I get updated on everything that’s happening in the Philippines through the daily news I get from friends via e-mail. I read an editorial from Jarius Bondoc of “Pilipino Star Ngayun” dated 4 December 2009. The article he wrote was entitled “Wastong Pagtrato sa Matatanda (The Proper Way of Dealing with the Elderly). Suffice to say, it almost brought me to tears. Below is my take on his story ….
Once upon a December one small family went back to their province. Brilyo, the family’s head, did not want to visit his parents as he thought it will just bore him, his wife and his son.
You see, Brilyo was sent by his parents to the big city to study college and since then has not come back to their home. He graduated top of his class and is now a partner in one of the country’s biggest Accounting Firms and lives in the most expensive condominium in the metro.
Every month, he gets mail from his father. He usually does not read the letters sent to him as he found them quite repetitive and difficult to understand. His father only finished 5th grade and his attempts at writing made Brilyo feel uncomfortable when he reads them. But unknown to Brilyo, every time he throws away his father’s mails, his wife reads them and replies to his parents in his behalf.
One day, Brilyo was surprised by his wife’s demands that they ought to spend Christmas with Brilyo’s parents. He tried to explain to his wife that there was nothing special in their province but his wife was adamant that they should go.
On their way, Brilyo’s son was so excited at the sight of the province’s scenery. Every time his son saw something he usually did not see in the city, he pointed at it and asked Brilyo what it was. Brilyo answered every question his son asked and thought “My son will grow up to be an intelligent and well-educated man like me.”
Brilyo, his wife and their son were greeted enthusiastically by his mother. His father stayed seated on the porch of their humble home as he found it difficult to stand. He smiled meekly as his daughter-in-law and grandson kissed him on his cheek.
Brilyo’s wife and son were led into the small nipa house by his mother while he sat beside his father on what used to be his favorite chair.
His father mumbled something and Brilyo asked his father what he had just said.
“What is that?” said his father, pointing at a small brown bird.
Brilyo sighed while rolling his eyes and said in an even tone “Father, that’s a sparrow.”
His father nodded slowly and looked down, thinking. Another bird perched near them and his father pointed at it and asked Brilyo what it was.
Brilyo gave another sigh and answered quite irritated “That’s a sparrow!”
His father nodded and focused his clouded eyes at something in the horizon. He was about to raise his hands when Brilyo shouted …
“That’s a sparrow! A SPARROW! I’ve told you twice already why can’t you understand? You have to be kidding me! You don’t even know what a sparrow is?”
He did not notice that his mother and his son were by the door. His son looked at him with a face void of expression and ran back inside the house.
Brilyo’s mother hesitantly went to him and said “Son, please be patient with me and your father. I’m afraid we are getting too old. Come now, I’ve prepared your favorite food.”
His mother heaved his father up and led him inside their house while Brilyo remained seated thinking he and his family shouldn’t have come back to his province.
Brilyo never spoke to his parents over the snacks, during dinner, and even while they were having their Noche Buena (note: a feast Filipinos have during the night of December 24 to usher in Christmas Day).
That night, as the crickets sang their lullabies in the cool breeze of Christmas Eve, Brilyo’s father died.
Brilyo helped pass time by looking at a peculiar sparrow perching on a window sill near him. He can’t help but think that the small brown bird was staring at him with its sad, little eyes. His mother and wife were inside the morgue while he and his son were waiting in the lobby.
One of the helpers went to them holding a small tattered book and handed it to Brilyo.
He asked the helper what it was and why the man was giving it to him.
Before the man could answer, Brilyo’s son said “I know what that is! That’s grandpa’s journal. He asked me to read it to him last night before he went to bed.”
He grabbed the book from Brilyo’s hand and started reading very slowly … as most third-graders do.
“Today I start writing my journal. My son will start going to school tomorrow. He asked what a sparrow was 24 times. I answered him 24 times, hugged him 24 times, and kissed him 24 times. My son is wonderful. He wants to know everything around him. Sometimes, I don’t know the answer his questions but I told him someday he will learn the answers himself and that he should tell it to me. I will do everything to give him the best education, even if I have to work day and night. I know he will be successful someday. I hope writing here daily will improve my skills so that my son can be proud of me as I am very very proud of him.”
Brilyo’s son closed the journal, looked up, and asked his father.
“Dad, how come everything grandpa wrote in this diary is about you?”
Brilyo started to cry as the sparrow from the window flew away unnoticed.