(Editors’ note: The Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a fitting tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Nov. 1, 2009)
Today, a Sunday, is All Saints’ Day. After the obligatory mass, most Filipino families will troop to the cemetery in observance of the so-called Feast of the Dead, or Piyesta ng mga Patay.
Many years back, as I recall, it was truly a fiesta, marked by day-long fun that included drinking, gambling, singing, and lots of noise and laughter.
Today, the “joy” has been curtailed a bit by the authorities and liquor, deafening sounds, card games, even mahjong, are now prohibited activities.
Not that the occasion calls for solemnity as should be the case, but more to prevent trouble that might erupt following too much revelry.
If there are matters that Filipinos cannot control, it is their seeming inability to hold their liquor, more so their temper.
A bad stare, an unflattering remark, mistaken mockery, and all hell break loose.
Bottles fly, bladed weapons flash, guns bark. No Filipino ever fights fair and square.
In earlier times, my old man and I would visit only a few graves, that of my youngest sister who died at childbirth and some other departed relatives and family friends.
Now, I am on my own, and accompanied by my family of two boys and a loving wife, we light candles on my father’s tomb, place flowers on my mom’s grave, and do the same thing for a younger brother and sister who have passed on to the next world.
I have no idea how the holiday came to be called Undas, a term coined by media and picked up by the public, but not understanding its meaning, I continue to stick to the good old Piyesta ti Natay by way of reference to Nov. 1.
But in the good old days, Nov. 2 was when we did our annual trek to the cemetery, or on “All Souls’ Day,” since my father used to kiddingly say that, given the appetite and bad habits of us Caranteses, none of our departed forebears could have possibly made it to sainthood, but tearfully called my deceased sister his little cherubim in heaven.
Except for my auntie Nenita, youngest sibling of the large Cuidno and Kensha Carantes brood, all my uncles and aunts, by blood or affinity, have gone on – hopefully and prayerfully – to God’s heavenly kingdom, albeit with no halos over their heads.
Even at my age I still miss my folks – no dad or mom to run to when I get into trouble, besieged as I am by economic and other woes, but not involving women.
So, today I will not only light candles and place flowers on their graves. I will talk to them as if they were alive, and continue to pray for their souls – in case they are still in purgatory – so my long gone parents will go to heaven soonest, since ASAP, a priest told me, is actually a lifetime of prayers here.
I will do the same ritual for my brother Jose, Joe to his lady friends, “Doc” to other acquaintances, and Pito to all his siblings and cousins; and also, for my sister Marichu Asuncion, Marichu to all of us, devoted mother to her two boys, and a wonderful friend to all, whose love for her manong Benny is “legend” in our New Lucban neighborhood, doing errands and marketing for me, making sure I would get my supply of “ipon” when its spawning season comes, which is just about now.
I am probably the only Ibaloy male who hugs and kisses his sisters all the time, as I kiss and hug my wife every morning, noon, and night – acts of affection that bedazzle the women in their elderly years.
Maybe it is my mom’s Ilocano blood in me.
Oh well, storming or not, we will first make our way to the Red Cross Memorial Garden in San Fernando, La Union, where my parents in-law are buried.
Believe it or not, I have super great in-laws, both living and dead.
Like my Minda, their patience is remarkably infinite.
And no day passes that I do not pray for my departed relatives, particularly mentioning their names, and adding little anecdotes about them so the Lord Almighty will know how much I miss my grand folks, uncles and aunts, generous or miserly, and especially cousins that I grew up with, sharing several adventures together.
Play it again Robert and Urbano, and sing along with Pilo, Chubby, Alex, Bebot, Dick, Steve – you too, Doc – while the girls, Marichu, Susie, Elaine, Sweet, and all the rest, do the tsismis and kitchen work, even if only in spirit.
“Play hard, play smart, play together.”
The line is not mine, it belongs to a lady coach of the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association), trying to inspire her wards just before the first game of the WNBA championship series.
Her one sentence says everything that needed to be said.
Political parties should learn from silver haired coach Lin Dunn of the Indiana Fever.
Indeed, play hard, play smart, play together.
(But not that hard, Arboleda, not too smart, are you?)
Simply put, the line means “do your best, use your head, and don’t forget teamwork.”