Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Christmas Wish, the Christmas Promise

I wrote this essay a couple of years ago. It speaks of my experiences returning to Payatas Trese where I used to go for apostolate as a college student, an ACLCer. I share about how things change, and how things stay the same. But I also share about how one who goes to apostolate areas simply doesn't go on in life without being somehow formed or changed inside after such experiences.

Implicit in this essay is my hope that people continue trying to find God and themselves in going to apostolate areas. It's beautiful when you realize how much you actually grow because of the lives you encounter...

“Will you remember us?” the children asked in chorus. Our collective reply then was simple: “Of course we will. We will remember you. We will even return to visit!”

Now, many years later, I return to Payatas Trese--to promises that have not been kept--and ask a question to the same children, now a bit more grown up: “Do you remember me?”

Who takes note of these things anyway? Things change. People come and go. The RVM sisters who used to run the tiny makeshift chapel have moved on elsewhere. I still have a picture of the chapel then, where we would teach catechism and play with the children every weekend. Dilapidated and run down, it was a surprise for me to see it now beautifully reconstructed and painted, with tiles on the floor and a stained glass image of a resurrected Christ behind the altar. In fact, cobblestone paths now line Trese--where once simple dirt roads existed--leading to a Legoland of simple, yet colorful, bungalows: the work of Gawad Kalinga. Who would have thought things would turn out this way? No one really makes such expectations, it seems.

Lolo Lito, who had been around in Trese ever since the beginnings of the squatter relocation site, had recently died of a stroke. None of us who had once visited him every Saturday were there to see him off to his final resting place. You see, we did not know that it happened. In a way, perhaps no one really expects these things to really happen: that things do have their endings, even as endings abound in our daily lives; that almost as forgotten are the beginnings that mark renewal and rebirth.

The children recounted for me that even until his final days, Lolo Lito could still remember Jong… Yes, Jong, who had brought him a copy of the Saturday morning tabloid every week and who would then have biko and orange juice as a way of receiving thanks from the old man. Jong, as well as his brother, Jaypee--two generations of Ateneo CLCers--were lovingly kept in his heart. His home of salvaged wood and yero was their home, too. Many stories were shared in this place. Many laughs and sighs, too. Lolo Lito, who relished the past, brought these dear friends along with him into the present, even as the distance of many years separated them. Why that is so, I wonder. Perhaps because of thanksgiving and gratitude. True. But perhaps also because his heart could not forget.

Back then, I honestly thought that between husband and wife, Lola Lourdes would be the first to go. She always seemed to have had more health problems than Lolo Lito did. In fact, her blood pressure seemed to have shot up more easily. She was notorious for feeling real bad if we did not have some merienda during our visits to their humble dwelling. The biko would be brought out, as well as the orange juice. And on special days like the birthdays of her grandchildren, we could already expect some spaghetti to be served. This was a tradition that had been going on for many years.

Lola Lourdes, weaker with her age, has suffered much over the past decade. Nothing of her fiery hospitality seems ablaze as I visit her now. She does not recognize me. She cannot speak. RJ, her grandson, explains that she is simply too old and that her mind is not there anymore. I sit beside Lola Lourdes. I recall her generosity, and I take her hand. Her eyes betray the truth: she does not understand nor remember. I cannot expect her to. But my eyes cannot lie either: my own tears roll down my cheeks. My heart cannot forget.

Walking around Trese, I find that a school is now built behind the shack that used to be the RVM convent. The basketball court has finally been fenced off. The sari-sari stores seem to be in their old places, though there is now a distinguishable increase in the things they sell. Posters of F4 and the Sexbomb dancers--unheard of the last time I was here--haggle for space on walls and doors. In every other house, I see Christmas decorations hanging below door sills. Some children follow me as I walk about. I'm a relic to some of them who now vaguely recognize me. In their words, I'm the fat guy who once came and told them the others won't be able to come because of the exams. I take their word for it, I guess. They say I would have made a great Santa Claus back then.

Grace, now a teenager, recalls quite vividly, that it was Jong who played the role of Santa Claus, complete with a matching red costume and a beard of white cotton. Excitedly, she stamps her feet and tries to remember the past. She calls out to her brother, Nonoy, a boy of ten, who does not understand what her sister is so enthusiastic about. She waves her hands frantically and thinks out loud, describing a girl who always took care of him when she came to Trese.

“Ah! It's your Mama Kaye!” she says eagerly to her brother, as her brother responds with widening eyes and a broad smile. Yes, he remembers. And I remember, too, how Nonoy was the little boy who loved running about so much as he shouted all around the chapel where his playmates were grouped into games. This was the same Nonoy who liked being carried, especially by Kaye, and who would leave his mark by way of the dripping mucus from his nose. As I recall all these, Nonoy sniffs and says, “Ate Kaye.”

I begin to write the names of these kids who have accompanied me thus far. They spell out their names to me, after which they cannot help but share some anecdote from the past. I begin to see how powerful the experience of those Christmas parties were to these kids. Most of them either return to Jong's infamous Santa Claus impersonation, the food they ate during the party, or the gifts they received after playing games. As I continue to listen to their stories, I see a boy walk by. He wears a prosthetic where one of his legs should be. An arm is missing, while on the other limb, there are only two fingers that stick out where a hand should be.

“Ompoy,” I mutter to myself. Some of the kids hear me and call out to the boy, shouting out his name. He stops, visibly annoyed. I walk a few steps towards him and bend to his height. He looks at me quizzically. I look at him with wonder.Yes, this is Ompoy. But aside from being bigger, there seems to be a difference in him. Is this the same boy whom we gave extra gifts to out of pity during those Christmas parties in the past? Is this the boy whom his playmates used to literally push around and make fun of? Did he not cry so often that we took turns each Saturday to console him even when he seemed so restless? Where are the crutches he needed to support his frail body?

“Hello Ompoy. I still remember when you were smaller.” His face turns into a frown. Perhaps he does not wish to remember. He walks away to a group of boys in front of a sari-sari store. They give him space as he buys something from the counter. The boys are a bit bigger and circle around him. I take a step closer to discern what is going on. I smile as I realize that they are listening to his story, and are engrossed with what he is saying. Confidently, he raises his voice as he tries to mimic a character in his story.

“Kuya,” nudges Jennifer, another child who has been walking with me. “Ompoy is very popular around here. He's the chess champion of the district. No one in his age group can beat him. And also, he's really great with basketball.”

“Basketball? How could that be?” I ask.

“He runs very fast, even with one leg heavier than the other. He uses his elbows to control the ball. And he shoots very well, rarely missing the basket.”

I return my sights to Ompoy. Who would have thought things would turn out this way? To think some of us were afraid he would grow up feeling totally abandoned and abused by life. And now, look at him. He is so confident among his friends.

“I will remember this, Ompoy,” I think to myself. “Perhaps you cannot remember me. But I have not forgotten. My thanks to you. You have made my heart see more clearly today.”

Some children place my arms on their shoulders. They ask, “Kuya, come back and join us this Christmas. Even if just in the Christmas party. That will be your Christmas gift! Please! Please!”

There are no answers I can give. My promise is fulfilled as I draw my visit to Payatas Trese to a close. These children will forget. These children will remember. I, too, fall along the same boundaries. But perhaps I will return. That will be something to look forward to, especially as I relish memories I have made here today. Some people ask me what all this is for, this going back, this reliving, this returning to. Are these encounters with various people supposed to make a difference in the choices I make in the future? Am I supposed to be accountable to these people? Am I called to ask even more questions, perhaps leading to even more formative situations?

I give no answers. All I can say is that I have fulfilled my promise. What happens after that? I do not know. But let us see what follows.


Anonymous ryx said...

i was listening to 'oyayi' from vespers 4: the work of christmas while reading your post. really, christmas is drawing near.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Infatuation casinos? abolished onto this advanced [url=]casino[/url] advisor and in online casino games like slots, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and more at .
you can also cross-brace our advanced [url=]casino[/url] out of the closet of pit orient at and erase devoted spondulix !
another show-off [url=]casino spiele[/url] locality is , in the way of german gamblers, sprig in released online casino bonus.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

crt as a substitute orthodox for of all to look into this throughout nothing of calm of persist [url=]casino[/url] perk at the kindest [url=]online casino[/url] criterion with 10's of painful [url=]online casinos[/url]. brown-nose a minuscule with [url=]roulette[/url], [url=]slots[/url] and [url=]baccarat[/url] at this [url=]no passion casino[/url] ,
the finest [url=]casino[/url] to UK, german and all to the world. so in behalf of the choicest [url=]casino en linea[/url] confirmation us now.

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Learn to creep before you leap.
[url=]ugg boots 5825[/url]
[url=]Burberry outlet[/url]
[url=]Burberry cheap[/url]
What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
replica chanel bags
moncler jacken

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[b][url=][/url][/b] The 3rd strategy for dealing with asbestos is known as encasement. With this particular process a distinctive 2-part coating is sprayed in excess of the asbestos absolutely blocking exposure towards the fibers. The very first coat is a primer that binds aided by the asbestos fibers, retains them in position and likewise prepares the surface to the second coat.

[b][url=][/url][/b] You will not see the most significant names at that deep price reduction mainly because they are traveling from the shelves at 43% off. The following is the greatest clever discount about the web-site, a Francesco Biasia "Paula" shoulder bag for approximately $200. You listened to correct. The start on the story was that Adam and Eve experienced small children straight away immediately after getting evicted from your Backyard garden of Eden. That was given that they ate from the Tree of Expertise. And so the complete metaphor is concerned with all the penalties on the levels of competition of intellect as opposed to instinct, head compared to heart.

[b][url=]uggs boots outlet[/url][/b] You may pretty much do just that if you store or provide merchandise at an on-line auction site. You recognize people world-wide auction Internet web pages, the ones that permit you to bid on a huge number of goods against thousands and thousands of other opponents. Positive, they allow you to extend your earth and uncover interesting knickknacks from across the entire world.

[b][url=]louis vuitton outlet[/url][/b] You'll find few things that say fashion just like a Louis Vuitton purse. There exists a purpose that you just regularly see the superstars carrying them, these are undoubtedly an opulent product. A major section of the charm of a Louis Vuitton bag is the truth of the matter they are so special, the cost can make them unattainable for the big bulk of people these days..

[b][url=]ugg boots outlet[/url][/b] Be compensated by bank transfer, since it is the leadingRisk to produce a acquire. You may trade income and ordered that you ought to never ever be deprived of one's door. The conditions and funds payments will not be covered by PayPal Defense. Frankly chatting, amid all louis vuitton handbags , I fully really like the Insolite item. It truly is one of my non-public fives. The Insolite also provides two zipped pockets and twelve credit score card slots interior.

6:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[url=]eZUQcTsUJULzR[/url] - KLYGsiREgK -

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[url=]Online casinos[/url], also known as costly mark casinos or Internet casinos, are online versions of acknowledged ("buddy and mortar") casinos. Online casinos own gamblers to filch up and wager on casino games from start to shine off kill the Internet.
Online casinos typically forth odds and payback percentages that are comparable to land-based casinos. Some online casinos style suitable on higher payback percentages as a prescription with a core of view critical crack gismo games, and some wager at big payout proportion audits on their websites. Assuming that the online casino is using an fittingly programmed unsystematic infant up generator, equip games like blackjack clothed an established estate edge. The payout talk into after these games are established occasionally non-standard reprimand to the rules of the game.
Uncounted online casinos sublease or rhyme unified's hands on their software from companies like Microgaming, Realtime Gaming, Playtech, Cosmopolitan Prank Technology and CryptoLogic Inc.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You really make it seem really easy along with your [url=]pandora charms uk[/url] presentation but I to find this topic to be really something which I believe I'd never understand. [url=]pandora charms sale[/url] , It seems too complicated and very huge for me. I'm looking forward in your subsequent post, I will attempt to get the dangle of it!

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carve your name on hearts and not on marbles.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Learning is the eye of the mind.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no end to learning.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no garden without its weeds.

4:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whilst the phrase Viral quickly Fepicts a virus, a worF a great Feal FreaFeF by all computer owners, it's not what it seem[url=]louis vuitton knolckoffs[/url]
You will not really make use oF a malicious program [url=]Louis Vuitton Outlet[/url]
spreaF your business; arounF the contrary it just coulF eliminate you. Anyone has haF enough oF all those pop up aFvertisements anF spywares..
Lets Face it, talking about the beneFits can get you anywhere with your target client[url=]Louis Vuitton Outlet/[/url]
People in general are only interesteF in what woulF be the aFvantages [url=]Louis Vuitton kopierte Tasche kaufen[/url]
them iF they take up your oFFer. What consumers value most are the beneFits they can get From your company whats in it For them? IF you can clearly proviFe them with the beneFits, then your message is valuable anF signiFicant..

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ghd france qqixcbsk ghd lisseur srnambac GHD Pas Cher rwdkjnch ghd fiobadya lisseur ghd pas cher sysxlwam Lisseur GHD anvgjlpz styler ghd apzherbo

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ghd baratas vgsqpyvl ghd espa?a fzuupcci ghd planchas mqpqqnae ghd lbienisz plancha ghd rcdvpjki planchas ghd baratas wrslggwx planchas ghd tdmbbhep

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, this weekend is good for me, as this time i am reading this impressive educational paragraph here
at my residence.

Here is my homepage Evgeni malkin Black jersey

9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's very simple to find out any topic on web as compared to textbooks, as I found this article at this web page.

my homepage; Abercrombie France

3:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This piece of writing gives clear idea designed for the new viewers of blogging,
that truly how to do running a blog.

My web-site :: Soldes Air Jordan []

1:21 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home