By Karen Galarpe

Looking over the chocolates on the shelves at the supermarket today, I smiled at seeing a bag of local cheap chocolates individually wrapped in white-and-orange stripes. “It’s still alive!” I thought to myself, as I picked up the little bag and added it to my basket. Memories of me in my grade school uniform unwrapping those little chocolates while in the school bus (more like a school jeep) on the way home came to me on the way to the cashier’s counter.

Then other grade school memories flashed: filing past displays of swimming fish at the Manila Aquarium (there was such a thing back in the 70s), eating my classmate’s baon back in Grade 4 (since she lived near our school, she had hot lunch delivered every lunch break, and oftentimes could not finish her meal), running around and going up and down the slide in the playground under the hot noonday sun, swimming with my father in a beach (me in T-shirt and shorts, he in maong pants), going from tomb to tomb at the cemetery with my cousins to collect candle wax on All Saints’ Day and rolling them up in huge hot balls, and traipsing down Session Road in Baguio with my family, all of us bundled up in sweaters and jackets.

Those were the days when we had nary a care in the world about traffic, debts, bad news, sickness, inflation, catastrophes, love life, and what have you. What mattered then was that precise moment, when we just did what we had to do and lived for that moment alone.

A few years ago, I interviewed Heinz Bulos, a money-smart dad and editor of a personal finance magazine, about family finances, and he said something that stuck to my mind: “Spend for experiences rather than stuff,” he said. “As dads, we have a tendency to lavish our kids with material things, partly out of guilt for not spending enough time with them and mostly because we just enjoy seeing the smiles on their faces. But their excitement is gone weeks or even days after getting something they want. So instead of buying more and more stuff, spend for experiences–trips to the zoo, the park, the beach–since memories of happy experiences last much longer than the fleeting enjoyment of toys and gadgets. Plus you get to spend quality time with them. More experiences, less stuff.”

What memories are you building with your children? I hope that someday, even when he is a grown man, my son will remember us going to Manila Zoo and Enchanted Kingdom, swimming in the clear waters of Boracay, eating sushi in Tokyo, watching cars drift in an exhibition game in Greenhills, plunking down on the floor of a bookstore at the mall to read a storybook together, or just sharing a piece of chocolate at home on a lazy summer afternoon.

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