REFLECTION: Stirrings from the past PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 09 August 2014 13:29



People nowadays, especially the young ones, would refer to it as a blast from the past. But I would not go that far. My recent visit to a southern town in Cebu simply made some stirrings, at once gentle and sweet, that just the same left me completely thankful.

The other day, I went to see a friend-priest who was just reassigned some days ago to Argao, some 68 kilometers south of Cebu City, and I felt like I stepped into the past, into things foundational and rudimentary. Already used to the blare and glare of the big city, I was pleasantly surprised to have a feel again of what it was when I was kid.

The visit reminded me of my roots, of what I consider as my basic cultural and social beginnings, my primal identity that since then has acquired layers upon layers of conditionings. I immediately felt some sense of nostalgia crawling slowly, leisurely, into my mind and heart.

I am happy to say that such roots and beginnings, while provincial and parochial in character, was open enough to accept further and even foreign influences. I believe that my own experiences and my own life itself, as it is so far, can attest to the veracity of this affirmation.

What I felt in Argao was a certain air of pristineness that certainly is not close-minded and rigid. There were also signs of modernity and contemporaneity. In other words, it is also flowing with the times, but at its own pace. It’s not stuck in the past, and much less is it inert and dead. It has a life that glows with a certain charm and aura.

I took lunch in a little restaurant, with very simple furnishings but with splendid yet cheap food. It was clean, and the servers were so simple in their ways that they had no qualms in starting a conversation with me who must have been a complete stranger to them. I felt immediately at home.

I then visited the church. It’s old, yes, with clear vestiges of the colonial times, still in that baroque mould, but artfully made up with images, altar table and the ambo artfully gilded and faithfully restored.

I was happy to note that there was no sign of an imposed, out-of-place innovation made, now sadly common in many other churches that would seem they were being slowly emptied of their true character.

There was a funeral Mass when I went in. What I saw were ordinary people, simply dressed and without much pretension, and all showing a piety so palpable and sincere I instantly remembered my past attendance at Masses in my rural town in Bohol.

The priest who said the Mass, the friend I was visiting, delivered a homily that I thought was apt for the kind of faithful in attendance. It was doctrinal and exhortative, with a little bombast that I thought the people appreciated.

Finally, I was able to spend time with my priest-friend. He happens to be a composer and he played some of his pieces on the machine. That was when I was deeply struck by something.

He actually has been giving me some CDs that contained his compositions. I remember I tried playing one of his songs, but I immediately turned it off, since my immediate reaction was that it was out of step with the tenor of today’s world.

Not so this time when I was with him and in a place like Argao. I immediately realized that his compositions expressed precisely what is native in us, what is indigenous to us. The beat, the melody, the pacing—somehow I knew they are the ones that would fundamentally characterize us as a people.

What I thought previously as out of step is actually an expression of what I consider as our foundational character and identity as a people. This should never be considered as outdated. It’s part of our DNA, so to speak. We would always have it.

It’s nice to realize this, because very often when I would be in the company of foreigners, like Spaniards, French, Germans, I would feel some envy because these people are happily proud of their well-defined cultural, historical and language identity. Many times, I would not feel as much happily proud of my identity as they are of theirs.

Then it was time to go. And just like any ‘original’ Filipino, so hospitable to his guests, he gave me a dozen of the now-famous Argao “tortas.” Yes, I was deeply touched. And I learned precious lessons...