Bread of Salt by NVM Gonzales

Summary and Review of “The Bread of Salt,” a short story by N.V.M. Gonzales

As we grow older, life unfolds before us the reality of the world where we are living. It may not be as what we believed it to be. Once we discovered that we cannot always have what we want, we oftentimes, just close our eyes to the reality. We continued on dreaming for dreaming was good. But then, we have to face the fact that we are not existing in the world of fantasies. We can deny this reality but it is only through accepting the truth that can set us free from the prison of our own illusions.

The short story “The Bread of Salt” which was written by Nestor Vicente Madali Gonzales or N.V.M. Gonzales depicts about dreams, admiration, failure, and hope. It introduced a 14-year old boy who was a grandson of a late coconut plantation overseer. The author did not mention a particular name of this boy so I will just refer him to my article as a young boy. His morning routine was to buy a pandesal or bread of salt. By reading the story it was evident that he was bored with it. For him, the only thing that seemed as a reward for buying a pandesal was that of seeing the old Spanish house in which the girl of his dream lives.

Like all other boys his age, the protagonist in the story experienced how to admire the opposite sex. He was severely wounded by Cupid’s arrow when he learned about the niece of the old Spaniard whom his grandfather served for many years. Her name was Aida, a classmate of the young boy too.

Endowed with a Spanish blood, I think that Aida’s beauty stands out among the rest of the girls in their class. She is a mestiza and it is undeniable that a great number of Filipinos have this belief that a white complexion is already half of the physical beauty of a person. It was her beauty that made the young boy dreamed of her most of the time and built an expectation that she felt the same way too towards the young boy. He busied himself with fantasies about Aida and dreamed of being a man worthy of the girl’s affection.

His feelings toward the girl motivated him to persevere on being a good violinist. It did not disappoint him. From being the second violin, he was promoted to the first violin position. He improved himself just to captivate her attention.

Just when he thought that almost everybody thinks of his dedication in playing violin being worthy of commendation, his aunt poured a cold water on his dream of being a musician. She candidly told the young boy that it was not practical at all to be a musician. Furthermore, it would just make him hungry being always the last one to eat in social gatherings. Her remarks hurt him. It was like being compared to a poor dog which hungrily ravages plastic bags, looking for food to feed its rumbling stomach. It pierced his young heart.

Despite the discouraging remarks he received from his aunt, he still continued to play the violin. He did not let the offensive remarks to penetrate into his own being. He did not succumb to his dream of being a musician.

His excellent skill in playing the instrument did not escape the vigilant eyes of Pete Saez, a trombone player who had a private band which was the Minviluz Orchestra. If the young boy would join Pete’s band, he could have money. An opportunity to earn fuels the desire of the young boy to purchase a box of linen stationery. He fancied of opening his heart to Aida through a love letter. He thought of a plan. He would borrow Aida’s book in Algebra and slid his love letter between its pages. He would also buy a brooch for Aida.

Unfortunately, all his plans weren’t materialized. His grandmother asked for his earnings from his plays in the funeral, wedding, municipal dance, or any other social gatherings. He couldn’t refuse his grandmother.

A defining moment happened when their band was chosen to perform during the grand surprise party in the old Spanish house.

Afraid of being late to their commitment, they arrived early at the gate of the house without eating supper at all. The band rendered music for hours and it was already midnight when they were given a break to eat.

The young boy who had been starving already took the chance to voraciously devour the delightful cuisines served on the table. He conveyed every food to his mouth as if he was in a battlefield, making his mouth full with a variety of foods that he couldn’t even recognize.  Not only that, he even put some egg yolk things inside a several sheets of a table napkin and hid it under his shirt.

Until he heard the voice of Aida from behind.

He was caught.

Aida saw him and she asked him if he hadn’t eaten anything yet.

Disaster, isn’t it? He thought he was with his bandmates only, but he was wrong.

To add insult to an injury, Aida even told the young boy that she would pack him a big package of food if only he could wait for the visitors to leave. She was thinking that the young boy must be extremely hungry.

It was like a forceful punch against his ego, making him too small in front of the girl.  Of all people who could see him, it was Aida who caught him off guard. For a long time, he tried to look perfect in the eyes of the girl but he was like a glass already broken by humiliation. He already felt defeated even before he started to tell his feelings. Reality slapped him.

That moment, he realized the big difference between his status and that of Aida. He walked away, went to the veranda, and threw all the egg yolk things amidst the darkness. The admiration for Aida instantly gone. He realized that his dream of him with Aida wasn’t what he thought it would be.

After the party and having their collections for the band, the young boy asked his friend Pete to go to the bakery shop to buy a pandesal.  It was too early and the bakery was not yet opened so they have to wait.

The story started and ended with pandesal or bread of salt. These are the brown color, crusty, and crispy kind of bread that complement every Filipino’s  breakfast. We love the aroma that we cannot resist not to give one fat bite.  There are times that we accompanied this bread by mayonnaise, peanut butter or dairy cream. It will surely be more delicious and I bet, I can eat a dozen. On the other hand, my brother and father love to dip this bread in their hot coffee.

Bread of Salt by NVM Gonzales: A Short Story Review

Describing this kind of bread, we can compare it to the skin color of the Filipinos which is brown. It was small which refers to our protagonist who was still very young. His dreams about Aida were undeniably sweet but the young boy could not distinguish that it was impossible at the moment. They evidently belong in two different worlds. Aida being on the upper or elite class and the young boy of lower status. What is it that the young boy can do for the girl he loves? He is still just a teenager and still studying. Just like the pandesal which was still being molded in the bakery shop, likewise the young boy. There are still many things in life that he must learn and what should he do is just to wait for the right time where he can finally prove himself worthy.

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Ana Rose Alvaro

Ana Rose was born and raised in the Philippines. A full-time teacher and a part-time student. She loves her simple and yet adventurous life with her wonderful family, great friends, and supportive boyfriend. Roads and Pages serves as her outlet to share what she loves to do the most in her life. Those are spending time with people who matter the most, reading books, and traveling one country at a time.

21 comments

  1. It sounds like a very interesting book and it reminds me a little bit of Les Miserables, with the poor boy and the rich girl. I think that bread is very important in most of the cultures as it is a proper symbol. If you have bread it means that you have what to eat and you are not poor. It’s interesting to know that someone read a book based on such an important symbol.

  2. What a beautiful story! I read it as a class requirement when I was much younger but didn’t realize the connection between the pandesal and the boy’s skin color. I really loved how you told the story again and it makes me want to read my book again. Thank you for this wonderful post, and I hope to read more of your posts like this. Thank you!

  3. Hi Ana, nice blog! Can’t go wrong with travel and books 🙂 Thank you for sharing this sweet story of the little boy and his deep infatuation with Aida. It is a classic example of how ironic life is, and how it throws surprises at us with its twists and turns. I feel sorry about the wastage of the egg yolks, ohhh!! Keep blogging!

  4. I don’t usually read books with teenagers as the main characters (probably because I could not relate to the puppy love phase anymore). Is it just me? Haha! Or is there anyone else out there? I like reading books and stories that have more mature plot and characters. I, however appreciate you sharing the synopsis of the story because you saved me time than to read the whole book. Thank you for sharing this to us your readers.

  5. Such a very deep story. I love the flow and how intriguing it was. I envy you for having the time to read. I guess you read alot and im guilty everytime i took reading for granted. I still had a long queue of books to read!

  6. I like your blog’s tagline! 🙂 This is my first time here and it’s the first thing that caught my attention. Anyway, I love eating pandesal either for breakfast or snacks. I like it with peanut butter, Spanish sardines or liver spread. 🙂

  7. Wow, this is really an inspiring story and I feel like I’m at their age experiencing the same story. I’m a bit sad for the young boy for he’s not able to win Aida’s heart. I really like how you share this story cause its very interesting and intriguing. Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. Oh what a sad story! Such a shame that there was not a happy ending for the young boy and Aida, such as there is in Cinderella. It should not matter that they are from different classes. On a positive note though, it was Aida that inspired him to learn the violin and break free of the boredom of his mundane life.

  9. A beautiful story review done here, thanks for sharing it. Even though he doesn’t get together with Aida at the end, at least he became a successful musician. In life, we need aspiration to move on & become better. Keep up your great effort, really enjoy myself reading it 🙂 cheers, SiennyLovesDrawing

  10. I am thinking… 14 years old. What was I doing then? And then it hit me… of course, I had my major crush too. As a matter of fact, after reading this post, it’s a reminder for me to send this girl a message to say hello. We both have different lives and are in our 40s already.

    Back to the story.

    There is a great lesson to be learned.

    1. Dream stealers. Never ever let the aunt who was stealing his dreams stop him, and he did not, so he went on to become a better and more accomplished playing violin.

    2. Grandmother who keeps taking his money. He should keep half to himself. In reality, this happens all the time. Breadwinners are always the ones broke while the people around suck him/her dry.

    3. Journey is not over until one is dead. See, he is 14 years old and he has so many years to live. Where he goes depends on him and his experiences.

    Finally, Aida. She is his dream, the one who made him move and do all he could. Everyone needs an inspiration. Aida was his. Who’s yours?

  11. Very beautifully expressed story. I loved the flow of thoughts and the choice of words. Even though I was reading for the second time the story line gripped me till the end.

  12. It was indeed an eye opening story. Eventhough he failed to impress Aida in the end, for me, that dream made him become a good musician and a better person too. All things in our lives does have a purpose. We may not get what we were aiming for but then after the journey, we should realize that we still gained something, may it be learnings or experiences.

    Floree of http://www.angelfloree.com

  13. A very deep story. I missed reading stories. What I read from the internet are quite disappointing. We should write more stories! I have particularly read NVM Gonzales’ works back in college, in UP at lit class. Those were my favorite subjects because it’s the only place where I’m allowed to read great stories and earn grades just by doing so!

  14. I like the story. I never heard about this story before. Must be something deep in your culture? I love bread in general too! =) I tried to watch the movie but I couldn’t understand sadly.

  15. I Usually eat in Barbaras beacuse I live in the Walled CIty but the best way to start the day is a coffee and a local bread (pandesal) which results to wonderful day. Additional Tip: Nutella + Cream Cheese + Pandesal = HEAVEN!

  16. I guess there is so much about the bread of salt that relates to us Filipinos that drove NVM Gonzales to write this piece. Always a joy to read Filipino authors, I miss doing it. i used to devour these writings when I was in school. Reading more than what’s required for our lessons and finishing all the stories in my English textbooks always ahead of time. What can I say, I simply love reading, I guess! ^_^

  17. A cute little story with a lesson in the end. Love the way you added the pics to enhance the story effect. I have to taste pandesal some day and that too with coffee.

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