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At the School

José Miguel's mother took charge of her son's religious education. He learned to read and write at the school of the village. The texts were in Spanish and children did not know this language. The practice of the ring was severely carried out. This practice consisted of passing a ring to the child who spoke in Euskera, and the child who had the ring at the end of the day was punished. Children tried to accuse their schoolmates in order to pass them the ring and therefore escape the punishment.

All this contributed to José Miguel's dislike of the village school. Nevertheless, he clearly improved his knowledge. He attended this school until the age of 14, when he decided to become a priest. That is the reason why he entered into the Tutorship of Baliarrain, being clearly aware of the economic sacrifice that this decision meant for his parents. The first day, the tutor told the students that they had to get up at six o'clock in the morning the next day. José Miguel was awake at that time and heard the church bells ringing at six a.m. He couldn't hear a single noise, not in the hall, not in the other rooms and so he thought that he should warn his mates. He translated in his head what he wanted to say: "Jaunak = Gentlemen, Seiek = six, Jo due = has struck".

He got to the hall and shouted: "Gentlemen, six has struck". For days, many of his classmates repeated during the break: "six o'clock has struck".

It was very hard for him to move to that school. On one hand he missed his home and on the other hand his knowledge of the Spanish language was insufficient. When the first trimester was over, he was given the bill for his board and felt remorse for the effort his parents were making and, from his point of view, the small improvements he had made. At home for Christmas holidays, he told his mother that he did not wish to go back to the Tutorship. She understood him, but at the same time, knew that he was doing well in his studies and that he would probably be the only student in the group capable of getting through two years in one. As his father realised that his son's main worry was the expense he was causing the family, he told him: "If you want to become a priest, go ahead. In this world, if you want something, you have to make an effort".

When the academic year was over, the exams were held at the Seminary of Vitoria. The President of the board of examiners, Rector of the Seminary, said in Euskera when he saw the boy:

: "Ataungo frutua"

"Ez ola oittua" answered the boy in verse, overcoming his shyness. ("Fruit of Ataun". "Not used to such affairs").

When the exam had finished, the president said to him: "You know more Latin than Spanish, but it is also important to learn Spanish".

The boy thought that he was going to fail the exam. He waited impatiently for the mark and his happiness was immense when he was told that he had got through two terms in one.

José Miguel still used to say in 1989 that he remembered that day as one of the happiest moments of his life. He returned to Ataun, with other students, shooting rockets from the train. He shot the last one just before arriving to his country house.

When his mother saw him so happy, she thought that she could also be proud of her son's success and took him to the country house front door, where the family had two apple trees with their branches bent beneath the weight of the apples and said to her son:

"Those apple trees teach us a great lesson. The more they give, the more humble they are".

In autumn, he returned to Baliarrain happily to study his third year of Latin, but those second Christmas holidays as seminarist were the saddest of his life. At the beginning of those holidays, his mother died. José Miguel remembered vividly the immense grief caused by his mother's death.