He has not forgotten. Whatever he does he does from the perspective of the little child. Peel away the layers of what he looks like, his aging body, all that complexity, the seeming sophistication of his world view, all the things he has ever done and you will find a little child just having fun.
He is a banana flower, an artichoke he saw just once in real life in a grocery store in California. Outside, he is all protective armor. He is the epitome of maturity with a semblance of the university professor. He has over half a century of facial lines, warts and scars. But deep inside him you will find only a little child, hardly changed after all these years.
And he is perplexed at life, the quickening travel of his years. He is only trying to deal with changes both of him and of his world. He is growing slower inside a world accelerating to warp speed. He does not mind.
Yesterday is no farther or nearer from him than his grandparent’s ancient house at the edge of main street in the municipality of Dumanjug, all of 73 kilometers South from Cebu City. It was here where he grew up as a child inside the idyl of the Philippine rural countryside.
He is completely urbanized now. And yet he wonders if he has changed at all in the sense of how he goes about life. He wonders if he is not still doing fundamentally the same things he once did in that old haunted house with the silong full of his grandfather’s things, the boxes of official documents, miscellaneous paper, old magazines, the archives of a past life, which even included a war, evacuation and liberation. And then that rusty dusty old cash register with its metal cards of large red and black numbers. Whatever happened to that? Whatever happened to everything in that old house?
The ravages of time.
And yet he carries them all in memory as fresh as any child remembers. He still explores his world the same way he once did. He still fights ennui and boredom the same way. He still wanders off by himself some tired old afternoon although he must admit there are fewer of that now. He rides his van where he used to ride carabao.
But the little child is still inside him. And when he does anything at all. He knows it is the child inside him which does the doing. And when he talks to anyone he does not talk to anyone of advanced age and maturity. He talks also to the little child inside every person. He presumes everyone is like him who nurtures a little child under all that armor of importance and maturity.
He knows: It is the little child inside us which moves us to do the most unexpected things. When we sing or dance in the streets. It is the little child inside us who does all that. When we make or just appreciate art, it is not some wise old intellectual university person who does that. It is the little child still exploring his Lolo’s dusty old haunted house looking for something strange to excite what could have been just another boring rural afternoon.
A local columnist writes of a baby who urgently requires a life-saving heart operation. When a doctor, a well known lady, and her architect friend offer to help, it is not some mature person of importance who would do that. It is an innocent little child. Only a child would have the temerity to help whom they do not even personally know. Only a child knows the value of doing that.
In early colonial religious art, the soul was often pictured as a little child. This makes perfect sense. Heaven would be a playground populated by children just having fun exploring their world as if that was all there was to it. And it would not be a bad place.
When we ask ourselves: Who are we truly? What is deep inside us? What is our true age? How else could we answer but to let the little child speak?