Saturday, May 16, 2020

To All The Boys I’ve Fought Before…

Human memory is often quite unreliable. As such, our fondest memories are often idealized to portray ourselves as the main protagonists of this unpredictable, ever-shifting, mixed genre adventure called “life.”

With this in mind, rather than fighting against my personal biases, I am a person who will gladly embrace them as indelible parts of my own individuality. After all, there is no one in existence who can actually claim to be completely neutral.  Furthermore, as aptly stated by Eli Weisel:

“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”

Fortunately, I am rather confident that no feelings (or at least no one worthy of note other than those willing to find offense at every little thing) will be trampled and no persons shall be victimized by the admittedly biased, oft-unreliable, but hopefully entertaining recollections of a middle class almost-rich kid from the 90’s.

You may or may not be surprised by this, owing to my apparent loquaciousness, unnecessary verbosity, and love for the comma-splice in written narrative, but in all honesty, I am actually a very reserved person in real life. This is not to say that I am shy however. I have never once considered myself to be fearful of other people. Rather, I am and have always been an introvert.

Of course, given the clingy and extremely sociable nature of the regular Filipino, you can probably imagine how even just trying to mind your own business would eventually lead to other people attempting to mind your business for you – and of course, this is where the conflict begins. 

You see, I am reserved but I have a horrible temper. If perceive that someone has wronged me, I will return the favor exactly five times more in my mind. Now for a lot of you, being a “rich-kid” probably translates to living a pampered life among other rich-kids talking about yachts, fancy cars, and palatial estates – and yes, of course that was part of the package as well… but in all honesty, it was a very small part of the package. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that I was an “almost-rich kid” and not a “son of a multi-millionaire” rich kid – but I would say this is also due to the fact that was enrolled at the IAMS (Iloilo American Memorial School) where social standing and family pedigree didn’t really matter that much. In a way, life at IAMS was actually a bit of a meritocracy wherein each pupil was judged based on performance rather than connections. It was nice that way.

Therefore, due to the combination of having a short fuse combined with being generally reserved, I actually found myself in a staggering number of fistfights during my four blissful years at IAMS. In no particular order, these are some of my most memorable encounters.

Vs. Damian 

You remember the big bully that I talked about in my other entries? Well, this is the guy I was talking about. I don’t have a lot to say about this encounter because I’ve already covered it before. Damian was 2-3 times bigger than me in terms of body mass. We were about the same height. I managed to keep him on the defensive because I stole the momentum at the start of the fight. I’m fairly certain that he could have ended the fight in his favor rather quickly if he ever managed to grab a hold of me. Fortunately, the school security guard intervened before this could happen. All-in-all, I’d say the fight ended in a draw.

Vs. Robert 

I am not even sure why I fought this guy. He was about the same size as me with the same build. He used some really strong front kicks and corkscrew punches owing to his karate background. I have to say, he hits with such precision that his punches really drilled themselves into my body. They hurt much more than Damian’s heavy blows. Of course, having been trained in karate myself, I manage to land on him as much as he did on me and given that we both chose to engage and disengage at almost the same times, we each took a blow for a blow most of the time. The main difference between us is that I was willing to go for the face while he specifically went straight for my body – probably used to sparring and point fighting? Anyway, this fight was pretty much a draw. It ended when our classmates separated us after about three engagements.

Vs. Unknown Grade 5

This happened while we were playing a game of dampa^ on the IAMS outside stage wherein the Grade 5 also liked to play. One of them just suddenly came up to us and told us to leave. He was probably a foot taller than me, but rather scrawny. We refused and he singled me out and asked me if I wanted a fight. One thing that I learned from my father is to always and without fail to throw the first blow – so I did. I punched him straight in the gut and he buckled for a bit and the fight was on. He threw wild haymakers in a horizontal arc at me and I just threw straight corkscrew punches in response. Given that he kept getting hit in the chest and stomach area while only grazing my face with very weak, slap-like punches, I definitely got the better of that exchange. The fight ended when his buddies pulled him back and another bigger guy came up to challenge me. Fortunately, a teacher saw us and put a stop to it before we could begin again. I’m pretty sure I would have lost to the much bigger guy. Still, I won this fight pretty handily.

Vs. Lynnrd

This fight happened during my very first day at IAMS in Grade 3. Lynnrd was one of the biggest boys in the class second only to Joeceph. He challenged me to a fight for some reason and we met at the boys washroom (C.R./ Comfort Room) during lunchtime. The grade 6 boys were there for some reason and one of them told me that this is how they did things here. Whenever people wanted to fight, the Grade 6 would be around to officiate the bout and make sure nobody gets hurt too badly.

With that said, once we took our fighting stances, I stuck to my father’s advice and immediately rushed forward to throw a straight punch straight at Lynnrd’s face. He reeled back from the impact because well, being a lefty, I have a pretty mean straight even though I was basically a skeleton next to him in body mass.

He recovered quickly and put up his fists in front of his face and pointed in my direction. Sort of like a muay thai stance but lower at about chin level. He then just threw a barrage of punches machine-gun style at me. They didn’t really hurt as much as they were just plain heavy accounting for his much larger size. I was involuntarily pushed back but I kept trying to regain my footing while throwing the same corkscrew karate punches that I knew back at him. 

The “referee” grabbed us both by the throat and told us that it was enough when he saw that I was getting pushed back too much. In all honesty, this was a fight that I should have lost badly. However, because I landed the first and more significant strike and he didn’t really hurt me at all, I’ll call this one a draw.

Vs. Apol Ace

You know what? I can’t believe that I can even remember some of these names myself, but I do. Anyway, this wasn’t much of a fight. Apol came up to me after the fight with Lynnrd and taunted me about how I’d lost the fight even though he wasn’t even there when it happened. I asked him if he wanted to try and he immediately threw a kick to my midsection. Naturally, I responded with a kick right back at him. We kept exchanging side kicks and roundhouses like this for about 20 seconds before my mother came up and told us to stop playing around. 

Also, we became friends after this.

Vs. Julito 

I’m not sure if Julito remembers this one, but we actually fought once. What is amusing is that we didn’t even hate each other, we just wanted to have a little boxing match since my father taught me how to box and apparently, he had actually entered some amateur boxing matches in his area.

Well, this was pretty one-sided. He kept throwing jabs straight at my face – which I was totally unprepared for. I kept waiting for a straight or a hook so I could counter him but he never threw any of these and contentedly just jabbed through my guard. I tried to jab back, but since I wasn’t really trained to do this, I just kept eating counters whenever I did.

Over-all, this was the one fight that I lost pretty badly. There were no hard feelings afterwards though.

Vs. Abraham

And here is another fight that I’ve forgotten the reason for. All I know is that Abraham charged straight at me for some reason and held his hands way up high, like as high as his arms could reach and then started windmilling punches in my direction with rage. I was slightly unprepared so I ate about two-three of these before I could respond and started charging in to negate the arc of his attacks. I managed to land about two shots to his face before we were stopped. Over-all, this was a draw.
I miss these times…

Maybe I just have a penchant for violence, but I really enjoyed these times. There never really any bad blood between my opponents and I after any of these fights – and of course, there were no serious injuries either. It was some kind of unwritten rule between the boys, but even though we had access to box cutters, compasses, and scissors, no one ever actually thought of using these nor even resorting to low blows to the crotch area while fighting. 

I would say that a huge part of it is fear and respect. We feared not the opponent, but the consequences of elevating the fight to a different level. You see, as soon as you start bringing weapons into the mix, then you are basically giving your opponent free reign to do the same – and when weapons are involved, then fatalities and serious injuries will definitely follow. We were young and naïve back then, but we knew how to respect this simple cardinal rule. 

I can only speak for myself but, I would even go as far as to say that we had some semblance of what we would romantically call a “sense of honor” – something that I believe the world needs really badly, in this time of crisis when the human race may only be a few missteps from the brink of apocalypse.

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