June 23, 2024

A farmer’s son, a friend, a brother did not make it to the list of graduates this year. We planned to prepare pinikpikan and pancit, and butcher the pig in the yard but instead we are forced to look into the harsh reality of many students who had terrible experience this school year. Modular learning and pandemic just veered their stories and dreams apart.

“It’s my fourth time to retain this year, teacher.” I look at a young scion from an old family of Ibaloy farmers, and imagined the wide gardens his feet had stood upon. I asked him to enter his classroom but he refused and point to his boots caked with mud. He had spent hundreds of hours toiling the land, watering the plants, potting ornaments, but the year of harvest did not make him wise, rather made him poor.

I thought of the state of agriculture in our region, but the storm beneath this young farmer’s eyebrow cautions me that he understood well the state of our economy. He may not verbalize it but like a misty rainy afternoon, its anger clouded his mind. The high oil prices versus the low income of vegetables, the lack of opportunities, the loans they need to pay, and to top it off – the mental stress many young people are now into.

“I’m sorry to hear this from you,” I managed to reply. “What happened to your plants?” I asked while we stood at the door classroom – the very afternoon before the graduation.

“The irregular rain flooded and rotten our cabbages last harvest, sir, while the green ice came too late to hit the high price in the market. The burning sun drained our source of water. My potted ornaments according to a middleman were too cheap to be sold,” he answered as if every phrase is a punch to his heart and ego.

The weather and people have changed the landscape of the land that it did not recognize the coming of the rain and forgot the give into the bounty in the face of an expectant farmer’s son.

It rained hard that afternoon when I gave him the report card with the failed marks. He returned all his modules unanswered and I wondered if he was serious when he said he burned some of it – his anger could end the world if he wants to.

“I am used to this, sir. It has been raining on me for the past four years. I would try again next year, when the air we breathe is cleaner, when the entrance of your classroom is warmer, the faces of my classmates would be like new shoots of leaves in the morning. I would be more expectant to see.”

I responded with a hopeful smile but it was late because he already turned his back and run through the rain. Like a child this farmer’s son knows how to play under the weather. (RICHARD A. GIYE)