‘Batang kalye’ | Inquirer Opinion

‘Batang kalye’

On a late Sunday afternoon, I was walking down the streets of our quiet neighborhood holding a turon and various pieces of bread I bought from our community’s bakery for our merienda when suddenly I was struck with nostalgia. I paused and found myself reminiscing the good old days of my juvenescence. As I started slowly looking around, every memory from my early childhood began to replay vividly in the corners and spaces that friends and I once shared.

I belong to Generation Z, born in the early 2000s. We are the sons and daughters of the generation where traditional way of life and technological revolution converged. That is the period of our lives where we relied on books, radio, and television for recreation and primary sources of entertainment. Simultaneously, computers and early forms of gadgets started to be popular and accessible to the masses, introducing us to the internet, where a variety of game applications, websites, and social media emerged as forms of amusement.

Most of the kids from our generation enjoyed spending time outside their houses. Playing at the internet café or using gadgets is only an option that we resort to when we’re resting or waiting before it’s time to play outdoors. As a certified “batang kalye,” I can attest to that. Despite having a desktop computer and a tablet at home, I still looked forward to when I could go outside to play. Early in the morning, late in the afternoon, and even in the evening—almost a third of my time every day was spent playing and socializing with others outdoors, except on school days, or when I had important responsibilities to attend to. The echoes of our voices and the sounds of our footsteps as we ran, shouted, laughed, and zoomed around our village signified the time of our reign. We were little kings and queens of our world; we ruled and dominated the streets as if it were ours. You could see the excitement and enthusiasm in our spirits, a Filipino child, ready to play every traditional game.

I remember that I mastered every Filipino street game that exists. Being tall, agile, keen, clever, and having long arms and sturdy legs, physical and mental attributes gave me an edge in most of the games.


You could witness me spinning, jumping, and dodging rapidly during batuhan bola; you could see me sniping cans using a carefully chosen slipper during tumbang preso; you could notice me running and being chased around during bente uno and taya-tayaan; you could also spot me playing the role of patotot, the team leader stationed on the first line and along the central lengthwise line during patintero. I also participated in piring-piringan, tagu-taguan, luksong tinik and luksong baka, pogs, dampa, holen, turumpo, piko, “ten-twenty,” Chinese garter, sipa, and many more.

I’m always thankful that I grew up playing outdoors. Despite being a frail and sickly child during my preadolescence, I became physically active, which helped me improve my cardiorespiratory fitness and build a robust immune system. I overcame my asthma, which is the greatest achievement I can attribute to being a child of the streets. I also learned to cultivate my soft skills: creativity, adaptability, critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership—which are a few of the indispensable skills that an individual must possess and continuously hone to use in their education and dealing with worldly matters. The child I was before is the foundation of my well-being today—possessing sensory acuity, mental keenness, and good physical health.

It’s just sad to see that most of the current generation of children are now confined to their homes—trapped in their contraptions and deprived of the outside world and rich tradition and culture of our country that can only be experienced in the streets. Instead of playing outside their houses, they spend significant time playing computer and mobile games, and prolonged video watching, posing a risk to their physical and mental health. With this, they lose the crucial chance to develop their physical and motor skills by engaging in physical activities and enhancing their socialization skills through interacting with their peers.

Now, I barely see children playing in our vicinity. I see a few sometimes, but it is not the same as before our time. It’s sad to observe that most of Generation Alpha are not aware of the rich heritage of Filipino street games; we are almost losing them to technology. I wish that one day I’ll be able to witness once again the streets of our places filled with children, teeming with happiness and energy that we, Generation Z and the previous generations, have once experienced. I hope that the spirit and identity of Filipino children, along with the memory of our traditional games, will be preserved and continuously handed down to future generations.

Justin Andre D. Sarmiento, 21, is a college student who yearns for the days of his early childhood on their streets, wishing that he could experience and enjoy being a child once more.

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