Memories and Dreams

A couple of years before the EDSA Revolution broke out, right in the middle of the bustling city of Cebu, just behind the high- walled Cebu City Medical Center and beside the stinky Taboan river, inside a tiny dwelling where my parents rented for years after getting married, I had the first glimpse of how it was to be alive. How it was like to be born in the slums of old Sanciangko.

According to my Nanay‘s recount of my birth, among her children, I was the only child whose coming to this world was in a sense, unpredictable and out of timing. I’m still amused to know how I surprised everyone when I just slipped through mother without her having to endure any pain of labor. How I bumped my head on the mat that day… and still survived, with still a round head.

Life in the city was hard. With a carpenter for a father and a plain housewife mother who’s not earning anything other than father’s meager salary, it was twice as hard. But there were really good friends that helped us all through our struggles as a family, which we are forever grateful.

However, my parents knew there was something needed to be done than just watched the sun set and wished for another day to be less cruel than it already was.

Though born and spent some years living in the metro, my parents consequently opted to go back to my Tatay‘s (Father’s) hometown in the southern town of Cebu— here in Naga—where I spent the rest of my childhood, teenage and now my adult years.

Life in the city, though I only have little and vague memory of it after we left Sanciangko, was nothing in comparison to the experiences I had living as a probinsiyana. I love every bit of being away from the chaos of the metropolis. I learned to love my place. I learned to love being a mountain girl. I cannot see myself as a native of Sanciangko but a Naganian. It runs in my blood. My heart has been tied to every tree, boulder and slope that has stood witness to my happy childhood—the kind that had ran up mountains, slippery hills, searching for wild fruits and things we could use in our games and sometimes eat, climbed over towering trees gathering mansinitas to eat or just sit up there enjoying the view and the moment, bathed in the cold rivers of Capayawan while battling the urge to ran away because people said the cave near the river was haunted, played like I am every young boy in the neighborhood. I wasn’t that much scared about risking and living when I was young, unlike today.

However, poor work opportunity was probably one of the hardest thing we had to withstand as a family. Each day was a struggle we have to endure as we took our daily activities looking for means to earn something to sustain the day. It was hard in the city but hardest when we moved out. Food, an important basic need we ought to have yet barely have had, was uncategorized. Any kind of food that our parents put on our plate was so heavenly to savor—ranging from root crops to fruits to vegetable soups— was all we could afford to have at that time.

I remember when I was four or five, Tatay (father) brought us to the mountain where he till a parcel of land of a far relative. Possibly realizing that we do not have anything to eat for lunch, he hurriedly grasp his bolo and turned at the back of our nipa hut. I then saw him digging through a portion of land just behind our old hut. At first, I was just watching and observing him, digging and thrusting his bolo to the hard ground. A moment later, I saw him grasp a bunch of roots that has tiny rounded extensions. Innocent and curious as I was, I went over and checked how many root crops Tatay unearthed. Later on, I learned that the crop was locally known as “apale“. Since that moment, when I see apales being sold in the market, I am always reminded by that particular scenario in my life. Camote, apale, gabi, saging (banana) and other fruit harvest sustained us all, at that time when eating corn (since we never had rice until high school) was just too much to ask for.

Returning almost a couple of decade later, I looked at the vast expanse of greenery and saw the young me in every place where I’ve set foot when I was young. (c)2012

The mountain served mainly as our only help for sustainability and survival. But behind all those tough moments spending my time in the mountain, was the feeling of oneness with the environment. That drew me into loving one aspect of my life— the one great treasure I’ve been carrying wherever I go, reminding me to always and never forget to look back to where I have come from. Behind all the struggles, was the feeling of gratitude as everyday I got to be where not all was lucky enough to experience—to be on top of everyone, looking at the almost superficial world below me. The mountain was my fortress of hope and dreams that somehow, life would stop being so cruel at us.

Years after years of struggling and with the combined effort and will of everyone, eventually, we did. We carry on because we knew we needed to do something for ourselves, for our parents, for our dreams.

As soon as our youngest started schooling, Nanay found a job as a janitress in what would become our college Alma mater. She grasp that opportunity after failing to pass the Teacher’s Board Exam. Yes, she graduated with a degree in education with the help of her younger sibling, Tiya Inday. She graduated when she was almost forty. When asked why she took on a janitorial job when she could have preferred to teach instead, she would always say that she cannot be too picky about what job to take while her children are hungry. I could not imagine how that job must have blew her self-esteem. But I’m sure Nanay could not care less.

The job that Nanay got, helped a lot to finance our studies while we cling onto every possibility to maintain good grades for the scholarship grants. Everything has to be done well or we will suffer great consequences—stop schooling and face a doomed future. Tatay was still a carpenter with no permanent job. Nanay sustained when Tatay could not bring home what is needed to survive school, growing up, our own needs, expectations, life.

Unlike most teenagers at that time, we never wished about material things because we knew our parents would not be able to provide that to us. We live in the moment. What money we get, we share that to the family. That is one thing I will always be grateful for—because life taught us hard lessons—we learned to live out the value of sharing, like we used to when we were kids. One sibling could not eat more than the other, but because we have a younger brother to look out for, my Kuya (older brother) and I had to leave some food so our youngest could eat more. My Kuya was the most intelligent among us three. My younger brother, well, I wouldn’t call him “our own little scientist” for no reason. He knows every technical job on the planet and I still don’t know how he actually do that. And me, well, I am the most emotional.

We lead different lives now but we are happy with what we have. Afterall, it was my family who is the biggest treasure of my life.

Don’t give up on your dreams because the person with the big dream is more powerful than the one with all the facts.

I saw this quote from a magazine my Nanay brought home and it stayed in me until this day.


Just last year, during our first Live Via Crucis, I had the chance to climb that familiar steep slope once again. Bittersweet memories came playing along and I cannot help but got misty-eyed. I cried silent tears and no one seemed to have noticed. Once again, I was captivated by the beauty of that familiar slope whose place in my heart has rooted so firmly like the memories itself—memories that are heavy to bear but always good to savor. If there’s a place where I would want to be, it is right at that familiar mountain overlooking at our residence at present—the place where a young soul used to share her dreams with the trees and the birds and the boulders— right at the summit of Mt. Capayawan.

I’m a bird! (c)2012
We saw these young kids playing. They were just like me when I was young— innocent, carefree, fun and beaming with freedom. (c)2012
The road that spiraled down to where we reside at present. Capayawan. (c)2012

And to complete it all, it would have been great if I came to know of this song during those precious times in the mountain—a song which Nanay taught me just a year ago. She said Lola (grandma) Thalia used to sing, “I Was Poorly Born On the Top of  the Mountain” to my older cousins. I am sad that she passed away too soon. This was probably older than my Nanay herself as I found out that it is a pre-war song used to be sung by soldiers and old folks and those natives living in the mountain who knew how to sing an English song. I wish I knew the right lyrics but honestly, I don’t.

I was poorly born on the top of the mountain,

caressed cherished by the motherly love of the thunder,

playing with the mountain, _____ of the lightning,

thrilling, thrilling kiss of love is always mine.

O my love, o my love, _____ cries today,

I am lonely and helpless without thee.

If I face me see,

You shall not be mine.

I shall surely die with my broken guitar.

If anyone would be kind enough to share the complete and correct lyrics, I’d be totally indebted.

Updated: Jan.27, 2012

One kind commenter has just extended her help. You can browse on her comment below for the right lyrics of “I Was Poorly Born on the Top of the Mountain”. Thanks much, whoever you are! 🙂

Updated: April 09, 2015
I also noticed that many of the readers were searching for the Tagalog version of the song. So I decided to put it up here today. Again, this was shared by another commenter below.

ako’y ipinanganak sa tuktok ng bundok
kalaro laro ko’y kulog na matutunog,
dinuyan ko’y ulap sa papawiring bughaw,
halik ng kidlat ang s’yang kaulayaw.
ay sinta ay buhay iyong pakinggan,
kaunti mong paglingap sana’y makamtan,
kung iyong ipagkakait dibdib mamamatay,
gitara’y mawawasak.

45 thoughts on “Memories and Dreams

  1. Hope this helps… I was poorly born on the top of the mountain,
    Cherished by the motherly love of the thunder,
    Playing with the wonderful fire of the lightning,
    Thrilling, thrilling kiss of clouds is always mine.

    O my love, o my love hear my cries to thee,
    I am lonely and helpless without thee.
    If my fate may say, you shall not be mine.
    I shall surely die with my broken guitar.


  2. There’s also a Tagalog version but can’t remember.

    Akoy ipinanganak sa tuktok ng bundok
    kalaro laro kong kulog na matutunog

    What’s next?


      • tagalog version/ ako’y ipinanganak sa tuktok ng bundok, kalaro laro ko’y kulog na matutunog, dinuyan ko’y ulap sa papawiring bughaw, halik ng kidlat ang s’yang kaulayaw. ay sinta ay buhay iyong pakinggan, kaunti mong paglingap sana’y makamtan, kung iyong ipagkakait dibdib mamamatay, gitara’y mawawasak.


  3. i really like the song.i’ve learned it from my teacher when i was elem.i still remember the tune but forget the exact i have it.thanks to you mam perla munez.i can now share the song to my pupils.


  4. To Basangsisiw and the rest of the commenters: This song brings back many, many wonderful childhood memories. Since I left Philippines for a greener pasture three decades ago, this song was etched in my mind. I always sing this song every chance I can – be it in the office, driving on the freeway, taking a shower, or just passing time. The lyrics is a gentle reminder of where I came from not only physically but the tenderness, courageous, lovingness of my mother and father as I was growing up – rearing me with good moral virtues and values helps me to succeed and became a successful executive in one of the fortune 500 company here in the US, with God’s blessing and guidance of course. Praise the Lord for such an encouragement! Thank you Basangsisiw for your post. God bless!


    • You’re very much welcome,po. I have not lived long enough to relate to classical songs but I am in a way, mysteriously drawn to the history of the past, including but not limited to the music of those era. I am glad this post helps recollect memories and moments of your own life’s journey. God bless you more! 🙂


  5. Hi! I never thought I’d find a blog about this song. This song was always sung to me by my mom whenever she puts me to sleep. That was in the 80s. I never learned the words, but there is there a certain magic to this song because it is sad and happy at the same time. And somehow you can tell it is an old song. My mom sang it 50s style, full of vibrato. So you can imagine. I will pass this on to my newest baby so that he may pass it on as well.


  6. i Loooove this song. Been looking for the lyrics that I had never learnt. I heard this song many times when I was a preschooler so I memorized the tune but I never learnt the 2nd half of the lyrics. thank you ever so much for this website!!!!


  7. after enjoying the lyrics of the song, I read your mountain adventure. I am very happy to read it. I had a pretty similar experience, having to thrive on the bounty of nature due to the sudden poverty we had to face when my parents separated. Survival is easier where nature is unexploited. Nature provides.

    Thank you for the song!!! it is the best song I remember from childhood. I knew the English version, but had trouble with the Tagalog version. I am preparing a presentation for foreign audience and to prove that this is a Filipino song, I needed the Tagalog version too…

    Thanks, again, Maricel. I hope you are always well!


    • You’re very much welcome po. I owe the right lyrics to our very kind commenters here. My gratitude is endless. I wish I had enough time to spend childhood with my late Lola so I could have asked her of the right lyrics but she passed away too soon. Thanks also for taking time to read the blog. Poverty is never without end for those who has the courage to surmount hindrances. We aren’t rich but we are able to provide now enough of what we need to be shared with the family and those who are going through same struggle like ours. But most importantly, we are rich in love. And I think that is more important. 😀

      Wishing you and your family, bountiful graces to sustain and keep you. 😀


  8. Thank you sharing your own humbling experience, Sir Dan. As shared by a lot of commenters here, this song echoes such beautiful memories of long ago. We might lose this genre of music to the contemporary tunes of today but so long as we and those who particularly love these tunes will still love, enjoy and will tirelessly share this to the generations to come, this genre will live on, even only in our hearts.


  9. this is such a nostalgic song for me. sang by my mother when we were still living in the mountains of cotabato. we literally lived in the mountains, planting upland rice through kaingin. those days were filled with childhood innocence as we kids traversed forests, brooks, mountain tops in search of edibles. and always when we get home our folks would sing old songs such as this. (another song goes: “we are village lavanders so gay, we earn our living washing clothes for people every day…” i forgot the rest of the lyrics), tragically we’ve lost the old romantic songs of long ago to the popular music of today, some of which are nothing in comparison.

    thanks for this page gasansisiw.


  10. Hi marcel: I’ve visited this thread a couple times and I’m thinking maybe you should sing this song now that you have the lyrics. How about recording it and posting it here?


  11. I don’t think I can give justice to the song po. And besides, I am not sure also if the melody I knew was exactly the original as I cannot have anyone validate that for me. It was only my Nanay who taught me the song po kasi.

    How about instead of me, you, my readers, will do that for me? Perhaps you could record your own and have it uploaded to Youtube and send me a link on this thread? I know a lot of the readers and visitors of this post would be happy to hear someone actually singing this classic song. 🙂


  12. Hi cel, as i read this, can’t help but got teary eyed…never i imagined i would chance upon my nanay’s lullaby to us way back early 60s… Please allow me to share her tagalog version since an english version exactly the same as hers was already posted… here it is… ako ay natao sa ibabaw ng bundok… kalaro laro ko ay matutunog na kulog… siyang taga aliw pag ako ay nalulungkot… namamasyal kami sa ituktok…o giliw ko ikaw ay nasaan…halina at ako ay nalulumbay…ikaw ay maghintay ako ay darating…pagpatak ng ulan bandang takipsilim… Thanks very much po

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Ma’am Gigi! I am happy you get to read this post po. And thank you na din for sharing another tagalog version of the song. This song in general somehow brings back memories of our mothers and great grandmothers. The nostalgia is always something good to savor.


  14. I was poorly born on the top of the mountain
    Caressed by the motherly love of the thunder
    Playing with the wonderful light of the lightning
    Thrilling,thrilling.kiss of clouds is always mine
    O my love o my love hear my cry to thee
    I am lonely and helpless without thee
    If my faith shall say you shall not be mine
    I shall surely die with my broken guitar.


  15. This song is my favorite during my primary school years in our town….Alabat Island….i am searching for the title of this…..


  16. Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

    I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost
    on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress
    or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally overwhelmed ..
    Any recommendations? Many thanks!


  17. I remember that song. It was sung to me by — I can’t remember now — probably my father (RIP), but snippets of it I can still remember, as well as the tune. In fact, that’s the reason why I came to your blog. I was trying to recall the lyrics of the song. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Jack! As always, it warms my heart to know that there are so many people out there who share a personal connection to the song. Thank you for the quick stop. Have a great day, wherever you are! 🙂


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