The river of my youth

When I think back on my childhood, what comes to mind is a river, a wide and deep river that cascades from the mountains to the sea.

I grew up along the bank of Tagoloan River in Misamis Oriental, northern Mindanao Philippines which is located beside the back of the Catholic Church many years ago.

I don’t know if I can give any account about my early life without mentioning the Tagoloan river since it is imprinted in my memories. Even now, I can feel the cold water on my mind and the sound associated with it.

My first recollection of the river is when I was in Grade Two. At that time I can wash diapers and rugs. If I chose the one below the house of my Grandpa, it is only me or Luz (Pete Naelga, an aunt), washing.

Doing the laundry isn't that fun because we usually have a heavy load and the conversations we had would occasionally be interrupted by the sound of wooden paddles slapping clean the soaped laundry for washing.

On Saturdays I want fun so I chose to wash at the other side passing through the houses of Iyo Dodo Neri and the culverts of Toto Nacasabog .

In this area there are a lot of people washing clothes since it was strategically located within a bed of stones that warm up the soaked laundry. There's also a century old acacia tree that provides a cool shade from the sun thus making it comfortable for washers to do their chore and talk up a storm.

I can remember Lilia Dancing or her sister Gaga or Femia with their mother Iya Lydia Dagus Dancing or my neighbor-friends Cherie Pacheco or her sister Gangga doing laundry, though not too often because they have helpers clean their clothes.

I also remember the group of Iya Denny Gaccion Paduganan with the family's working student Bernardita and Nang Sylvia Gaccion with her husband helping her with their laundry.

When “Nang” Gangging Nabong Pabelonio is around, doing the laundry is more fun because she would talk a lot and her laughter echoes across the river.

My mother also does the laundry near the river but she doesn't socialize as much. While waiting for the clothes to dry on the bed of stones, I went for a swim with friends who are either done with their chores or just hanging around near the house.

When I swim in the river, I can feel the stones and rocks but as I wade deeper I can sense the strong current which is why I swim with friends towards the island fronting the river.

Me and my friends consider those who swim far in the river to the island as tough and brave. Toto Pacheco and I can do it. It helps that the river feels cool to the skin and clean; no floating things except some branches or leaves from the mountains especially a week after some heavy rain.

The center of the stream especially has a strong current. I can only think of raging wild water. The beautiful green Tagoloan river offers a good view from that long island where one can regain strength after swimming there for sometime.

At times I enjoyed the swim so much that I forgot about the clothes drying under the sun resulting in yellowed instead of whitened, clean laundry. But that's another story.

Back in the old days, there's no riverside then, the houses were located along the river but there was a clear path leading to them and there were plants and trees beside the homes.

We used the river for all our needs; cooking, cleaning, washing, bathing and watering the plants. We don't drink from the river, we get it from digging a hole on the soft sand in an island fronting the main river.

The Tagoloan river of my youth was peaceful. Only when there is a typhoon or a flood does its appearance change from clear to murky, then brown. Back then, I can swim without stopping for anything or until my eyes are red from soaking up the water, as my mother used to observe.

When I was small, I thought then that the waters in the river came from Alaud down the home of Lola Eging then to our area to the Nacasabog. Only when I grew up that I learned that it was bigger and longer. Years later, I thank God that I spent my youth in the area and I wouldn't trade those memories for anything.

(Photos by Jong Casino and Elma Egama Gamones)


(Susan Palmes-Dennis is a veteran journalist from Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, Northern Mindanao in the Philippines who works as a nanny in North Carolina. This page will serve as a venue for news and discussion on Filipino communities in the Carolinas. Visit and read her website at Read her blogs on susanpalmesstraightfrom the These and other articles also appear at

You can also connect with her through her Pinterest account at and

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