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Simple-Hearted Ipe

The Industrious Man Simple Hearted Ipe

Photography by Jett aka Me

Simple-Hearted Ipe

Write up courtesy of Mayan

We call him “Ipe”, short for his real name Felipe Ambrosio. Ipe has been around before I was born. He has literally become an institution in our household. If you visit our house, you can see him watering the plants early in the morning. Afterwards, he diligently takes out all the trash and if it is sunny, dries the palay that comes from our farm in Bombon and San Fernando thrice a year. If there is any leisure time left, he will happily squat down in our yard and weed out grasses which dared to grow beside my father’s ornamental plants. And still, if weeding grasses has not consumed his day, he will begin chopping branches from the “malobago” tress in our backyard and make them into makeshift fences which will “protect” our garden from unwanted intruders.


During this whole time, a smile never wavers from his face. He is perpetually happy and he greets everyone, friend or foe, with a sunny countenance that never falters nor withers. When he is hungry, he gives us a big smile and say “Gutom na ako, kakain lang ako ng konti, ha? ”…when he was accidentally bumped by my father’s car…he said, wearing that never-ending grin “Aray!..masakit..*grins*…tinamaan ako dito sa paa…pero okay na ako…“*grins again* (“Ouch! It hurts, but I am okay now..”) I am amazed that he seem to know only one kind of emotion : Happiness. More than that, his one outstanding trait seems to be inexhaustible optimism.


If Jessica Zafra is the height of pessimism and sarcasm, then Ipe would be her opposite. Only, without that brilliant wit and intelligence…for you see, Ipe has been born in what psychologists term as “simple-minded”.


Simple-hearted is a term that describes him better.


I know that Ipe is more than sixty years old. He told me before that he came to live with us when he was 15 years old, right before the war. Doing a little calculation, I guessed that he would be around 65 or more.


He has lived all of those sixty years in sheer bliss, without malice, anger or hatred in his heart.


When I look at his face, so completely devoid of any want , I feel a different kind of envy rush up inside. What would it be like, I wonder, to live your life in sheer ignorance of worldly desires and burning ambitions? To be content with working , not for money, but for the pleasure it gives other people? To measure your self-worth, not on how much you receive at the end of a day’s work, but how much you were able to accomplish? To sleep peacefully at night, content that you have done your part today, wanting nothing more?


Ipe’s body attest to the ravage of years he has suffered. His limbs are now slightly bent. His head, which he mostly keeps bald, is sprinkled with white. His fingers are gnarled and his nails hopelessly dirty and unmistakably dead, and his toes….his toes are quiet a sight to behold. Splayed impossibly apart by constant walking (you see, Ipe never learned to commute. He walks all around Naga never attempting to ride a trycicle…perhaps it was because no one actually stopped for him), wearing custom-made slippers made from butchered rubber slippers put together in a kind of a “platform” footwear.


I remember one time, my father bought him rubber shoes to replace the ones which he has had for over twenty years (and I am not exaggerating about this!) . We later found the new shoes moldy and unused in one part of his make-shift room because he couldn’t wear them. It could not accommodate his splayed toes which were far too big for the shoes. He wanted to cut up the front and later patch it up to tailor fit his unique feet, but he never got round to doing it. Instead, he went back to his old tennis shoes. (which is of course, a cut-apart-and –stitched- together- contraption)


In his own way, Ipe is ingenious and creative. He makes do of what he has. He does not gripe and rant of things he does not have and cannot have. His bedmat is already an inch-thick because he is constantly weaving additional buri leaves into its gaping holes. It did not occur to him to ask for a new one. He’d rather make do with the old since, in his own opinion, a few repairs would make it usable once more.


His sole vice is going to the movies. He used to ask the exact amount for a movie ticket (around 40 pesos today) once a week from my father when there was a good movie showing in the local theaters. Later on, he was able to device a money-making scheme (one which my parents claimed I was soley responsible, but of course, which I deny) which regularly earns him a goodly sum of money each week. The scheme? He goes around the city carrying a letter stating …” Ako po ay ulilang lubos na, walang magulang at walang kapatid. Walang trabaho, kaya kung pwede po, bigyan nyo po ako ng kaunting tulong.” He could not read and he could not write, and has asked somebody to write the letter for him. My father is constantly teasing me that I had turned Ipe into a shameless mendicant, since he could not have possibly thought of it on his own. I could vaguely remember one Christmas day that I wrote a letter for him, soliciting money for his Christmas gift, but aside from that, my memory is a blank. But that was years and years ago..Ipe, in his unchanging ways, made that letter into a habit..and it seemed, into his bread and butter.

Now, he never asks movie money from my father. Instead, every time he comes from his “rounds”, he would gleefully show my father the money he was able to collect.


Twice, I saw Ipe cry, and that was a strange thing for me to behold. This man, who never seem to know sadness, has sobs wracking his thin frame. Once, when in a fit of uncommon temper, he tried to punch my aunt who had tried to withheld from him food because of his constant habit of working other peoples’ garden (it sound mean and spiteful, but it really was just a battle of wills between my querulous aunt –who deserves another article dedicated to her—and simple-hearted, simple-minded Ipe.) The second time, was just recently, when in his fervor of cutting “malo-bago” branches, the toxic juice from the tree fell to his eyes and caused him immeasurable pain. After washing his eyes with water, I saw them red from weeping and swollen from the lethal juice. And yet, this man, was wearing his huge smile, telling me..” hindi na masakit…*grins*, naalis nang hinugasan ko ng tubig..*grins*”


He looks like any old man, gnarled and bent…and yet that unaffected smile he wears attest to the fact that he has remained a child at heart. Literally, an innocent child in an old man’s body.


I look at him and I feel humbled.


Who is better off between us, I wonder? I, who was born with reason and intelligence, a person who can converse sensibly, with a fiery ambition burning in my heart , with dreams, goals and a clear picture of the future I want to have?


..or Him, who has nothing, save for the clothes on his back, a life, which in our eyes, were wasted in sheer ignorance of the things he could have yet did not want, a mind which could not understand the complexities of things that mattered to us, a heart, that does not know anything but to be content with what he has, a countenance that shows perpetual gaiety in face of pain, anger or hurt?


Ipe lives in his own world. He makes up a life in where he has his own home in Polangui, a wife by the name of Lydia constantly waiting for him. He sing songs which he has composed containing varying lyrics but possessing a single tune.


In my second year of College, I learned in our Philosophy subject that there is only one end for Man: To be Happy. How we attain this happiness will depend upon us but the end for all of us is the same. To be Happy. And yet, it is obvious that too few people today are happy with their lives. Most are brimming with discontent, envious of others, spiteful of the good fortune that smile on others.


Again, I ask the question, who is better off between Ipe and me?


The answer, I think, will now depend on what you think is the most important thing in your life.


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