When my paternal grandmother was still alive, Holy Week meant trooping to her house in Novaliches. There was no Mindanao Avenue Extension back then, and the traffic was horrendous – it was like physical penitence there and then.
She moved to Novaliches during my elementary years – that means after EDSA 1. The space was a compound shaped like a hexagon, with two sides being walls, a gate, and three as houses attached to each other. The said compound was provided by an engineering and metal works company where my father worked as a lathe machine operator (and foreman in the later years until the company folded up, victim of the 1997 Asian financial crisis) for more than 20 years. My dad chose to house my grandmother (together with an aunt) there, while we stayed at the production compound, so that my mother could tend to the cafeteria business.
An uncle was able to work in South Korea, and had earned enough to buy a 120-square-meter house and lot also at Novaliches. The area looked like it was in the province – unpaved and narrow road, lots of plants and trees, and vacant lots at three sides of the house. It was a good bargain back then, too good to be true. And it was.
Anyway, despite the change in scenery, our three-day Holy Week stay remained the same – hot, humid, and boring. My grandmother being cerrado Catolico (well, not really) and spendthrift, we had nothing to do at all. And being a brood of five males, nothing to do meant boredom. We actually looked forward to going home.
There was a TV, but watching was not allowed (except for religious rituals being shown on TV, and besides, there’s no cable). There was a radio, but only being used by grandmother during Angelus. There was nothing much to read either – back then, I was not yet enamored to books, and I was incapable of getting any – except for some cheap comics. These are back issues that you could get at one peso per each copy.
Comics back then was different from what the current generation is used to. Titles include Aliwan, Funny Comics, Wakasan. Each issue contained either short story comics, or the latest installment in the novel. An issue could contain at most five stories. My favorite then was Funny Comics, because of Combatron. I used to buy new issues every Friday. Lost interest when the story was ended.
Going back, we were subject to traditional beliefs, specially on Good Fridays. No meat till Sunday, no bathing after 3PM of Good Friday till Easter Sunday, no TV, no radio. Sleeping was the only recourse we had. Oh, I do remember brick games (actually a variation of Tetris), which were the rage during the blackout years of late Cory Aquino-early Fidel Ramos era. They were good time wasters, and mom had to buy two, though I was not really good at it.
Around year 2002, things had changed. The tranquil place that was my grandmother’s house became squatter hell – the notorious lots (which I had written about here). Then my grandmother, then a robust old woman of 70, became sickly. She got little sleep; a cat running on the roof would wake her up.
Her death brought to end the traditional yearly hike to Novaliches. It also brought an end to quaint beliefs. Now, I spent the long holiday watching TV and uploading some new plugins. Unfortunately, I am becoming addicted to Korean drama. But that’s another story.