The Singing Bird

Herminio is a thrifty man. He always has his ways in making a budget meal look like a buffet. His classmates are also mystified with how Herminio survives the whole day with the tight amount of budget that he always brings to school – considering how far his school is from his home. But Herminio is clever enough to know what he is doing. He values money so much that he couldn’t even think of anything to spend it on (because he hates spending money for himself).

But there is one thing Herminio couldn’t stop spending his money for, Regina, his girlfriend. Regina does not demand too much from Herminio since she can already be happy when he gives her the simplest gifts. Regina is contented with eating street foods whenever they are having a date, and Herminio is quite happy with that because he doesn’t have to spend too much. But sometimes, Regina gets upset whenever Herminio tries to avoid spending a lot on their dates. This disappoints her and causes Herminio to spend the money he has been trying to save for himself. Nonetheless, Regina still understands the times when Herminio has absolutely nothing to share, in which she sometimes shoulders everything with her money.

One day, Herminio’s father gave him a one-thousand Peso bill, an amount of money large enough in Herminio’s standards.
“Don’t tell your mom that I gave you money,” his father said.
“Thank you, dad,” Herminio said. “I won’t tell mom.”
Herminio knows that his mother would never give him his daily allowance if she finds out that he has enough money for the week. Now, it is up to Herminio how to spend the money his father gave him.

He thought of buying the books that he had always wanted to buy. Or maybe buying game credits for the online game that he is addicted to playing. But instead, he thought about repaying Regina for what she had spent for him in the past few weeks. So, with the huge amount of money in his hand, he thought of having a date with Regina. It’s been a long time since they ate at a restaurant.

One busy afternoon, Herminio called Regina and asked her out for a date. He asked her if they could eat at a restaurant where they will eat roasted chicken. A date in which Regina gladly wanted to come.
“Looks like you saved up enough money for tonight,” Regina was curious on why Herminio suddenly asked her out for a date.
“Yup, I saved enough just for the two of us!” Herminio confidently said.
“Well, the place and the food better be good.”
“That’s for sure.”
Herminio groomed himself for the date. He washed his face and put on some neat clothes. His mother noticed him and asked him about what he is up to today.
“Where are you headed to, anak?” his mother asked.
“I have a date with Regina tonight, mom,” he replied.
“Oh, where are you guys going?”
“At the restaurant that serves roasted chicken inside the mall.”
“That’s a bit pricey. Do you need some extra money?”
“No, mom. I have money.”
“Where did you get the money?” his mother was curious.
He doesn’t want to blow his cover, or he won’t get any money for his allowance next week.
“I saved enough money for the past few weeks, mom,” so he lied.
“Okay, anak, take care and enjoy!”
“Thanks, mom!” Herminio kissed his mom on the cheek before he left.

Later that night, Herminio fetched Regina from her school and they went to the mall where they looked for the restaurant that serves roasted chicken. They take a seat and ordered a meal roasted chicken that is just enough for the both of them.
“Thank you for this wonderful dinner, Herminio,” Regina told him.
“Oh, I just want to repay you for what you’ve spent for me lately,” Herminio said.
“Ah, that’s nothing. I understand that you are short sometimes.”
“If only my mom could give me enough money for school every day, I could save enough for us to be in a place like this every month. Ten Pesos saved daily isn’t bad.”
“I don’t get it why your mother doesn’t give you that much money for school. I mean, you’re a scholar and you’re not paying for anything in your school. Aren’t you supposed to have the money that you should have been paying to your school?” she wondered.
“I don’t know. Mom thinks we are poor. And she is even thriftier than I am that we could only eat instant meals at some nights,” he explained.
“I see. Well, if you still have money left after our date, save it for yourself, okay?” she suggested.
“I will.”
Herminio paid for the dinner that they had tonight and he still had some decent amount of money left. And since it is still early in the night, Herminio and Regina decided to take a stroll to spend the rest of the evening together.

As they were walking, an old man with a briefcase approached them asking for help. He was wearing a long-sleeve polo that appears to be worn out with the stress this busy day has brought.
“Excuse me,” the old man said. “Would you mind if I borrow money from you? I just need to get home and I don’t have enough money left for me to get a ride.”
The old man was looking straight in the eyes of Herminio with a face that appears to be begging.
“How much do you need, sir?” Herminio asked.
“Can you lend me 50?” the old man answered. “My friend already gave me some money, but this is not enough.”
Herminio was about to get money from his wallet when Regina pulled his arm away from his pocket.
“Uhm, I’m sorry, sir,” Regina interrupted. “But we don’t have money anymore.”
“Are you sure?” the old man insisted.
“Yes, sir,” she continued. “We’re only students and we don’t have that much money left.”
“What if this happens to you?” the old man appeared to be dismayed. “What are you going to do? Do you think people will lend money to you?”
“We’re sorry, sir,” Regina stressed. “But we really have nothing to give you.”
Unsuccessful in asking for some money, the old man left the couple. Herminio turned to Regina in confusion.
“I told you to keep that money for yourself,” Regina warned him.
“I’m sorry,” Herminio apologized. “I was just concerned about the old man.”
“That old man was just fooling you. You shouldn’t just simply help anyone. Especially if you don’t want to let go of your money.”
Herminio realized that he was not being thrifty that time and promised himself to save the money that he had left for himself.

After a few minutes, another person approached them. It was a woman asking for donations for their church.
“Good evening,” the woman kind-heartedly said. She also said the church she is affiliated with. “May I humbly ask if you could share to us any amount of money as a donation to our church choir? Any amount will do.”
“What should I do with this one?” he whispered to Regina.
“Just tell them politely that you can’t give them anything,” she whispered back to Herminio.
“But she said any amount. How about a few coins?”
“No.”
“Okay.”
Herminio turned to the woman.
“We’re sorry, we can’t give you anything,” he said. “We only have enough money to go home. We’re really sorry.”
“It’s all right. God bless the both of you.”
The woman did not frown and just humbly smiled at them before she left.
“Why are they asking us for money?” Herminio asked.
“It’s because their church isn’t giving them the money that they need that is why they ask for donations from other people instead.”
“Hmm… I see.”
As soon as the woman left, Herminio and Regina walked away hoping that no more other persons would come to them and ask for money.

Before the night ends, Herminio decides to go to a shop that sells handicrafts. He does not intend to buy anything in the shop and just looked at the different wooden crafts that the shop was selling. There were wooden sculptures of carabaos and jeepneys, large wooden spoon and forks, and gowns made out of indigenous materials together with their matching hand purse that is made of the same material.
“I think I might want to buy something here,” Herminio said.
“Herminio, save that money for yourself,” Regina told him. “I don’t want you running out of money again.”
Though he had heard what Regina told him, Herminio insisted in buying something from the handicrafts shop. He picked up a whistle-pipe that claims to “imitate the sound of a singing bird.” He looked at the whistle’s tag and found that the price was a bit too expensive for a piece of bamboo.
“I’ve always wanted to play one of these!” Herminio exclaimed.
“Are you sure you want to buy that?” Regina asked.
“Yes, I really want to play this thing!”
“Do you know how to play it?”
“No, but I’ve seen other people play it. Though, there’s nothing bad about giving it a shot.”
“I thought you were saving up money to buy yourself the missing books in your collection?”
“I would still have enough money left for those books after I buy this.”
“But aren’t those books more important than that whistle?”
“I can buy them later. I really want to try this now.”
“If you say so…”
Regina did not anymore attempt to stop Herminio from buying the expensive whistle-pipe even if she knows that buying it was not a worthy choice. It was his money anyway, so he has the right to decide where he wants to spend it. But Regina had a bad feeling about Herminio’s choice.

Herminio purchases the whistle-pipe and keeps the remainder of his money deep in his pocket, with an amount too small to feed you for the day. He unwraps the packaging and invites Regina to the nearest fountain to try it out. In order to imitate the sound of a singing bird, the whistle-pipe has to be filled with a certain amount of water and be blown at just the right angle for the water to ripple and sound like a bird. Herminio fills the pipe with water and blows the whistle.
“Phoooot!!” Only a loud tooting sound was made.
He tried again by decreasing the amount of water inside.
“Phooroot!!” Only a faint ripple was made.
He tried again by tilting the whistle at an angle.
“Phrrrt!! Phrrt!!” At last, he had heard what he had expected to hear – the sound of a singing bird!
Herminio cheered in joy while Regina sat beside him still wearing a straight face.
“I finally got to make it work!” he exclaimed.
“Are you happy now?” she sarcastically asked.
“Yeah,” he chuckled. “It feels good to have finally blown this kind of whistle.”
“Was it worth it?” she yawned.
“It’s too expensive for a whistle. But at least I know how to play it now.”
“Good luck calling little birds with that,” Regina stands up in boredom. “Let’s go home.”
“But I’m not yet done playing with this,” Herminio complained.
“Then stay there and play with your whistle!” Regina yelled and walked away.
Stunned by his girlfriend’s shouting, Herminio quietly placed his whistle-pipe in his bag and followed Regina to escort her home. It was then Herminio realized that buying that whistle pipe was never really a worthy choice.

The following day, Herminio was about to ask his mom for his daily allowance, but she confronts him instead.
“Your dad told me that he gave you some money last time,” his mother said. “I guess you still have something left from your date last night.”
Herminio was surprised as he wasn’t expecting this. He already didn’t have enough money for another day because he had already used a part of his money to buy his new whistle-pipe.
“Don’t tell me you used up all of your money!” his mom added.
“I used the remaining money that I have to buy the things that we need in school,” he lied to get away with it.
Herminio asked his mom if she could add just 50 Pesos to what was left with his money, but she refused. He asked again for any amount, but her mom still refused.
“Having a large amount of money in your hands does not mean that you should heavily spend it all at once!” her mother scolded him.
Herminio left the house with only enough money for a one-way fare.

Herminio tried to walk calmly, but the guilt and regret were getting on his nerves. In his frustration, he took the whistle-pipe from his bag, snapped it in half, and threw it away.
“I shouldn’t have bought that worthless junk!” he uttered in anger as he walked along the bushes on his path. And as he walks on his way to school, little birds perch on the trees beside the street and all these birds sang to their heart in chorus – a tune Herminio dreads of hearing.

March 21, 2017

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