The Nether World of Our Silong
We used to live in a ramshackle house we had the audacity to call a chalet. Looking back, its only legitimate claim to being a chalet is a six-step stair leading to its front door, posts on its four corners, and a silong less than a meter high.
I loved-hated our silong.
We had slatted floors in parts of our house where coins, keys, and sundry small items would go through accidentally and very often. We, children, had to make a dash for under the house to retrieve whatever fell through the slats, at our elders’ say so. On rainy days, the silong would be puddled with water and mounded with mud. We were obliged to go there, when asked, and get ourselves dirty. Even when it got dark, we went there just the same, if there’s something to retrieve, with a flickering candle and a pounding heart.
But the silong was also a magical place where we let our imagination fly with games of fantasy. We pretended it was prison, and we were all counts of monte cristo. We pretended it was the pit with a pendulum where we mock-tortured each other and from which we foiled each other’s attempts to escape. It was also the place some Count Dracula might sleep and wake thirsty for plasma and the “dungeon” would reverberate with blood-curdling screams.
More placidly in summer, we would spread mats on its earthen floor, and take cool naps in the company of its denizens – lizards, spiders, beetles, snails and – who knows – maybe even little snakes?
Best of all, the silong was a place to gather the cutest little eggs you ever did see – lizard eggs about the size of oval MMs. Better than easter egg hunts, I swear! -- anyhow unheard of then. We gingerly put the fragile little thingies in tiny bamboo baskets and later boiled them in small clay pots. Some boys in the neighborhood might also help us look for the eggs but mostly they hunted for spiders which the silong likewise bred abundantly.
When we girls grew too old to play house and cook lizard eggs, the boys seemed not to weary of spider hunting. “Oh well, boys mature slower than girls” was how we excused them. Until my Ate Mila, always the feisty and smart one in the family, figured it all out. The boys were actually no longer so much interested to catch spiders as to catch a glimpse of skirts and things that skirts are supposed to hide!
Soon after my Ate’s brilliant detective work, our slatted floors gave way to wooden slabs. There was no more reason to go to the nether world of our silong.