Friday, June 15, 2012

The Gentle Rain
     AS I’m writing this it is raining outside. The kind that gently patters on the roof reminding me of my childhood days in the village south of Albuera town.  We used to huddle with friends in my grandmother’s house across the street watching the gravel dirt road fill its puddles into pools while listening to radio “dramas” such as “Handumanan sa Usa ka Awit”. Our pulses would throb with anticipation greeting the program’s signature music as the “announcer” reads the sender’s life story in letter form with unforgettable feeling and pathos.
       I am also conscious that a friend and elementary classmate of mine from the village died last week and will be buried tomorrow, leaving behind a young family of seven children, the eldest having just graduated from high school. He was Rosalito, a dark-skinned man with slightly stocky build from our village’s fishing sitio called Cabatuan. I remember him coming from that place ever since elementary days and it was also there where he grew up, got married and died. During those times especially after typhoons, we would sneak out with friends and go to sea to “collect” washed up but “usable” plastic debris and toys. I always asked where those things - some faded flowers, tumblers and toys- scattered ashore came from and wondered if they were from sunken ships.

      After grade 3, my parents decided to transfer my studies to Ormoc. From that time on I seldom saw or heard from elementary chums in the barrio. I heard some went to Manila— one was said to have worked as domestic helper of the Enrile household while another one, the girl with the brightest eyes of them all in elementary, with the possible exception of her twin sister, died of pimple infection. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether these were just myths or truth. We hear all sorts of stories—some tall tales—once in a while from friends in the barrio.
      I was already a lawyer when Rosalito started seeing me again, sometimes in our house or in the office in the city. He would bring fresh catch from his fishing trips and would tell me stories about his growing children and how his “poverty” prevented him from buying them even a dictionary. According to him his children were honor students back home. I accompanied him to Mancao bookstore where we bought a medium size dictionary. He told me other things as well, but what stuck in my mind to this day was his unflinching, unusually intense concern towards his children’s formal education. My mother who used to teach in our place told me Rosalito always managed to find ways to pay the “amutans” and equip his kids with required school paraphernalia. He also made sure his kids attended school with clean though simple clothes. Who knew if he was hounded with premonition that soon he would go in his sleep and not wake up? And this, before his kids could finish  school.
     I did not realize how difficult life was for Rosalito, his wife and children until the day I visited their place when news reached me of his death. His house was small and spare with no modern conveniences, the ones most of us take for granted. It was said he put off buying things since “all” his earnings from subsistence fishing went to his children’s upkeep and education. Understandably he was concerned he might not be able to send off his eldest son for college education. He told me he planned to enrol him to VISCA for a two-year course. The cut out picture displayed on his coffin was when he went on stage to accompany his boy receiving honors from school. How happy he must be that time, I thought to myself, though he didn’t smile in the picture. I myself have never attended closing or graduation ceremonies of my children and honestly I have reasons to envy this man who took time out to be with his kids during their school recognitions. I noticed my friend was wearing T-shirt in his death. I regretted asking his wife if they could have found a barong. I realized his white T-shirt, simple in its quiet dignity was the best he could wear under the circumstances. It had some prints with a quotation: “Life is a basketball, the more you dribble the more you fumble. But if you hold the ball firmly and determine to shoot, it will surely hit the goal”.
    Estrella D. Alfon wrote a story entitled the Gentle Rain first published in the Sunday Tribune Magazine in January 1937, where we find this: “See it commences to rain. They say when it rains just when somebody has died, it means that the dead one did not yet want to leave this world. Is not life like the gentle rain? The gentle rain that overflows the river and that washes away its banks. The gentle rain from which springs so many forms of life, and through which as many others are destroyed”. Just like Maring in the short story, my friend never mentioned any sadness. Only being happy and wanting to be happy, although in his case I know for one how he already gave all his happiness—to his children.
15 June 2012
amutan – contribution
handumanan sa usa ka awit – remembrance from a song

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