By José Abeto Zaide
The Fourth Commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” enjoins us to hold up our elders. It is in our nature that we bury our parents. But sometimes, somehow, nature’s way is upended – as when fathers and mothers must bury their children. The grief is for a world turned upside down.
Last Wednesday, at four in the afternoon, I caught up with my brother-in-law Sonny and my sister Flora “Nene” at their first visit at the Manila Memorial Park on the 40th day of their first-born Joel – born and baptized John Noel Valencia 54 years ago. Joel had all these years filled their hearts. (Although his mother feels short-changed by 9 years – for the time that Joel and his wife Liza and their children Anton and Maritoni were away in the USA).
Joel’s son Anton and his wife Cha hosted the 40th day commemoration at their Puzzeles bistro at Alabang.
Rev. Fr. Blas Briones, Jr., in his polo shirt and faded dungarees, reminded me of a disheveled Colombo in his crumpled raincoat. But when he changed into his chasuble, Fr. Blas morphed into his priestly role and celebrated the mass. Which proves the truism that clothes maketh the man.
The mass is the perfect sacrifice. Because it is the perfect gift – the transubstantiation of the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
But my attention was fixed on Fr. Blas’s homily, which was apropos to the season of Lent. He culled from the book of quotes and sayings, which he shared with us:
1. BACK TO SQUARE ONE – It comes from the children’s game (local version is “piko.”) Children play with their “pato,” (a piece of stone or their “tsinelas.”) You move up from square to square until reaching the goal of a half circle. But if your “pato” touches the line, you fall back to Square One.
2. FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH – Horses don’t lie. You can tell the age of the horse from its teeth – the shorter the teeth, the older the horse. Nothing but the truth comes out of the horse’s mouth.
3. THE BUCK STOPS HERE – An aphorism about the buck (puck?) which went around the card players: where the buck stopped was the winner (or for the loser to pay?) Made famous by President Harry Truman, who said that the decision on the A-bomb at Nagasaki and Hiroshima was not for the pilot or the bombardier, but for him as the President to make.
4. LIFE BEGINS AT 40 – When one gets his second wind. After Moses, the wandering Jews spent 40 years before Joshua could lead them to the Promised Land. Christians observe the season of Lent; 40 days after Jesus’s Resurrection was His Ascension. In Filipino, it is more emphatic: the 40 days is the Quaresma (emphasis on the numeral 40).
We observe 40 days of mourning before celebrating the life, of our dearly departed. We have a special word in Tagalog for the transition of life, (which is not found in the English language): “Sumakabilang buhay.” It is the perfection of our being. Fr. Blas assured that on this 40th day, Joel has achieved the perfection of the life for which he was born.
I believe that the light passages of Fr. Blas‘ homily must have touched everyone listening, and most of all my sister Nene for whom it was intended – that her first-born Joel has entered into the bosom of Abraham.
I express the hope that Nene recovers her luster, that her Joel looks with affection benignly on all of us from above, and is happy for both his parents, and wants her to get back her zing and embrace life – including her wonderful physical fitness program of ballroom dancing.
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