Boy in the Forest

Small step by small step I walk slowly toward the edge of the forest. It is early morning. I can hear familiar morning sounds. This is where Father takes me sometimes to gather firewood, herbs and edible mushrooms while I hold on to him. This time I am alone. Father and Mother forbid me to come here alone. But here I am. I can feel my heart beating fast.

   Suddenly I feel something warm on my shoulder. Who is it? Father? A playmate? I feel the weight on the back of my neck and know it is the body of a child. Who is playing a joke on me, putting a child on my shoulder in this forested place? I feel two small hands covering my eyes.

Jungla

   “Who are you?” I shout. 

   “I am Jessieboy, child of the forest. I knew you would come one day.”

   “Why?” I ask.

   “That you may see.”

   “Remove your hands from my eyes,” I answer back. “I cannot see, anyway. I am blind. Since birth!”

   After he removes his hands from my eyes I raise my eyelids. Suddenly before me is something I have not seen at all or even imagined.

   “This is the forest,” the boy says. “You had been here with your father but you could not see. These are trees around you. The leaves are green, the trunks are brown.”

   My eyes roam to capture what I see for the first time.  I am seeing with my eyes! 

   Suddenly something flies by and alights on a tree. 

   “That is a trogon,” Jessieboy points out. “People call it Ibong Adarna. See its colors? And those flowers are orchids. You have some at home?” He points out to other birds, other plants, small creatures walking on the forest floor.

   “My first time to see them, their colors, the way they sway with the wind,” I mutter. “I have only heard them, felt them, smelled them.”

    “Someday you will see more of them,” Jessieboy tells me.

   I cannot understand. How am I to see again when Jessieboy is gone? We walk deeper into the forest.

   “That is the morning sun peeping through the trees,” Jessieboy says. “That is light from the sun. Blue is the color of the sky when it is not raining.”

   My heart is beating faster. I see and I touch. I gasp, not able to believe and understand what I see before me. Jessieboy leaves me alone to explore. But his weight on my shoulder is getting heavier.  I am 11 and he must be half my age. Or is he a dwarf?

   “Let us go back to the forest clearing with the white rock in the middle where I often sit,” Jessieboy says.

   White rock. Is white a color? It is smooth to my touch.

   “That big, tall tree is a dita tree. It is beautiful. Birds build their nests there.” 

   I answer: “Father and Mother have taught me about nests. Our chickens have nests.”

   “Now,” Jessieboy tells me, “Let us walk slowly toward where we came from, where I met you.”

   I am still holding Jessieboy’s legs hanging over my shoulder when I start to feel he is getting lighter. I turn around to have a last look at the forest. Jessieboy whispers something in my ear.

   I feel a strong nudge on my back.

   “Wake up, Junjun! It is breakfast time!” It is Mother’s voice I hear.

   I rub my eyes but everything has turned dark again. I grope my way to the water basin to wash my face.

   “You woke up late this time, son,” Father says while I sip my hot native chocolate.

Trace

   “I had a dream, Father. I dreamed of a boy named Jessieboy who made me see the forest. I saw the birds, the trees, the hanging flowers, the sun peeping through the trees. The colors! I could not see his face because he was sitting on my shoulders, showing me everything.”

   I keep describing what I have seen. Father and Mother are silent.

   “We were in a forest clearing with a smooth rock in the middle,” I add.

   “What else was around that spot?”  Father asks.

   “Jessieboy said it was a dita tree, big, tall,” I reply.

   “I know the spot.” Father’s voice is soft. Mother is sobbing. She puts her arms around me.

   “Finish your breakfast, son, late this morning you and your father will meet the visiting eye surgeon who is in town. Remember? Dr. Pio de Jesus will examine your eyes. A tricycle will take you to the Santo Nino Hospital.”

    While finishing breakfast, I recall everything that I have seen for the first time in my dream. The trees dressed in green, the birds, the hanging plants, the sun peeping through the trees, a patch of the blue sky. I will tell the eye doctor about them—that I hope to see them again outside of the dream. 

   Jessieboy’s last whispered words to me: “Love the forest, take care of the forest.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
Ma. Ceres P. Doyo has been a journalist for more than 40 years. Her written works have won numerous awards, among them, two National Book Awards for Journalism (2015 and 2022). She writes a weekly column, “Human Face,” for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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