By Louise P. Abesa
It’s June 1 and the Community Quarantine is slowly easing up in Metro Manila. Hurray! We survived two and a half months of Enhanced Communuty Quarantine( March 15 to May 31) with our wits in place because heaven keeps watch and we correspond to God’s grace.
I had a pleasant surprise last May 1, the start of the Marian month dedicated to the offering of flowers to Mama Mary in all Roman Catholic churches in the country.
One of my former students at PAREF-Woodrose School, Inc. in Ayala Alabang texted me to wish me well as Metro Manila grappled with an extended ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine).
The last time we were together was on November 16, 2019 at the 25th homecoming anniversary of batch ’94 in Woodrose School grounds but we did not see each other. I came in late (due to the horrendous traffic my companions and I had to go through from Pasig to Alabang) and had to go straight to join the school’s Executive Director, teachers, and administrative staff for dinner. Two days later, she texted me: “Hi Miss! This is Mariedad. Shucks, I didn’t know you were in Woodrose (last) Saturday. Would’ve loved to catch up! Hope I can give you a call when you’re free? Miss you!” Her Mom was with her at the homecoming but did not see me either.
To catch up, we had planned to do a homey Marian pilgrimage with her Mom to the Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel on Makati Avenue after her December trip abroad. But I fell ill after the December holidays (high cholesterol level and suspected thrombosis) and after the January 12, 2020 Taal Volcano ash fall which reached as far as Central Luzon(low potassium level as side effect of asthma puff).
I started to get better in March when I observed strict vegetarian diet. No more Atorvastatin (anti cholesterol formation) as maintenance medicine.
Shucks! And in the month of May, we were still locked in: no Marian floral offerings nor pilgrimages. But on May 1, I managed to offer a bouquet of bougainvilleas from the garden of my cousin to the landmark shrine of the Holy Family Parish at the corner of East Capitol and West Capitol Drives, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig City. Good thing, the shrine is strategically located near fruits and vegetables stores.
The Marian month of May has been a good time to search one’s inner self; to make sense of what has been menacing the entire world since December 2019. I shared my thoughts with Mariedad that the CoVid 19 pandemic is a blessing in disguise for it is a test of faith. Mariedad agreed and shared that she and her family are abandoning everything to God’s will.
Curiously, after I prayed for families and laid the potted bouquet of bougainvilleas by the feet of Joseph and Mary on May 1, there was a sprinkle of water from the clouds above. It started to drizzle. The drizzle stopped as I crossed East Capitol Drive and headed for home.
It was timely that the Vatican had set May 17 to May 24 as Laudato Si week this year. Laudato Si is an encyclical letter of the Holy Father Francis on care of our common home promulgated on May 24, 2015, Solemnity of Pentecost. Every year henceforth, the Vatican has assigned a week as Laudato Si week. This pandemic is clearly an effect of how humankind has failed to take good care of God’s gift of Creation. Fr. Dexter Toledo, OFM shared through Radio Veritas that during discussions of the encyclical this year, it has been proposed that the awareness campaign on the care of our common home be extended from May 24,2020 to May 24, 2021 as Laudato Si year.
All throughout the ECQ months, my experience with little homey creatures like the bubwits (baby mice) and ants made me appreciate more St. Francis de Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures from which the title of the encyclical was taken: “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore”- ” Praise be to you, my Lord.”
The little homey creatures on several occasions had provided me and my companions at home some light moments. Last April 23, I noticed some little red ants crawling on the clothes pole by the door of my bedroom. I tried to trace where they were coming from. There was no line of ants from the floor. Then I noticed that a couple or so of ants were crawling on my yellow blouse with blue polka dots and on my apple green towel as well. I was aghast when I saw a fountain of ants overspilling from the lined orange and pink sweatshirt given by my cousin who was my childhood best friend and who has transited back to heaven in April 2015. When I overturned the sweatshirt, I was amazed to see a colony of ants moving in concerto. Since the movement was centrifugal, I surmised that there must be a queen ant at the center of all the motion in unison. My cousin Millette must be using the ants to thank me for reminding her twin daughters in California, USA how to keep safe amid the CoVid 19 pandemic.
At the height of typhoon Ambo (the night between May 15 and 16), I sensed a little mouse scampered across my bedroom floor. When I told the little bubwit to “Please go out and follow the lead of St. Francis and St. Clare”, it climbed on my bed instead and crawl across me diagonally. Good thing I was wrapped with my blanket like “suman”.
In the 6th of the 246 paragraphs of the encyclical, Pope Francis cites his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to emphasize that the dysfunctions of the world economy and wrong models of growth have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment:
“My predecessor Benedict XVI likewise proposed ‘eliminating the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment (Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See , 8 January 2007).’ He observed that the world cannot be analyzed by isolating only one of its aspects, since ‘the book of nature is one and indivisible’, and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that ” the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence (Encyclical Letter, Caritas in Veritate ,29 June 2009)’. Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behavior. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there is no indisputable truths to guide our lives and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that ‘man is not only a freedom which he creates himself. He is spirit and will but also nature [principles of operation designed by God] (Address to the Bundestag, Berlin, 22 September 2011)’.
…’The misuse of Creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves (Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008)’. LAUDATO SI pp.9-10, Paulines Philippines.
The website of Caritas Manila reminds us that the resources of the world have a universal destiny. Pope Benedict XVI expresses this in another way in his address to the Clergy of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008: Creation is harmed “where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone.”
If the World War C (as Dinah Ventura of the Daily Tribune calls the CoVid 19 pandemic) has taught us to clean our respective homes and our common home, observe proper hygiene, eat healthy and share whatever we have with our neighbors, we have won almost half the battle because clean environment, proper nourishment and some needed food supplements, and the use of protective gear or equipment would help to cause the death curve to slope down to almost nil.
Heaven keeps watch and waits for us to learn our lessons well with the help of Mary, Mother of the Church, whose feast we celebrate today.