|"The Scream" by Edvard Munch|
These past few days have been utter bliss! I’m getting 8-9 hours of sleep each night, a rare luxury! And it’s SUCH a blessing to be able to continue reading that page-turner until past 9:30 p.m., to spend more time playing with our three romping rottweilers (who are too darn GIGANTIC nowadays to be called “puppies” any longer), to savor a cup of coffee and chocolate Belgian waffles with former students.
Even more luxurious, we got to spend some time at the beach during our faculty outing last weekend! However, I confess I didn’t get to go in the water at all because of two reasons: 1) I couldn’t put down my Patrick O’Brian books (a nautical theme to match the setting!), and 2) of fear. Specifically, I was afraid that the jellyfish and sharks would get me.
You see, that morning, a baby shark had been caught swimming near the shore, and one of my co-teachers also got attacked by jellyfish. Having survived a jellyfish attack myself, which occurred while snorkeling two years ago, I knew how painful and potentially dangerous another attack could be, especially when swimming in deep waters! So I was in no hurry to experience it anew. However, I DO regret passing up the chance to go cliff-diving with my siblings and some co-teachers.
“Put those books down and get in the water!” they said. It occurs to me now that I SHOULD have. I’ve been looking at it the wrong way. Not just because of the experience of exposing oneself to surf and sun (and sharks and other nasty sea creatures), but because the water is a metaphor for life itself. I passed up an opportunity to live my life more fully.
Yet another great Filipino passed away recently. THE F. Landa Jocano, the foremost anthropologist of our nation, author and a great educator besides, has gone on to a better place. He was a former teacher of our dad’s, and so my sister and I paid our respects at his wake. It was a solemn occasion, but I couldn’t help but reflect how wonderful it was to live out such a meaningful life! For as we gazed about the room, we saw joy, love, laughter and LIFE all around. We saw his beautiful family, his amazing son, his daughter, his grandson… we saw so many others like us who went to the wake of a great man who may not have accumulated a great deal of material wealth, but left behind something far better for his family: the legacy of a great name.
And with it being All Saints’ Day tomorrow (and All Souls’ day the day after), it is the great annual tradition of UNDAS for Filipinos, the time when families go back home to their provinces to hold grand family reunions over the graves of their loved ones. Cemeteries are filled to the brim with overnighters who feast, drink and often gamble while remembering their dearly departed. And while I may not personally agree with the practice of what (I think) is too much and unseemly merrymaking, I do agree with the idea behind it: that the way to face death is to celebrate life. That the best way to honor our dead is to live honorable, meaningful lives.
Tonight, as we were feeding our three romping rotties their dinner, we got approached by several neighbor’s kids in costume: “Trick or treat!” We apologized for our lack of candy, and thankfully our three huge rottweilers looked menacing enough that they didn’t pressure us any further. J But how do you say to your neighbor that this house’s inhabitants don’t believe in the Western foreign practice of Halloween?
Perhaps I’ll feel differently about Halloween when I have a child of my own. Dressing him/her up would be great fun, I imagine! But even then, I wouldn’t dress him/her up as a monster or fantastical creature. If she was a girl, I’d dress her up as Gabriela Silang. If a boy, as Macario Sakay or Andres Bonifacio (no Emilio Aguinaldo for me, thank you!). Heroes for their country… or perhaps, heroes for other people’s souls. But then again, walking around the village at night is no longer safe these days, so maybe we’ll just take pictures of each other in costume and have our family dinner and obligatory candy fest in the safety of our home.
Wouldn’t it be better to focus on the Feast of All Saints (and All Souls’)? It’s really worthwhile to pause and reflect on how much we owe the martyrs of the past. I think one of the most beautiful teachings of the Catholic faith is the Communion of Saints, of how the church triumphant in Heaven can continue to have a huge impact on the church militant on earth. It gives us comfort and hope to know that our departed loved ones continue to pray and watch over us, that we can communicate our love for them through prayer and make them proud with the way we live our lives.
And so, here’s wishing everyone a blessed All Saints’, and All Souls’! And may our lives be filled with more happiness and chocolate (yes, I firmly believe there is a direct correlation between the two!).