Tuesday, 15 April 2014 00:00
When I was a small boy in barrio Guihing in Davao del Sur, Lent or "mahal nga adlaw" by tradition was observed in the strictest way as passed on by our traditions in the family that originally came from Guimbal, Iloilo in the Visayas. For example, on "Biernes Santo", no one should laugh, nor even talk if we could help it. We had to stay indoors as much as possible "kay patay ang guinoo" (god is dead). We had to refrain from doing anything except to do "pamalandong" or quiet meditation -- although the quietude was more because of fear of "gaba" or heaven's wrath. And yes, we observed fasting and abstinence -- although this was no big deal as not eating meat or not having a full hearty meal was an ordinary occurence in the house. Funny, but I recall not feeding our backyard pigs that we raised specially intended for June school opening expenses not because of "fasting" but I thought it would be a good excuse to spare myself of that tedious daily chore. Pity the pigs!
EARLY ECUMENISM ---Then we had to wait by the roadside to kiss the image of "Baby Jesus" as it passed by, cradled by sweating volunteers in "soutana", ringing a bell (similar to that of our favorite ice cream vendor) who went the rounds, house to house. The face of Jesus Christ in images in the house altar had to be covered with velvet and to be removed only on Easter Sunday. By the way, the altar with all the "stampitas" occupied a central place in every Catholic house I knew. Early in my childhood, I also got a taste of what "ecumenism" was all about. Our nextdoor neighbors were Protestants, in fact, the father was a pastor and their house served as their church where they held services. During "mahal nga adlaw" and while we Catholics observed fasting and all, nextdoor our friends would butcher their prized pigs for a "fiesta-like" celebration. And we devout Catholics were not bothered at all and understood perfectly that they were as devout in their own way as we Catholics were.
TOTAL STOP -- When the "sinakulo" or the re-enactment of the Crucifixion was eventually aired over the radio, we stayed glued to our Philips transistor the whole day to listen and imbibe the reenactment of the Crucifixion. On Good Fridays, the world I knew just literally stopped. No vehicles were moving. All roads were empty. My father who was seldom in the house being a regular passenger bus driver, would be home by then and we children would enjoy take turns in massaging him by walking barefoot all over his tired body. Even plane flights were suspended for the day, I recall. Later in life, I moved to Davao City. And things changed. The Lenten days became "vacation" time for many.
'BIERNES SANTO" ACCIDENT ---I have an unforgettable story. I was already a lawyer and was with my family on a Lenten "vacation" in Guihing in our farm. I can't remember now the year but I know President Marcos was at Malacanang then. For one reason or another, I did the unthinkable on that "Biernes Santo". I just bought a new handgun and I thought I'd try it out, shooting at empty tin cans on the ground. Of course, I shattered the quiet stillness amidst swaying coconut trees. I could hear my wife Beth calling from the house telling me to stop. Yes, I did but not until I emptied all my re-loads. Then, I mounted "Mulach", my trained thoroughbred horse and galloped away. I knew Beth would be angry again at me calling from the house. But I could not hear her as "Mulach" gracefully whizzed through the trees responding to my thug and pull of the reins. But something unsual happened. Suddenly, without my prompting, Mulach made a sharp turn to the left and stopped, literally throwing me in the air towards a coconut tree. Instinctively, I raised my left hand as I hit the tree. Dazed, I stood up and I saw my left arm limply dangling by my side. It was torn from its elbow socket. Were it not for my arm shielding my head, it could have been fatal. Injured and in extreme pain, Beth tied my almost detached arm with a stick and drove me to the city one hour away. But since it was Good Friday, no doctors were around so she brought me instead to a "manghihilot" who promptly returned my dislocated elbow in place, wrapped it with herbs and of course, with some murmured prayers and some "saliva" rituals.
ABROAD & DISABLED --I dreaded the thought of being hospitalized and having a doctor put me in a plaster cast as I had to go on a trip abroad in the next few days, so a "manghihilot" was fine with me. I was on a sling with my left hand totally immobilized (I am a "lefty" to make it worst) but the Monday after, I was on a plane winging to Geneva, Switzerland to participate in a lobbying campaign against pharmaceutical companies and "irrational drugs" and promote generic drugs during a World Health Organization annual assembly that I committed I would attend. I was so disabled I could not even fix a neck tie. When I returned home, still in a sling and my arm swelling, I still managed to personally send a written petition, in behalf of our Consumers' Movement of Davao ("Konsumo Dabaw") to then President Marcos asking for the adoption of a generics drugs law in the country. The rest is history. My arm took months to heal and even up to this day, some lingering pains of misplaced muscles still gently bring me back those memories.
And with Beth's constant reminders, (you bet wives never forget) I was back doing quiet "pamalandong" every Good Friday since.
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