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Take a stroll

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I spent summers with my grandmother until I was about 11. Family would tease me and say that I was “laki sa lola“, which of course was an allusion to Mike Hanopol’s 70s hit song “Laki sa Layaw…Jeproks”.


I remember lazy days in May when I attended what was like catechism classes. Kids from the neighbourhood would come together at around 3pm with flower offerings for the Virgin Mary. A youth leader would lead us in saying the Holy Rosary, then there would be a bit of Bible story time and then we would queue up and sing while each one of us would slowly make our way towards the make-shift altar and offer the flowers. There would be snacks and juices afterwards. The next day we would do it all again until the last day in May. The final day is a bit special though as we would gather in the main church with kids from other neighbourhoods. The flowers are a bit more extravagant and the mismatched top and skirts are replaced by dainty little dresses and starched shirts and pressed trousers. Oh and our youth leader would wrap baby’s breath on plastic headbands and get the girls to wear them. I always felt really kikay then.

I also remember spending most of the morning walking around the neighbourhood searching for an unusual flower, something that would be noticed in that afternoon’s “alay” (offering). I usually always ended up with a garland of sampaguita (Philippine jasmine) bought from the local market.

The whole thing takes place in someone’s garage right next to a neighbourhood park. To get there I would have to take a short walk through alleys that connect to every street. There were more than 4 different alleys I could take depending on my mood and how much time I have left before the Rosary started. There is at least one alley which scared the living daylights out of me because neighbourhood bullies tend to loiter in them and harass kids like me. And this brings me to the above photo.

I was walking early evening one Thursday in the back streets of Jumeirah on my way to meet the family when I saw this alleyway. I had to doubleback and take a good look because it’s not everyday that you find alleyways in the glass-and-concrete jungles of Dubai.

It reminded me so much of the alleyways of my childhood. Something that I wish my own children could experience because it’s not all bad. The alleys give you a sense of independence. You walk through the alley and come out the other end feeling that you have conquered something. People that you meet along the way add colour and sound to the landscape.

Sometimes if I close my eyes and think hard, I swear I could almost smell the fresh flowers and feel the summer heat and see myself walking down along one of those alleys again.

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