Saturday, April 21, 2007


The following are notes and entries from my old diary, whose content are of similar nature but have otherwise required some streamlining. I don’t know if I can blog regularly for the whole of next week, as I have my business calculus class to attend to. All I can say in the meantime is that the next post will probably be posted midweek, and will probably deal with Gothic and Baroque architecture (If I'm lucky).

All paragraphs were written separately during the span of almost a year, from December 2005 to October 2006. They are each excerpts from longer entries, of which I've already lost the patience to type. Song is ‘Midnight, the Stars, and You’ by Rey Noble.

Midnight, with the stars and you;
Midnight, and a rendezvous.
Your eyes held a message tender

There have been certain points in the past when I wanted nothing more than to escape reality. In those trying times, I ha ve often found solace reading about the 'good old days', when life in general was simpler. I longed, and I still long, to go back to the days when religious processions were community events, where Sunday Mass was routine, where men were men, women were women, and children were children. I'll admit that this type of nostalgia is precisely the kind I've been pining against in this blog; but sometimes, I think, it is good to reminisce, and dream dreams that have been forgotten or lost in this day and age.

Whenever I leave the city, I am always shocked by the discrepancy between the highly urbanized lifestyle I have been accustomed to, against the simplicity and serenity of rural life. The Philippines, in many ways, is still very much a feudalistic society; generations of sugar barons and landowners have forever instilled the agricultural way of life into the Filipino. Sometimes, I just want to lie down in a rice field under the shade of a lofty coconut tree, rest my feet against a rock, and just observe the tranquil idyll surrounding me. Cameras cannot do the scene justice; only a sketchbook and a bunch of battered charcoal can capture its essence.

Religion, too, has managed to retain the social and ecclessiastical hierarchy of those days in the rural areas. The parish priest is undoubtedly the Don, the head honcho, perhaps even the holy equivalent of a Padrino. Under his command, the landed gentry: heaps and heaps of women, young, old, married, single, religious, or otherwise, armed in ther lacy helmets and brandishing their cleaning implements, the wonder women of old, who were tasked with maintaining the prestige and pristine of the church.

Saying, "I surrender all my love to you."
Midnight brought us sweet romance,
I know all my whole life through

The Filipino is known for his Marian spirituality. When Blessed Pius IX proclaimed the Immaculate Conception as Catholic dogma, that is, de fide, there was practically a month long holiday in Manila. There were parties and social events everyday of the week, for a whole month. Thousands attended daily Mass in honor of the Blessed Mother. Even at the height of noon, fireworks would be set up, and many flocked to the streets to seethe ensuing spectacle. There were grand processions everyday, all of the 'participants' being the Virgin herself under her many and varied titles; yet none outshone the Purissima Concepcion, whose glory, reflected in the splendor of her statues, was unmatched, peerless, lavished with exceeding devotion that sometimes exceeded the worship and adoration due her own Son.

Mary undoubtedly played a central role in the life of the Filipino. Her intercession was sought in practically every case, from a good birth, to mortifying the flesh, from hopeless situations to the most mundane. She was the Mother, and as typical of Mediterranean culture, they are venerated and 'worshipped'; indeed, most sinners then would seek her intercession first, before facing the Judge Himself in his Divine Tribunal (i.e., the confessional).Thugs and toughs, who would otherwise not be caught dead inside a church, fear and respect her as an arbiter of justice, the only force in the entire universe who could hold back the horror of divine chastisement. Indeed, it would not be far from the truth to say that they treated the Virgin as their own mothers.

It would have been quite a spectacle, seeing these self-proclaimed machos weeping, on their knees, reduced to a quivering mass of flesh, before an image of the Blessed Virgin. And she, in turn, would look back, smile at them with her smile of ineffable assurance, and peace would descend upon the soul. Her clasped hands are a reminder that she prays and intercedes even for the most hardened of sinners. And like a true mother, she welcomes them with open arms. Hers is a quiet patience, and a resilience that have otherwise been erased among the denizens of modern societies. Nowadays, interventions are reserved for 'drugs' and ‘sex’, and the mundane things-- the simple things-- are left under the scrutiny of the blind eye, jaded from having seen too much of the great things in life too fast and too soon.

I'll be remembering you,
Whatever else I do,
Midnight with the stars and you

Sadly, such scenes are but memories now, yellowing, nearly forgotten, locked away in archives and dusty photo albums. The men and women in that photograph have undoubtedly aged since 1953, and it is sad to think that many of them may no longer be alive. Maybe I am just an old soul, but I miss those days of quiet reflection and tranquil surroundings. I miss the sight of knee-length mantillas and lacy rochets and six-foot tall candlesticks and paper flowers and canonized bad taste and glorified, overcrowded altars. I miss the days of genuine faith and piety. I miss the days of barefoot pilgrimages and bone-breaking venerations, genuflections, double genuflections, and prostrations. I miss those days which I cannot miss on account of my having 'missed' them in the first place (bear with me here).

The best way to fulfill a dream is to wake up from it, I've always been told. But the problem with us today is the fact that we have altogether stopped dreaming. And so I take pleasure in those starlit nights flooded by moonlight that hearken back to "the good old days", because it is there where I can once again dream dreams that have not been dreamt for a very long time.


Mark in Spokane said...

My wife's mother is Filipina, and I have always found the form of Catholicism in my wife's family to be remarkably beautiful in all sorts of little ways -- the emphasis on Marian spirituality, on prayer, on reading scripture and the lives of the saints, in eucharistic devotions. I grew up with a post-Vatican II German-American form of Catholicism -- very austire, spartan, with few devotions. And I have to say, I much prefer the Filipino form of Catholicism to what I grew up with. Filipino Catholicism is very Chestertonian -- it is about smells and stories and food and families and saints and scriptures and all sorts of wonderful things. Much richer, more commplete, and more fun, I must say, than the kind of faith I grew up with. You should see how my mother-in-law's parish celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday!

Archistrategos said...

Dear Mark,

Thanks for that story. I agree with you that Filipino Catholicism is very, very Chestertonian; there is always a sense of wonder and fun that permeates even Good Friday itself. In fact, this is so apparent that the official version of the Passion that many people grew up with was not the Gospel accounts, but rather that of the Pasyon, which is somewhat of an epic poem treatment of the Mystery.

There is an abundance of legend and apocrypha here that most people would otherwise frown on, but I think this is one thing that the Church today is lacking in: a sense of mystery. I will try to post about this soon, specifically the Mass of st. Sylvester, which I myself only heard off on Sunday. :)

Archistrategos said...

BTW, to the guy who emailed me, you are correct, that is the same song playing at the end of 'The Shining'. =D