The 40-day period of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with 1.2 billion Catholics around the world observing the season which culminates in Easter Sunday.
December 16 is the official start of the religious celebration of Christmas in the Philippines. It begins with a nine-day novena of Masses in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, called Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo in Spanish, meaning Roosters’ Mass. It is so called because church bells start ringing with the crowing of the roosters to awaken parishioners to go to the predawn Masses. It culminates on Christmas eve with the midnight Mass.
“Lord, as years go by, I fear the yoke of sickness and pain and I worry how my life will end. And so I humbly ask you, Lord, that when my time comes to leave this life, do not call me by sudden death, Not by accident that tears the body apart, Not by illness that leaves the mind confused, Or the senses impaired; Not at the mercy of evil forces; Not with a heart full of hate or a body racked with pain; Not abandoned, lonely, without love or care; Not by my own hand in a moment of despair. My dear Lord Jesus, let death come as a gentle friend to sit and linger with me until you call my name.”
My father died when I was only 10 so I spent many an All Saints Day at the old Manila North Cemetery where he was buried. This was in the 1950s before memorial parks became popular. For days before November 1, my siblings and I would clean up the grave site, repaint the tombstone white, arrange flowering pots around the grave and polish the marble epitaph.
Once there was Baybayin, the Philippine’s pre-colonial syllabary - a set of written symbols that represent syllables that make up words. It thrived not just among the affluent but in all levels of society. Characterized by its wave-like script, Baybayin surprised curious Spaniards in its wide use as the prevalent reading and writing communication mode at that time.
My grandchildren Elizabeth, Maya, and Jack are my pride and joy. Elizabeth and Jack were born in Boston and are growing up in the U.S. with my daughter Helen and her American husband Dan Flagg. Maya is what Vancouverites call “born and bred in Vancouver” living with my son George and his Canadian wife Brenda Jamer.
Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal wrote most of his famous works in Spanish. Even his farewell poem, Mi Ultimo Adios, was written in the language of his executioners. He was, after all, a man of his times, when few educated Filipinos wrote formally in their own language. More than a century later, little has changed except that the foreign language is now English.