Home for the Holy Week

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It is always a long drive when Holy Week comes along. For this year, my Mom and I left the city at 12 midnight and arrived in our humble town in the province of Zambales at 6 A.M. We plopped down on the couch in the living room, where we always are most of the time, and slept. We were sleepy during the drive, but my Mom was sleepier than I was. (I think I need to learn to drive soon!)

The entrance to the SCTEX was filled with cars and buses. Even the NLEX too and the gas stations we stopped by at and passed. It made the world feel smaller as lots of people were traveling during that time. Back to their homes in the province or to have a vacation somewhere near the beach or high up in the mountains up north.

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Holy Week. My Mom and I would spend this time at home every year. We would join the procession on Wednesday and on Good Friday. We would just be at home. To some, that might feel boring, but to me it is not.

If it means just being still, just being with family, sitting in the living room with God in the center, this is true life and joy for me.

Jesus, in His ultimate sacrifice, took up all our sins and bridged the gap between us and the Father. We have been saved to live a new life in love. We have been saved to know love, to share it, to lavish it onto our family and friends as God has done for us.

“He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” – From Philippians 2:6-8

He was God. He came here not to be served, but to serve. And so He obeyed out of love. Simple yet startling love.

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This Holy Week, I was with my Mom. I was with my Dad in spirit as we have been talking on the phone only lately, but that is okay. To hear his voice is always enough. But to see him personally again, ah, that would be great! Dida, come home, please! Hehehe 🙂 My Mom and I would spend each day together from Wednesday evening to Sunday morning, where we eagerly greeted Jesus again in His resurrection.

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Sometimes, when I’m writing, I feel as though I am not expressing enough, but I am reminded that there are things that go beyond words.

I have no words but ‘I am loved’ when my Mom and I would sleep soundly together in our living room, when we are playing with our pets, when we are cooking together, when we are supporting each other, when we are sharing stories to each other, when she is teaching me the most important things I could every carry and live with in this life, when she disciplines me to learn to take responsibility and to not be afraid, when she hugs me, when she shows selflessness to me when I am least lovable.

I have no words but ‘I am loved’ when my Dad calls and shares to me things he has seen and heard, when he teaches me important lessons as well, when he reminds me to help my Mom always because he cares that we must help each other, when he encourages me when I am down, when he reminds me to not draw so many sad things.

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I am thankful to the Lord for His saving grace, for His love. He shows it to me through the people I am with. Through my Mom, my Dad, our family, Tita Tess in our chats with my Mima, my Tita’s and Tito’s, our family friends, my cousins, my friends, my officemates and superiors, kind strangers, books, blogs, nature, normal everyday life. In Holy Week, I see how God has chosen to be persecuted, to be shamed, just so we can experience love as it is. Pure, unadulterated, true, honest, raw, real, lavished. His love changes us. I was a sinner, but He has made me new. He has shown me how good we can be.

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Home for Holy Week. I was home with God.

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I was home, and to me, it means the world. It fuels me to be brave, to be kind, to be faithful, to be trusting, to be fully dependent on the Lord.

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I see every day my Mom’s beautiful garden that she cares for always. It is only sad though that some flowers in her plant medley withered fast because of the intense heat we are experiencing now in the summer season. But still, she tends to the plants always, making sure each is taken care of.

She would religiously wake up early in the morning and water the plants, knowing how much water each plant would take. She would take care of our pets too, giving them delicious and the right amount of food (never few, never too much). Sometimes, she would provide so much more for me too, for our home, than for herself.

Commitment, selflessness, kindness to the earth, to the animals, to her daughter. 

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Easter Sunday was special. Because of a good news that we’ve been hoping for for some time has arrived, we wanted to pay back the goodness we have received.

And this good news? My Ninong Edgar agreed to give our old pup Pumpkin back to us, so she could be with her mother, Twixie, and her sister, Portia. A doggie reunion, what a joy. 🙂

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We ate at this restaurant that we’ve frequented when I was younger. It is a special place, and stories were shared around the table. I love being with my Mom and her friends who are my Tito’s and Tita. I love listening to the stories of Ninong Edgar, Tito Aga, and Tita Lea. They are family!

We talked (well, I mostly listened with eagerness!) about traveling around the Philippines, about maintaining cars, about the struggles people go through when a family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My Ninong Edgar’s mom, Lola Mary, has it, and she has been quiet when we visited her last 2013.

But the inherent kindness in her heart lingers and stays and is made visible every day when she lovingly caresses her family’s hands. I remember distinctly the time when I just sat below her feet and she held my hand and my hair lightly.

It was like Mama Mary, holding me with lightness but with a staggering heavy amount of love.

I know that her late husband, Lolo Johnny who had been a good, good man, is watching out for her always.

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There was also joining the procession, a tradition practiced here in the Philippines, which has been a favorite activity of mine to participate in. We walk around our town following the life-size statues of Jesus and the saints. Traffic has to be momentarily stopped as we cover the two lanes when coming back to Church.

I appreciate how we all walk with lighted candles in our hands, as if we too are following Jesus’ agonizing struggle to Calvary. And when a candle loses its flame, strangers would ask one another, “Pwedeng makisindi (May we light our candle with yours)?” It closes the gap – the silence and distance between strangers – this sharing of light.

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We stayed for a while in Ninong Edgar’s home and just enjoyed the company of my Mom and her batch mates back in elementary and high school. I love being with their batch too. They are kind, hard-working, loving, selfless, determined, and fun people. Being with them feels like home too.

I also got to have a brief talk with little Rodney, a cheerful and bright 7-year-old, who is turning 8 soon, according to him! He knows Pumpkin so well, and Bulky too, one of Ninong’s dogs. Bulky is a cute pug. 🙂

I got to see up close St. Joseph of Arimathea too, Ninong Edgar’s family saint. He was the one who asked Pontius Pilate if he could have Jesus’ body buried in his tomb. On Wednesday, we wore brown and green. On Friday, he wore a long gracious flow of black and white. And on Easter Sunday, he wore dark blue and white. He had a blissful expression too then, as compared to his sorrowful face during Jesus’ passion.

Easter days are a favorite time of the year. It’s like the world is made new again. Like we are all made new again because of a God who came down from heaven to show us what true love is like.

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Photo taken by Ninong Edgar during the Salubong on early Easter morning

We didn’t get to join the Salubong this year, but here is a picture of the Salubong in our Parish in our town, taken by Ninong Edgar.

Salubong is Tagalog for ‘meeting together.’ After Jesus’ death, He meets His mother again, Mama Mary. Joy is present again in the meeting of the Son and the Mother. 🙂

My first ever Salubong experience was last year. Let me share my journal entry from last year:

God, I finally got to witness the Salubong. Mom and I got ready at around 3:30 AM. We thought it started already – the mass, I mean – but we arrive there in the Church and the carts carrying Mama Mary and Jesus haven’t arrived yet. Maybe You wanted Mom and I to see it together, the coming together, the meeting again of the risen Christ and His mother. Sometimes, when in the midst of these holy gatherings, in the quietness of it all, I find myself crying. Earlier, when Mommy told me that Jesus has arrived, I looked to my left and I saw His statue, Your statue. You were wearing a white garment and Your hand is risen, as if greeting all of us with peace. It capsized me at the spot where we stood. Here was a symbol of our Savior, clad in white, resurrected, walking amongst us little people. We waited for quite a while, and the waiting paid off. Jesus has risen from the dead – He has saved us. 

Seeing You there even through my tired eyes was a sight to behold. I saw the God I love, the One who saved us from a life of sin, the humble God who loves us. 

With our fellow kababayans in the wee hours of the morning, with insect bites here and there, with my Mom who always wanted me to witness the Salubong, with the life-sized statues of the saints standing in front of the Church as if lovingly watching Mama Mary’s and Jesus’ meeting, with the white and yellow lights, with children in white singing Alleluia and throwing flower petals from our Church’s newly constructed azolea, I saw love resurrected and walking barefoot to His mother, to His bride, to the Father, and to His children.

At dawn in many parts of the world, we welcome You, Jesus, and give thanks. The night has ended. As the sky lightens, it is not the sun that made everything look better but a whole new different light.

A light of hope that is in You. (April 20, 2014)

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Just as we wait for a bud to bloom, we patiently wait for God’s message to be heard, and it is Jesus. From shaking palms to holding flowers, from Calvary to an empty tomb, from an end to a beginning, I hope we meet Jesus in the midst of our every day lives, just as the two men on the road to Emmaus got to talk to him unexpectedly without knowing it was Him.

Our God is a humble and loving God; He is even in the biggest and simplest moments of our lives. He is with us when we are in the market, when we are in transit, when we are feeling a mild or terrible ache in our bodies, when we are gathering around the table, when we are awake, when we are asleep.

He rises from an empty tomb not with trumpets nor drums but with a greeting of “Peace be with you.” And what a simple yet powerful thing to be given.

Peace. 

But Lord, it is not peace only that You have given us. You have given us so much more than we ever deserved. You’ve given up Your life to save us. Your love is staggering, startling, saving. Now may we share this love to one another.

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The little flower dwells in joy and looks to the sun, to the light.

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I have many stories in my heart. Sometimes, I feel as though I would burst because I cannot keep them all inside. So for now, let’s live each day, patiently. Let me live my life God wants me to live it.

May this little life of mine, a gift from God, glorify Him and give love to my family, my friends, and the people around me.

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