Last night, the rain was heavy and I had to find a roof after I stepped out of the jeepney. Barotac Nuevo was tranquil when I managed to find my pasilungan in a small carenderia along the main road. It was not usual for the town to be so quiet especially with the premature closing of raucous videoke-bars at 9. There was something eerie about the place because there were no tricycles parked on the sidewalks waiting for the passengers to transport them to their barangay destinations. Tricycle used to swarm the streets but not this time. The rain owned the road, claiming its rightful place in the town; even the drive to earn was defeated by the heavy pouring of the sky.
I prayed the rain would stop and the almighty sky to take pity on the people stranded, itching enough to hurry home, to cuddle their children or to indulge in another natural copulation with their other halves. The office girls were cursing the weather because their stockings were dripping when they paced the floor. I glanced at the other side and saw Julius my elementary friend who was sullen in waiting for the rain to cease. I walked towards him and asked how he was doing. He had a tricycle park a couple of blocks away and would have been fortunate to take all those people to their homes because it would mean a lot more earning for the night. However, he was not happy to tell me how his uncle, a trisikad driver was hit by a van the other day and was left wounded in the road. He was confined in the local hospital without anything else but a strong faith to get well. He told me about this because he cared a lot for him and that he needed to do something.
The rain continued to pour in the same amount of precipitation. We continued talking until we reached the point of reminiscing the old days. I knew he was hurt by the incident because nobody had seen the van, and the mishap, and the van could not be traced. But as a friend, I ought to understand his sorrows and had to sway the conversation to more cheerful elementary memories where we spent half of the day under the sun playing pitiw and tumba–patis or pulis-makawat. I did this to thwart the emotion and bring about transition from his melancholic situation.
Those were simple joys because we did not think much of our lives; that was how we behaved due to our young minds, but it changes along the ripening of time. We were not even attending to comply with our assignments for we were always in a hurry to go home and play with the children in our neighborhood – some of them never went to school and spent most of their times in the field helping their parents to get through poverty. We were poor ourselves but my mother has persevered much to send us to school even if it cost her, her own life; and that what made us very fortunate among other children. She understood well enough the value of education as a social ladder even though she didn’t have formal education herself. But those were the days. We have grown into different entities now and Julius, I know, has grown to be much matured, full of religious hope for his life.
Unlike my other classmates, Uyok (that’s what everybody calls him) did not get married. Belonging to a very poor family of 7, he could hardly think of anything but to earn and make his way to college. Fortunately he finished his college with the drive of salvaging his family from poverty. He did this because he dreamt and his dream paved way but only to the extent of finishing his college. And he realized he could not shake off the poverty for the moment; so he rented his uncle’s motorcycle just to earn something while waiting for chance to get hold of him.
He was an education graduate in a local community college here in Barotac Nuevo and he hoped to get the board in the next slated date. He was bereft of any luxury and had to borrow money from his aunt to finance himself. He just wished to get this done and I could sense that the dream of passing the board lurked behind his hopes. This I saluted him for, because I had never seen a man as dedicated as he was.
Listening to him brought certain remorse in my heart because I had to do something, at least to help in encouragement. But miserable as any other person who gropes for success in life, I could offer him nothing. In the society that is full of materialistic demands, I could not help but cope; and in my quest to fulfill this desire, I shrank back in frustration because it required too much determination and capital to clamber the sybaritic market. This I loathed, because as philosophy graduate, I could not land a suitable job. I couldn’t even pursue my dream of going to law school because I only earn enough to feed my stomach’s wants and not to finance the academic honor I desire. I love my degree, but I have to empty my cranium of what I knew in order to go down to the level of society just to suit the qualification of the technical world. It pinged my heart with such demeaning realization and I just condescended with apology to Uyok because I couldn’t help him in any specific way.
I told him how life has changed from simple to worst, that our generation suffered the brunt of excessive oppression by the current system which has been eating up our dreams. I didn’t like to bring up this topic to some extent of blaming the system, and the government, the society for all I know I have indirectly benefited from these somehow. But knowing that somebody’s life is caught between the crossroad of ultimate need and a romantic hope for himself, I could not help but to mention these things. I was glad he understood like the way he did way back when he ranked 2nd to me in class. I wonder what my life would be in ten years and if I ever continue wandering this impoverish state. I knew it was all about choice and it is only through a choice that we can carve our future. However, being in a very poor state, your choice is being limited and you sometimes behave with the “what must and what must not” standard.
I fell short with words to go on talking and he rescued me by saying that he would never stop dreaming – as if hope is the only gore to keep him speeding. That was the best thing I heard from him: to never stop hoping. I too, shouldn’t stop hoping because there is more that awaits tomorrow. I know deep inside, despite his struggles, he will succeed in his life. I pray for that.
The rain stopped at 10 pm, and we rushed to his motor cycle. I gave him 50 pesos for fare but he was reluctant to receive it until I insisted. It was never enough, I knew but I hope that our conversation will shed some initiative from him to move on and to dream big and live that dream.
I walked the dark alley towards home and wondering how much I learned from him because he talked not with theories and ideologies – which I sometimes despised being so bloated and airy – but with the simplicity of experiential language. I don’t know when I will ever see him again; maybe tomorrow, or maybe in the next ten years. I only hope that with this misery that shrouded our lives, we will one day find a knife to cut these twigs and experience the euphoric success.
The rain had surely swept the people out of the town main street, but it somehow providentially arranged a meeting with my long time friend. Despite the tragic sense that he embedded in my mind, I never could have been happier that day as I scribbled my thoughts in my journal…and it started ….Once there was Uyok …there was the rain… there was the dream of hope…