Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Rip van Winkle Jr.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday (www.pbs.gov.ph)

A balikbayan was visiting his hometown. He wanted to relive his pleasant childhood. There is something irresistible, a homing instinct that draw many balikbayan to come home in the later years of their lives. Some wish to be buried in the town of their birth.

His townmates call him Tatang, a courtesy to a much older person who is like a father. In fact Tatang means father. To earn this title is not easy.
Rip van Winkle, legendary character of the story of the same title by Washington Irving.
“You must be part of the people,” a Filipino sociologist said. “And you must have the respectability and touch.” But the most important qualification he mentioned is that you have to have children of your own who call you tatang in the biological sense. In the case of Tatang Ramon, his title is sociological.

Which gives essence to the term kapamilya, connoting extended family. Indeed that’s how small the hometown of Tatang Ramon is. Kinship is by consanguinity, affinity and by being a kababayan, rolled in one.

Tatang Ramon felt easy with the people especially the children, and he felt reciprocated. Well, this what you call touch. Tatang Ramon had the touch when he talsk, even with a slight slang that gives an inkling he is a balikbayan from the states. He had the touch when greeting his kababayan and talking to them. And he had a good memory; he could relate people to one another, at least people in his generation, with something interesting about them.

He is indeed a balikbayan – he is bringing out beautiful memories weaving them with the happenings of a changing world. He even talked of post-modern living, giving emphasis to the prefix, to stress the fact that we are "living in the future." What with space exploration, the Internet and cloning - but he did not dwell much on these for fear he might not be understood.

One day Tatang Ramon found a young man scratching the ground with a stick. He was reminded of his bible. There is a part where Christ was meditating scratching the ground with a stick – which up to now no one knows what he wrote. Around him were angry people who were about to stone a woman to death because she committed a grave sin. Christ rose and said, “He who has no sin casts the first stone.” No one dared. The people left and Christ said to the woman, “Go and sin no more.”

Tatang Ramon approached the fellow who was seemingly in deep reflection. He didn’t know what attracted him to do so. Apparently the fellow was sad and lonely. He needed comfort, at least company. He was writing something on the ground which could not be deciphered. To his surprise, he found out that the fellow is the son of a classmate of his in the elementary.

“What’s you name, young man?” he asked

“Jun,” he quipped, “Jun po … Tang.” Short for tatang. And he talked about his father.

“Why, you look like your father.”

You can imagine how the two fell into a familiar conversation, such as what Tatang Ramon and Jun’s father Tatang Juan had in common, what they did in school, but more important what they did after school. Oh, they fished in the river, rode bicycle together, played sipa and competed in nearby towns. It’s a novel if you are patient to hear everything. Tatang Ramon cut the story, “…then I left for the states … finished college … raised a family … found a good job … my children are on their own now… and here I am, a balikbayan.”

Jun did not say a thing. He heard Tatang Ramon all right.

One qualification how the title Tatang is earned is to be able to advise effectively. Even if you are not a sociologist this is basic. And what do you think Tatang Ramon did?

He gave an unsolicited advice. He cleared his throat, sat beside Jun like a father should to a troubled son.

“You see Jun, when you finish college you will meet people and visit different places. You will find a good job. And you will free yourself from the cares and worries of the world.” He paused, waiting for a response. There was none.

“You will simply enjoy the leisure of life.” The balikbayan flashed a friendly grin, thinking he had driven well his point.

The simpleton momentarily stopped scratching the ground, looked at his new mentor and casually spoke.

“And what do you think I’m doing now, 'Tang?"

Tatang Ramon felt he does not deserve the title – what with Jun’s response?

His mind found solace in his readings. He realized Rip van Winkle is still alive. He is in our midst.

Rip van Winkle is the principal character of a short story of the same title written by Washington Irving in the late 17th century.

Rip van Winkle was a very lazy person, a hempeck husband who left home and went up the mountain on a leisurely hunting and did not return until twenty years later. He fell asleep for twenty long years!

“Who am I?” who asked the villagers when he found his way back to his village. Everything changed, it was a new era. America was now an independent nation. Madam Winkle had long been gone. When he finally reached his old home, a young man was scratching the ground with a stick. His house was still there but was falling apart.

“I am Rip Van Winkle!” The old man cried. “Can’t anyone recognize me?” He paused and got closer to the young man and examined him from head to foot. He looked familiar. "And who are you?"

“I am Rip van Winkle,” came a wry answer.

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