Last Wednesday I attended an evening mass nearby. I normally avoid this church because the choir’s too loud. They have complete drum sets and very powerful speakers. They remind me of born-again services I attended as a child during my summer vacations in Cavite. The singers, some Filipinos, have great vocals. Maybe I just prefer the more traditional music from the choir stalls—but that’s just me. It’s Ash Wednesday, with little time in my hands I had to go to where’s convenient.
I used to frequent an older church from the north east part of the island, not really far from where we are now but it takes two bus rides. I have written about this beautiful neo gothic church here established 150 years ago to serve the fishing Teochew communities. I still visit this church from time to time. Last month, I paid my last respects to a Burmese parish priest, Fr. Peter Paul, who recently passed. He was interned in Myanmar but services were held in Nativity to honor his memory.
I don’t know Fr. P that well but I attended masses he celebrated since 2009. The last time I saw him was a memorable interaction, my confession after so many years. Prior to this the last was back in grade school, that’s almost 30 years. He had a good laugh about it but then reminded me to do it more often. Which of course I still haven’t done and so Fr. Peter P. was my last confessor.
I’m a superstitious person. I was raised this way but interesting is that my siblings grew up unlike me. They took up from my father, an extreme opposite of my mother when it comes to superstitions.
One of my favorite superstitions is avoiding sleeping without eating something. The soul, Mama said, would look for food when your already in deep sleep. The danger is that it might not find its way back to your body! Why? The soul might get trapped inside the caldero ng kanin!
I remember being given pieces of bronze and all sorts of coins when I would wonder around our hilly property in Olongapo. I was told these metals makes you heavy and elemental hates the smell of tanso (copper). Hence, they can’t mess with you or put a spell on you.
Some are really scary. My mother would all wake us up if there’s a funeral procession passing by. According to her spirits possess powers that can lure our souls. When you’re asleep that’s when you’re soul’s vulnerable. Look, these all my sounds strange but believe you me, we have tons of it. Filipinos, like most orientals, are very superstitious.
Many of the superstitions I grew up with revolves around out witting evil spirits. Funny as it may sound that’s really what they were. But how can mortals out smart the devil? The whole idea sounds absurd but many of these are deeply embedded in Filipino tradition.
So are demons or whatever they are true?
I believe so.
Now, back to my long over due penance with the late priest. There was this interesting coincidence that took place that made that day all the more unforgettable.
I normally don’t share these kind of stories here but here goes:
Fr. P and I had a brief chat after my confession. He said even he tries to do it weekly, twice if possible. He needs it because like me, he said, he’s a sinner too. He’s humble, happy, very accommodating guy. After the absolution, he gave me a list of prayers. So I started, and the good priest walked away. This took place near the altar, right after the afternoon mass.
When I was done with the prayers, which were surprisingly short (I was expecting a longer list after all those years of not doing it) I left hurriedly. It was pass 6PM, the skies still lit but the sun had set.
These days I listen to podcasts more than music. My playlist includes mostly stand up comics and educational podcasts like Freakonomics and NPR’S Radio Lab. When I left the Church’s premises I decided to listen on my ride back home. I lost track what I had on but was surprised that there was this comedians mocking priests and the Catholic Church. They were brutal, all the bad press you hear about the church and its priests. They were howling in laughter!
I’m inclined to think that’s just another coincidence?
Descanse en paz Fr. P.