The priest shared this story with us last Sunday. I'll try to keep to the wording of the anecdote.
In 1848, the soon-to-be-Emperor Franz Josef knocked at the mighty door of the Stephansdom in Vienna.
"Who is it?" a voice asked within.
"It is, Franz Josef, thy Emperor! I demand that you open this door," cried the handsome young man, resplendent in his royal finery.
"We do not recognize thee. Leave this place," said the booming voice.
Once more Franz Josef knocked, indignant at the insult done to him and his station. And once more,he was denied entrance.
Franz Josef knocked a third time, and a third time was he asked to identify himself.
In a subdued tone, he said: "It is I, Franz Josef, a sinner. I humbly ask that you let me pass."
"We welcome thee, Franz Josef," and with those words, the majestic gates swung open. And that day Franz Josef was crowned Emperor.
~ ~ ~
I was amazed to find rare books for sale in the National Bookstore branch of SM Baguio. As in, Stephen Pressfield's immortal epic novel on the Battle of Thermopylae "GATES OF FIRE" was just SITTING there on the shelf, gathering dust!!?!
Anyway, one of the books I bought was THE MANILA WE KNEW, a collection of memoirs and essays edited by Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio. My favorite was the one written by the editor, entitled U.P. BELOVED.
"Standing among a gaggle of half-naked girls clad only in panties, I had visions of the gas chambers in Warsaw. I shivered as I waited my turn to be examined at the Infirmary of the University of the Philippines in Diliman."
"...The first time I saw the campus it impressed me as some wild frontier town. The vast grounds were covered with cogon, talahib, and sundry shrubs growing between the few concrete buildings..."
And so on and so forth. At first I couldn't help but think: "Are you talking about MY U.P? The school I'm going to?"
But then I flipped a page, and saw a photograph of an aerial view of the U.P. taken circa 1940's, around the same time the author went to college there. And I knew her words to be true.
The other authors in the book write about places like Taft Avenue, Malate, and "Highway 54" which is now known as EDSA. They write about flaming fire trees, vast expanses of cogon and the cool breeze. I do not recognize these places they speak of, and I am filled with such sadness for our generation because we will never know the beautiful Old Manila that these people grew up with.