IN MY DAILY life pilgrimage, I sometimes get so engrossed in my journeys as to notice that God is calling my attention. That in His heavenly habit of sending my way instruments to further my talk walk, I lose sight thereof, until the devices present themselves to me. I realize that I took them for granted only apparently because they are already extensions of friendship, until God makes it imperative for me to meet them again.
Intang, my friend of long standing, messengered me that her sister’s daughter Madelaine wants to get married in our Holy Spirit Parish; could I help coordinate it. Inwardly I asked, Is the Pope Argentinian? Shortly, Beth, her sibling, would be texting me that they’ll meet me on Saturday morning. Little did I know that “they” meant Barangay Solis, plus or minus one. I was at the parish office ahead of them; they were punctual like my middle name and I filed that away as one positive point. While Beth and I were recalling good times and ruing Cynthia’s dialysis treatments (which explained the three-year bonding hiatus), Jheng negotiated with Tess, the office secretary. Dong would squeeze into my chat with their Mom, while paying mind to ToBoy, their sister Lheng’s intended. (I only got to learn this when the negotiations ended and he was introduced to me before they exited.) Then I would catch Beth returning with a posthaste message. Bago Bantay is where the Sto. Niño Shrine stands, they’d be pleased to celebrate His fiesta with me. I was happily dumbfounded.
I’ve this irritating inclination to sleeplessness when something significant is up. I prayed, listed to-do things, prayed again but only managed to get forty-wink intervals. After my morning thanksgiving, I was convinced it will be a better day. Before the 8 am Mass, as the church slowly filled up, friends saw and smiled at me for the mutual reason that it was not an ordinary Sunday. Better was becoming more beautiful.
Fr. Ranie’s homily reminded the congregation to be obedient, change while there is time, give more, expect less, and renew our child-like faith in God. It was still early when the recessional was sung so I proceeded to the Adoration Chapel to pray a Divine Mercy chaplet and the rosary, my passports to that day’s travel. Vicky’s call interrupted my vigil; she’s already at Intang’s house and wondered if I was on the way. I said I’ll be abroad shortly. From there, I proceeded to an appointment with Ate Eve. Her daughter-in-law, Joy, answered the bell and insisted I come in. Ate Eve soon emerged and gave me what I came to collect plus a pair of presents. Then I was off, taking it slowly, careful to be not earlier than the agreed lunch time assembly. The trouble with being blessed, however, is the falling of things into place; traffic is light, the weather right and there is nothing to fret about. I got to Iloilo Street at 10:30. Intang was in the shower but Loni was ever the welcome committee; I felt back home instantly. Intang came out soon enough and we hugged as was our wont and began building on the past.
Long story short, the guests started pouring in, the most anticipated being Beth’s brood plus one; ToBoy was replaced by Mindy, Dong’s lovely date. Sumptuous lunch was expected (it never disappointed) and served as an excuse to bolster inevitable libation. There was thankfully no videoke for we had a whole lot to catch up on. Loni suggested to improve my brandy with lemon and made me wonder why I never thought of it (he also recommended kalamansi as a sub but I disagreed to myself because it reminded me of high school gin). Dong preferred bourbon which I didn’t mind (for I hated the American answer to my preferred Scotch, even if I’ve switched)7 and the rest took to Red Horse, a choice I certainly did not regret declining. Intang was commendably cold turkey but cheated on chocolate (couldn’t blame her, it was dark and Japanese). After all, I supported her doctor’s orders and she stuck for the long haul.
We talked mainly about Beth’s and my children. (Why not, I’d recall later, it was the feast of the Child-Prince!) And trials, sickness, hopelessness and faith. And falling, rising up, losing, gaining, holding on, and being holy, and whole again.
Intang gathered her choral coterie (mostly nephews, nieces and their friends) to prep for the 3:30 pm Mass. I was asked to join as if I needed arm-twisting. The church was full but the huge ceiling fan cooled the place. It was warm on the choir loft, made warmer by the vocal effort, but it was cool to sing with the youth. The priest’s homily was similar to what I heard earlier except for his parting shot that devotion (not only to the Child-God but to all the saints) should be lived, not observed.
Back on the hill, Intang would be pleased to find more friends to reunite with. Dong’s glass gang had dispersed he had to adapt to our table. His presence and pronouncements gave our conversation an electric dynamic. I’m used to Intang’s pampering. But this lovely, loving bunch was doting on me like I was family. And it was only my second time to meet Jheng and Dong, whose calling me “Tito” sounded like a chime. I was so euphoric I simply had to lead the singing of “Birthday ni Onin!” (Niño scrambled) like it was the first time I introduced the anniversary ditty to them; they sang along like I was never away, like we were one big happy church-family choir reunited on the hill!
It got better (my gut feel was doing carwheels). Jheng thought it wild for the young minstrels to audition as wedding singers at Lheng’s wedding and requested TaIntang to set ’em up – performance level – and Jheng will video and send it to Dubai, where her sis is based. The youth rendered “Love is the Answer.” Jheng thought it was wild. I insisted it was gold. And there will be no wedding. Without their singing. Through the magic of IT, Jheng dispatched it to Lheng, who echoed back her affirmation in a flash. Is that a Yay?
It became evident Vicky was going to be a no-show so I suggested to Beth they can already decide when to go. Intang took that as a cue to pack our doggie bags. And exchange hugs. I rode with Beth’s brood with Kenny on the wheel (Jheng’s athletic hubby being a preferred driver to her boozed bro). Dong would not agree to drop me off at the gate because I’d have to walk so insisted to take me all the way home. Right at our doorstep, was what he said.
From start to finish, the day was better, beautiful and bright. Thinking back, I was convinced there was really no need for a videoke, for it would have woefully drowned out the wonderful sounds of family, friends, camaraderie and cheer of the Child’s feast day. As I prayed my evening thanksgiving, the quiet echoed softly the events that beautifully unfolded like an ouvre no one could have crafted as marvelously as the Creator Himself.
Who would have thought my lack of sleep would energize me enough to muster all the adrenaline rush and sustain my equilibrium. Until sleep offered its peace.
It is not enough to mouth off Viva, Pit Señor as a refrain. It has to be recalled to be worthy of the perfect Son indeed. Again. Amen.
ABRAHAM DE LA TORRE