With a jolly conversation during a simple lunch in one of the smaller restaurants near the market, I listened to their endless stories of life in their hometown, another small village in another underdeveloped province.
“I am still confused why you stayed here for so long, Pare.”
“You did not believe my reasons, then, remember? You even bet I would not last a year.” I reminded him of a wager he did not pay, which I did not mind on collecting either.
“Did I? I don’t remember,” he grinned, his eyes telling the truth instead.
“You said you would walk naked along the national highway in broad daylight if I lasted a whole year.”
My godchild was all ears. He was absorbing any information he could throw at his father when they got back home.
“That was not me,” he disagreed, shaking his head repeatedly. “I forgot what I bet on but that’s not it.”
“Admit it, Father,” my godchild interrupted. “I heard you promised a similar variation with Mother.”
“See! You never learn!” I confirmed.
“Let’s leave that topic, okay? I was wrong. There! Happy, now?”
I was having fun ribbing him but then I have to admit he, too, had an important role why I stayed.
“Well, you redeemed yourself by inviting me to be a godparent to this boy!”
“Really?” he asked seriously. “I did not know.”
“Connections. Like family ties. You continued the link after my first godchild.”
He paused, reliving those moments silently.
His decision to go back to his parents’ hometown was not his alone. Being the eldest of the brood, he was tasked to take care of the land they owned. It was a difficult decision he asked my advice for and which I objectively explained to him. I was sad to tell him to go back but that was the best for all concerned.
“I want to go back here,” he admitted, his son listening attentively. “I was happy here.”
“We can visit often, Father.”
“That’s right!” I said. The gloom in his face began to disappear.
“Your Ninong will send you fare money once a year,” he announced without my blessing.
“Will I?” I laughed out loud. “Your father is always joking.”
“I can save money, Ninong,” the boy said. “I am a working student.”
“Well, if that’s the case, I will send you fare money.”
“Will you?” my kumpare was genuinely surprised.
“If you compute it, that’s five pesos daily savings for the whole year. Round-trip tickets plus pocket money. That’s less than the price of bread I eat daily.”
“You are really good at this.” My kumpare was still counting with his fingers.
“Your son grew up responsible. That means you are good at this.”
He glanced at me while I pointed first to my head and then to my chest. I did admire him for his personal sacrifices leaving a home he tried to build for his own family to restart anew somewhere else. That took courage.
“I am proud to be your kumpare,” I added, patting him again on his shoulder.
“Is crying allowed in here?” he asked, a tear fell from his left eye.
“Don’t start, please.”