BY DONNA JUNE BEDANA
Fireworks happily danced and crackled across the dawn sky bidding the festive celebration of the Risen Christ. It was Easter Sunday. The whole Catholic Christiandom was in jubilation. Jesus’ sufferings were over and the demon of death was defeated.
Consequently, it was also the first time I have attended the Filipino Catholic tradition of Salubong, which was proceeded by street liturgical mass. I attended a street party before, yes, but not a street Eucharistic celebration.
I was in tears; deep, meaningful and intense tears. Something that I was not ashamed of, though I was only a pixel in this picture of throng of hundreds people, who flocked to the streets mainly to witness this joyful yearly event.
I was one with the crowd, obedient to what the priest asked us to do, “greet the persons beside you, ‘Maligayang Pagkabuhay ni Kristo. Buti buhay ka pa!.’ I reacted with a faint breath of sarcasm and childish complaint.
More than an hour ago, my mother, Nanay Marcia, bid farewell to the mortal world. And if you would ask me why in the world am I in this kind of event, I hardly knew the answer. Maybe because Philippines is dominated by Catholicism that I got no way of escaping it since in each town and city, there is a parish church, and in this special occasion, a mass even at four early in the morning.
Coming straight from work where I found out what happened through a text message, at 3:10 in the morning, I was looking for an enclosed, dark and quiet place to bring out this burden in my chest through crying out. I thought of adoration chapel. I found none. The adoration chapel of the nearby famous parish, Edsa Shrine which is just across our office building was closed at pass three in the morning. I was brought instead to this dawn Salubong procession.
The taxi I was in, on its way to the Pasig Church, was physically halted by the orange barriers coupled with the signal from the traffic enforcer donning a ready question, “boss, where’s your destination?” I interrupted their conversation with, “Kuya, dito na lang po.” Upon coming off from the cab, it took me sometime to realize that organizers of the event were readying themselves for the start of the procession. Two lines of people trailed off the carriage (karo) where the statue of the Risen Christ was standing, devotees held long thin candles with wide white round cardboards to catch and protect the hand from the melting wax. Later on, waiting believers from the roadside joined and walked along with them erasing the clear twain queue. I got no choice but to follow since there was no way I would find myself opposing the direction of this mass of marching people.
I was in tears. Asking why I was here when I would have been venting out somewhere in an isolated place. But the scenario was no less perfect. I was bereaving when the statue of wounded Risen Christ, in all its glory welcomed me instead. It was set at pitch black background, intensifying more the significance of the event that the light overcame the darkness, with fresh and immaculately white flowers surrounding the image replete with the light bulbs seating in the laboriously designed intertwining wrought irons.
At the Junction of the city’s main streets, which was also surrounded by major traditional and urban landmarks: the church, the plaza, the public library, 711, Jollibee and McDonalds, was where Jesus Christ and Mama Mary met. With my near-sighted vista, I can only see Mama Mary in a blur though I can tell she wears blue and she was of course, beautiful.
“Papuri sa Diyos sa kaitaasan..,” the large speakers found on our right side blared the melodious voice of the priest signalling the start of the holy mass.
All throughout the mass, my eyes were swimming in bittersweet tears, wondering if Nanay’s soul went up to the heaven in upward wavy motion just like those released decorated balloons . I was looking up to the sky. Fireworks ensued bringing the expectant crowd behaved in awe, and I was left thinking if it was right for them to do this: celebrating while I’m bereaving. I realized though, the people flocked here for God, the centrepiece, the very reason for all of these efforts. I was mourning just for one person. Maybe it’s just right. They would not understand the broiling emotion inside of me though. Never.
In one week time, her body would finally be laid to rest. It will be the Divine Mercy Sunday and the day our dear Pope John Paul II will be beatified in Vatican City. It would also be the day of St. Joseph.
They said with all of these significant events, there was no way there would not be a reason for this. Nanay was welcomed by the Risen Christ already. Since she died, her message through prayers was consistent, “you don’t have to be sad, I’m in a happy place and I will sure look over you and your siblings with your father. We will intercede for you.
The greatest relief there was that she will no longer be suffering, collectively punctuated by Aplastic Anemia and later on, Hypoplastic Anemia, Urinary Tract Infection, Pneumonia, Tuberuclosis, heart attack, and the lengthy, intense and undue stress and injustice she got from our illegal-settler neighbours, her experience from her “Judge” boss and the hardship she underwent with getting her retirement pension, which she never enjoyed after 27 years in the government service in two agencies and two among three branches of the government: executive and judiciary.
Life goes on for the four of us. Now that she’s gone, I realized how heavy a reason she wAas for me to endure the demands, specially the stress of working for almost five years in the call center industry. Now that she’s gone, I don’t think I would have that much “drive,” that I can now let go of it and finally pursue what I would really want to do. Or do something more noble. Maybe take a look around and be a solution to the social and environment problems the modern society is facing. I don’t know.
Surprisingly, even though I’m on my late 20s, those who said that I should not marry yet are married people. And that I should enjoy life now that I am free of the “breadwinner” responsibility. I was wondering if it ever crossed my mind back then to wish to release me of this responsibility in this manner. Never. Who would? I came to terms that I’m not that bad a person as I thought. Although it was more than a dream come true to become main provider. I just asked God to help my family then but he made me the main provider. If others would want to shop with clothes and shoes, I found joy to do the grocery for the family. The thrill of “would they like this?” was just cool for me. And if I had to do it a thousand times, I would if that is the kind of service God wills me to do.
Moving on? Sure I will. But I don’t know how soon or on which way. I will decide on which path to take after the interment. One thing I’m sure of, her death will bring a lot of change in me. In us. I will be guided by her message for me to live the life to the fullest and to live in Christ. Although I wish that message came without her life being taken away.
This Easter Sunday is memorable. Had I known this will come, I may have not wanted for this to be realized. On second thought, had this been the day that she will be taken off with all the worldly saddle, then I would have wanted it sooner.
My last two Good Fridays were memorable. They were recorded on my journal. I was wondering if how it will go this year. Then Good Friday came and went by without something significant. I thought maybe it’s not just that conspicuous that I had to dig deeper with the puny and simple, perhaps even routinary activities I did that day. Little did I know that the “important” thing that will happen will be found out two days after: that it was the last Good Friday of nanay, her 64th.
Her “last breath” breathes life anew to us. There is no accident they say. Her dying on Easter Sunday signifies new life.
I hope that I will live up to the kind of God-guided life that she urges me to do. If this will be the start of my living a brand new life without her, but a better one bringing out the best in me, so be it. It was pure sacrifice. Something that my mother would have prayed for. Something that God did for all of us on Good Friday and fulfilled on Easter Sunday. Never was the message of Easter Sunday this glaring in my whole span of life until this year. Never.
Donna June Bendaña lives in Binangonan, Rizal. For the past seven years, she has worked in a law office and the Business Processing Outsourcing industry. After her mother passed away, she went on a six-month sabbatical and decided to revive and pursue her interest and passion for writing. Donna is a budget traveler, supporter of Filipino talents and products, and a newspaper trash art creator.
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