Only an hour to go before my shift end and there I was taking advantage of what so little time I can salvage together with her. Why do I feel like so comfortable whenever I’m near her? Ah alas, it’s her smile.
How was your day, I asked her. Fine, and you sir? She replied. Great because I can see you now. I smiled. She laughed. Why man sir?
Your smile. They brush all my problems away. Perhaps I meant it.
Estoryahee! She heartedly cried. We had a good laugh about it. The night was deep and awkwardness was nowhere near, so were the boundary of our friendship. We should have put it a day but suddenly our little chat took a sharp turn towards the day’s biggest headline. – the great tsunami that hit Japan.
Her bosses were debating the cause of it at the other side of the room. Blame it on the climate change, one said. Hindi nyo baa lam yun? Dahil yan sa butas sa ozone layer. See, alam ko yan, boasts the other one. But all I could hear was the melancholy of her eyes.
Hey, don’t be sad. It was an unfortunate event, nobody saw it coming.
I wanted to tell how much I feel bad about the disaster and that I, too, was afraid for my family’s safety in Southern Leyte placed under tsunami alert level 2.
When my attempt failed to comfort her I asked her if she wants to hear a love story. . .
It happened in Japan more than a century ago. There was once time when Jose Rizal had to run away from his country for his life. It was after he published Noli where he won admiration and enemies. He had to go back to Europe for his safety and continue his crusade to liberate our country from Spanish tyranny. He did not take the usual short route to Singapore to the Atlantic to get to Europe. Instead he chose the long way – Japan, Hong Kong, the Pacific Ocean and the United States.
He landed in Japan and planned to stay there for six days but ended up staying six weeks. Why? He fell in love with the country and to a woman named O-sei-san. He was fascinated with the Japanese culture; the honesty, courtesy, cleanliness and industry of the Japanese people. He spent most of his time travelling and exploring this strange country. Then one day under the cherry blossoms Rizal first saw O-Sei-san walking past the gate of the Spanish Legation where he was staying.
He arranged a meeting with her with the help of one gardener because he doesn’t speak Japanese. But fortunately O-sei-san knows English so the language barrier collapsed. They spent the next days together visiting museums, parks, theater and everywhere on foot, by train, by rickshaws. They strolled together the streets of Hibiya Park under the spell of the cherry blossoms – sakura.
O-sei-san, the samurai’s daughter, was his tour guide, his language tutor and his treasured companion. And Rizal was her first true love – his Jose-san.
In six weeks Rizal learned the Japanese language, studied Japanese culture, caught the Japanese way of painting, appreciated the way of the samurai code, and was tempted to stay there and settle down. But so great was his love for the Filipino people that he had to sacrifice his love for O-sei-san.
The night before he left Japan he wrote in his journal :
“I’m going to dedicate to you the last chapter of these reminiscences of my early youth. No woman better than you have loved me, no woman like you have sacrificed herself. As the flower of the chodji falls from the stem fresh and perfect without ever being stripped of its petals or withered, tender and poetic even after its fall, thus you fell. Neither did you lose your purity nor did the delicate petals of your innocence wilt-Sayonara, sayonara! You will never come to know that I have thought of you again or that your image lives in my memory; and nevertheless I always think of you. Your name lives in the sighs of my lips; your image accompanies and animates all my thoughts. When shall another divine afternoon like that in the temple of Meguro return? When shall the colors of the camellia, its freshness, its elegance … Ah! The last descendant of a noble family, true to an unfortunate vengeance, you are beautiful … Everything is finished! Sayonara, sayonara!”
Given the chance to visit a country Japan will always be my first and only choice. I want to experience the beauty of the country. I want to walk under the sakura trees. I want to see their scenic spots. Ride their bullet trains, eat Japanese foods and maybe learn their language. And when I meet the girl I am going to marry I’ll take her there.
I still love Japan even now and no tsunamis no matter how devastating will wash it away from me.
I said good night to her. And she smiled and made my day.