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by Alfredo Q. Gonzales The “Will of a River” by Alfredo Q. Gonzales, talks about the life of man on earth. The river is likened to a person’s life. Firstly, it shows that it is an undeniable fact that there are many trials, problems and difficulties that one encounters in life. Sometimes these circumstances are considered to be negative. There are many hindrances and obstacles that one faces in life. How are they dealt with? The person must have patience and endurance to hurdle testings and even adversaries in life. There are those who easily get dismayed and discouraged. They surrender or even retreat, but there are those who persevere and do not easily lose hope, like the river. Secondly, it also speaks of determination to reach the goals of life. If we cannot overcome the obstacles, we can undercome them as aptly expressed by the author. Have the optimism to reach your goal and possess an outlook in life not in pessimism but in hope. You have that optimism to reach your goal and your outlook in life must not be one in pessimism but of hope. When we experience hardships in life or when things get rough, we must not quit. Just stick to the fight. One has to live his life faithfully and be a blessing to others. This is why the river exists. Without doubt this is the noble reason for our existence on earth. You are not just living for your self but you live firstly for God and for other people, as well. The popular saying, “No man is an island” suggests that you cannot live alone but you need other people and they need you, too. Whatever you possess (talents, abilities, or it could even be riches) you have to share them to other people. Be generous and not selfish. You may comfort others, help those who are in need and even be able to sacrifice for the sake of other people. This could be the meaning of life. If nature, like the river, which we consider devoid of feelings or emotions, fulfills its duty rightfully, how much more for man who was created by God in His own image with emotions, will, and intellect? One must consider his responsibility to others and must solemnly see the need to care and have compassion for others. With reverence, man must recognize the fact that the things he possesses in life comes from God. His life comes from the creator. He draws his strength from God. The things that he shares with others are gifts or blessings from the Lord. He lives by the grace of the Almighty God. And the same grace he must show to others. He can do nothing without God in his life. All his achievements, his victories, his possessions are attained or obtained because of God. What he is and what he has is all because of Him. Like a mountain, where the river draws its power from to be able to carry on, man has God. Like a mountain, big and high, God, the Omnipotent is the source of all, the source of strength, hope, and the courage of man to go on with and stick to his fight. Only that man has to trust and believe that God will enable him to move on and will help him, never to desert nor to forsake. Therefore, a man should be faithful to his calling, believing that God will be able to keep him from falling. And in His promise he will trust for He will be faithful to finish the work He has begun to each and everyone’s life.
Footnote to Youth
by Jose Garcia Villa
The sun was salmon and hazy in the west. Dodong thought to himself he would tell his father about Teang when he got home, after he had unhitched the carabao from the plow, and let it to its shed and fed it. He was hesitant about saying it, but he wanted his father to know. What he had to say was of serious import as it would mark a climacteric in his life. Dodong finally decided to tell it, at a thought came to him his father might refuse to consider it. His father was silent hardworking farmer who chewed areca nut, which he had learned to do from his mother, Dodong's grandmother. I will tell it to him. I will tell it to him. The ground was broken up into many fresh wounds and fragrant with a sweetish earthy smell. Many slender soft worms emerged from the furrows and then burrowed again deeper into the soil. A short colorless worm marched blindly to Dodong's foot and crawled calmly over it. Dodong go tickled and jerked his foot, flinging the worm into the air. Dodong did not bother to look where it fell, but thought of his age, seventeen, and he said to himself he was not young any more. Dodong unhitched the carabao leisurely and gave it a healthy tap on the hip. The beast turned its head to look at him with dumb faithful eyes. Dodong gave it a slight push and the animal walked alongside him to its shed. He placed bundles of grass before it land the carabao began to eat. Dodong looked at it without interests. Dodong started homeward, thinking how he would break his news to his father. He wanted to marry, Dodong did. He was seventeen, he had pimples on his face, the down on his upper lip already was dark--these meant he was no longer a boy. He was growing into a man--he was a man. Dodong felt insolent and big at the thought of it although he was by nature low in statue. Thinking himself a man grown, Dodong felt he could do anything. He walked faster, prodded by the thought of his virility. A small angled stone bled his foot, but he dismissed it cursorily. He lifted his leg and looked at the hurt toe and then went on walking. In the cool sundown he thought wild you dreams of himself and Teang. Teang, his girl. She had a small brown face and small black eyes and straight glossy hair. How desirable she was to him. She made him dream even during the day. Dodong tensed with desire and looked at the muscles of his arms. Dirty. This field work was healthy, invigorating but it begrimed you, smudged you terribly. He turned back the way he had come, then he marched obliquely to a creek. Dodong stripped himself and laid his clothes, a gray undershirt and red kundiman shorts, on the grass. The he went into the water, wet his body over, and rubbed at it vigorously. He was not long in bathing, then he marched homeward again. The bath made him feel cool. It was dusk when he reached home. The petroleum lamp on the ceiling already was lighted and the low unvarnished square table was set for supper. His parents and he sat down on the floor around the table to eat. They had fried fresh-water fish, rice, bananas, and caked sugar.
Dodong ate fish and rice, but did not partake of the fruit. The bananas were overripe and when one held them they felt more fluid than solid. Dodong broke off a piece of the cakes sugar, dipped it in his glass of water and ate it. He got another piece and wanted some more, but he thought of leaving the remainder for his parents. Dodong's mother removed the dishes when they were through and went out to the batalan to wash them. She walked with slow careful steps and Dodong wanted to help her carry the dishes out, but he was tired and now felt lazy. He wished as he looked at her that he had a sister who could help his mother in the housework. He pitied her, doing all the housework alone. His father remained in the room, sucking a diseased tooth. It was paining him again, Dodong knew. Dodong had told him often and again to let the town dentist pull it out, but he was afraid, his father was. He did not tell that to Dodong, but Dodong guessed it. Afterward Dodong himself thought that if he had a decayed tooth he would be afraid to go to the dentist; he would not be any bolder than his father. Dodong said while his mother was out that he was going to marry Teang. There it was out, what he had to say, and over which he had done so much thinking. He had said it without any effort at all and without self-consciousness. Dodong felt relieved and looked at his father expectantly. A decrescent moon outside shed its feeble light into the window, graying the still black temples of his father. His father looked old now. "I am going to marry Teang," Dodong said. His father looked at him silently and stopped sucking the broken tooth. The silence became intense and cruel, and Dodong wished his father would suck that troublous tooth again. Dodong was uncomfortable and then became angry because his father kept looking at him without uttering anything. "I will marry Teang," Dodong repeated. "I will marry Teang." His father kept gazing at him in inflexible silence and Dodong fidgeted on his seat. "I asked her last night to marry me and she said...yes. I want your permission. I... want... it...." There was impatient clamor in his voice, an exacting protest at this coldness, this indifference. Dodong looked at his father sourly. He cracked his knuckles one by one, and the little sounds it made broke dully the night stillness. "Must you marry, Dodong?" Dodong resented his father's questions; his father himself had married. Dodong made a quick impassioned easy in his mind about selfishness, but later he got confused. "You are very young, Dodong." "I'm... seventeen."
"That's very young to get married at." "I... I want to marry...Teang's a good girl." "Tell your mother," his father said. "You tell her, tatay." "Dodong, you tell your inay." "You tell her." "All right, Dodong." "You will let me marry Teang?" "Son, if that is your wish... of course..." There was a strange helpless light in his father's eyes. Dodong did not read it, so absorbed was he in himself. Dodong was immensely glad he had asserted himself. He lost his resentment for his father. For a while he even felt sorry for him about the diseased tooth. Then he confined his mind to dreaming of Teang and himself. Sweet young dream.... ------------------------------------------Dodong stood in the sweltering noon heat, sweating profusely, so that his camiseta was damp. He was still as a tree and his thoughts were confused. His mother had told him not to leave the house, but he had left. He had wanted to get out of it without clear reason at all. He was afraid, he felt. Afraid of the house. It had seemed to cage him, to compares his thoughts with severe tyranny. Afraid also of Teang. Teang was giving birth in the house; she gave screams that chilled his blood. He did not want her to scream like that, he seemed to be rebuking him. He began to wonder madly if the process of childbirth was really painful. Some women, when they gave birth, did not cry. In a few moments he would be a father. "Father, father," he whispered the word with awe, with strangeness. He was young, he realized now, contradicting himself of nine months comfortable... "Your son," people would soon be telling him. "Your son, Dodong." Dodong felt tired standing. He sat down on a saw-horse with his feet close together. He looked at his callused toes. Suppose he had ten children... What made him think that? What was the matter with him? God! He heard his mother's voice from the house: "Come up, Dodong. It is over."
Suddenly he felt terribly embarrassed as he looked at her. Somehow he was ashamed to his mother of his youthful paternity. It made him feel guilty, as if he had taken something no properly his. He dropped his eyes and pretended to dust dirt off his kundiman shorts. "Dodong," his mother called again. "Dodong." He turned to look again and this time saw his father beside his mother. "It is a boy," his father said. He beckoned Dodong to come up. Dodong felt more embarrassed and did not move. What a moment for him. His parents' eyes seemed to pierce him through and he felt limp. He wanted to hide from them, to run away. "Dodong, you come up. You come up," he mother said. Dodong did not want to come up and stayed in the sun. "Dodong. Dodong." "I'll... come up." Dodong traced tremulous steps on the dry parched yard. He ascended the bamboo steps slowly. His heart pounded mercilessly in him. Within, he avoided his parents eyes. He walked ahead of them so that they should not see his face. He felt guilty and untrue. He felt like crying. His eyes smarted and his chest wanted to burst. He wanted to turn back, to go back to the yard. He wanted somebody to punish him. His father thrust his hand in his and gripped it gently. "Son," his father said. And his mother: "Dodong..." How kind were their voices. They flowed into him, making him strong. "Teang?" Dodong said. "She's sleeping. But you go on..." His father led him into the small sawali room. Dodong saw Teang, his girl-wife, asleep on the papag with her black hair soft around her face. He did not want her to look that pale. Dodong wanted to touch her, to push away that stray wisp of hair that touched her lips, but again that feeling of embarrassment came over him and before his parents he did not want to be demonstrative.
The hilot was wrapping the child, Dodong heard it cry. The thin voice pierced him queerly. He could not control the swelling of happiness in him. “You give him to me. You give him to me," Dodong said. ------------------------------------------Blas was not Dodong's only child. Many more children came. For six successive years a new child came along. Dodong did not want any more children, but they came. It seemed the coming of children could not be helped. Dodong got angry with himself sometimes. Teang did not complain, but the bearing of children told on her. She was shapeless and thin now, even if she was young. There was interminable work to be done. Cooking. Laundering. The house. The children. She cried sometimes, wishing she had not married. She did not tell Dodong this, not wishing him to dislike her. Yet she wished she had not married. Not even Dodong, whom she loved. There has been another suitor, Lucio, older than Dodong by nine years, and that was why she had chosen Dodong. Young Dodong. Seventeen. Lucio had married another after her marriage to Dodong, but he was childless until now. She wondered if she had married Lucio, would she have borne him children. Maybe not, either. That was a better lot. But she loved Dodong... Dodong whom life had made ugly. One night, as he lay beside his wife, he rose and went out of the house. He stood in the moonlight, tired and querulous. He wanted to ask questions and somebody to answer him. He w anted to be wise about many things. One of them was why life did not fulfill all of Youth's dreams. Why it must be so. Why one was forsaken... after Love. Dodong would not find the answer. Maybe the question was not to be answered. It must be so to make youth Youth. Youth must be dreamfully sweet. Dreamfully sweet. Dodong returned to the house humiliated by himself. He had wanted to know a little wisdom but was denied it. When Blas was eighteen he came home one night very flustered and happy. It was late at night and Teang and the other children were asleep. Dodong heard Blas's steps, for he could not sleep well of nights. He watched Blas undress in the dark and lie down softly. Blas was restless on his mat and could not sleep. Dodong called him name and asked why he did not sleep. Blas said he could not sleep. "You better go to sleep. It is late," Dodong said. Blas raised himself on his elbow and muttered something in a low fluttering voice. Dodong did not answer and tried to sleep. "Itay ...," Blas called softly.
Dodong stirred and asked him what it was. "I am going to marry Tona. She accepted me tonight." Dodong lay on the red pillow without moving. "Itay, you think it over." Dodong lay silent. "I love Tona and... I want her." Dodong rose from his mat and told Blas to follow him. They descended to the yard, where everything was still and quiet. The moonlight was cold and white. "You want to marry Tona," Dodong said. He did not want Blas to marry yet. Blas was very young. The life that would follow marriage would be hard... "Yes." "Must you marry?" Blas's voice stilled with resentment. "I will marry Tona." Dodong kept silent, hurt. "You have objections, Itay?" Blas asked acridly. "Son... n-none..." (But truly, God, I don't want Blas to marry yet... not yet. I don't want Blas to marry yet....) But he was helpless. He could not do anything. Youth must triumph... now. Love must triumph... now. Afterwards... it will be life. As long ago Youth and Love did triumph for Dodong... and then Life. Dodong looked wistfully at his young son in the moonlight. He felt extremely sad and sorry for him.
The Chieftest Mourner by Aida Rivera Ford
He was my uncle because he married my aunt (even if he had not come to her these past ten years), so when the papers brought the news of his death, I felt that some part of me had died, too.I was boarding then at a big girls' college in Manila and I remember quite vividly that a few other girls were gathered about the lobby of our school, looking very straight and proper since it was seven in the morning and the starch in our long-sleeved uniform had not yet given way. I tried to be brave while I read that my uncle had actually been "the last of a distinct school of Philippine poets." I was still being brave all the way down the lengthy eulogies, until I got to the line which said that he was "the sweetest lyre that ever throbbed with Malayan chords." Something caught at my throat and I let out one sob--the rest merely followed. When the girls hurried over to me to see what had happened, I could only point to the item on the front page with my uncle's picture taken when he was still handsome. Everybody suddenly spoke in a low voice and Ning, who worshipped me, said that I shouldn't be so unhappy because my uncle was now with the other great poets in heaven--at which I really howled in earnest because my uncle had not only deserted poor Aunt Sophia but had also been living with another woman these many years and, most horrible of all, he had probably died in her embrace!Perhaps I received an undue
amount of commiseration for the death of the delinquent husband of my aunt, but it wasn't my fault because I never really lied about anything; only, nobody thought to ask me just how close an uncle he was. It wasn't my doing either when, some months after his demise, my poem entitled The Rose Was Not So Fair O Alma Mater was captioned "by the niece of the late beloved Filipino Poet." And that having been printed, I couldn't possibly refuse when I was asked to write on My Uncle--The Poetry of His Life. The article, as printed, covered only his boyhood and early manhood because our adviser cut out everything that happened after he was married. She said that the last half of his life was not exactly poetic, although I still maintain that in his vices, as in his poetry, he followed closely the pattern of the great poets he admired.My aunt used to relate that he was an extremely considerate man--when he was sober, and on those occasions he always tried to make up for his past sins. She said that he had never meant to marry, knowing the kind of husband he would make, but that her beauty drove him out of his right mind. My aunt always forgave him but one day she had more than she could bear, and when he was really drunk, she tied him to a chair with a strong rope to teach him a lesson. She never saw him drunk again, for as soon as he was able to, he walked out the door and never came back.I was very little at that time, but I remembered that shortly after he went away, my aunt put me in a car and sent me to his hotel with a letter from her. Uncle ushered me into his room very formally and while I looked all around the place, he prepared a special kind of lemonade for the two of us. I was sorry he poured it out into wee glasses because it was unlike any lemonade I had ever tasted. While I sipped solemnly at my glass, he inquired after my aunt. To my surprise, I found myself answering with alacrity. I was happy to report all details of my aunt's health, including the number of crabs she ate for lunch and the amazing fact that she was getting fatter and fatter without the benefit of Scott's Emulsion or Ovaltine at all. Uncle smiled his beautiful somber smile and drew some poems from his desk. He scribbled a dedication on them and instructed me to give them to my aunt. I made much show of putting the empty glass down but Uncle was dense to the hint. At the door, however, he told me that I could have some lemonade every time I came to visit him. Aunt Sophia was so pleased with the poems that she kissed me. And then all of a sudden she looked at me queerly and made a most peculiar request of me. She asked me to say ha-ha, and when I said ha-ha, she took me to the sink and began to wash the inside of my mouth with soap and water while calling upon a dozen of the saints to witness the act. I never got a taste of Uncle's lemonade.It began to be a habit with Aunt Sophia to drop in for a periodic recital of woe to which Mama was a sympathetic audience. The topic of the conversation was always the latest low on Uncle's state of misery. It gave Aunt Sophia profound satisfaction to relay the report of friends on the number of creases on Uncle's shirt or the appalling decrease in his weight. To her, the fact that Uncle was getting thinner proved conclusively that he was suffering as a result of the separation. It looked as if Uncle would not be able to hold much longer, the way he was reported to be thinner each time, because Uncle didn't have much weight to start with. The paradox of the situation, however, was that Aunt Sophia was now crowding Mama off the sofa and yet she wasn't looking very happy either.When I was about eleven, there began to be a difference. Everytime I cam into the room when Mama and Aunt Sophia were holding conference, the talk would suddenly be switched to Spanish. It was about this time that I took an interest in the Spanish taught in school. It was also at this time that Aunt Sophia exclaimed over my industry at the piano--which stood a short distance from the sofa. At first I couldn't gather much except that Uncle was not any more the main topic. It was a woman by the name of Esa--or so I thought she was called. Later I began to appreciate the subtlety of the Spanish la mujer esa.And so I learned about the woman. She was young, accomplished, a woman of means. (A surprising number of connotations were attached to these terms.) Aunt Sophia, being a loyal wife, grieved that Uncle should have been ensnared by such a woman, thinking not
so much of herself but of his career. Knowing him so well, she was positive that he was unhappier than ever, for that horrid woman never allowed him to have his own way; she even denied him those little drinks which he took merely to aid him into poetic composition. Because the woman brazenly followed Uncle everywhere, calling herself his wife, a confusing situation ensued. When people mentioned Uncle's wife, there was no way of knowing whether they referred to my aunt or to the woman. After a while a system was worked out by the mutual friends of the different parties. No. 1 came to stand for Aunt Sophia and No. 2 for the woman.I hadn't seen Uncle since the episode of the lemonade, but one day in school all the girls were asked to come down to the lecture room--Uncle was to read some of his poems! Up in my room, I stopped to fasten a pink ribbon to my hair thinking the while how I would play my role to perfection--for the dear niece was to be presented to the uncle she had not seen for so long. My musings were interrupted, however, when a girl came up and excitedly bubbled that she had seen my uncle--and my aunt, who was surprisingly young and so very modern!I couldn't go down after all; I was indisposed.Complicated as the situation was when Uncle was alive, it became more so when he died. I was puzzling over who was to be the official widow at his funeral when word came that I was to keep Aunt Sophia company at the little chapel where the service would be held. I concluded with relief that No. 2 had decamped.The morning wasn't far gone when I arrived at the chapel and there were only a few people present. Aunt Sophia was sitting in one of the front pews at the right section of the chapel. She had on a black and white print which managed to display its full yardage over the seat. Across the aisle from her was a very slight woman in her early thirties who was dressed in a dramatic black outfit with a heavy veil coming up to her forehead. Something about her made me suddenly aware that Aunt Sophia's bag looked paunchy and worn at the corners. I wanted to ask my aunt who she was but after embracing me when I arrived, she kept her eyes stolidly fixed before her. I directed my gaze in the same direction. At the front was the president's immense wreath leaning heavily backward, like that personage himself; and a pace behind, as though in deference to it, were other wreaths arranged according to the rank and prominence of the people who had sent them. I suppose protocol had something to do with it.I tiptoed over to the muse before Uncle as he lay in the dignity of death, the faintest trace of his somber smile still on his face. My eyes fell upon a cluster of white flowers placed at the foot of the casket. It was ingeniously fashioned in the shape of a dove and it bore the inscription "From the Loyal One." I looked at Aunt Sophia and didn't see anything dove-like about her. I looked at the slight woman in black and knew of a sudden that she was the woman. A young man, obviously a brother or a nephew, was bending over her solicitously. I took no notice of him even though he had elegant manners, a mischievous cowlick, wistful eyes, a Dennis Morgan chin, and a pin which testified that he belonged to what we girls called our "brother college." I showed him that he absolutely did not exist for me, especially when I caught him looking in our direction.I always feel guilty of sacrilege everytime I think of it, but there was something grimly ludicrous about my uncle’s funeral. There were two women, each taking possession of her portion of the chapel just as though stakes had been laid, seemingly unmindful of each other, yet revealing by this studied disregard that each was very much aware of the other. As though to give balance to the scene, the young man stood his full height near the woman to offset the collective bulk of Aunt Sophia and myself, although I was merely a disproportionate shadow behind her.The friends of the poet began to come. They paused a long time at the door, surveying the scene before they marched self-consciously towards the casket. Another pause there, and then they wrenched themselves from the spot and moved--no, slithered--either towards my aunt or towards the woman. The choice must have been difficult when they knew both. The women almost invariably came to talk to my aunt whereas most of the men turned to the woman at the left. I recognized some important Malacañang men and some writers from seeing their
pictures in the papers. Later in the morning a horde of black-clad women, the sisters and cousins of the poet, swept into the chapel and came directly to where my aunt sat. They had the same deep eye-sockets and hollow cheek-bones which had lent a sensitive expression to the poet's face but which on them suggested t.b. The air became dense with the sickly-sweet smell of many flowers clashing and I went over to get my breath of air. As I glanced back I had a crazy surrealist impression of mouths opening and closing into Aunt Sophia's ear, and eyes darting toward the woman at the left. Uncle's clan certainly made short work of my aunt for when I returned, she was sobbing. As though to comfort her, one of the women said, in a whisper which I heard from the door, that the president himself was expected to come in the afternoon.Toward lunchtime, it became obvious that neither my aunt nor the woman wished to leave ahead of the other. I could appreciate my aunt's delicadeza in this matter but then got hungry and therefore grew resourceful: I called a taxi and told her it was at the door with the meter on. Aunt Sophia's unwillingness lasted as long as forty centavos.We made up for leaving ahead of the woman by getting back to the chapel early. For a long time she did not come and when Uncle's kinswomen arrived, I thought their faces showed a little disappointment at finding the left side of the chapel empty. Aunt Sophia, on the other hand, looked relieved. But at about three, the woman arrived and I perceived at once that there was a difference in her appearance. She wore the same black dress but her thick hair was now carefully swept into a regal coil; her skin glowing; her eyes, which had been striking enough, looked even larger. The eyebrows of the women around me started working and finally, the scrawniest of the poet's relations whispered to the others and slowly, together, they closed in on the woman.I went over to sit with my aunt who was gazing not so steadily at nothing in particular.At first the women spoke in whispers, and then the voices rose a trifle. Still, everybody was polite. There was more talking back and forth, and suddenly the conversation wasn't polite any more. The only good thing about it was that now I could hear everything distinctly."So you want to put me in a corner, do you? You think perhaps you can bully me out of here?" the woman said."Shh! Please don't create a scene," the poet's sisters said, going one pitch higher."It's you who are creating a scene. Didn't you come here purposely to start one?""We're only trying to make you see reason.... If you think of the dead at all...""Let's see who has the reason. I understand that you want me to leave, isn't it? Now that he is dead and cannot speak for me you think I should quietly hide in a corner?" The woman's voice was now pitched up for the benefit of the whole chapel. "Let me ask you. During the war when the poet was hard up do you suppose I deserted him? Whose jewels do you think we sold when he did not make money... When he was ill, who was it who stayed at his side... Who took care of him during all those months... and who peddled his books and poems to the publishers so that he could pay for the hospital and doctor's bills? Did any of you come to him then? Let me ask you that! Now that he is dead you want me to leave his side so that you and that vieja can have the honors and have your picture taken with the president. That's what you want, isn't it--to pose with the president....""Por Dios! Make her stop it--somebody stop her mouth!" cried Aunt Sophia, her eyes going up to heaven."Now you listen, you scandalous woman," one of the clan said, taking it up for Aunt Sophia. "We don't care for the honors--we don't want it for ourselves. But we want the poet to be honored in death... to have a decent and respectable funeral without scandal... and the least you can do is to leave him in peace as he lies there....""Yes," the scrawny one said. "You've created enough scandal for him in life--that's why we couldn't go to him when he was sick... because you were there, you--you shameless bitch."The woman's face went livid with shock and rage. She stood wordless while her young protector, his eyes blazing, came between her and the poet's kinswomen. Her face began to twitch. And then the sobs came. Big noisy sobs that shook her body and spilled the tears down her carefully made-up face. Fitfully, desperately, she tugged at her eyes and nose with her widow's veil. The young man took hold of
her shoulders gently to lead her away, but she shook free; and in a few quick steps she was there before the casket, looking down upon that infinitely sad smile on Uncle's face. It may have been a second that she stood there, but it seemed like a long time."All right," she blurted, turning about. "All right. You can have him--all that's left of him!"At that moment before she fled, I saw what I had waited to see. The mascara had indeed run down her cheeks. But somehow it wasn't funny at all.
Harvest By Loreto para sulit
HE first saw her in his brother’s eyes. The palay stalks were taking on gold in the late afternoon sun, were losing their trampled, wind-swept look and stirring into little, almost inaudible whispers. The rhythm of Fabian’s strokes was smooth and unbroken. So many palay stalks had to be harvested before sundown and there was no time to be lost in idle dallying. But when he stopped to heap up the fallen palay stalks he glanced at his brother as if to fathom the other’s state of mind in that one, side-long glance. The swing of Vidal’s figure was as graceful as the downward curve of the crescent-shaped scythe. How stubborn, this younger brother of his, how hard-headed, fumed Fabian as he felled stalk after stalk. It is because he knows how very good-looking he is, how he is so much runafter by all the women in town. The obstinate, young fool! With his queer dreams, his strange adorations, his wistfulness for a life not of these fields, not of their quiet, colorless women and the dullness of long nights of unbroken silence and sleep. But he would bend… he must bend… one of these days. Vidal stopped in his work to wipe off the heavy sweat from his brow. He wondered how his brother could work that fast all day without pausing to rest, without slowing in the rapidity of his strokes. But that was the reason the master would not let him go; he could harvest a field in a morning that would require three men to finish in a day. He had always been afraid of this older brother of his; there was something terrible in the way he determined things, how he always brought them to pass, how he disregarded the soft and the beautiful in his life and sometimes
how he crushed, trampled people, things he wanted destroyed. There were flowers, insects, birds of boyhood memories, what Fabian had done to them. There was Tinay… she did not truly like him, but her widowed mother had some lands… he won and married Tinay. I wonder what can touch him. Vidal thought of miracles, perhaps a vision, a woman… But no… he would overpower them…he was so strong with those arms of steel, those huge arms of his that could throttle a spirited horse into obedience. “Harvest time is almost ended, Vidal.” (I must be strong also, the other prayed). “Soon the planting season will be on us and we shall have need of many carabaos. Milia’s father has five. You have but to ask her and Milia will accept you any time. Why do you delay…” He stopped in surprise for his brother had sprung up so suddenly and from the look on his face it was as if a shining glory was smiling shyly, tremulously in that adoring way of his that called forth all the boyishness of his nature—There was the slow crunch, crunch of footsteps on dried soil and Fabian sensed the presence of people behind him. Vidal had taken off his wide, buri hat and was twisting and untwisting it nervously. “Ah, it is my model! How are you, Vidal?” It was a voice too deep and throaty for a woman but beneath it one could detect a gentle, smooth nuance, soft as silk. It affected Fabian very queerly, he could feel his muscles tensing as he waited for her to speak again. But he did not stop in work nor turn to look at her. She was talking to Vidal about things he had no idea of. He could not understand why the sound of her voice filled him with this resentment that was increasing with every passing minute. She was so near him that when she gestured, perhaps as she spoke, the silken folds of her dress brushed against him slightly, and her perfume, a very subtle fragrance, was cool and scented in the air about him. “From now on he must work for me every morning, possibly all day.” “Very well. Everything as you please.” So it was the master who was with her. “He is your brother, you say, Vidal? Oh, your elder brother.” The curiosity in her voice must be in her eyes. “He has very splendid arms.” Then Fabian turned to look at her. He had never seen anyone like her. She was tall, with a regal unconscious assurance in her figure that she carried so well, and pale as though she had just recovered from a recent illness. She was not exactly very young nor very beautiful. But there was something disquieting and haunting in the unsymmetry of her features, in the queer reflection of the dark blue-blackness of her hair, in her eyes, in that mole just above her nether lips, that tinged her whole face with a strange loveliness. For, yes, she was indeed beautiful. One discovered it after a second, careful glance. Then the whole plan of the brow and lip and eye was revealed; one realized that her pallor was the ivory-white of rice grain just husked, that the sinuous folds of silken lines were but the undertones of the grace that flowed from her as she walked away from you. The blood rushed hot to his very eyes and ears as he met her grave, searching look that swept him from head to foot. She approached him and examined his hot, moist arms critically. “How splendid! How splendid!” she kept on murmuring. Then “Thank you,” and taking and leaning on the arm of the master she walked slowly away. The two brothers returned to their work but to the very end of the day did not exchange a word. Once Vidal attempted to whistle but gave it up after a few bars. When sundown came they
stopped harvesting and started on their way home. They walked with difficulty on the dried rice paddies till they reached the end of the rice fields. The stiffness, the peace of the twilit landscape was maddening to Fabian. It augmented the spell of that woman that was still over him. It was queer how he kept on thinking about her, on remembering the scent of her perfume, the brush of her dress against him and the look of her eyes on his arms. If he had been in bed he would be tossing painfully, feverishly. Why was her face always before him as though it were always focused somewhere in the distance and he was forever walking up to it? A large moth with mottled, highly colored wings fluttered blindly against the bough, its long, feathery antennae quivering sensitively in the air. Vidal paused to pick it up, but before he could do so his brother had hit it with the bundle of palay stalks he carried. The moth fell to the ground, a mass of broken wings, of fluttering wing-dust. After they had walked a distance, Vidal asked, “Why are you that way?” “What is my way?” “That—that way of destroying things that are beautiful like moths… like…” “If the dust from the wings of a moth should get into your eyes, you would be blind.” “That is not the reason.” “Things that are beautiful have a way of hurting. I destroy it when I feel a hurt.” To avoid the painful silence that would surely ensue Vidal talked on whatever subject entered his mind. But gradually, slowly the topics converged into one. He found himself talking about the woman who came to them this afternoon in the fields. She was a relative of the master. A cousin, I think. They call her Miss Francia. But I know she has a lovely, hidden name… like her beauty. She is convalescing from a very serious illness she has had and to pass the time she makes men out of clay, of stone. Sometimes she uses her fingers, sometimes a chisel. One day Vidal came into the house with a message for the master. She saw him. He was just the model for a figure she was working on; she had asked him to pose for her. “Brother, her loveliness is one I cannot understand. When one talks to her forever so long in the patio, many dreams, many desires come to me. I am lost… I am glad to be lost.” It was merciful the darkness was up on the fields. Fabian could not see his brother’s face. But it was cruel that the darkness was heavy and without end except where it reached the little, faint star. For in the deep darkness, he saw her face clearly and understood his brother. On the batalan of his home, two tall clay jars were full of water. He emptied one on his feet, he cooled his warm face and bathed his arms in the other. The light from the kerosene lamp within came in wisps into the batalan. In the meager light he looked at his arms to discover where their splendor lay. He rubbed them with a large, smooth pebble till they glowed warm and rich brown. Gently he felt his own muscles, the strength, the power beneath. His wife was crooning to the baby inside. He started guiltily and entered the house. Supper was already set on the table. Tinay would not eat; she could not leave the baby, she said. She was a small, nervous woman still with the lingering prettiness of her youth. She was rocking a baby in a swing made of a blanket tied at both ends to ropes hanging from the ceiling. Trining, his other child, a girl of four, was in a corner playing siklot solemnly all by herself. Everything seemed a dream, a large spreading dream. This little room with all the people inside, faces, faces in a dream. That woman in the fields, this afternoon, a colored, past dream by now.
But the unrest, the fever she had left behind… was still on him. He turned almost savagely on his brother and spoke to break these two grotesque, dream bubbles of his life. “When I was your age, Vidal, I was already married. It is high time you should be settling down. There is Milia.” “I have no desire to marry her nor anybody else. Just—just—for five carabaos.” There! He had spoken out at last. What a relief it was. But he did not like the way his brother pursed his lips tightly That boded not defeat. Vidal rose, stretching himself luxuriously. On the door of the silid where he slept he paused to watch his little niece. As she threw a pebble into the air he caught it and would not give it up. She pinched, bit, shook his pants furiously while he laughed in great amusement. “What a very pretty woman Trining is going to be. Look at her skin; white as rice grains just husked; and her nose, what a high bridge. Ah, she is going to be a proud lady… and what deep, dark eyes. Let me see, let me see. Why, you have a little mole on your lips. That means you are very talkative.” “You will wake up the baby. Vidal! Vidal!” Tinay rocked the child almost despairingly. But the young man would not have stopped his teasing if Fabian had not called Trining to his side. “Why does she not braid her hair?” he asked his wife. “Oh, but she is so pretty with her curls free that way about her head.” “We shall have to trim her head. I will do it before going out to work tomorrow.” Vidal bit his lips in anger. Sometimes… well, it was not his child anyway. He retired to his room and fell in a deep sleep unbroken till after dawn when the sobs of a child awakened him. Peering between the bamboo slats of the floor he could see dark curls falling from a child’s head to the ground. He avoided his brother from that morning. For one thing he did not want repetitions of the carabao question with Milia to boot. For another there was the glorious world and new life opened to him by his work in the master’s house. The glamour, the enchantment of hour after hour spent on the shadow-flecked ylang-ylang scented patio where she molded, shaped, reshaped many kinds of men, who all had his face from the clay she worked on. In the evening after supper he stood by the window and told the tale of that day to a very quiet group. And he brought that look, that was more than a gleam of a voice made weak by strong, deep emotions. His brother saw and understood. Fury was a high flame in his heart… If that look, that quiver of voice had been a moth, a curl on the dark head of his daughter… Now more than ever he was determined to have Milia in his home as his brother’s wife… that would come to pass. Someday, that look, that quiver would become a moth in his hands, a frail, helpless moth. When Vidal, one night, broke out the news Fabian knew he had to act at once. Miss Francia would leave within two days; she wanted Vidal to go to the city with her, where she would finish the figures she was working on. “She will pay me more than I can earn here, and help me get a position there. And shall always be near her. Oh, I am going! I am going!” “And live the life of a—a servant?” “What of that? I shall be near her always.” “Why do you wish to be near her?”
“Why? Why? Oh, my God! Why?” That sentence rang and resounded and vibrated in Fabian’s ears during the days that followed. He had seen her closely only once and only glimpses thereafter. But the song of loveliness had haunted his life thereafter. If by a magic transfusing he, Fabian, could be Vidal and… and… how one’s thoughts can make one forget of the world. There she was at work on a figure that represented a reaper who had paused to wipe off the heavy sweat from his brow. It was Vidal in stone. Again—as it ever would be—the disquieting nature of her loveliness was on him so that all his body tensed and flexed as he gathered in at a glance all the marvel of her beauty. She smiled graciously at him while he made known himself; he did not expect she would remember him. “Ah, the man with the splendid arms.” “I am the brother of Vidal.” He had not forgotten to roll up his sleeves. He did not know how he worded his thoughts, but he succeeded in making her understand that Vidal could not possibly go with her, that he had to stay behind in the fields. There was an amusement rippling beneath her tones. “To marry the girl whose father has five carabaos. You see, Vidal told me about it.” He flushed again a painful brick-red; even to his eyes he felt the hot blood flow. “That is the only reason to cover up something that would not be known. My brother has wronged this girl. There will be a child.” She said nothing, but the look in her face protested against what she had heard. It said, it was not so. But she merely answered, “I understand. He shall not go with me.” She called a servant, gave him a twenty-peso bill and some instruction. “Vidal, is he at your house?” The brother on the patio nodded. Now they were alone again. After this afternoon he would never see her, she would never know. But what had she to know? A pang without a voice, a dream without a plan… how could they be understood in words. “Your brother should never know you have told me the real reason why he should not go with me. It would hurt him, I know. “I have to finish this statue before I leave. The arms are still incomplete—would it be too much to ask you to pose for just a little while?” While she smoothed the clay, patted it and molded the vein, muscle, arm, stole the firmness, the strength, of his arms to give to this lifeless statue, it seemed as if life left him, left his arms that were being copied. She was lost in her work and noticed neither the twilight stealing into the patio nor the silence brooding over them. Wrapped in that silver-grey dusk of early night and silence she appeared in her true light to the man who watched her every movement. She was one he had glimpsed and crushed all his life, the shining glory in moth and flower and eyes he had never understood because it hurt with its unearthly radiance.
If he could have the whole of her in the cup of his hands, drink of her strange loveliness, forgetful of this unrest he called life, if… but his arms had already found their duplicate in the white clay beyond… When Fabian returned Vidal was at the batalan brooding over a crumpled twenty-peso bill in his hands. The haggard tired look in his young eyes was as grey as the skies above. He was speaking to Tinay jokingly. “Soon all your sampaguitas and camias will be gone, my dear sister-in-law because I shall be seeing Milia every night… and her father.” He watched Fabian cleansing his face and arms and later wondered why it took his brother that long to wash his arms, why he was rubbing them as hard as that
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