Monday, October 31, 2011

Virgen del Carmen

A rather fitting image to contemplate for Novemeber, when the Church commemorates the souls of all the faithful-- and indeed, of all humanity. This painting, entitled La Virgen del Carmen Salvacion de las Almas en el Purgatorio, is by the Peruvian painter Diego Quispe Tito, one of the acknowledged leaders of the Cuzco School of Painting. At present it may be viewed at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

Requiem aeternam

It is All Hallows' Eve, and as is custom here, the last day of that month heralds the month of November, and with it, the commemoration of the dead. In olden times, many Filipinos would keep vigil by the tombs of their faithful departed from sunset of All Saints' Day until first light of All Souls' Day, passing the night in solitude and prayer, with nothing but the faint flicker of candlelight to provide warmth.

November is also the month when my paternal grandmother died, at the age of 81, in 2004. She died from a complication in her thyroid gland in addition to other heart ailments, only discovered after her death. I still can't believe that Saturday, the 19th of November, would already mark the seventh year of her passing. Still, I remember one story told to me by my aunt a few days after my grandmother died. In the Philippines, the mourning of loved ones is still an elaborate affair, with its own protocol, superstitions, and traditions. When a loved one dies, it is customary to offer a pasiyam, or nine days of continuous prayers for the soul of the departed. Generally, the Fortieth Day of the beloved's death also marks another series of intense prayers. It is believed that 40 days represents the soul's wandering in Purgatory, and that it was incumbent upon the deceased's relatives to pray for his release from temporal punishment. I'm told that for us Tagalogs, though, the Thirtieth Day of death is also commemorated, especially for females.

In older times, black, silk bands used to be tied at the arms of males to signify mourning, while females went on an extended period of wearing only sable. Nowadays, however, a simple black plaque pinned to the shirt is sufficient in conveying collective grief.

It happened that my then four year old cousin was sitting on my grandmother's bed, looking at some old photos of her in some photo albums that my grandpa had dug up. Having been married for some fifty six years, it was not easy for him at all to accept her passing so quickly; he sank into depression, and my aunt took it upon herself to let Francis sleep in his bed to take his mind away from her. It was a Sunday afternoon, I remember, and grandpa had fallen asleep, leaving Francis to look at the albums on his own.

My aunt was passing by the room to check on my grandpa, when suddenly she said she heard a voice; it was Francis, speaking with his grandfather about something. She shrugged it off, thinking the boy must have been his usual curious self. Still, grandpa needed his rest-- he had gone a full two days without sleep, and badly needed some shuteye. She opened the door and entered, and found Francis staring out the window.

"Francis, come with me for awhile. Lolo needs to rest, he hasn't slept in two days. Go play with your friends out there."

"But mama, I'm not bothering Lolo! He has been asleep for almost one hour now."

"Don't lie to me! If he has been sleeping all this time, then who were you talking to?"

"I don't know! I think our neighbor? But I never saw her before. She looked very happy and smiled at me a lot! She says I've grown up a lot and that I should be a good boy and do well in my studies. She was very sweet and she was dressed in a very long blue skirt."

"Ahh, that's probably Aling Maria. But isn't she still in Lipa? Did this lady introduce herself to you?"

"No, but she looked a lot like Lola! They were about the same height, too, and the same voice!"

My aunt stood there for awhile, not sure what to think. She hesitated for awhile, before speaking again, after some silence. "Siya, go get your rosary. It's almost dark and we haven't even prayed yet. Leave Lolo alone, then come back later when it's time for dinner."

Francis did as he was told, and left the room, but before that he turned one last time to the window, and waved happily at thin air. "Bye bye! It was really nice talking to you!"

Mother and son left my grandfather to sleep in his room; it was almost dark now, and dinner had yet to be cooked. They exited quietly from the master suite, passing by my grandparents' shared study-- my grandmother's, to one corner, stacked neatly with books and theses and newspaper clippings, while my grandfather's key chain collection caught the last few glints of the fading sun. They walked back into the living room, and passed by the piano, where all the photos of our clan had somehow been miraculously gathered. And she paused for a moment, and there in the back, spied an old photo of my grandmother, dressed in a long, blue skirt.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I have been very busy lately, with work and some other personal matters. My shift starts in the afternoon and ends late in the evening, and I am still trying to adjust my body clock to these new changes in my routine. I would also like to ask for your prayers regarding some things that have been vexing me of late. It is already the start of the long All Souls' Day weekend here in Manila, so hopefully I will have some more time to update. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fecioara Maica Maria

This hymn, also known as Agni Parthene in Greek, was composed by Saint Nectarios of Aegina, and is sometimes sung before Vespers. Fecioara Maica Maria is the Romanian version of the hymn.

O Virgin pure, immaculate/ O Lady Theotokos
O Virgin Mother, Queen of all/ and fleece which is all dewy
More radiant than the rays of sun/ and higher than the heavens
Delight of virgin choruses/ superior to Angels.
Much brighter than the firmament/ and purer than the sun's light
More holy than the multitude/ of all the heav'nly armies.