Tuesday, October 6, 2009

CHILD MOCK WARS: Airsoft to Slingshots

SUNDAY, JULY 26, 2009. I went to the Mandaue City Reclamation Area to watch an ongoing airsoft battle on an open lot nearby the Cebu Doctor's University. It is my first time to see an airsoft event. I saw grown-up men running; their rattling plastic weapons spewing off plastic pellets at opponents. The ground is very muddy but they were very serious with their game. I was quite amused and I shook my head unable to believe seeing “aggressive” grown-up people doing things that only children used to do.

I was wondering what were their past time during their childhood years? What sort of games did they play as a child and what kind of neighborhood where they were reared in? I'm not sure if this bunch of men are late bloomers yet, I was wondering also if they have experienced our old-school war games?

Then and there, nostalgia visited me. I played war games when I was of elementary age. At those years, my aggressive nature where already harnessed. Boys of my age or older, when I was able, urged me to join them in “battles” against another group of boys a block away. Neighborhood were pitted against another neighborhood and there were many many ways to play a war – depending on the season.

In October, when young bamboo shoots are sturdy enough after the first rains, we make pop guns with it. Small strips of wet paper balled to fit inside the hole of the native pop gun are used as bullets. It pops out one paper pellet at a time and then you retreat and take cover to reload while another would take your place. A balled wet paper will hurt and sting your skin if the air pressure pushing it is just right. It will even hurt you more if a very itchy seed of a certain plant is used as projectile.

This same bamboo pop guns with large bores are used to squirt water at opponents when caught unawares. Water most often used are either those laced with red pepper or from a canal or, worse, urine. In the heat of the battle, some boys will use the bamboo rod that pops the paper out and use it as a dagger in retaliation or when cornered. When pinned down, you have to wriggle and fight your way out. Rescue missions are rare in those times.

We fought head on without the use of cover and body protection unlike those “big boys” I saw in that airsoft event who fired their plastic guns behind obstacles without looking at their opponents. They used a lot ammo and hitting nobody! In our case, it is one bullet one kill. Supplies are limited. We do it in mass-frontage attack shouting battle cries with counter-attacks and lateral strategies. It is a very close close-quarter affair. Sometimes, it became so personal with flying fists settling the issue.

In another season, we used the rubber slingshots. The typical projectile is rolling two-inch strips of paper up to three-eighth of an inch thick and bending it in the middle to look like an inverted V. You squeeze the two ends of the V together over the rubber sling and pull it taut like pulling a bow and release it at your intended target. This will hurt twice more than that of the bamboo pop gun especially when released from an exact distance of 6 to 10 feet. Farther than that, the paper arrow will swerve, made off-course and off-target by a passing breeze.

We solve that by using the flower stem of the tikog grass. The tikog is heavier than the paper; will hurt more and is effective even in distances of ten feet or more. The juice of the tikog can cause allergy on the skin. The good thing about it is that our neighborhood is the only place where this kind of grass abound. With that luxury, we won many wars and made many allies and our numbers increased and we became confident in waging wars in far-off places, even crossing district boundaries.

Our opponents, upon seeing that their paper bullets are no match to our tikog arrows, used strips of GI or copper wires encased and hidden inside the rolled paper and it became so ugly to each side that naked metal wires flew all around and nobody dared to meet in the middle. The good thing about our generation is that we exhibit a spirit of sportsmanship and fair play, in imitation of war movies, and resort to ceasefires and parlays complete with white flags. We either settle for a truce or continue the war with other weapons.

Sword-fighting is one of them. Inspired by medieval knights and samurai movies, we arm ourselves with three-foot bamboo sticks with garbage or cauldron covers as our shields. Three or five of us would meet head-on with the same number of our opponents and, sometimes, when the pain is too much for one boy to take, the sword becomes a spear; then a retreat and shouts of victory and taunts; a foot of territory gained.

Another is the Indian-pony fight. One boy would ride on another boy's back and square off with another pair and try to kick each other down until a rider fell off or the “horse” will buckle under bringing with it his rider. Another is using rubber-powered rifles. With the same principle of the hand slingshot, this wooden “weapon” fire small pebbles and green manzanita fruits. The range is much farther and battle tactics are inspired more by that popular TV war series – Combat.

One childhood game I hate to play is imitating Bruce Lee. Every school recess (yes, it's like a ritual), ten to fifteen boys will come at you with flying kicks and tiger claws and you end up at the bottom kissing dirt with big bumps on the head and a soiled uniform. Tears are forcibly restrained else the taunts will be more nasty and cruel. No regrets there. I learned later that this is the typical “school of hard knocks”. A good training ground.

We fought our battles at schoolyards, in abandoned buildings, on the streets, along riverbanks, grassy fields, on open basketball courts and at the waterfront area. Escape and evasion are part of our “maneuvers” and parkour-like running were developed and mastered; well ahead of its time.

These were how I relished my childhood together with other kids of my generation. We improvised with what we had and we enjoyed much more than those airsoft guys could have imagined in their lives. Besides, it was not awkward doing our thing then like these grown-up men are doing now. I'll bet their moms would give an approving smile at their just-harnessed battle skills. Maybe. But I'm sure the missus don't want to be part of it. Especially the muddied military outfit.

My aggressiveness were fine-tuned at that early age and have been handy when crunch time came in my adult life; especially with the real thing! I have my resourceful generation and my tough neighborhood to thank for for being mediums of my passage to these rites.

Going back to that airsoft war, I saw an organized mayhem. The field were pockmarked by parties upon parties of untraditioned men who fought not as a single unit. All the contingents were ill-trained for the business of battle. All ran helter-skelter for cover and friendly fires a-many. Umpires raised yellow flags on the premise of a “hit”. Blaring music and a commentator all joined in the chaos drowning out the essentials of an engagement – the passion of the game and their sounds.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

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