Bread of Salt by NVM Gonzalez: A biographical study I. INTRODUCTION Social class has been present as inequality increases. The widening gap between the rich and the poor contributes to the diversity among regions and neighborhoods especially here in the Philippines. Social difference is not just about on how much money that you have, its also about how we feel, act and think. As Keltner said, people that came from the lower class rely or depend more on other people. If they don’t have resources and education, they will adapt to the environment and it is more threatening. Upper class people are different on the other hand in the view of the fact that they don’t rely on each other as much. Social differences has taken its effects on people. because of these differences, people tend to have a lower self-esteem or self confidence. (Twenge and Campbell , 2002). There will be an instance that they will undervalue themseslves because they have a lower class. On the other hand, the people who belongs to the upper class some of them are narcissist because of their high self-esteem. In the Philippines, Social Stratification is very evident. Wherever you are and wherever you go, Social stratification is present. Although you can’t notice it sometimes, you can see it if you will look at that thing or situation deeply. Filipinos are very mindful in the Social class where they belong. They don’t want to be inferior to others that’s why they are finding a way to be known, to gain reputation and to be prioritized by others. Determining the social class of a person is a bit complicared since a person can change the groups at various times in his/her life. In line with the diversity among the classes, there are stories from the Philippine literature that are related to this social issue. One of the notable examples is NVM Gonzalez’ story, The Bread of Salt. The story showed the author’s passion for music and how he is similar to the Bread of Salt or Pandesal. This study points to discuss the biographical evidences that can be seen in the life of NVM Gonzalez in his work The Bread of Salt. To be more specific, it aims to answer the question: What nature of NVM Gonzalez’ life are reflected in the story?II. LITERARY DISCUSSIONBackground of the Author Néstor Vicente Madali González or more popularly known as N.V.M Gonzalez was an award- winning Filipino novelist, short story writer, essayist, fictionist and a teacher. He articulated and made articles regarding the Filipino spirit in rural and urban landscapes. He became the first-ever president of the Philippine Writers’ Association. He was awarded tons of awards from his major works that includes The Winds of April, Seven Hills Away, Children of the Ash-Covered Loam, The Bamboo Dancers, Look Stranger and The Bread of Salt. In 1997, he was appointed as the National Artist of the Philippines for Literature.Early Life and Education N.V.M Gonzalez was born into a family of educators on September 8, 1915 in Romblon. His mother was a teacher and his father was a school supervisor. At the age of 5, he moved to Mindoro and finished his elementary and high school there. Despite the decent work of his parents, he still helped his father by delivering meat door-to-door across villages and municipalities. He was also a musician. He played the violin and even made four guitars by hand. He played the violin during a Chinese funeral in Romblon and this was the first money he earned. González attended Mindoro High School from 1927 to 1930 and in his last year in high school, he stayed with aunts and uncles in Romblon. González attended college at National University (Manila) but he was unable to finish his degree bcause he only studied 2 years in college.Writing Career In 1933 Gonzalez visited Manila and met Commonwealth period president Manuel but he returned to Mindoro quickly. The next year he went back to Manila, where he joined the Veronicans, the finest literary organization in that time, notable for such luminaries as Manuel A. Viray among its members. He wrote for the Philippine Graphic – one of the most famous magazines during his time. In 1934, his first published essay appeared in the same magazine and his first poem in Poetry. In that same year, Gonzalez entered an essay to pay tribute to Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to Calapan in a students’ literary contest. González made his mark in the Philippine writing community as a member of the Board of Advisers of Likhaan: the University of the Philippines Creative Writing Center, founding editor of The Diliman Review and as the first president of the Philippine Writers’ Association. He never made it to the University of the Philippines because he failed in the entrance examination, but in 1949 he became the first to teach college courses there without holding a degree. On the basis of his literary publications and Excellency, González later taught at the universities aboard. González attended creative writing classes under Wallace Stegner and Katherine Anne Porter at Stanford University. In 1950, González returned to the Philippines and taught at the University of Santo Tomas, the Philippine Women’s University and the University of the Philippines (U.P.) On 14 April 1987, the University of the Philippines conferred on N.V.M. González the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, its highest academic recognition.Works His works include “Seven Hills Away,” “Children of the Ash-Covered Loam and Other Stories,” “The Novel of Justice: Selected Essays 1968-1994,” “A Grammar of Dreams and Other Stories,” “Work on the Mountain,” “On this Island Now,” “Mindoro and Beyond: Twenty –One Stories,” “Look Stranger,” “The Bread of Salt and Other Stories,” “The Winds of April,” and “The Bamboo Dancers.” He preferred to write in prose over poems. He believes “writers create their own nation, even if they’ve never set foot on it.” The Bread of Salt and Other Stories is a story of Gonzalez’s past experiences. Upbringing it into the story of how social classes works in the time of the presidency of Marcos and he is part of the social class that would buy “bread of salt” for family breakfast. Poverty really conveys the whole story that Gonzalez’s experienced. He wrote this story to share his experience and to bring lessons that one can strive enough to escape the horror of poverty.Story Summary The boy was fourteen and it was his assigned duty to be on his way to the baker’s to buy rolls that his grandmother wanted and pan de sal for young people like himself. It is the only reason why he is up early in the morning and upon this everyday scenario he already got used to it. On his way he thought and wondered how the pan de sal was made, what particular ingredient gives its flavor and shape. He looked around the landscapes and once again contemplated how much adored and be head over heels about Aida, the niece of the old Spaniard. Endowed with Spanish blood, he thinks Aida’s beauty stands out among the rest of the girls in their class. He admired Aida as eager as he could possibly thought that he was destined to serve Aida’s Grandfather just like his late Grandfather. There were times that he thought that it was his duty to stay in the house and serve the young maiden. He even dream that Aida, likewise, have intense emotion towards him and that she only keeps it a secret which she will reveal in the right time. He plays violin and thought of using his skills to showoff how decent man he is to Aida. It serves as motivation to persevere on mastering the violin. His feelings towards the girl became a basis and fundamental reason for him to excel in playing the violin. The thought of the inspiration worked because he easily shifted from second to first violin. Upon the unexpected happenings, an opportunity knocked in his door and was invited to join Pete Saez’ band to perform in one gig to another. He was so delighted to earn money through his own skill even though his aunt poured a cold water on him playing the violin. With utter bitterness, his grandmother remarked that being a musician is not practical and it would led him to poverty because musician make small amount of money, it is no better than dogs hurrying to get their mouths on leftover food in trash bins. His grandmother also said that it would make him hungry because he will always be the last person to eat in social gatherings. That remarks hurt him. Despite the hurtful words her Grandmother has said he still continued to play violin. He did not let the prejudgments and offensive remarks get his own being. Instead, he think that playing violin would make him earn money to buy a brooch and beautiful stationery for his love letters to Aida. He fancied the idea of sliding the love letter between Aidas’ book in Algebra which he borrowed but all his plans weren’t done in actions because his grandmother took his earnings to several gatherings. Their band was invited to the asalto for Don Esteban’s daughters who were arriving from Manila. It was a sophisticated gathering and he was so honored to have a glance and be magnified by Aida. They rendered music for hours and when it was already midnight, they were given a chance to eat. He was so jubilant and amazed by the mouthwatering cusines served on the table. He has been starving to dead and eventually took the chance to eat as much food as his body can take. He ate like an animal but not only that he even sneak some sweets into the sheet of a table napkin and packed it under his shirt. Until he was caught by Aida from behind. Aida asked if he hadn’t eaten yet that caused him to eat like that. To add burn to another burn, Aida even told the boy that she’d packed him a big package of food because she think that the boy must be extremely hungry. It was his ego that was stumbled, making him want to just disappear into the thin air. For such a long time, he exerted effort in making Aida’s expression of him so perfect but it was like a broken glass caused by humiliation. One realization hit him, reality slapped the imagination out of his mind. He realized that there is a huge difference between the world that Aida has and the world he has. He thought that he will never be good enough to the most beautiful and wealthiest girl in town. With frustration he walked out of the veranda and thrown all of the food he had packed. After the gathering, he and his friend Pete when to the bakery to buy pan de sal but it was too early that why the pan de sal was not yet ready.III. CRITICAL APPROACH As what the story tells us, it revolves around a young protagonist who has deep affection towards a charming girl has named Aida. However, there are some factors that hinder him to confess his feelings and it is the difference between the aspects of their life. The protagonist was recruited in a music band in which musicians are considered to be as a commoner due to the fact that musicians are unemployed and mostly, they eat last in parties or any occasions and treated like they are a low class individuals. The story emphasizes that Aida came from a Spanish family and growing up having a gold spoon in her mouth making her superior from the others in their class with such poise and class. Right after the party ended, the protagonist was hungry and as he sees the table full of food, without hesitation, he ate as if he hadn’t eaten for months. Desperate, he tried to hide some food in his pocket however; Aida saw what he did making him think that he was pathetic due to his actions. The story, to its very core, is very Filipino. The story “Bread of Salt” mentioned things that are related to Filipino traditions and other cultural elements they have. The life of the protagonist centered on him buying pandesal, the staple food of the masses, ended up being the title of the story and is being related to Filipinos for having the same skin color and the story started and ended with it. We can refer pandesal to the boy in the end of the story because he was still young at his current age and his status at that time is still dough, being molded and from time to time, he will eventually learn how to decide properly and precisely. Every step is a new journey, at the end of the day; he will learn how to face reality. On NVM Gonzalez The story was told from the perspective of NVM Gonzalez who was the author of the story. He was the representation of the boy who portrayed how his life was back then. He wrote the story by himself to show how society interacts with people by perceiving them through reality and he used Aida in his story to represent to realizations in life. He was tasked to run errands out of the house such as by buying pandesal in progresso street. The author, NVM Gonzalez, composed the story based on his life. The evidence of it was he used some of experiences during his childhood and he made it as his basis of his story. Gonzalez was also a musician. He played the violin and even made four guitars by hand. He earned his first peso by playing the violin during a Chinese funeral in Romblon. Based on those events that happened in the story, it was similar to NVM Gonzalez experience. To support this point here are some lines from the story:”It was perhaps on my violin that her name wrought such a tender spell. Maestro Antonino remarked the dexterity of my stubby fingers.””Tomorrow we play at the funeral of a Chinese-four to six in the afternoon; in the evening, judge Roldan’s silver wedding anniversary; Sunday, the municipal dance.” The story reflects so well in NVM Gonzalez life, which took back in the time where Martial Law was still in progress.There are different classifications that were evident back then however, everyone was treated equally but with pure violence but mostly those who were poor are the ones who suffered the most.IV. THEMATIC DISCUSSION The unifying thread to tie together the concept raised in N.V. M Gonzalez biographical study and its reflection on his short story was the value of life of a young boy that continued his dream even though there are people that want to bring him down. Thus, the study proposed the grand theme:Just as bread needs to bake in the fire to rise and be ready, so too must the man must undergo trials before he can be called a manThe author’s hometown was Oriental Mindoro. His simple life tested by struggles to reach his dream and to motivate himself not to give up. The author shows that life is not easy as we think. That’s why he live accepting the reality, that some people will discourage you. The author did not let the offensive remarks to penetrate into his own being. His life was not easy because everyone that he loved tend to bring him down just like the young boy in the story. His aunt discouraged him about his dream. His loved ones showthat they evidently belong in two different worlds. So that, the young boy realized that still there are many things in life that he must learn. And that he needs to accept and face the reality because God already planned his life and he could do nothing to change that.