Forgive me for not coming home again this Christmas. My journey is not yet over and the stories that I wanted to tell remained locked in the vaults of my memories.
I have found transcribed in the old books of the Obando church the evidence that yes, half of our story originated from there. And in your behalf, I lighted candles of forgiveness in the ancient church of Piddig, praying for the ghosts of the past to exorcise a crime committed in its hollowed grounds in the name of justice more than a hundred years ago that sent a generation of our family fleeing to the land beyond the mountains.
You should be happy to know that I have solved the riddle of your being. It was difficult searching for bits of the puzzle as they were scattered in the parochial ruins of Pasuquin, hidden in the recesses of the massive Cabugao church, withering in the dry air of Tayug and Umingan, planted among the rows of corn in Alicia and Roxas, and lost in the urban jungle of Sta. Ana and Davao City. There was a big piece missing and I was ready to give up until I realized you have it ready for me. It is you that will complete the whole picture.
But no, please keep it for me still while I untangle the threads of my past. Perhaps this will atone for the hurt I caused for trying to flee and forget. I thought you have been unkind, that you didn’t want me. Yet you persisted and followed me through the rivers I crossed and swam. It will be many years before you have proven me wrong. But that’s because I have not forgotten.
How is the small church on the hill? I heard relatives from States have endowed it with funds for its improvement. I just hope that they keep its soul intact because it is where the angels hide. I have never seen them but Mom told me they are always around us. Yes, I believed her because I have felt them. They were the nice young man who rescued me from a persistent pimp in Bangkok, the bus driver who picked me when I got lost in Singapore, and the baggage counter lady who chased me from Bogor to Jakarta to give back my bag with my passport and plane ticket. They were in Islamabad too to ensure that I got on the last plane out of the rowdy airport to catch a connecting flight, and in finding my way to a pilgrimage in Kyoto’s amazing temples. The last time I felt them was in Cotonou when they thwarted a voodoo spell by an angry boy on crutches, and in the airports of Paris and Hong Kong where they caught me a sleep that would not come. I have not seen their wings but I’m sure they are the angels from our small church on a hill.
Will you please greet for me everybody who will be in the noche nuena tonight. Tell them to leave me some of Amang Lakay’s ingkiwar, and the lubi-lubi too that we used to make every Sunday night. I missed the river where the tiny mushrooms we gather and the sibbaweng we caught converge as if on cue every month of May. We spent much of our childhood there.
I will be coming home soon. I don’t know when but I will. You have always been home to me and I have never slept so soundly just like in your nights. When I do, you will see the hundreds of churches I passed through as I searched for your story. And I will cook you some of the pansit recipes I learned along the way.
ABET/KIMAT T. AMIANAN/BERTONG LANGIS
The House Near the Church and the School
Bacal II, Talavera, Nueva Ecija
24 December 2007
PHOTOS EXPLAINED (top to bottom):
(1) I linked up with kabukiph at the National Bookstore along Quezon Avenue on 20 December 2007 for the handover. He works just across and I a short walk away from Mother Ignacia Avenue. (2) That night during our Christmas party, Notebook 2 passed from nationalist former senator Wigberto “Ka Bobby” Tanada, to rural development technocrat and former DAR undersecretary Conrado “Ding” Navarro, and poet-warrior and one-time political detainee Isagani “Gani” Serrano. (3) The notebook went home with me to Nueva Ecija the next day in a symbolic homecoming to perhaps where it all started (at least for Wilfredo Pascual and me).
(4) Arnel “Kuya Oning” Coronel was an established comics illustrator before hard times brought the industry down. Two of his works --- Vic Poblete’s “Duplikado” and Cely Barria’s “Angelika” --- have been made into movies. He went to work as a domestic helper in Italy in 1998 where 4 years later, he won in a comics illustration competition --- the 3rd Edizione Cartoomics – Categoria Coco Bill. He was never able to claim his prize --- a scholarship at the Instituto Europeo di Design --- because he can’t leave his work. He came back to the Philippines in 2005, brought a farm, and is now starting to write the stories he wanted to tell, and shoot his digital camera. Kuya Oning dusted up his drawing pen to oblige me with an illustration of the Piddig church for my Lagalag Notebook 2 page.
My Lagalag Notebook 2 pages: (5) a letter to Almaguer tucked among thumbnails of the Philippines’ national and world heritage sites (baroque churches); (6) a photo of the Obando church where my journey began and also the first official photo of my visita iglesia taken in October 2004; (7) Kuya Oning’s illustration of the Piddig church, and; (8) the plane ticket folder of my latest trip abroad where (8) mementos from my travels were collaged.
POST SCRIPT: Wilfredo Pascual instructed me to keep Notebook 2 while waiting for Notebook 1 to catch up. Both will then be handed to DaphneOP, its final destination, before being sent back to where it originated. As such, I have the privilege of having the notebook during the holidays and my 38th birthday during which it traveled with me to Ifugao and went to a homecoming in Almaguer.