There were puddles, and the streets (if you can call them that) were unpaved and … ugly. Alice felt relieved that she chose to bring her sturdiest, most reliable pair of flats for this adventure.
Jonas appeared very pleased and happy; he was all smiles and was constantly holding and kissing her hands.
How scandalous, Alice was wont to think. This is a rural area, people are not as sophisticated as those in Manila. What must they be thinking of this very ardent displays of affection?
But, truth be told, Alice was just as happy as Jonas; hence, she could not muster the effort to tell him to stop being so frisky.
He proved to be a hospitable host, taking Alice sightseeing on his motorbike (which he borrowed from a co-worker who is currently in Manila).
That day, he took her to see the ricefields in one part of the town. “Agriculture is a primary source of livelihood around here,” he said in that lecture-y way, as if he were a college professor (which, come to think of it, he actually was).
“The problem is that the irrigation has not been working very well and a lot of the kids grow up not wanting to be farmers. So they eventually leave the land, or sell it and they become laborers in Davao or miners.”
“Well farming is hard work,” Alice pointed out. “So can we blame them if they chose another non-back breaking means of livelihood?”
“True,” he agreed, still smiling. His happiness was so effusive and infectious that Alice had to smile back.
But she had to stick to her principles; so she told him the truth. At least in her point of view. “I think it’s ugly. The people are lazy and complacent. The women are spineless against their husbands. All they do is gamble all day and then sell their children to get by.” She waited for him to be angry. He was still looking at her with the most tender expression on his face. She rolled her eyes in exasperation. “I just don’t understand why you love it so much!”
Jonas answered, “Because it’s mine.”
Alice was not entirely sure he was talking about a place.
“That is testosterone talking,” she mutters under her breath, though a portion of her heart accepts the truth in his words.