the compound with a shade from which my friends would be waiting until my parents depart for work. We were skipping classes that day, so my parents could not know, or we would all be busted. Ate Luz, a cousin of mine now deceased, God bless her soul, was one of the conspirators. As soon as mother and father were out of sight, I beckoned my friends to come, all of them more or less a dozen, to the house to prepare for the adventure. It was going to be more than an hour walk through a jungle. Ate Luz then proceeded to cook our picnic food. Chicken Adobo included.
We were all in high spirits, giggling and laughing in anticipation nobody noticed my mother walking to the door. Apparently, she had forgotten something. Ate Luz, in panic, lifted the pan with Abodo and hid it behind the refrigerator. We fell silent. Oh no! We were busted.
” What’s happening here? Why are you not in school? ” asked my mother.
” We are rehearsing for a dance number,” I mumbled a lie. Mother did not suspect anything, and after taking what she needed, she left.
Relieved we burst out in boisterous laughter. When the food was packed, we bade ate Luz goodbye and started our forbidden trip. My memory is hazy as how the walk went on, but I remember the boys were noisy and were teasing the girls mercilessly.
An hour or so later, we reached a secluded cove lush with tropical vegetation. Happy sunflower faces around the waterfalls greeted us. The calming sound of water gushing down echoed all around. I looked up, and they saw the sun sparkling on top of the falling water. The pool below was so clear and so inviting. It was a hidden paradise. The boys gave a hoot and stripped down to their shorts. The girls were shy and would not come near the water. Splash! Splash! As the boys dived into the pool one after the other. One of the girls I can’t remember who said that this falls was cursed and we should not venture to the centre as it could pull you down and would never resurface after. Us girls who were sitting on the grass listening to her felt a sudden chill. We were scared to go for a swim and was content to just dip our toes in the water. The reckless boys cavorting in the pool teased us and tried to drag us there. I do not know who had a crush with who but there was a lot of flirting as adolescents knew how to. Satisfied with playing in the water, the boys each sat with the girl he liked.
Came noon, food was laid out on banana leaves on the ground. We squatted and enjoyed the sumptuous lunch that each one prepared. Annabelle I think, said her house was near, and we should come and rest ther eafter. We all agreed and soon on their living room we were all lying down like pigs ready for slaughter. Her mom was cooking some native delicacy for us. It was the first time I tasted Laing. Gluttons we were so full that the food we ate was coming out of our eyes. Sleepiness sneaked in, so I went to take a nap on a divan while my friends played a card game called the old maid. Whoever gets the old maid card loses. I was just about to doze off when we heard a vehicle pulled over. Darn, it was my mother and father. I didn’t know how I did it. My friends were all sitting on the floor in a circle, and I dove right in the middle. Trying to hide from a sound scolding that for sure was coming. Apparently, Annabelle’s older brother who was in the house earlier went to my mother’s clinic hoping to borrow some money from her when she refused, he snitched and told her what we did.
Meekly I faced my mother who of course reprimanded me for lying and reminded me that if something terrible had happened nobody knew where we were, and I would be held responsible for my friends. Humbly I agreed and told her how sorry I was. She said I’ll talk to you at home later. Dread immediately descended upon me. Funny, how days starting in excitement sometimes ended in regret.
Walking home, the mood was somehow dampened with my uneasiness. Each was silent with their own thoughts. Only a few weeks were left before our high school graduation and big decisions were looming on us. Of what the future holds. Concerns were raised that this bond we had will never be the same. Soon fate will pull us in different directions and a similar fun we will never experience again.
Positive results of exams were announced fortunately when we reached the campus saving me from a sharp rebuke. All my trespasses are forgotten. The school was abuzz with excitement for the year end. The teachers were more than forgiving. Understanding that youthful follies are precious and fleeting.
*Illustration by Umberto Brunnelesci