Here I am again at this hiatus from the ruckus of a Taft life, at this momentary breather society calls Holy Week. I would call it the “break we badly need before finals week.” It is the break we Lasallians crave for just before the submission of all those final papers and projects. While other students from other universities are sinking their feet in the sand, getting dark with a cold beer in their hands and not thinking about school for at least a good number of weeks, typical Lasallians like myself would take this time to read up, study and at least start preparing for the storm of a finals week ahead.
Only after studying would I even think of heading outside Manila to get some R&R. It doesn’t seem like it was Holy Week. All of this seems as if it is merely any long weekend, the essence of Holy Week failing to arrive even during Maundy Thursday. Until I woke up in the middle of the afternoon to the old, repetitive and out of tune singing of the women at our neighbor’s house. They were doing Pabasa.
Do away with your image of singers who would hit high notes with crystal-clear voices, though. It’s all about the story they tell of our Lord. The singers take turns armed with coffee and biscuits to keep themselves up, singing the lyrics to the same melody over and over again until it sticks in your head.
They tell an account of the Lord’s passion through singing which I never really got to understand. Year after year, it seems as if this tradition’s patronage fluctuates. Sometimes I hear many voices which ring in my head and stay with me the whole day. Sometimes I would hear a handful of voices singing incessantly. This goes on until they finish the whole book, which takes about a whole day. I never fully appreciated and understood this practice. It is an ordeal to finish the whole book, and for that the elderly women earn my respect for their Pabasa.
I wake up to their singing at 4 am, I try to understand them yet I fall asleep again. I wake up at 8 am and they are still plying their trade, and I hear the same voices which I heard at 4 am along with the rooster’s crow. At that moment that I still heard their voices, it hit me that Lent is here and sadly I am the only one who mentally and spiritually wasn’t.
The day after is Friday. This is the day when my spirituality should be at a high, and I am feeling it as we pack our bags in the trunk of the car and prepare for our Visita Iglesia. Our family would usually go to seven churches while doing the Stations of the Cross. Two stations per church is what we do. We’d start off with the churches near our village, pass by my Alma mater – San Beda Alabang – and end it somewhere up North. For this Friday, we would do no different. As we went to each church, we’d do our yearly routine-kneeling in front of the stations and pray. All the recurring prayers with each station got to me and made me feel the spirituality of the moment. It makes anything related to school seem distant and irrelevant. With each church we visited, and even if I have done this a couple of times, I wouldn’t feel too familiar for each year, I have something new to thank for and pray to the Lord.
This somehow gave me a glimpse as to what this Lent ought to be for everyone- a promise of fulfilling our duties as Catholics daily with each action we do, and with each prayer we say. I figured that after a spiritual trip like this, a reflection will come naturally because all the prayers set my mind into a peaceful state which is conducive for reflection on my life.
After all, this is what Lent should be.
This is a constant challenge for us to go beyond Lent and maintain our peaceful, religious and meditative mindset. After a short spiritual journey not very different from Eat Pray Love, I can’t help but ponder on what I have achieved in life, where I am now and where I am heading. This was the right time to feel melodramatic and ponderous as it is also the death of our Lord. Gloomy, we finally got home and the mood of the street is serene and silent, and the singers at our neighbors’ house were done. Finally.
The next day, I woke up feeling as if I were in Home Alone. I went out of my room and everyone was busy getting dressed and fixed. At least I was just close to being left, not totally left behind. I didn’t know we’d go somewhere for Black Saturday. Turns out, we were heading to my favorite church – the Convent of the Pink Sisters up in Tagaytay. The drive up to Tagaytay was short and fast, but as we were on the road, I rolled down my window and breathed in the cold air which never failed to give me this inexplicable feeling; and then a jeep passes by, bellowing and churning out carbon monoxide which forces me out of my trance and makes me roll up my window again.
As we turned a corner to the road leading to Pink Sisters, I felt so eager and enthusiastic to pray, perhaps because I have much to thank and pray for. I got inside the church, knelt and prayed for a while then wrote my intentions on the papers they provide. Alas, what we went for in Tagaytay was done in 15 minutes, but the promise of a good meal at Antonio’s afterwards with your family adds the cherry on the icing. There is nothing unique about going to and praying at Pink Sisters since many Lasallians I know have gone there or visited the place. But what makes it unique is its personal effect on you. That personal feeling, that feeling you get when you pray there, is uniquely yours and can make the trip very special.
Easter is a lot simpler. We would usually just spend it at home and hear Mass. It’s the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection, and His triumph. In a way, this is a celebration too of a fruitful Lent for me. The challenge for me is to continue this spiritual mood even after Lent, which I will try. This will never be an easy task, but with an unwavering faith, I will persist.
Perhaps it is never about what you do during Holy Week per se. You may probably hit the beach with that beach body you worked hard for months and spend sinful nights in Bora, and that’s fine. You may get out of the country, shop and dine like a bourgeois, and that too is fine. But there are better things to do. Like all things superficial, what we ultimately decide to do with Holy Week is ultimately up to us.
What its effect on us after Holy Week is of much more importance. We can treat it as a vacation, or as a retreat, or probably as a fusion of both. You could spend it with friends or spend it with family and pray together like a religious Filipino family would. There is so much more we could do with Holy Week that is substantial, meaningful and at the same time enjoyable. This doesn’t include having yourself nailed on the cross in Pampanga, though. But if you do want to inject fun into your Holy Week and do something new, then by all means go ahead.
But try to keep it light, and prayerful, and meditative. Spiritual conversation is the best help for the exams that we must inevitably return to come April 1.