A brief moment to get together and party.

BUSY. These days, there ain’t no time for making memories. There is too much work to attend to. My daughters, being young professionals, are caught in that whirlwind of a world. Jean said that when she comes home to our humble abode in the outskirts of the metro, it is like relaxing in the province, where the sound of silence is distracted only by the  chirping of the birds and the barking of our doggies. And Tish, how she sprawls on the bed and catch up on the much-needed sleep.

Rush Rush has been my daughters ways of life for a long time now. And we believe we have become anti-socials, declining invitations, simply because of time conflicting with hospital duty and disaster planning conferences.

Oh well, this Sunday was different, for we actually made is to a nostalgic party, my friend’s mother celebrated her 95th birthday. Splendid shindig. Befitted a lovely lady who gracefully raised her ten children. Wow.

And so, I prodded the waiter to snap a picture of my daughters and me. For the memories of a brief moment together.

Spotlight on.

Tomorrow signals the beginning of Semana Santa, when we wave our palms to welcome the Lord as He enters Jerusalem.

Yet today, I feel it is already a Black Saturday.

My daughter Tish and I meant to be attuned with the Lenten Season, as we try to do so every year. Today, we were early for a recollection at our parish church, St. Paul of the Cross. One morning, we thought, to refresh in our hearts the Passion of our Jesus, a necessary restrengthening after a long year of busyness. I have no problem with the faith, fortitude is a blessing. My upbringing in the Catholic Church was a formidable one. Still, a renewal of sorts comes in useful, to wave off temptations. More importantly, Tish is hungry for a credible theological study, an infallible standpoint or viewpoint why the church we love, the Catholic Church, is the one true church. The public schools which Tish attended fell short of defining in an intellectual or academic presentation, our being and our relationship with God. In other words, even the teachers have not read the entirety of the Bible, otherwise, they could have inculcated in their students the faith in a very satisfactory level. Anyway, that was why we were punctual, because we want to know.

Fr. Alex Balatbat of the Archdiocese of Antipolo shocked the laity, most of whom were white-haired servers from different ministries, when he opened with a statement that we would be talking about the enemy, or the devil. It was a tactical strategy, he said, because in warfare, if you do not know the enemy, you will lose.

He proceeded narrating the battle of a second lieutenant Archangel Michael, the very one who defeated the five star general of a seraphim called Lucifer, the bearer of light, and cast this evil one not into hell, but right here on earth.

That is why, he proposed, to look beside you or right behind you, the devil might be there, in the form of a good person, waiting for an opportunity to tempt you. Beware, he said, because the devil can imitate even the voice of God.

Which brings me to why I am feeling a Black Saturday today. Do not get me wrong, because Fr. Alex wrapped up the Recollection with the hope in the Eucharist and an overwhelming Mercy that was instituted and bequeathed to us in the Last Supper, after one of the apostles betrayed our Lord for thirty pieces of silver that first Maundy Thursday. Fr. Alex said he had succumbed to many temptations, too, as many priests,did. Like all of us. No such thing as a perfect human being.

And I had the sad luck of picking SPOTLIGHT, Oscar’s best picture, a film highly recommended by a friend, Denis Andrenson, that movie that revealed the atrocities of the clergy, towards poor, innocent, impressionable and lonely children. I did remember those who called themselves men of God, and they dressed in robes, and yet somehow, I know, they have abused their priesthood.

No, the molestation did not happen only in Boston, nor was it a single incident. At the tail end, I saw Manila. It was a global psychiatric phenomenon that affected the Vatican. The tally of priest molesters still has to be divulged. The more depressing thing, many of the molested did not survive. Those who did kept away from the faith.

You and I will have a long week, and perhaps you could include in your quiet moments watching Spotlight, and make an effort to pray for our erring priests. Lucifer was a seraph. Our church had been infiltrated. We are called to arms.

The roads thus far ventured.

A wonder how time flies so swiftly, and the life that seems to try to keep pace by the minute.

Some eighteen years ago, in 1996, my daughters’ travel to formal school was by foot, just a simple walk down Lirio Street, a right, a left and another left and wella, it’s the nursery school, a small one, but quite grand in the eyes of my children. So I learned years after, because whenever I ask what is their recollection of early childhood, my girls said it was as if they were blind before nursery school. And of course that was true enough, because except for the Sunday Church, the grocery at the mall, and the occasional beach and pool outings, my daughters were confined to our blue bungalow, in a secluded village by the valley. The presence of playmates, and a teacher, and the absence of their mother, must have been a whole new world to them.

There was some change a year later, for no longer would the girls walk, They have to join a jeepney service full of noisy little Scholasticans and rowdy Marist boys. The daytime seem to be longer, too, for school ends at three o’clock, not much time in the evenings to chatter, for now there were homework and projects to accomplish.

More so through high school, when the distance to school count more traffic lights. and our old jalopy seemed never to cease to crankle.

Ditto with college, when the roads were forever winding, and the thunder and the lightning rumbled and flashed through UP’s mini forest. The nights became days, and sleep was not a friend anymore,

Today, I deposited Tish in a condo her friend owns. That would entail a short morning walk to medical college. And back.

Tomorrow, I have to make my way to the airport again, for the nth time. Jean flies to places, to get her job done.

The roads have become longer and farther. Sometimes, when I course through the highways, I look at the clouds and the heavens, and I pray, thankful, for the roads that I have traversed had been guided and kept safe. There would be more roads to say hello to, more signposts to read. I am forever excited.

The Fourteenth Orphan

Amongst the fourteen orphans that I visit every Friday, the oldest never joined the rosary prayers, nor the catechism that follows. Yesterday though, I was surprised that right after the children and I made the sign of the cross, she came out of the house and knelt with us in the praying place. I thought then that perhaps she would leave after the prayers, but again I was surprised that she held the three littlest ones on the bench seat, and listened to me the whole hour I narrated the story of Noah and his Ark, and the marvelous Arc of the Covenant. Gave the girls Cream’O, and she came near me to say Thank You. Gave her a smile in return. I was happy. But then, as I made my way out, Trisha (a younger girl) whispered, I know Creamy’O is good but I like the egg and cheese sandwich better. I am boiling a dozen eggs now. 

For the love of children.

Pondered about my calling long ago, and ever since I can remember, there are only two things I love: teaching and being with children.

That is why I make it a date to visit the orphanage at Peach Street every Friday – to be with the children and teach.

There are some fourteen pretty girls who welcome me with their embraces and endless chatter. I, together with a fellow legionary, Sister Rita, were tasked to teach the children how to pray the rosary, and the girls, just after a few Fridays, know the prayer by heart.

Sister Rita was absent today (her three month old granddaughter was confined in the hospital), so, after, the prayers, I narrated the story of Creation, and my, every one, except for the three toddlers, were all ears. They marveled at the battle of good angels against the ones who turned bad, curious about the fruit of the tree of life and man’s Adam’s apple, brother envying brother, sacrifices and offerings, and so on. The girls wanted to hear more, but  one and half hours proved to be a bit taxing for me.

So I told them I prepared egg and cheese sandwiches for them. Oh how they loved it, and the little one asked if I was coming back soon to bring more sandwiches. Ha ha. And the other little lassie said she’ll wait for the next stories. 🙂

I am happy.

Flowers for Mama Mary

It’s Maytime, the season of feasts and festivities, as in Kiping Festival in Quezon Province, the Carabao Parade in Bulacan, the Karakol Dance in Cavite, the Santakrusan, the search for the Holy Cross, in practically every town and city. these celebrations are all grand and exciting, and townsfolk do prepare for these special occasions. What I love best though is the Flores de Mayo or the Mayflower Festival, a whole month of flower offering to the Blessed Mother inside the Church.

When I was little, I picked hundreds of sampaguita flower buds, from our yard in Olongapo City, and sewed them into garlands, just for the Blessed Mother. And of course, me and my siblings, as well as my cousins, we all wore white, queued quietly as we patiently waited for our turn to lay our leis at the foot of the Blessed Mother. And the Blessed Mother, She was always lovely, smiled at us as if She was grateful for all our scented sampaguitas, and I did wonder why we never ran out of buds, for we picked as much as we can everyday.

May is Mama Mary’s month, and yesterday, the rain dropped hard from heaven, as if She is asking where we are now, me and my siblings, as well as my cousins, for we have not offered flowers to Her, not in a long, long while.

My Lola’s Feast Day Today.

They say that a saint’s feast day is commemorated on the saint’s death day.

There is one person in my life I call a saint, and that would be my grandmother, Lola Naty.

Today is the feast day of my grandmother, Lola Naty, she died thirty-two years ago. and left behind seven children and some twenty-six grandchildren. It feels good to remember this old lady, who, when my siblings and I were little, quietly prepared our breakfasts, taught us to pray the Angelus and the Rosary wholeheartedly every night, shielded us with her calm resolve from the violent storms, and brought us to hilarious failed picnics, swim pools, downtown movies with treats either at the panciteria or batchoy @ Skorpios, and the annual Acies (the renewing of pledge to the Blessed Mother).

Lola, as we called her, accent on the second syllable, was a partner in crime, for she translated my homework in Spanish, making my teacher believe I was proficient in the language, till he asked me to recite in class and discovered the only conversation I could carry is Si Senyor, perdona me, pero no mas intiende. I think the only thing that saved me and gave me a good grade was my singing of Dios Te Salve Maria, which of course, was our growing up Santakrusan song every merry month of May. LOL.

Will light up a candle and lay some flowers, on Lola Naty’s grave at Loyola later today. Hoping that her children and grandchildren, wherever they may be, would remember this courageous lady who endured, with certainty, many of the harshest trials in life. ♥