By Nick Joaquin One warm July night Julio was writing a letter to-of all people-his landlord, Ka Ponso. It was about his son Jose who wanted to go to school in Mansalay, the town where Ka Ponso lived.
They had moved here to the island of Mindoro about a year ago because Julio had been unable to find any land of his own to farm. As it was, he thought himself lucky when Ka Ponso agreed to take him on as a tenant.
"Dear Compadre," he started writing. A while before, his wife had given birth to a baby. Ka Ponso had happened to be in the neighborhood and offered to be the baby's godfather. After that they had begun to call each other compadre. Julio was writing in Tagalog, bending earnestly over a piece of paper torn out of his son's school notebook. "It's about my boy Jose," he wrote. "He's in the sixth grade now." He didn't add that Jose had had to miss a year of school since coming here to Mindoro. "Since he's quite a poor hand at looking after your carabaos, I thought it would be best that he go to school in the town. "This boy Jose, compadre," he wrote, "is quite an industrious lad. If only you can make him do anything you wish, any work. He can cook rice, and I'm sure he'd do well washing dishes." And I wish you would treat Jose as you would your own son, compadre. You may beat him if he does something wrong. Indeed, I want him to look up to you as a second father."About six o'clock the following morning, a boy of twelve was riding a carabao along the riverbed road to town. He made a very puny load on the carabao's broad back. Walking close behind the carabao, the father accompanied him as far as the bend of the riverbed. When the beast hesitated to cross the small rivulet that cut the road as it passed a clump of bamboo, the man picked up a stick and prodded the animal. Then he handed the stick to the boy, as one might give a precious gift.
The father didn't...