Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 February 2021
We have started this travelogue sharing with you how the Divine — God and music as food of the soul — have guided us in this road trip. He is the Invisible Hand leading us to directions not found on maps nor recognized by GPS, leading us to new discoveries not only to places outside but deep within us.
Let me now share with you the people we have met in this road trip, our companions who enriched our journey.
The word companion is from two Latin words cum + panis that mean “someone you break bread with”, not just someone you travel with but someone you share life with. After all, every journey is not just about places we visit but more of the persons we travel with and meet along the way.
During our first stop at the Baras Church, its sacristan mayor named Alvin told us an interesting story that had allegedly happened at the Pililla Wind Farm before its closure last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Alvin, a group of bikers in 2019 allegedly posed half-naked while doing the dirty finger sign with the wind turbines as background. The people at the wind farm felt the place “desecrated” by that act especially after the photos were posted in social media, prompting them to tighten security in the area until the pandemic came that have kept it closed since then.
Though we have no way of verifying Alvin’s story about the “desecration”, it was not farfetched at all considering our penchant for anything notorious and vulgar like – sorry for the terms – kasalaulan and kababayun.
How sad that everything is desecrated and disrespected in our country like a whole environment, public places that include parks and monuments, even churches and schools as well as culture and history, not to mention the people taken for granted especially the weak and marginalized.
But it is not that bad at all. Especially in the province of Rizal where local residents remain warm and hospitable. Most of all, honest and trustworthy.
This we have experienced first hand after Dindo had left his wallet at a convenience store two kilometers from Baras. When we returned to the store, we were so impressed because the guard and another staff member were waiting for us to give us back the wallet. We did not even leave our car as the wallet was promptly handed to us without asking us any questions at all.
Honesty is still very much alive here in our country. We just have to trust and be honest with others, too!
In fact, one thing we noticed that whole Thursday in Rizal was how everybody was so kind and nice, especially at the three churches we visited in Baras, Tanay, and Morong.
They were so kind and courteous with a ready smile to everyone, not grouchy like in some parishes. I did not have to introduce myself as a priest to be treated well that I felt like coming home while visiting those three churches!
It prompted me to commend Msgr. Rigs de Guzman of Tanay in having formed so well their church workers and volunteers whose goodwill flowed so naturally, not rehearsed nor faked because we were visitors.
Such kindness and niceties are things becoming so rare these days in many churches in our predominantly Christian nation when people complain against priests and lay people alike in being so cold and impersonal in dealing with the faithful who complain, saying “mga taong simbahan pa naman… kay susungit at sasama ng ugali.”
Sometimes, people leave the Catholic Church not because of difficult teachings and doctrines but of difficult people who failed or refused to witness Jesus Christ in their lives as his servants and disciples.
At the beautiful Parish of St. Jerome in Morong, we arrived while a funeral Mass was ongoing. Not knowing where to park as the patio was filled with people, I drove up its old and beautiful driveway all the way to its main door.
Surprisingly, nobody blocked or prevented us from driving there; when I asked if we can park there, the people simply nodded their heads in approval!
And when we went to the parish office to ask permission to go to the side altar to pray, one of the volunteers willingly led us inside so we can comfortably have a seat.
After we have prayed, we decided to skip our usual picture taking due to the ongoing Mass, choosing to feast our eyes with the amazing sight of this church’s unique architecture built by Franciscan Missionaries in 1620 and renovated to its present structure in 1853.
As we marveled at the imposing but genteel facade of the Morong Parish Church, I somehow got a feel of the people’s vibrant faith nurtured by their pastors who must be so dedicated too to have maintained its old and original architecture. One may also notice the same thing with the modern churches in the Diocese of Antipolo that covers the ecclesiastical province of Rizal where there is that blending of faith, arts, and architecture.
They must be so rich in having “respect” as in respect to the past, respect to the culture, and respect to the people that they have kept their many old and modern churches unaltered for so many years.
How sad is the “edifice complex” afflicting some priests especially in our own Diocese of Malolos in Bulacan where many churches, old and new alike, have been disfigured with never ending renovations and constructions as well as overdecorating them that many have looked like cheap cakes smothered with icings.
Many seem to have forgotten the direct correlation between “church as the people gathered in faith” and “church as a building”.
Incidentally, the term used by the early Christians to refer to the Holy Eucharist as they gathered together was “breaking of bread”, a direct reference to our word companion because in every religious gathering, the companionship of the people is indicative of their kind of faith in God.
How lovely it is to see our churches, especially the old ones, as companions in our faith journey in God, to God!
'The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking in new eyes." --- Marcel Proust
As we end this series of our travelogue, we go back to the lovely Parish Church of St. Ildephonse at Tanay, Rizal where we found something so mysterious like Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic and Deacon Blues.
On the left wall near the main door is found the Seventh Station of the Cross when Jesus fell for the second time on his way to the calvary. It is a huge woodcarving done by local artisans in 1785 using local colors like the Malay features of the images depicted with their brown complexion, large and round eyes, and “squared” body features.
See the man leading the pack blowing a carabao horn for a tambuli while the soldier carried a bolo instead of a sword?
Most unique of all that makes Tanay’s Stations of the Cross as the most amazing and beautiful in Asia is that man at the middle wearing sunglasses, looking afar.
No one can truly explain why that man was portrayed as wearing shades that were already in existence at that time from China called “smoked glasses”. Some claim that man is the high priest Caiaphas who led the Sanhedrin in the trial that found Jesus guilty of blasphemy for claiming himself to be God.
Still, it does not answer the question why wear shades?
My kinakapatid Dindo claimed the woodcarving proves that rock and roll had long been in existence since the time of Jesus Christ, the real Superstar as presented in the 1970 rock opera by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber.
Rock and roll is more than a kind of music. It is a way of life, a different kind of looking at things that try to disregard conventional and traditional ways by trying to get to the very roots of the things we do and hold on to.
Again, the word roots is from the Latin radix from which comes the word radical to describe people with revolutionary thoughts who go against the usual and accepted ways of life by going back to the roots of our many ways of life.
Radicals are not necessarily violent who shake our beliefs to see things more clearly like the woodcarver of this Seventh Station of the Cross in Tanay.
He must be telling us how often we try to color the world according to the hues and shades we want to see it that we become oblivious to the plight and sufferings of those around us like Jesus falling for the second time. Sometimes the key in truly enjoying this journey called life is to take off our shades and see others in their true colors by revealing also our true selves.
That is the greatest joy of every road trip when we do not really take the trip but it is the trip that takes us, giving us new eyes to see life in new perspectives and dimensions never seen before.
Our recent road trip actually started even before we planned it three years ago. Dindo and I have been traveling together as companions – breaking bread with each other – sharing life, its joys and pains, fears and hopes long before we took this road trip.
Though we travel on different roads in life, our paths have merged in various points and intersections without us really knowing it, deepening our ties and friendship truly as kinakapatid. It was actually a trip started by our dads who were cumpadres and never did I imagine those trips to their home at Little Baguio every New Year while growing up would eventually lead us to Baras, Tanay, Pillila, and Morong in Rizal!
In between songs and stories and jokes as we got lost going to Pililla Wind Farm, we have realized that we all have the same problems and issues in life. They just come in different shapes and colors that make every journey so wonderful.
Where have you been lately? And how are the people you have met? Try to remember the people you have been traveling with as companions in this journey of life. Thank them and most of all, take a break to let any trip take you — a road trip, a food trip, or any trip except bad trip!
Thank you very much in joining me in this blog and trip. May God bless your journey as well as your companions. Amen.