Thursday, August 12, 2010


Old ladies here in the province say that the lanterna- a kind of an improvised lamp, with a candle wick set afloat on oil, signifies the presence of the soul. My mom's lanterna burned steadily, flickering ever so slightly when a breeze blows through the french windows. A picture of her, framed in silver, was placed just behind the Our Lady of the Rosary candles. Yellow blooms decorated the altar.

The actual preparation for her death anniversary started eight days ago- every afternoon they pray a latin version of the rosary, and offer these prayers for the eternal repose of my mom's soul. This practice began two years ago when Mama passed away (though after the interment it was actually forty days of prayer), a year ago we had the first "pa-syam" which unfortunately was one of the worst times for our family.

My grandmother says when conflict exists and the spirit is angry, it could manifest itself in the lanterna- the flame constantly goes out, or burns unsteadily, and in worst cases, the glass would shatter. Last year during my mom's first death anniversary, the fighting between my mother's side and father's side of the family became so severe that one day in the middle of the nine days of prayer, I came home to find the altar was ransacked and my Mama's framed photo and lanterna was taken elsewhere- and my grandmother taken away without my knowledge.

I guess now it's not important to discuss whose fault it was or why it had come to that point, but it was just a horrible time for us all. Even I myself admit I wasn't too prudent with my words and hurt people in the process of retaliation. As the months passed it became easier to forgive, or maybe even just let go of the pent up anger people had within them. Eventually after I apologized to my aunt we decided to put it all behind us.

Two days ago I found myself at the market buying ingredients for the dishes to be served during Mama's second death anniversary, and I got to thinking. Our house had seen enough drama- of people leaving, and holidays spent alone, and new people coming in. We have relatives from my father's side and Nanay back at home living side by side, and I have pondered also on what stake me and my brothers have in the house we grew up in. I realized nothing would be worth having unless there would be peace in our family.

I guess it is time to leave all the past hurts behind us all, and move forward. Some wounds may be too deep, and perhaps some of my relatives can't see eye to eye, but at least for this one occasion- we should gather to remember my mom whom I've considered to always have been the glue that held our family together.

And so all day yesterday I cooked- under the supervision of my grandmother, I kept myself busy and prayed inside that people from Mama's side would come and join us the following day. I've never been much of a domestic person, and though I've equated those dishes- Humba, Caldereta, and Menudo to be a mother's specialty (either Mama's or Nanay's), I've managed to prepare them myself. Everyone at home lent a hand as we readied for the occasion.

Today they all came- old ladies who lead the prayers, aunts and cousins, kids from my mom's relatives, Nanay's friends, neighbors, my classmates, even our old carpenter. Nanay and me, and the relatives from my father's side made sure everyone was comfortable and joined in as we prayed and later, had lunch together.

As the guests left one by one late afternoon, Nanay was practically glowing with happiness. "We pulled it off," she said, smiling at me. I remembered what Nanay told me a few nights ago, she said she had a dream she saw Mama, and she was wearing white. In our Theology classes, a nun once mentioned that souls in purgatory are in various shades of gray and as we pray for the forgiveness of their sins their souls are purified and stripped of every stain or imperfection. I took it as a sign that wherever Mama was now, she was closer than ever to our Maker. On our part, it was time for us to resolve our conflicts, and I guess time for me too, to mature. Learning to cook would be step one for me.

"Yes, we did." I replied to my grandmother, and admired for a moment the glow that the candles gave to my mom's smiling face in the photo.

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