I remember how the mud stuck in between my toes and nails. I never knew my soles’ dead skin was also absorbent. Glad to have bought cheap soap from the nearby sari-sari store. Wala problema panglugod.
I should have worn boots but that could have made him uncomfortable. I don’t want him to be uncomfortable. I want him to like me so that he can open up. Gusto ko lang guid sya mapamatian mag istorya.
I though the chance of talking to him would slip when he said, “Makadto ako sa bukid. Hindi pwede ipabwas kay may tubig na.”
I hurriedly caught up on him and said: “Wala problema. Maupod ako didto.”
He chuckled. I though it meant, sure ka?
His ricefield was right in the middle of a vast land. And so I had to get past the pilapil.
I took off my purple slippers and jumped off the road to his field. He was already busy when I arrived.
Ayos lang magstorya ta?
Oo a. Wala problema.
Pirmi ka guid diri?
He chuckled. Hambal gani sang asawa ko, diri na lang ko magi star. Kung hindi ko magkadto diri, anon a lang ang ubrahon ko?
I know he was not joking.
Ang humay kinahanglan pirmi mo bisitahon. Daw bata mo na sila. Atimanon guid sang mayo.
The sky was a gradient of blues and oranges when he told me where he had been in his younger years.
Nag-ubra ako sa Sabah.
Didto ko natun-an ang mga nabal-an ko subong. Ang amo ko maayo man sa pagtanum-tanum. Nakatu-on guid ako. Amo nga pagbalik ko diri, giaplikar ko ang mga nabal-an ko. Kag wala ako nag untat magtuon basta may oportunidad.
I nodded and smiled. Were those tears in his eyes? Or sweat? I could not tell. It could be both.
While sharing his story, he was busy reconstructing canalets in his newly plowed soil. I shifted my weight to my right as my left foot is getting more submerged in the mud.
I watched him closely.
He is a shy man, I can say. He could not look at me in the eye. But I sensed his pride while sharing his story and the wisdom he gained throughout the years of farming.
I can say that this is his life.
Paano pagtigulang mo, sin-o magbulos sa imo mag atiman sang lupa?
He stopped and held his shovel. He stood; his weight on the tool.
Hindi ko bal-an. He looked around, as if assessing what he had accomplished for the day.
May anak ka?
May ara. Ginatudluan ko man pero hindi nya gusto. Syempre, naka eskwela man sya.
We talked for at least an hour. It was casual talk, about farming, his life—his do’s and don’ts, his woes, the community’s concerns, his hopes. Until it was time to go home.
Uli na ta.
I watched him wash his feet in the nearby irrigation canal.
I reached for my slippers resting in the pilapi. Manglugod ko karon sa station.
Before I even finished, he was on the road ready to ride his bicycle.
As I watched him go, I remembered the warmth I felt deep in the mud. There was nothing between me and the earth; I felt more human.
Salamat, nong, was all I was able to say.
He sure was in a hurry to say goodbye. I know his wife was waiting. Dusk was near.
After graduating from UP Mindanao, Jezreel ‘dated’ farmers for almost three years as part of her service in Philippine Rice Research Institute based in N. Ecija. She is now a public servant in her hometown Tacurong.