“What’s happening here?”

There was nothing that prepared me for the festive sight I was witnessing. People who were all familiar to me was too busy with their preparations that they failed to notice us arriving.

“Do you know about this?” I asked my godchild in a whisper.

He kept nodding, too proud for his successful participation in the meticulous get together.

“Ehem!” I cleared my throat to announce our appearance.

Everyone paused at what they were doing, most were puzzled why no one was assigned to be a lookout to watch for my surprise entrance.

“Happy Birthday!” someone yelled in jubilation, infecting everyone with his over enthusiasm.

The singing and dancing ensued while I was herded to a chair at the center of a table with lots of cooked food. Fruits and local pastries decorated the edges while native wines in large ceramic jars stood on dry ground.

Frankly, I was speechless with the outpouring of love and kindness bestowed on me that moment. I held back my tears whenever someone approached me and congratulated me for being me: the former city guy turned farmer.

Almost all my godchildren were there to present me with their common gift, which was the core of all the secrecy I tried to discover.

“Ninong, you’re the best,” the youngest of them all expressed. The rest nodded their approval.

“Thank you for the trouble,” I laughed, recalling all the guessing games I had to go through. “You skillfully run rings around me.”

When the music stopped, the call to initiate the eating spree followed. For more than an hour, the chatter mellowed to a minimum.

“Speech! Speech!” one of my kumpare requested. Many clapped their hands to second the motion.

I vacated my throne, took the microphone from the emcee and stood in front.

Another kumpare, who controlled the sound system, played the karaoke version of Bon Jovi’s Always. Everyone knew it was my favorite song to sing.

I was tempted to sing first before the speech but I chose not to drive them all away covering their ears. It was still too early to belt out a noise that the carabaos might recognize as a mating call.

“Friends, countrymen, all here present,” I began, eliciting grins from the adults, “I am grateful for your elaborate preparations for my birthday. Thank you.”

Huh? That was it! I could sense they expected more than what they heard.

“By the way, my real birthday is next month. That’s okay. We can repeat this again.”



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