Whilst I was born and I grew up in the Philippines, I don't have a rightful claim to being an island boy. I panic in open water. In fact, I can't swim. I can float. But that's more a function of my bodily fat than any conscious effort on my part not to drown and therefore die.
I grew up in Cagayan Valley, amongst goats, pigs, chickens and carabaos, all happily nestled between the verdant mountain ranges of Sierra Madre and Cordillera. My five siblings and I didn't have plenty of toys, but we had plenty of fun with whatever was around. We created a "soapy" fluid by pounding hibiscus blooms with rocks and mixing it with water; then using the tube-like stem of a papaya leaf, we would blow bubbles. We would search high up the trees for young mango leaves to use as an improvised harmonica. We would freak each other out by sticking the needle-like style of santan flowers into our tear ducts.
Even now, my sibs and I are still nature freaks. My youngest sister, Loren, maintains a pretty flower garden in front and a vegetable patch in the backyard of our Antipolo home, two hours away from Manila. Her chili bushes are so popular, she regularly welcomes neighbours to them. My youngest brother, Vincent, is studying to become a vet. We are a family of plant- and animal-lovers.
I've become a city boy, myself, in the past six years. Hong Kong will do that to you. Thankfully it doesn't ever take more than two hours, at the most, to get from anywhere in the city to even the most remote point in the S.A.R. And whenever that happens, the city boy disappears for a while and gets back in touch with his inner Cagayano.
And I'm fine and happy.
As long as I don't need to swim.