Where have all the kids gone? I ask myself as I stare out the window of our room from the second floor. I can see the entire stretch of our empty street and imagine tumbleweed rolling in the wind.
It’s almost five in the afternoon and yet the place is deafeningly quiet. No kids running around screaming, no bikes speeding by, no clapping sounds of slippers and tiny bodies hitting each other as they roll and tumble.
Our streets are always empty now, looking like a ghost town compared to how it was before.
I’m part of the last generation of children who got to play street games until 9pm. Those who shouted ‘siato’, ran barefoot and jumped over a playmate, a long line of garter and rubber band weaved together. I’m part of the last generation of children who didn’t have an email address, a Facebook account, and a cellphone. The last kids who knew what the lyrics of the songs :tagutaguan sa ilalim ng buwan [hide and seek under the moon] meant. Because we really did play with only some street lights and the moon lighting our way.
After waking up from our naps which our parents promised will make us grow taller, we would ‘hit the streets’. The sound of our playmates calling our names from outside gave us butterflies in the stomach. Because it meant endless hours of running outside, of screaming our silly sweaty little heads off, playing without a care in the world.
It meant hours of running and screaming not worrying about the dirt and the bugs. Of getting scratched and bruised and dusting it off to catch up with our playmates. Of having an official time out to jump and wave goodbye to airplanes.
We owned the streets. Drivers respected the children and their right to play outside. They knew the streets belonged to the children of the neighborhood and passing thru meant interrupting an intense volleyball session so they would honk gently as if to say thank you and have fun.
These days, drivers own the road, children are almost always kept cooped up indoors, away from the bugs, bees, germs, and bad people of the world.
Oh how I long to see the streets filled with the sound of children laughing, of the beautiful sight of children having the time of their life, of children knowing how it’s like to play IRL.
How I miss to see children make paper boats and chase them around the corner until they land in the sewer, or make bubbles from crushed flowers and a piece of stick.
How I long to show them that boring is just a concept made up in their overly-stimulated heads because the world out there is filled with tons of things they can mix and match and piece together to create something awesome.
But the streets are always empty now and our kids might never know how it’s like to own the streets again.