The air has gone cooler and I could only hear the music faintly from the disco. I learned that I wasn’t really that good with balancing as we tightrope-walked on a narrow wooden beam that provided a dry path above the muddy ground. I nearly slipped as I took awkward steps here and there on the beam in the dark. It was disappointing how they were already several steps ahead of me.
It was an unassuming, small house at the edge of the town. Before we went in, we were investigating the house and discussing among ourselves whether his parents are home. I was worried but JV didn’t care. I think it was impolite of me to come uninvited, but I felt that he would have the chance to show me off (Look! A Filipino who lives in Foreignland! Yay!) if his parents were there. Fortunately for me, they weren’t.
He was embarrassed by how small and simple his house is (I guess, after visiting my large grandfather’s house often, his house is minuscule in comparison), but I quickly complimented him for surprising me with a charming and modestly furnished house. The floor was laid with white tiles as well! He told me before how he liked sitting alone with his thoughts in his veranda because fresh wind blows from there. So I went to the back to have a look. And oh my god! His back veranda overlooks a vast rice field that stretches into the darkness at the distance. But he surprised me again when he said this:
“From there to there,” JV traced the boundary of their property just beyond the balustrade with his finger. It was such a tiny portion of the entire field!
“Enough to feed my family,” he continued.
I felt a streak of sadness.
This reminded me of the times we had intimate and personal conversations alone with each other weeks ago. At this moment, he had just graduated from high school. Unfortunately, he will have to hold off studying for a year despite telling me that he loves to study. He took an exam to be a seminarian, and with the grace of God, passed. Unfortunately, his parents refuse to have their only son and the only grandson of their parents become a priest. I think I know where his parents are coming from. Despite everyone in his family (he has a sister) are employed, they are still struggling financially and the man is still seen as the traditional and main breadwinner. And like the Chinese, family name and reputation is quite significant in the Philippines. If he doesn’t get married, there’ll be no one to carry the family name onward. When asked what his plans are for that year, his reply was filled with sadness, confusion and uncertainty.
Me and our other friend sat on the sofa watching a teleserye while we waited for JV to come out of his room. He came out of his room when he got what he needed (which were guitar chords for mass the following morning) and also proudly showed me a wooden cross necklace with letters simply written with black marker on one side – it was his memento for the leaders’ camp that he attended. I can see how much he treasured it despite it stark simplicity. I believe there is nothing in my room that I hold dearly close to me, and so I really admired how he had something to treasure.
Just as I thought we were about to leave, he ran back into his room and sprayed some perfume on himself from a plastic bottle. I believe he said somewhere along the lines of:
“You smell like a girl!”, I teased him. He reacted with an offended and confused look on his face. He didn’t get my joke!
“Haha! Just kidding.”
For most of the rest of the night, it rained heavily. So we ended up practicing the songs for mass at a friend’s house (as initially intended) instead of meeting some chicks at the disco. However, later that week, I heard that he, along with some other friends, actually danced at the disco till the next morning… in the rain… with umbrellas!
I wouldn’t have stayed to dance anyway. I was too tired.