I have this undying fascination for reading old documented letters compiled in books especially when it speaks of human affinities that usually begins in courting. Elegant scribbles of blotters, which are mostly portrayed in sepia, create a portal of the past of how men addressed their inamoratas with clandestine penmanship and poetic embellishments. Their age was very different then when SMS was not yet available for use. They only had the paper, inkwell and the blotter to send messages to their beloved (disregarding the case of distance), which are in turn carried by messengers, usually friends or relatives, who most of the time were intrigued and tempted to sneak into the content of letters. I haven’t really been a good letter writer, but I have a vivid memory, and making some that paved well while also being nosy of their outcomes.
Back in highschool when I was much enamored to the classic writings like that of Shakespeare’s addressing a sonnet to a beautiful lady of May, I also took the chances of conversing them through love letters. However I was not writing for my sake but for the bully classmates that sought my assistance to furnish them a beautiful rendition to some lady they met on the street. Thinking of crushes is a part of teenage years where one’s face is invaded with zits only to add a more challenging world in courting. What can be more interesting is the fact that there is always a way to compensate for somebody’s shortcomings – and no other act can compete with writing a good letter; and the bully boys had figured that out well. It even made me more convinced of the power of words, how it can blur any imperfection and create an alluring persona to adore. Apparently, it is the words that transform man – too good to be a tool for inveigling.
Now, letter writing is becoming extinct as the Gen-X succumbed to practically new adventures that technology is offering. The age of text and twitter may all be good at one point creating an avenue for social networking yet miss the point of “sentimentality.” Its social cohesion shapes not just how the people behave but also fashions an easy way to start off with relationships. And unlike letters which are done laboriously and are mostly consulted before venturing into the receiver’s hand, this savvy age lost the very essence of proximity as perfect ingredients to pursue a long working relationship. The danger is even greater now that emotions are becoming unruly and are hardly validated like a water vapor that exists in reality but not tangible to human touch.
Although I have not been raised in the days of letters, I know then that the words they expressed, regardless of its authenticity, can all be validated by the receiver. After all letters are easily tracked back to where it comes from. I admit that it will never be gone for our age given the existence of cyber mails or emails (mostly are too formal or plain notifications), yet the question of content’s intention will all be at stake. I am not saying that this technology doesn’t work for relationships, what I am trying to point out is the danger that lurks behind. Can you imagine how many broken hymens SMS have caused by deceit? Those are all possible in texting. Yet, unlike text messages that easily forgotten once the SIM is blocked or the phone is lost, letters, which are fashioned delicately by human hands, may be kept under the pillow, lovingly regarded and truly felt by the lover. Alas, that day is fading.
Photo Credit: Sara Remington
The death of Cory Aquino spurred an emotion of solidarity among the Filipinos especially those who have witnessed the downfall of the Philippine Republic under the dictatorship of Marcos. The yellow flowers, ribbons and scattered confetti reminded us of the glorious day when the dictator was finally subjected to the undying thirst for justice, peace and clean governance, and we started to redefine our stand in more solid ground. Then we found ourselves looking at the bright aspect delineated to the changes in socio-political affair. We have become a proud nation to achieve much in the global scene by crowding the streets armed with sentiments like that of the First Quarter Storm and the huge thirst quenching the EDSA revolution. We won the fight like eager mice trudging the dangerous path packed with hungry cats and successfully grabbed a piece of cheese that is worth our nation’s pride: exactly what Prometheus did among the sleeping gods.
Yes, we have won the fight. The question is what kind of fight? I do not claim to know more than anyone else about the ordeal of our country, but since the problem is apparent and could easily be pondered over a cup of coffee or a simple mind break in carenderia, it is my wish to say something of what I percieve about it. After all, things are seen in various epistemological angles and one has the right to say what he thinks of the current situation in our country that escalates between the believers and the incredulous. Mind you, the danger may all be depending on what we believe. Sometimes, it takes more than courage and pure whim to unravel what should be done to re-define our common ground in order to prosper as a nation. And yes, we are constantly struggling to find our way to fight the foes that hurdle us to this redefinition of ourselves. Again – What kind of fight?
When you look back to our history, we could see that the Filipino people are fighting all their lives. First we showed our valor by toppling the Spanish colonizers only to realize it was just a coy for the entrance of Americans after we had been sold for more than a million dollars. After realizing that we are like turn-tables that have been passed from one hand to another, we plotted skirmishes to highlight our willingness to stand for what is right even if it meant sacrificing lives against the super-power nation. It was a kind of fight where we repelled invasion just to preserve our natural identity as Filipinos. And after each success we tend to drown into oblivion the essence of such revolutions as an initial ladder to realizing our long-search for true identity.
The second phase of revolution has taken a different form. Unlike the first one which can be regarded as an external fight to defend our sovereignty, the latter is a kind of introspection: Our fight is not against external forces but individuals amongst us. Examples of this are the EDSA 1 and 2 Revolutions where we ousted individuals who have been traitors to their own kind. Because of our nescience on which ground to stand on, we allowed the budding evil to morph with us that in the end caught us off-guard. People have suffered more than they have during colonization because the adversary knew the nook and crook of how to play the devil’s game. Thus, we have to fight harder to reverse the damage they brought.
Then the pattern continues. This time revolution moves deeper. How many times have we rallied in the street to shout that the government step out and leave their seats? How many times did we condemn cheating and malevolence in the administration because they have not been stealing from the national treasury? If you still consider this a good fight, then you are merely stranded in the second phase of revolution. What I am trying to say is that there are wicked individuals we see apart from ourselves. If you come to think of it, the worst enemy is ourselves which we are collectively unmindful of. We can all attest to this from the simple instance of throwing our garbage on the street to preserving corrupt officials by being loyal to them because of utang ng loob. We may laugh at this at times because this is so trivial to take into account, but when you look at its effect, there is no sheer difference between you and the one you are loathing. You cannot simply wipe out the dirt by dirt. Thus, by reflecting on it, it all boils to one ultimate premise: The Self. This self is not just the battle of some or of groups of political factions but of every Filipino who are tired of the maelstrom of history where a single mistake in the past is revived back to the concurrent political arena.
Hence, it is when we have waged war against ourselves that we become infectious and worthy in re-defining our ground. Just imagine how a good self can transform other lives like what Mother Teresa and of John Paul II did. If you replicate it a hundred times, then this country may already be a happy nation. Yet no matter how ideal this may sound, it could be achieved when we will it to happen. With what’s happening to our country, amidst turmoil, I guess, the greatest message of the death of Ninoy and Cory is just one: Beware, we are our greatest enemy. And by taking this message by heart, only then shall we authentically define the real fight for our nation.
In Memory of the Yellow Bell
People huddle on the streets and the heaven weeps at your last breath. At least, you have rested back to the soil in this gloomy weather of August where our Creator welcomes you to His door. You know the time never ends when you leave an earthly branch to die, only to proceed to a more promising life. Thus you died peacefully amidst the prayers of your people. Your separation from the mortal life may signify a great pain especially for those who are left to behold your integrity to restore what is due to them, but your legacy will unite them in joy to continue what you have started. Yes, you have restored democracy back to where it should reside and made honesty your ladder to governance. And you know in your heart that these things are what people deserve. So in your last day, people remember you in your piety and honesty amidst the mundane world stained by immorality. And just like a yellow bell that falls naturally to the ground to die in beauty, you too shall be welcomed back by the soil which will unite us in a single element; just like a yellow bell that grows back when it marries the earth, so shall you live in our memories forever.
Let the Augusts stand August
Although I am forlorn because of the death of our great leader, my emotions were balanced on this day with my mom’s birthday. She is now 48 and made remarkable accomplishments in rearing us all. Up at 5:30 am, I knocked at her room and kissed her. But instead of usual greeting, I thanked her for all she has done for me and for my siblings. I know my gratefulness will never equal what she had done for us, but I know that she deserves a big “Thank You” rather than a greeting of “Happy Birthday.” Of course, I also greeted her a happy birthday. For what is happier than the day you know you are born – either to suffer or to rejoice depending on how one should take life. In her case, she loves her life and loves every life that emanates from her womb. And how I love her so much not because of normative functions but by how she taught us to love. How I wish that one day I could repay the life she nourished within me especially now that she is getting older and wizened. For i know, it is when you know you are reared in love that you will look back to serve in love.
Today is also the feast day of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, Doctor of the Church. Had I not read the page of Dfish which reminded me of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, I would have also forgotten St. Alphonsus, founder of Redemptorists Congregation.
Back in the seminary days, I and my batchmates (we were 24 in number but nobody made it to priesthood) merrily organized reach-out programs to badjaos, lepers, scavengers, pier laborers, and the people of Carbon, Pasil and Ermita, Cebu City. As our apostolate, we would talk, listen and even live with them every weekend to experience their lives and their way of surviving the world amidst marginalization and social injustices inflicted on them not just by the private sectors and the government but by their fellow individuals as well. By delving into their lives, I know that there are so many things that need to be changed in this world. These people need to be heard but don’t have the voice to use; these people need to be noticed but nobody pays heed to them. And when one chooses to take the yoke to fight for them, one has to be cleansed inside out. It doesn’t have to be a remarkable effort though. Instead, a simple change that starts within us will suffice – a change that would create a difference. Life, as Saint Alphonsus put it, is a life never lived unless it is changed for the glory of Jesus Christ. By that, he meant changing the lives of others as well. Only in that way, we bring salvation known to others. That is what it means to be a “Redemptorist.”
Although I did not proceed to become a priest, I still cling on to his teaching and serve the church in my own simple ways.
P.S. This is supposed to be posted on August 1. Unfortunately, Iloilo had 2-day blackout.