Childhood Memories of Flores De Mayo

When I was a kid, I looked forward to summer. Who didn’t? School is closed. Every day is spent playing outdoors and swimming. Also, my parents would take us to visit our grandparents in Eastern Samar during summer. And it goes without saying that we would have to drop by Tacloban and visit Gaizano and the Children’s Park. Gaizano was the only mall I knew of when I was a kid. I have fond memories of their kiddie rides.

There were lots of summer activities back home but the highlight of them all is the Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May). Catholics and Aglipayans celebrate the Flores de Mayo every month of May to honor the Blessed Virgin. From what I recall this is a two-part tradition. One is the Flores and the other is the Santa Cruzan.

Back in my hometown, kids get excited for the Flores on hot summer afternoons. We wear white and pick flowers to offer to Virgin Mary. I remember my friends and I raiding our yards for flowers and sometimes our neighbors’ too. Santans in red, pink yellow and mostly, orange; hibiscus/gumamela, daisies and rosal are the usual choices. Bougainvilla not too often gets picked because it wilts easily. Roses are housewives’ treasures and therefore not up for sacrifice, not even for the Virgin.

Image source: alfredgalura.blogspot.com

Image source: alfredgalura.blogspot.com

Before the Flores starts, there usually is cathechism, which we can barely get through due to excitement. As the novices and seminarians rave about the harps and angels in heaven and the fire and unending wailing in hell, we squirm in our seats, tightly holding the bunch of flowers that are slowly wilting as lethargy creeps in with the afternoon sun. Sweaty hands try to straighten the creases that start to appear on starched dresses while carefully avoiding the menacing glare of the saints at the altar.

Our hearts start to swell as soon as cathechism concludes and the Flores commences. We hang in anticipation as the elders choose the kids who will be carrying the letters of the Ave Maria from the church entrance to the altar. The giant letters made of light blue and white crepe paper are the holy grail for the kids at the Flores.

Image Source: braincontour.com

Image Source: braincontour.com

Basically, mass is celebrated during Flores with more emphasis on the virtues of Virgin Mary. We also sing the Salve Regina, which is in Latin, and surprisingly get the words right. Looking back, we didn’t really understand what the prayer meant since it was in Latin or if we were pronouncing it right but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

After the mass, we would fall in line and are given treats. They used to give us galletas and candies. Depending on the mass sponsor, sometimes we get fancier pastries. And when I say fancy, as a five-year old, I meant bread with bright red or yellow filling.

At night, the celebration continues in the form of the Santa Cruzan. This is a processional novena still in honor of the Virgin. I remember the elders constructing a bahay kubo as a makeshift altar with the image of the Virgin surrounded with flowers, both fresh and crepe paper. During procession, the rosary is recited interspersed with Visayan songs for Mary. The part I like best is we get to carry bamboo torches. You know how in the movies, the townsfolk carry torches to burn the village witch? We kinda look like that except ours is a solemn procession with some overeager toddlers running around.

My friends and I at a Santa Cruzan circa '89

My friends and I at a Santa Cruzan circa ’89

After the novena, snacks are served. And on some nights, if you’re lucky, there is social dancing. Back then, no one was embarassed to dance. Regardless of age, size and dancing skills or lack thereof, the dance floor never lacked of participants, all in the name of fun and camaraderie.

The culmination of the Flores de Mayo is on the 31st where there’s a procession and mass. The sagala is no ordinary procession. This is some sort of religious pageant where good-looking ladies and gents of the community play biblical characters. This looks similar to a procession during town fiesta. Needless to say, this ends in a street party under a starry summer sky, all in the name of the Blessed Virgin.

Image source: atasteofasia.eu

Image source: atasteofasia.eu

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I Know I Live In Hell But Thank You, Mr. Brown, For Confirming It

I do not claim to be socially responsible. Truth be told, I am far from being socially aware. That admission shames me. Trust me, it does. I am the stereotype of my generation, the seemingly apathetic. I can come up with a thousand and one excuses but it does not deny the fact that, while I am not a government official abusing power, I am just as morally and socially inept; and just the opposite, I think it emphasizes my lack of cultural consciousness.

I dutifully pay taxes, it appears, but that is because it automatically gets deducted from my paycheck. If not, I don’t know how I’d be able to do so on time and file my 2316 on or before the 15th of April every year. I was never good in math but I’ve always been good at procrastinating.

I hardly watch the news and when reading online, I skip most of the local news. I do this for a number of reasons. First, the evening news is on while I’m having dinner before I head for work. I don’t know about you but images of bloodied victims of shootouts and old politicians shaming women who use the pill just don’t go well with my food. I read the news online but I skim the headlines and skip the recycled ones. This borders on being judgmental but I can only be a masochist to a certain degree.

Sometimes there are news stories that would just call out to you no matter how apathetic you are.

1. Take the case of Kristel Tejada. You would have had a heart of stone to not have been touched by that tragedy. I’ve written about it here

2. Take the RH bill and how backwards some of our lawmakers are. As a woman, the arguments presented by some politicians were offensive and shameful. They were sickening and disheartening at the least. But when the bill got passed, I celebrated along with the Filipinos who have held on to the promise of slow steps towards progress.

3. Take the recent national elections and how disappointing for many Filipinos the results are. I only voted four senatoriables, the ones I considered worthy, and all of them lost. I was floored. This was a heartache worse than when that good-on-paper guy did not ask me to be his girlfriend.

The aftermath of the elections is just as fiery as the events prior to the elections, if not hotter. This is the time when even the apolitical cannot help but react to the poll results. Practically everyone has something to say about the candidates, both the winners and the losers. I still think it is a shame that most of the winning senators, in my belief, are unqualified. Most of them are from famous/infamous families, which apparently, these days is the only qualification you need to be elected. I’m looking at you Grace Poe, Bam Aquino and the crowd favorite, Nancy Binay.

Yes, I did not vote for them and I think it’s a travesty that they won, yet I also have to accept the fact that we are a democratic country, and these three, among others, have been voted by the majority. Obviously, I do not agree with the majority but I respect their opinion. I truly mean that. What I don’t respect are the so-called “educated” voters, mostly the middle class, who have been shaming the masa voters for their choices. There had been a lot of name calling especially on social networking sites. The “masa” had been called a lot of names: tanga, bobo, gago, mal-edukado. There is no excuse for rudeness and name calling is not only immature and crude but only weakens, if not destroy, your argument.

We have our own reasons for our own choices. We live in a free country. And while freedom may not be absolute, we should not be judged as inferior or stupid because we chose someone different.

4. Then just last week, many Filipinos cried foul when international bestselling author Dan Brown (from The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons fame), described Manila in his book as the gates of hell. MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino was quick to defend Manila’s honor by writing to Mr. Brown and refuting the author’s description of the city. The outcry on social networking sites have been loud.

Again, to each his own. We are entitled to our opinion. And I don’t know about you, but on many occasions, I have described living in the metro hellish, too. Hell, just the heat, overpopulation and traffic are reasons enough for me to believe I live in hell. But Mr. Brown, I don’t think traffic, even at its worst, is a six-hour jam. That is absurd! It’s only five hours! Four at best! I kid, I kid.

I’ve been approached one too many times and offered hookers. And I’m a girl! My good friends Jayby and Kent can attest to this. Try crossing Aurora-EDSA bridge late night or early morning. The sidewalks of Aurora also has a booming flesh trade. I work nights and I used to pass by that area. From Mr. Brown’s description, he can’t be far from the truth. I imagine Manila has the same business prospects, if not, better.

Pickpockets, panhandlers, who would claim to not have seen those? If you seriously haven’t, then you’re not a resident of the metro or you’re a sheltered trust fund baby who’s being chauferred from your dreamy castle inside Forbes to your little international school inside a gated subdivision south of the metro, in which case, I regret to inform you that you don’t count as a Metro Manila resident.

So far, those have been the news that caught my attention. Well, there’s the opening of SM Aura but meh, anything about Mr. Sy and his empire is disgusting to me anyway. I know I still buy groceries from SM from time to time but darn, his empire is everywhere it’s hard to escape him. There’s also Vin Diesel and Sarah Jessica Parker visiting our country. Hmm. Not interested. I’m mostly like this when reading the news. So I guess I’ll see you next time some headline catches my fancy. In the meantime, I’ll wait for my chauffeur to bring me to Shangri-La for lunch.

Excerpt from "Inferno" by Dan Brown

Excerpt from “Inferno” by Dan Brown

The Lamentations Of A Traveler

Image source: www.123rf.com

Image source: http://www.123rf.com

The stars that dotted the sky are flirting with the buttery moon. The night seems so alive as the sea breeze play with your hair. The anticipation in your eyes are veiled by the shadows of the night. You have been dreading this trip and kept pushing it back, pretending that there are far more important things that needed to be dealt with. But just like the other things in your life, this journey had a way of coming up to the surface, confronting you with the reality that you need to face. There’s no delaying it. Despite the fear and the hesitation, you had to do it now.

Despite the lack of sleep and the fatigue from a day’s worth of traveling, you can feel joy well up from deep inside, a shadowy memory of a not-so-distant past, a watercolor of vague images on a summer afternoon. The faint whir of the boat jolts you back to the present. The slight swell of the waves holds a rhythm that is ever so comforting. From time to time, a whimsical spray of seawater teases your face. The almost black shadow of an island looming in front of you is getting bigger by the minute. The lights from a distance are either from other boats or from the houses near the sea. They bring warmth that soothes your weary bones. The sea at night is dark but littered with twinkling diamonds, glittery just like the tears that slowly fall down your face.

The things that you fear are those that can make you happy or sad or both. This is a bittersweet reunion for you, a homecoming you would rather just pencil indefinitely on your to-do list. As the outline of the huge shadow is becoming sharper and the sleepy homes near the shore becomes clearer, the memories wash over you: the good, the bad and the ones you have buried and pretended never existed. The past is a box of pictures you’d rather keep at the bottom of your closet, never to be opened again; yet the denial will keep haunting you until you have to stare at the photos again, be reminded of the people and stories behind their smile.

The crickets and the waves have replaced the sound of the motor. You have finally reached your destination. You got off the boat and when your toes dipped in the water, you were greeted by the mossy pebbles, probably not the same ones you played with when you were five. Nevertheless, they felt the same.

You are the daughter who had left but has now come back. The cold night air gave you goosebumps but you don’t feel cold at all. Instead, a slow-burning fire has ignited in your soul. The island has engulfed you in its arms, a mother overjoyed by the return of one of the children she lost to the sea.

The moon is still buttery yellow but is now slowly hiding beneath the clouds. The stars are still glittery, just like the tears you’re trying to hold back as it dawned on you, you are home.

Image source: iasminahampel.wordpress.com

Image source: iasminahampel.wordpress.com

*The author would like to write an ode to her hometown but she is lyrically challenged. Nonetheless, this is a tribute to her home, Maripipi.

Maripipi: A Very Brief Reunion

After almost a decade of being away, I went home on the 27th, not exactly for a vacation but to attend a friend’s wedding, which was on the 28th. It was a really short stay at the island I miss the most but nonetheless, fun and refreshing.

On the 27th, at 9 a.m., I was aboard Seair on the way to Tacloban. Estimated length of travel is an hour and fifteen but we landed at Daniel Romualdez Airport approximately 45 hours after take-off. My friend Jomari met me at the airport and took me to Kuya Kent’s house for lunch.

After a home-cooked meal and a brief siesta, we went to the terminal of Van-Van’s to board a shuttle to Naval, which is the capital of Biliran, my province. It was a 2-hour ride.

Image source: biliran.boards.net

Image source: biliran.boards.net

The sun has set when we reached Naval, hence, there were no more motorboats bound for Maripipi, my hometown. We then took a tricycle to Kawayan, a town directly facing Maripipi. It was a short ride, about half an hour. It was already dark when we reached the port of Kawayan, but the sky was full of stars and the moon was bright, buttery yellow. It was a lovely sight.

Image source: biliranisland.com

Image source: biliranisland.com

Then it sunk on me, I was almost home. The sea wasn’t so rough when we crossed to Maripipi, just a mild swelling of the waves. It was a beautiful summer night. Van Gogh would have fallen in love with it.

If you want to know more about Maripipi, the size, population, livelihood, history and what have you, you can easily use Google and/or Wikipedia. I’m not going to detail those information for you. What you need to know is I grew up in this island and will always consider it home. The town has a close-knit community, and many of the people I love are from and/or here.

Image source: www.flickr.com

Image source: http://www.flickr.com

Recently, the island has become popular to  tourists. They fell in love with the blue waters, especially that of Sambawan.

Image source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Image source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Since I started my trip back home at early morning, I was pretty beat when I got to the Zafico’s house. That’s where I stayed for the weekend. Polay and Jayby Zafico are my childhood friends, and their parents Nay Delia and Tay Pedring are one of the nicest people in the island, also close friends of my parents. After a dinner filled with catching-up, we headed straight to bed. The sea breeze, crickets and the sound of the waves lulled me to a deep sleep.

I woke up refreshed at around 6, without an alarm, which is kind of a rare thing for me back in the city. The house was already abuzz with the two kids, Dwayne and Jedric, playing at the yard; Nay Delia fixing breakfast; and Polay packing clothes for the beach wedding.

This was the scene directly from where I was sleeping.

CropperCapture[51]

I eagerly took my tablet and went outside, circling the house and took shots. I was like a giddy tourist. This is the mainland of Biliran, a view from the back of the Zafico’s house.

Mainland Biliran

Mainland Biliran

The house stands on a cliff and surrounded with trees. Down below is the sea.

view from the bedroom

Bananas don’t come from the fruit aisle of the grocery. They come from a faraway place.

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Tay Pedring had just finished painting this table. Ain’t she pretty?

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Nay Delia still prefers using a traditional stove for cooking meals in their dirty kitchen rather than the gas-operated one they have inside.

Old school

Old school

After breakfast, we were off to town to board Ma. Lourdes (motorboat), which would take us to Sambawan where the wedding will be held.
CropperCapture[56]

Sambawan is a group of islets, which has white sand and pristine blue waters, home to a diverse marine life. This was recently developed and has been made more accessible to tourists.

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Although, personally, I was disappointed with how they’ve run the development and of their new policies, I’m still grateful to have visited Sambawan again. The last time I was there, I was still in my early teens.

CropperCapture[57]

After the reception and fully enjoying the waters despite the unforgiving heat of the sun, we headed and boarded a motor banca. I was shocked when they initially asked for a 700-peso fee. That was just outrageous. 300 is the usual amount. This is what tourism brings to some people, capitalism and greed. Polay haggled with the banca operator and they agreed on Php 400.

After a quick shower to wash off the salt, Polay and I went back to town. I wanted to visit the church and light candles. It is tradition to do so plus I wanted to offer prayers of thanksgiving that I was able to visit the island again.

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This is the St. Michael Archangel parish church. It stands on a hill directly facing the sea.

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The islanders believe that St. Michael watches over and protects the whole town from natural disasters, pirates and all sorts of bad things.

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I grew up in this church and I love the stained glass windows. I wish I could get married in this church, if only because when you go out of the front door, you’d be facing the sea.

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Early Monday morning, I was aboard Ma. Lourdes again to take me to the mainland. After a short reunion with my island town, I was again on the road back to the city.  While I was on the boat, the sun had exploded into a beautiful array of colors, and so then I started slowly counting the days when I’ll be back.

early morning

Reflections You Need Not Concern Yourself With (But I’m Sharing With You Anyway)

I hope that halaya doesn’t take offense that I’m more of a flan person.It’s nothing personal really. Unless you consider preferences personal. Oh wait, they are.

You know those times when you feel like everything is unreal and that you are being taped, and you can almost hear the canned audience laughter? No? I’m pretty sure my life is a hilarious sitcom. Too bad I don’t star in it. If my life is a series then I’m Ted Mosby’s red telephone booth.

There are weekends when you’re too broke to go out or too tired to dress up or just generally not in the mood to be with people. That’s when you’re confronted by the lifelong question, why are you alone? So then you try to fix your closet and rearrange your room in the hopes to lose the ill thoughts. Then as you lie in your bed tired from the unexpected clean-up, there it creeps again: you are alone while everybody else, couples that is, are dry humping on the dance floor, cuddling or snuggling in bed. But do not give in to despair for in today’s world there are ways to make you feel less alone. All you have to do is go online, order a cheeseburger meal from McDonald’s and a caramel sundae. Because at this day and age, no one is ever truly alone as long as there’s McDonald’s delivery. Don’t forget to tip the delivery guy. He knows where you live.

image

If you know me in real life or you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you pretty much have an idea now that my middle name is Awkward. Seriously. It’s like if awkwardness is an Olympic sport, I’d be decorated with medals now. And one of the best places to be awkward is on elevators, especially when there’s another person trapped with you for a couple of seconds. Sometimes I know that I’m just oozing with awkwardness that it either flatters or freaks the other person. I tolerate and forgive those who freak out. Very understandable given my unsure way of standing and/or leaning on the wall and my nervous finger hovering at the emergency button while furtively stealing glances at the other passenger. But to those who are feeling flattered, perhaps thinking I am about to ask for their number, well, don’t flatter yourself too much. I am naturally awkward irrespective of places and people. Nope, nothing special about you. By the way, can anyone tell me what happened to elevator music?