It is 6 in the morning; there is a slight drizzle of rain and the world is as cold as the North Pole. I drag myself from bed; in the same spirit as Jonas, when he dragged me to a Simbang Gabi just like this oh so many years ago.
The charming Aglipayan church where Alice groggily listened to a now-forgotten sermon about faith. One cannot blame Alice for being distracted and not paying attention to the priest. All throughout the service, her boyfriend was tracing indecipherable messages on her palm.
The church was small but it was strung with Christmas lights and there were homemade decors inside, making the peeling walls look almost charming. A confession: most times, when I am inside a church or attending mass, I imagine myself doing a Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”
Most times. But this time, Jonas insisted; so I went (agnostic that I am) to hear the early morning tradition called “Simbang Gabi”.
My earliest memories of going to mass were associated with funerals. When I was 5, my grandmother insisted that I accompany her to the funeral service of her friend; the casket was open and I was deathly afraid the corpse would rise up ala “The Walking Dead” and eat me. When I was 10, my grandfather died and after the church service, before the procession to the cemetery, my mother told me to kiss lolo‘s hand if I didn’t want his ghost to haunt me. Then my mother died. I was 12 and I was alone beside my mother’s casket because my father who was then still an illegal alien in the US would not come home.
After that brouhaha at church during my mother’s funeral service, I stopped believing in god. Thereafter, my forays to “His house” were made to please others and not because of any religious conviction on my part.
So I was inside a church, with a man I just fucked a week ago. How cool was that.
“Do you think these people would be here if their neighbors had stayed at home?” I whispered.
Jonas squeezed my hand, “Alice, honey, it’s 4 am. Tomorrow will be Christmas. You don’t need to prove something every single hour of everyday.”
I sent this letter specifically because I know it will never be read:
Dear Jonas, I don’t expect you to write back. Knowing how you never log on to any of the social media accounts I’ve badgered you to sign up for, I also don’t expect you to read this. Which is good. As I can consider this a diary or something. Words I have unthinkingly sent out into the void. To pass away time. And hopefully to get rid of this disconcerting loneliness amidst a sea of activities.
Everyone seems to be in a hurry around here. And they all get to their appointments on time! The campus is beautiful and the leaves do really turn yellow in the fall. I can’t wait for December and see what snow looks like. I am enjoying my classes. There are a lot of readings and the teachers really expect a lot from us.
I have never seen what autumn looked like before. It’s beautiful. The leaves turn into shades of yellow and brown and the sunset seem bigger and more extravagant.
I miss you.
We imagine Alice on her laptop; she is dreaming of Jonas who is also dreaming of her. The worldwideweb is a conduit of their dreams. Image from http://www.canstockphoto.com
But, yesterday, I received a Facebook message from someone who never opens his Facebook.
The truth is, I had never expected (never, never, ever) to see my Inbox to contain anything like this:
I am glad to hear that you are enjoying your studies. I am currently in a hiatus from our project in Davao and has been staying here in Laguna for the past couple of months.
Why would you think that I won’t write back? I wish now that I could have sent you off with more graciousness than I did — I am sorry for being such a bore at the airport — but you do know that I love you. And I have told you that so many times.
I am trying to do the Facebook thing, but you know my attitude about social media. It’s an invasion of individual privacy by multinational companies that claim to have our best interests at heart.
I can imagine you rolling your eyes at me again.
Marianne is getting married next month and she misses you too. Anton and she will go to California for their honeymoon. I know you’re in the East Coast and California is on the other side of the US, but maybe you can find some way to contact each other and catch up.
Alice, my love, our country has just been devastated by the strongest typhoon in the history of the world. A lot of people have lost their lives, their families, things and persons they care about. For many of them, the loss is final and irrevocable.
As cliché as it may sound, life is a fragile blessing, love even more so. I will go on loving you for as long as my heart remains beating.
When Jonas mentioned “the strongest typhoon in the history of the world”, he was not exaggerating. He was referring to the innumerable loss that Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) wrought on their country. Photo from manilatimes.net
So can anyone blame me if I am now present in a scantily attended service inside a Catholic Church named after a saint who was, once upon a time, beheaded by a king of England?