I grew up playing 'real' war games on the hills

Growing up in a rural area stricken in armed-conflict between the rebels and the government soldiers, I learned how to play ‘real’ war games with the children in the neighborhood.

We simulate the conflict by holding ourselves in two warring factions – one group living uphill and the ones living downhill by the seashore. Our battle ground is the empty sloping hill right beside the public cemetery where we construct our camps built of soil, leaves, dead tree branches, and grasses.We arm ourselves with our improvised bamboo guns (luthang) stuffed with damp newspapers as bullets.

My hands are dirty mum!
My hands are dirty mum!

This war game is intense, drowning us in hours of passionate shooting, running, screaming, violence and destruction until we no longer know the difference between reality and fantasy. We all derive satisfaction from hitting the enemies and holing them up in their camps. But the very reason we take the game seriously is the painfully stinging experience we get when hit with the nasty bullets.

In the middle of the battle, resourcefulness is necessary such that when ammunition supply runs low and there is no time for fetching water to wet the papers, we use only what is available on the ground, but of course the grounds are dry because it is summer, so we use our own spit to moisten and lubricate our paper bullets.  If there are no more paper bullets we do the armed combat by using sticks to hit our enemies and simulated karate and boxing. When everything fails, we do the right thing a defeated enemy does, we ran back to our houses.

The rush of adrenaline we take back to our houses in euphoric excitement – our face flustered and our bodies red from the sting of the bullets, smelling of the cemetery, the soil, the grasses, our sweat, and most of all from the reek of a variety of neighborhood saliva.

The battle is not declared over even when one camp is overtaken. We take our learned animosity even after the game. When we go home, we appoint ourselves spies and guards of the neighborhood.  The next day after that, we go back to the battle ground. We only stop the game as soon as our childish attention is grabbed by a more exciting activity such as for instance, flores de mayo or when school is about to start.

Sometimes we also do our own short and modern version of the war by doing it in our houses climbing the roof using toy guns or anything that resembles a pointed gun and use our imagination and vocally made sound-effects. But this however does not come close to the maddening euphoria and satisfaction we derive from our ‘real’ war games with our improvised bamboo guns and wet-paper bullets.


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