President Barack came to town.

It was a grand and heartwarming welcome for President Barack Obama in Manila, red carpet, twenty-one gun salute, and a real hot sun. It was Filipino hospitality at its best: the native food, the pangkat kawayan, the Kuh Ledesma/Leo Valcez voices, and the courteousness and kindness that is innately Filipino.

I listened, of course, to what the two presidents have to say about the visit and the affairs of the region and the rest of the world. Criticisms abound, but we have to give it to these two great men (both my age), that they are doing their damnest best for peace and the betterment of all the peoples of the world. I do not doubt their sincerity and honesty, for they would have blundered in front of the cameras, but I did hear spontaneous responses, not calibrated, and sometimes, I would like to reprimand the critics for creating a whole bunch of senseless stumbling blocks the slows the success of these leaders.

Hope springs eternal.

The US President who came to right a wrong.

Before he proceeded to American Heritage where he laid a wreath, in heartfelt gratitude, to those American soldiers who never made it home, in the world war of 1940’s, those who had fallen side by side with the Filipinos in Leyte, at Corregidor, and in that gruesome Death March from Bataan to Tarlac, President Barack Obama gave a terse speech to the men and women in uniform, both Americans and Filipinos, and the veterans of WWII, telling them that the friendship between the United States of America and the Republic of the Philippines is IRON CLAD. 

If we are to make mental image of what is IRON CLAD, we think about a friendship forged in fire. President Barack couldn’t be emphatic enough, because actually, the friendship of the Americans and the Filipinos was forged in blood. President Barack was hurried in his speech, but he took his time shaking hands, even kissing, the veterans, and the soldiers. That is what mattered.

Thank you, President Obama, for a pleasant visit. You are the only President of the United States who admitted that a wrong had been done to our veterans, for more than sixty years, and you came to make it right. No matter what the critics find fault in you, you already penetrated the Filipinos’ hearts.

Godspeed.

(And Air Force One flew past my roof, because, since it is a no fly zone time, that’s the only air craft on the heavens that I heard. Ha ha)

For the time being, I will call him Fr. Calvin.

Fr. Calvin, that is the name I am calling the thirty-ish good looking priest who lambasted his parish priest Fr Henry of the UP Church yesterday in his Easter homily. Fr. Calvin, you, see, is bald on top. But I think it is by choice. Shaving his head must be his way of shooo-ing away ladies.

Fr. Cavin narrated Fr. Henry’s misadventure @Boracay last Easter. After a toilsome Holy Week, Fr. Henry decided to take a breather at the world famous island off the coast of Mindoro. But since the island is known for sexy beach parties, he didn’t want to make anyone feel uneasy if they get to know he is a priest. So, Fr. Henry bared to a one-piece, leaving a decent enough shorts as his cover. He has not walked far enough along the shore when a beauty in ultra sexy bikini greeted him and said “Hi Father.” Fr. Henry was taken aback and wondered, and so the following day, he changed his cover and strolled on the sand with shirt and visor. Comes the string bikini clad gal from the previous day, and Fr. Henry thought she wouldn’t recognize him anymore, but there she called “Hi Father!” The third day, Fr. Henry glued tattoos and sported bearded and brusque outfit, and comes the same sexy girl who flashed a gleeful Hi Father again. Perplexed that his incognito was a fail, he politely asked why she knows him. Surprised, the lady asked “Oh Father, don’t you recognize me? I am Sister Veronica!”

Lest you think Fr. Calvin does not take his homilies to heart, he did tell of one story that brought tears in our eyes. It was the story of a photographer assigned to cover a free for all Easter Party. There were so many people from all walks of life who came to partake of the Thanksgiving Luncheon. Adobo, Pancit, Kanin at Matamis na Saging were served. Picture the long line on a super hot day. Still, people queued, the food was free. The photographer kept on panning his lens, shooting subjects at heart, when he zoomed in on three younglings, later on he learned were just 7, 5 and 3. The eldest was the Ate, and she sat her two siblings underneath the tree, afterwhich, she set to wait at the very end of the long, long line. When finally it was her turn to be given food, there was no more food but one small banana. She took the plate anyway and rushed to her siblings. She sat down on the large root of the tree, and cut the banana into two, gave her siblings their portions, and for herself, she licked the plate to taste the sweet syrup. The photographer apologized he could not produce a picture, for when it was time to click his shutter, he couldn’t see anymore, his vision was covered with his own tears.

Keeping with our Good Friday tradition.

It was hot, and the queue was long. People shielded themselves from the sun with colorful umbrellas. They fanned themselves for much needed air with anahaw and abaniko. And they sipped water from plastic containers every now and then.

What could have made them stay in line? I did, with Jean and Tish, though the heat was tremendous. But for me and my daughters, perhaps it was out of curiosity. I found out later, when we were inside the tiny cave, that there was an image of the Santong Entierro, and the people lined up to get to touch the glass menageriie wherein our Lord lie in state. People threw coins to make wishes, in a pond below. I emptied my coin purse, too, for I had many wishes.

That was at Marilao, Bulacan, at the Shrine of the Divine Mercy, where people endure the heat so their prayers and wishes will be granted. The people were the poor, so I prayed for their prayers, aside from mine.

Visita Iglesia is tradition for me and my daughters. We had been at this Good Friday activity ever since they were born. We had been to many churches, near and far, making three wishes every time we set foot on a new one, and still, we marvel at churches, new and old, and admire both the locals and the visitors, for the former preserve their tradition, and the guests come to add up to the feeling of being one, in the passion of our Lord.

The Shrine of the Divine Mercy was petite, well decorated with lovely white flowers, but obviously, the devotees who strove to put up the Shrine must have started with not much money, for the Shrine could only hold a number, and so a huge ground beside the Shrine was constructed, to accommodate pilgrims. Let this not impede you from coming, for there is another cave that spring healing water. Bring a bottle, if you need the miraculous water.

My daughters and I discovered Our Lady of the Assumption right along Mindanao Avenue. The church was cool, not much visitors yet, but one I would likely visit again.

Sto. Domingo was, as always, packed, and as in every year, the television crew was there to capture the thoughts on the Seven Last Words.

The UST Chapel was, again, quiet and subdued. No activity in this old university praying place, but amazingly, families include this in their itinerary every Good Friday.

Another scholastic chapel is St. Jude. The long walk along Mendiola towards St. Jude was not as becoming, for the litters scatter all over, not a sight to behold. Yet, once inside the chapel, the prayer mood changeth whatever it was outside…

Manila Cathedral was restored to its former beauty. The air conditioned Basilica de Imaculada Concepcion was filled with devotees. Some made the marble floor right at the foot of the church their beds.

Last stop, San Agustin, a walk away from the Manila Cathedral, and arguably the best interior among Philippine Churches. This church actually brings the guests back in time, when Intramuros was the heart of faith and society.

It was our longest Visita Iglesia, for at San Agustin, the clock struck 3, the hour of great mercy. So we knelt and prayed.

Shoulders to lean on.

Thank you, Nomie, for graciously driving to and fro Batangas City (via unfinished Star Toll, which made driving difficult), to visit Carie, as she mourns the passing of her beloved spouse. It was a trip sad and subdued, I know, much unlike two other occasions we had in the far distant pasts, when we were much younger and thrilled with adventure, and then when we had toddlers in tow, for Carie and her family, made our Batangas excursions extraordinarily enchanting, how else not, for every single member of the family, all tall with beautiful faces, from Dr. Manalo and his lovely wife, to each and every one in the brood, were all witty and smart, a pleasure to be with.

This time though, Nomie, Winnie, and I were ushered into a different scenario, for death brings poignancy no one can ever define. Carie’s grief was beyond measure, yet she seems so composed, relating to each and every guest, from all walks of life, as her deceased husband Bhoy would have wished her to be. But sigh, have we ever seen so many coronas of flowers bedecked in a single home, such as we’ve seen for Bhoy? That alone is the testament of how he lived. As our good Lord deemed him necessary to go back home, so we yield, and let Bhoy’s goodness be cherished memories of one good person who made much difference in every heart, foremost of whom is Carie’s, his better, beauteous half.

Still, Winnie, don’t you think we just don’t have enough of the Manalo’s kindness? They are the bereaved, and yet, they see to it that every one is attended to, and that every one is comfortable. One old lady named Sampaguita, narrated their devotion to this family, and if it would be a lifetime of servitude, so be it, for this family has loved them genuinely (as in, if not for this family, there would be no Christmas.) True, because my daughter Tish, who came with us to mourn with her godmother Carie, took a peep at the kitchen, the dishware is for serving not just a whole family but more likely, the entire community if not the city when necessary.

Wait for us, Carie, we will be back.

Captain America and the Winter Soldier

Of all the Marvel Comic stories transposed into the silver screen, Captain America with the Winter Soldier defines what patriotism, or love of country is all about. No, it is not just valor or courage under fire, when heroes are tested, that spell what it is to be a soldier, it is, primarily, in knowing and doing what is right.

Captain Steve Rogers is in search of a purpose for his redefined status, a super soldier turned ordinary citizen, 95 years old and looking as hunky as ever. Inadvertently, he finds himself again in defense of threatened world, by a hydra as monstrous as evil itself.

The movie brings back the old fashioned friendship that bonds people for life, and affirms that with support from trusted pals, old or new, there will always be hope that this world will not perish in ugliness. There will always be heroes who will rise and save the world.

I love this movie very much. There is much more to say about the script, the graphics, the special effects, subtle imagery and all, but I’d leave you enjoy the film.

If only I have a moment with Chris Evans….

Oh shucks, Robert Redford was my original profile actor, character and all, of course. Happy to see him essay an antagonist’s role.

But it is Chris Evans time. 🙂