December 1, 2014

The Biggest Coward in Town

Antonio is the only child of Aling Saling. His father was a brave lieutenant in the army and died in a battle when Antonio was still in his mother’s belly. So, with a small income from her store in their own house,  Aling Saling raised Antonio all by herself. She raised him to be polite, gentle and God-fearing.
Antonio grew up to be a soft-spoken, kind and sensitive lad. He never played rough, he never raised his voice to make his point, he never mocked or taunt anybody, he never cheated at games and he always has something nice to say to anyone.
The adults in town called him a good boy, the boys his age called him chicken and the girls called him  softy. Antonio didn’t mind. He is happy about what he is. When the boys offered him a bottle of liquor and a stick of cigarette, he simply refused and ignored their mockery. When the girls rolled their eyes over his polite greetings, he answered them with a smile. His mother raised him to be a gentleman, and a gentleman he will remain. For others, though, he was simply the biggest coward in town.
One day, the town was ravaged by a strong typhoon. The river rose, the dam was about to break so the townspeople were ordered to evacuate. Antonio and his mother, after securing their house, prepared to leave. They were the first to arrive at the assembly hall and wondered what was taking other people too long to pack.
Antonio knew. Some people were just too stubborn to do what they were told. They have no sense of urgency even at the brink of emergency such as this. They think other people are wrong simply because they believe and behave differently. They think the dam won’t break because they don’t want it to break or that their houses won’t get flooded because they don’t want to clean up the mess afterwards.
Antonio doesn’t want the dam to break either, but he wants to be safe when it does. He doesn’t want their house to get flooded as well, and he would be thankful if it doesn’t.  But he would be equally thankful if he still has a house to come back to and clean up. So, he felt sad when the truck was finally filled with people complaining of the inconvenience and the disruption of their everyday existence as if the threat was just made up to make them feel bad.
When the truck began to move, a young mother with a child bundled in her arms came into view. She ran after the truck but with the flood-water up her thighs, the woman found it hard to run. The truck totally stopped to wait for them, but the woman tripped and fell down. The child was thrown in the water and drifted away while his mother cried for help. In half a minute, the child was taken far away.
Antonio jumped out of the truck and ran after the bundle. The water was rising too fast and his strides were no match to the heavy flow of water and he soon found himself swimming after the bundle. When he finally got hold of it, he swam back to the truck but it was more difficult than he thought. He swam and swam. He swam like he had never swum before, but the truck seemed to be moving away. Still, Antonio tried until he got near the truck and with his remaining strength handed the bundle to outstretched hands and he fainted.
When Antonio woke up, he was safe and so was the child. He heard his mother spoke..
“Why did you do it, son?”
“Because I couldn’t dare live knowing I could have saved his life”
Aling Saling hugged her son, the biggest coward in town..
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

(Original STORY by the blog author. Any similarities with other stories, fiction or otherwise, are purely incidental)

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