By Mary Ann Ordinario
The following piece is the text of the picture book Barefoot Bulayan: A True-to-Life Story of a Bagobo Boy who Does Not Like to Wear Shoes, published by ABC Educational Development Center in 2018 with illustrations by Bernadette Solina-Wolf.
When Bulayan leaves his village and goes to school, he carries his shoes instead of wearing them.
All the teachers, parents, and students give a sharp stare at Bulayan’s feet when he stands during flag ceremonies.
He walks barefooted inside the classroom. His classmates chant, “Bulayan has no shoes! Bulayan has no shoes!” They think Bulayan looks funny without his shoes.
“Bulayan! Please wear your shoes! You are inside the room!” his teacher asks him. But Bulayan just shakes his head and grins.
Only when the teacher becomes really angry at him does Bulayan wear his shoes.
Everybody thinks Bulayan is different. Maybe he does not like his shoes. Or maybe the shoes do not fit him.
Then as soon as nobody sees him, Bulayan slowly and carefully removes his shoes again.
So his teacher gives him a pair of colorful shoes. But later, the teacher sees Bulayan jumping and dancing on the green grass of the playground. Barefooted.
A parent gives Bulayan shoes that light up at each step. He taps the shoes on the table and enjoys watching the different lights. But during the school program, Bulayan dances. Barefooted.
A classmate gives him black school shoes. But Bulayan gently keeps the shoes inside his bag.
Finally, the school principal gives him a pair of sandal slippers. But Bulayan simply leaves the sandals inside the room and goes home.
This became a problem in school. Not a single person can ask Bulayan to wear shoes.
Then one day, a student shouts, “Look! Look at the plastic bin! There are so many shoes inside the bin. Bulayan has kept all his shoes there!”
This time, Bulayan’s teacher sternly tells him, “If you don’t wear your shoes, you will not be allowed to go to school again. Ever!”
The principal and Bulayan’s teacher agree to visit Bulayan and talk to his parents.
As they walk to Bulayan’s village, they see a young girl pass by. Barefooted. And an old woman and a boy. Both barefooted.
As the principal and teacher look around, they see the different villagers. Barefooted! There are no shoes at all! And Bulayan is there playing with other barefooted children.
When the principal and the teacher knock at the door of Bulayan’s house and his father opens the door, to their surprise, both Bulayan’s mother and father are also barefooted!
Then the principal and teacher understand why Bulayan hates wearing shoes.
From that day on, Bulayan goes to class, and plays on the grass of the playground. Barefooted. Without being scolded. Or laughed at.
At the school festival, Bulayan plays the kuglang. And together with his classmates and teachers, they all enjoy dancing barefooted.