The Happiest Boy in the World
Julio, who had come from Tables to settle in Barok, was writing a letter to, of all people, ka Ponso, his landlord, one warm June night. It was about his son,Jose, who wanted to go to school in Mansalay that year. Jose was in the fifth grade when julio and his family had left
"Dear Compadre,"Julio started to write in tagalog bending earnestly over a piece of paper which he had torn out of Jose's notebook.It was many months ago when,just as now, he had sat down with a writing implement in his hand. That was when he had gone to the municipio in Mansalay to file a homestead applicatio, and he had used a pen, and to his great surprise filled in the blank forms neatly.Nothing came of the application and talked with the officials concerned .Now, with a pencil instead of a pen to write wit,julio was sure that he could make his letter legible enough for ka Ponso.
"It's about my boy Jose,"he wrote on."I want him to study this june in mansalay. He's in the sixth grade now, and since he's quite a poor hand at looking after your carabaos, I thought it would be best that he goes to school in the town."
He sat back and learned against the wall. He had been writing on a low wooden bench, the sole piece of furniture in the one-room house.There he sat in one corner. A little way across stood the stove; to his right fidela and the baby girl, felipa lay under the hempen mosquito net. Jose,who had been out all afternoon looking for one of Ka Ponso's carabaos that he had strayed away to the newly-planted rice clearings along the other side of the barok river, was here too, sprawing beside a sack of palay by the doorway. He snored lightl;y,like a tired youth; but he was only twelve.
The kerosene lamp's yellow flame flickered easelessly. The danksmell of food,of fish broth particularly, that had been spilled from many a bowl and had dried on the floor seemed to rise from the very texture of the wood itself. The satark truth about their poverty, if julio's nature had been sensitive to it, might have struck him with a hard and sudden blow then; but as it was, he just looked about the room,even as the smell assailed his nostrils,and stared now at the mosquito net,now at Jose as he lay there by the door. Then he continued with his letter.
"This boy,Jose,compadre,"he went on,"is quite an industrious lad. If you can only let him stay in your big house. Compadre,you can make him do anything you wish-any work. He can cook rice, and I'm sure he'll do well washing dishes."
Julio recalled his last visit to ka ponso's about three months ago, during the fiesta . he had seen that it was a big house with many servants; the floor were so polished you could almost see your own image under your feet as you walked; and always there was a servant who followed you about with a piece of rag to wipe away the smudges of dirt which your feet had left on the floor.
"I hope you will not think of his as great bother."Julio continued, tryng his best to phrase this thoughts. He had a vague far that ka Ponso might not favorably regard his letter. But he wrote on,slowly and steadly,stopping only to read what he had put down."We shall repay you for watever you can do for us,compadre.It's true we already owe you for many things, but your comadre and I will do all we can indeed to repay you."
Read the last sentence and realizing that he had made mention of his wife,julio recalled that during the very first month after their arrival from tablas thay had received five cavanes of rice from ka ponso.
And that later he had been told that at harvest time he should pay back twice the number of cavanes. This was usurious but was strictly after the custom in those parts, and julio was not thesort who would complain.Besides, he had never thought of ka ponso as anything else than his compadre espiritual, as they called it, a true friend.
Suddenly he began wonderng how jose would move about in Ka ponso's household, being unaccustomed to so many things there.The boy might even stumble over a chair and break some dishes…he feared for the boy.
"And I wish you would treat jose as to would your own son, compadre. You may beat him if he should commit some wrong and indeed I want him to look up to you as a second father."
Julio felt he had nothing more to say and that he had written the longest letter in his life.For a moment the fingers of his hand felt numb. And this was a funny thing. he thought, because he had scarcely filled the page. He sat back again and smiled to himself.
About six o'clock the following morning,a boy of twelve was riding a carabao along the riverbed road to own to town. He was a very puny lad on the carabao's broad back.
Walking close behind the carabao, the father accommpanied him up to the bend of the river. When the beast hesitated in crossing the small rivulet that cut the road as it passed a clump of bamboo, the man picked.
Up a stick and prodded the animal. Then he handed the stick to the boy, as one might give a precious gift.
The father did not cross the stream but only stood there by the bank."Mind to look after the letter,"he called out from where he was,"Do you have it there, in your shirt pocket?"
The boy fumbled for it, When he had found it, he said,"No Tatay, I won't lose it".
"And take good care of the carabao," julio added. " I'll come to town myself in a day or two to get that carabao back. I just want to get through first the planting."
Then Juli started to get back to his house, thinking of the work that awaited him in his clearing that day.but he thought more to tell his son, and so he stopped and call him out again.
"And the letter," he shouted. " give it to Ka Ponso as soon as you get back to the town. Then be good , and do everything he asks you to do. Remember…….everything".
from atop the carabao, Jose yelled, "Yes, tatay, yes," and rode away. A stand of abaca plants, their green leaves glimmering in the morning sun, soon conceiled him from the view.
Fastened to his saddle was his bundle of clothes and the little package of rice, food for his week in town. It was customary for the school boys from the barrio or farm to provide themselves in this simple manner; in Jose's case, although he was going to live at Ka Ponso's, it could not be said that his father had forgotten about this little manner concerning food.
Thinking of his father, Jose grew curious about the letter he carried in his shirt pocket. He stopped his carabao under a shady tree by the roadside.
A bird sang in a bush nearby. Jose could hear it even as he read the letter, junping from down from word to word; for him the vernacular was quite difficult. But the meaning of each sentence became clear to him, he xperinced a curious exaltation. It was though he were the happiest boy in the world was snging for him. He heard the rumbling of the stream far away. There he and his father parted. The world seemed full of bird song and music from the stream.