December 16, 2017

This month, I decided to write something not even describable as an opinion piece. This is nothing special – a plain writing, a simple storytelling.

It might not even appear as piece worthy of being tagged as a good read. It does not provoke creative thoughts, not even trying to bother the critical minds of others.

I drafted this the night after my enlightening journey in Quiapo Church. Surrounded by a large crowd of faithful Catholics, I did not care much about the flock of people. I did not care about the heat. After all, I was happy.

I was there, hushed, curiously watching, which my eyes had described as the usual, the long queue of people lined up just outside the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. Under the heat of a balmy Sunday morning, I pretended to have found the perfect tranquility amidst all the hustling and bustling of street vendors selling eyebrow-raising things that you would not imagine exist. There were black candles, tarot cards, some form of dried fish, and dead snakes stuck inside a clear bottle living its purpose for a quack doctor.

And since I was too occupied being an observer to the actual practices of the devotees and street vendors alike, a young boy, seemingly aware that I was a fresh face in the Lord’s territory, tied a necklace, made out of thin black rope with an image of the Holy Son engraved in a piece of wood, to my left wrist on purpose.

“Sige na kuya, bente lang,” he begged, giving me a sad facial expression that only the 2-year-old Boo from Monsters, Inc., can pull off. He sells necklaces, obviously, for a living. I am certain for one thing though, he can’t act me out to buy his stuff.

So, I took the necklace off of my sweaty arms, and just when I was about to give back what he forced me to have, he vanished into thin air. Of course, I panicked a little. First, the necklace was his so why on Earth would I keep it? Second, I only have a scant amount of money to begin with, anyway. Next thing I knew, I gave him what he asked for. The Lord must have touched the bottom of my heart, so I can be of help to others.

Few minutes passed, a total of 15 steps (yes, I counted), and I was about to reach the statue of the suffering Christ – the famous relic of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno. As a first timer (and growing up non-Catholic), I didn’t know what to do. Asking the person who just tagged me along on this venture about the basic how-tos was also not a good idea as he was busy talking to God. Nevertheless, I did what he did.

As I had observed, people were there not only to receive the Word of God. The old man, the pregnant lady in red, and the father who, by looking at his face, was tired of carrying his sick son above his shoulders, all lack something in their lives that only He would be able to fill. Just like me, they were there to receive His guidance and blessings; asking for forgiveness and praying for better days.

For months, I was just taking the pages off the calendar. I allowed life itself to take the life out of me. In my mind, I got lost in the path. And just when I thought I might not be able to return, I got back. Guess, we only need to trace our roots back to Him when we lost it.

Now, I can only think of that moment and recall a time of firsts. To see a large number of devotees praying to venerated religious figures, to enter a seriously crowded church, to buy a 20-peso necklace only to lose it days after, and to be able to see and experience the unique display of the Filipino faith in flesh rather than in television.

The thought of I being a non-Catholic didn't bother me at all. I didn't care. I can only think of that very moment and recall a flicker of hope: I was happy.