This is now the 14th morning that his voice isn’t heard over the loudspeaker by the church belfry. Some town residents are now missing his although uncultured nevertheless stentorian voice. In the Ave Maria as the dawn rosary begins, he blends his voice with a woman’s voice who does the first voice. This is now the 14th morning because he began to entertain thoughts that it is wrong to wake at three thirty in morning, walk fifteen minutes on a footpath to the church to pray the rosary. And the cold morning dew on the vegetation along the path activates bacterias and fungi on his skin making sensation that needs scratching. And it ate up some of his health too. He never went to a doctor but he felt some changes in his body. The right thing to him now is if he has to pray, he will pray because he woke; not to wake to pray.
Finding something worthwhile to do, he looked at his ukulele. He got up, unhooked it from a nail and tried if it is tuned. And then he made up in his mind something he’d always wanted to do.
As always the morning was cold and threatening to rain. And the feeling was contagious. The tingkiling cicadas named for the sounds they make, those insects science says wait for seventeen years to be of mating age and whose eggs need twenty five years to hatch, aren’t blending their noise with silence. Sounds crappy but what science said isn’t necessary to be doubted. Every year there are new cicadas that get to be seventeen years to become reproductively mature and there are cicada eggs that are through with their twenty five year wait to get to hatch into new cicadas. Just like when science say dinosaurs existed some one hundred and twenty to sixty five million years ago. The estimate is so safe to be proven wrong with the huge range of time it is telling the dinosaurs were around.
And the rain began to fall as it threatened when he got far from his home but not far enough yet to lose sight of his house. The two buli palms which are always of the same silhouette shape were not yet blurred by distance. He looked back and the distance reduced the size of his house. It was all alone among a forest of young trees and old coconuts whose trunks had been likewise reduced in size by distance. Its light materials thatched with talahib grass made it look like a used nest where fledglings were once reared and have abandoned when flying lessons their mothers taught was fully gained.
It’s the early days of December probably the last rain for Earth to fill its last bottles to journey its own Sahara in its orbit. This is December and kite fliers mostly adults have been waiting. Children only assist in launching the kites. Kites, those little paper suspended in the air with a string by the blowing of the winds; that little piece of paper an American liar said he flew in a thunderstorm to prove that lightning is a kind of electricity, like he can summon lightning when he wants it and where he wants it; like it’s possible to fly a kite in a thunderstorm when the wind is so strong. The wind has reversed direction blowing east to west. The rain got stronger but he wasn’t helpless from getting wet. The giant leaves of wild, inedible beets lined the path he walked. While agricultural science has yet to discover its use, the Subanos, this man's people, were already using its itchy flesh to control mice that steal their crops. They lace food baits with the white flesh of the beet that when the mice eat it, the mice will then be doing nothing but scratch itch all over their body until they die of hunger. He could get one leaf to protect himself from the rain.
A man cleaving coconuts with an ax by the side of the path was hopeful the rain won’t be pouring long. He was as hopeful as Noah. He had to, to dry the kernels into copra. The Bible didn’t say anything about where the rainbow appeared. But the world is yet to see a rainbow appearing in the north or in the south. The rainbow God showed to Moses was a sign that he is through with his wrath should have appeared either in the east or in the west. And it got into this man’s mind that the rain won’t indeed be long. He proceeded without taking a beet leaf. His ukulele hangs from his shoulder; no rain can destroy his ukulele. And he allowed the rain to wet him. And indeed the rain wasn’t long and the day gibbous moon slowly appeared in the sky halfway between zenith and western horizon. He was wet but he kept going, avoiding the town until he was far enough that nobody knows who he is, did he head for the highway. He wanted to avoid the town entirely but all he could do is walk where there are only a few people. He will be a fool to them; their dependence on rational minds made them incapable of understanding what he will be doing because it is indeed a foolish thing to do this thing he intends to do. And with the thoughts he had in his mind, he is indeed a fool as far as rational mind is concerned. It’s a Friday but he doesn’t wonder why it is a Friday. It is a Friday because yesterday was a Thursday and Saturday comes only tomorrow. He is not known to be like what he intends to do as far as his own town is concerned. As he gained distance from the town, he became more and more stranger to people along the way until no one cares about him anymore. His mountain ukulele of coconut shell and g-melina neck still hangs on his back. He made it himself as mountain ukuleles are self-made and to each his own design. His is badly made but this is all his artistry could craft. His care for his his ukulele like an expensive musical instrument ended as he intends now to put it to good use. No rain, no sunshine can destroy it. He walked without particular direction but he kept going like a butterfly that knows where it is going and where it is coming back. His faded golfers’ cap protected his head from the sun and its torn visor concealed his face from anybody who might still recognize him. He continued to walk without looking but his ears waits for approaching passenger bus going his way. He knew the sound of the vehicle he needed. Right of him was the north with the sea that goes to nowhere but to the horizon. Left of him is the plane that gradually upgraded into hills and then into mountains. The highway seemed to go straight to where the sun sinks at twilight. And then a red bus with the exact sign board on the windshield exactly where he intended to go approached. He waved his hand. He didn’t look neither a beggar nor a fool yet and so the bus stopped for him. And at last he was free from any uncomprehending watching eyes. He settled in the rear seats. He placed his ukulele and his bag in his lap resting his arms over it to keep it from slipping. And then he opened his bag, touched a thing inside to check that it is there and to feel its thickness. He closed the bag back gently sliding the zipper head to the other end. He settled back and got asleep.
It was past 1 o’clock when he got to the place. His hunger for the noontime meal passed without sating. It was beneficial to the intentions he had mind. It was a little city with only a few trees growing perhaps prices of land here have become too high to grow trees for shade or trees aren’t necessary -- buildings have their shadows. At the shadow of one building, she softly tried his ukulele out of habit if it’s tuned. And then he approached an establishment – a tiny drugstore and began to sing.
Silaw sa bitoon
Kahayag sa bulan
Ikaw pinangga, mao’y saksi ‘ning dughan
Sa likod nianang mga kabukiran
Naa dinha ang lungsod sa Labangan
Mao’y pinuyanan sa akong hinigugma
Sayon unta adtoon kung ako usa ka agila.
Didto padulong gikan dinhi akong lak’ton
Ang magagiya kanako (spoken)
Silaw sa bitoon
Ang magtultol kanako (spoken)
Kahayag sa bulan
Ikaw pinangga mao’y saksi ning dughan
He was about to begin another song but the tindera was already approaching. She handed him a yellow coin as the cashier before her cash register gave him a bad, look for he doesn’t look unhealthy to be begging if what he did was begging and it was too early to be caroling if what he did was caroling. He got his song finished not because they liked his song, but because the cashier was busy with the cash register. But it was to him a success enough to encourage him to try on another establishment. Nothing encourages more than success. He walked, away from that store where he won’t be heard singing the same song. It was a bank, a rural bank by status, but has its building of five stories, a newly finished building. He began to sing before the security guards, two outside and another two behind the glass door. But this one is a failure, the security guard told him to come back when the misa de gallo begins.
He turned to leave with only an agreeing nod as his goodbye as the guard closed the glass door.
The highway has ended at the center of the mountain town and the next town at the other side of the province connects with an unpaved provincial road graveled and badly maintained. This road is either dusty or muddy. This is November the beginning of the dry months that will last until April. He's nearly an authentic beggar now for having not changed clothes for three days. Some of the dust he stirred as he steps the unpaved road settled on his feet and some settled back on ground. Houses along the slowly highway thinned into clusters of three as he gained distance from the city. And as he walked slowly without stopping for days houses were all gone from along the highway. He is dirty almost beyond recognition now in a place nobody recognizes him or anybody to recognize him. He's now in a live dream, not just in a sleep dream where information is erroneously processed by the brain. It's taking place right before his open eyes and wake mind. Dreaming awake is far better than dreaming asleep: vision is clearer. No psychologist have ever said such a word but it's happening to him. A house similar to his house except in size is presently visible. The house at the sight of the man seem to meet him like they were moving to each others direction, like it has something to show to him. And his mind gained the ability to see the inside of the house while still distant. The bamboo slats used as the floor were a little more than inch apart. A portion of the bamboo slat floor has two pieces broken near the sleeping area. And a baby fell from there among the sow and eleven piglets below. The sow had three little ones including the baby. It partook in the suckling of the sow's teat the way the little pigs did. But the baby did not move from one teat to another as humans are the weakest, only its not stupid. Three other houses were visible as landscape changed as he was passed the first house he saw. A little crowd of about seven people were milled around a small table playing cards in a gamble. Ante of coins and a few bills were heaped in the middle of the table. Three were seated, one of them was the mother of the baby. She was deep squinting with her cards. A cigarette with unflicked ash burns between her lips; faint tiny smoke gets into her eyes but she didn't have a third hand to rub the little pains the smoke inflicted. Her husband silently kibitzers behind her back too afraid to say opinions how to handle the cards. He was a fool to them; they were fools to him too. But they were both sane to mind each other. He took one last look at the pigs and the baby in the hope that some eyes among the gambling crowd follow where he looked. They were too occupied to mind a baby either.
The images before him changed as he kept walking. The gravel road began to climb. And then he was walking among trunks of giant banyans, the trees no lumberjacks hasn't the courage to cut down. Only a few rays of sun succeeded in penetrating the sieves of leaves through the ground. He walked slow, as slow as a ship in the horizon like he didn't want to gain distance. He could feel the oxygen released by the trees but he was inadequately educated to know the reason. It was cool like the inside of a mall, but he'd never been to any to know the similarity. He was long in getting to the top of the climb to begin the descend to an unbridged river.
Once he was about halfway, he looked to where the river is coming and where it's going. He thought of walking the river to its source or its estuary. Although this is now December and the rain have stopped coming, this river has the infamy of causing motorcycle riders missing while crossing to the other side as and here's the head of the flood rushing. This man knows to be called smart one should have followed rivers in his lifetime. But he proceeded in crossing; this journey had been unwalked for so long.
The sun was still half a perlicue above the horizon but crepusculars mostly insects and some other creature impossible to locate had began their cacophony of metallic and demonic sounds. He continued walking after he crossed the river but on the look out where to gain invisibility in the night. A giant durian tree no lumberjack would want to cut down provided what he needed. He gathered dead twigs and heaped it. He pulled out from his back bag a lighter made in China, the one that has a little light on one end. He started a fire and when the fire was receding, he scooped his hand cacao seeds at the bottom of his bag. He roasted the seeds on the receding fire. When the seeds sent its sweet aroma to his nostrils he began picking the seeds from the fire, crushed it between his thumb and fingers to peel the chaff and put it his mouth. That was supper. He pushed some fallen leaves with his feet to the fire. He lied, pillowed his head on his bag. As dusk turned to early evening, insect noises changed to crickets and cathydids and other nocturnals like bats fighting for the tasteless fruit of a nearby talisay tree that only bats would fight for. And the luminous fungus brightened as the night deepened the way distant stars do in the sky.
He woke to the calls of birds and soundless noises of the forest morning. It was not intended for him; he just happened to be there. But it was enough to make him feel like a fictional character of tales in the olden times. If there are moments that he would want to live and remain forever, it is these kinds of moments. But this journey, he thought again, had been unwalked for so long to want to live in this moment forever. He heaped the dead embers of last night's fire and lit it. When the fire was steadily flaming he gathered few more dead twigs and put it on top. He opened his bag, got his tin cup out, poured water from a plastic bottle, pushed the bottom of the cup over the fire to let it stand and leave it there. Once more he got his hand inside his bag to touch the ginger inside and brought it out. He peeled it of skin and then crushed it on the durian root with his fist. He put it in the cup and waited, and when he estimated that the water got enough heat from the fire, he picked it up holding the cup with with a folded t-shirt he got from his bag. He sipped his lips on the gingered water, and then he scooped his hand a few cacao seeds from his bag and put it on the receding fire. A few moments later the seeds were ambrosiac. He picked one and began to eat intervaled with the sipping of the cup. That was all his breakfast. He pushed some earth into the dying fire and went back to the road like a ship returning to its course after sheltering from a storm.
The primitive man walked this earth barefoot. He took off his sandals of plasticized rubber and rubberized plastic that was made without consideration to traction. He put it inside his back bag and right away he could feel his attachment to the ground with his bare sole. He's a part of this ground; this ground is made of the same materials as his living body. He walked without stopping and then the runway-straight distance showed a stalled logger truck almost at the other end before the road curved to the left. It was loaded full with logs cut short in short pieces probably as firewood for coconut oil mills nearby. A lone tiny object was moving about the truck trying to do something.
As he neared the trucker, a path that goes inside a mahogany forest was inviting to be followed. Leaves of the past deciduous years accumulated underneath. The path crosses a little brook that silently flows under a footlog. But the man ahead needed help. It was a punctured tire that stalled him. A skinny child was with the driver after all, but he was too light to step on the pipe lever and not strong enough to hold the wrench on the nut. The driver waited his approached. As soon as they were near enough for a smile to be noticed, the driver's face lighted. And then it turned into a smile.
"Hey!" the driver greeted as the journeyer was at speaking distance.
"Hey," the journeyer answered.
"Been here four hours now. If you could step this pipe down while I hold the wrench on the nut to loose it."
"But why you're alone with that boy? Your son?"
The journeyer didn't wait for answer. He went to where he was needed. One after another the nuts were loosened, pulled the punctured tire out and replaced with another, nuts put back and tightened. He looked up at the man while he was still squatting by the tire.
"Thank you," the driver said. "Going far?"
"Where, if you don't mine."
"I mine, but I still don't know where to go."
The driver smiled almost like a laugh thinking it was a joke or was this an encounter with an insane. The driver turned on the engine and the muffler blew dark smoke out kept there for hours. The truck with its overworked engine struggled to stay alive.
"Really, is next town already near?" they journeyer asked.
"Around 40km from here."
"Yeah, it's good."
"Come ride, come on."
The driver stepped on the clutch and released without shifting the gear lever.
The boy looked ahead through the winshield impatient at the long delay and the driver's difficulty in parting with someone who have given help but doesn't accept help in return.
"Aren't you really going to ride?"
"No. Thank you."
"But it's still 40 kilometers to the next town."
"I don't even want to get there, or to any place."
"Just go ahead."
"Thank you so much then for your help."
The driver once more stepped on the clutch and finally shifted the gear lever to first gear, pushed the accelerator, slowly released the clutch and the truck was beating inertia. His left foot went back to the clutch pedal and shifted to second gear. He waved his hand out of his window to gesture his goodbye. And then he glanced at the walker in his side mirror to aside his gratefulness. The driver tried to retain in his mind the face of the walker; so did the walker. And when the truck turned the curve and into a private forest with trees grown by the landowner, both walker and driver became nameless faces in each other life.
The walker trudged on. When it was his turn to turn the curve, he could still see the dust of the truck beginning to settle. The dusk caught him as he approached a UCCP church that had a well and a boy pumping water for his mother to cook the evening pone.
"Asa man ka uncle?" the boy shouted in the local language.
"Didto," the walker answered.
A little farther was a Catholic chapel constructed with materials that do not cost anything. The walls are of the same materials as its thatch. At the entrance hangs a rusty differential shaft discarded by loggers long time ago. A lay minister in charge of the chapel approached the shaft with a long steel in hand to ring the angelus. The bell was clanging not ringing, but it sent the little community into prayer.
TO BE CONT AND TO BE EDITED. AALISIN KO IYONG NAGPALIMOS SIYA, AT IYONG UKULELE, WALA NA DAPAT ANG UKULELE