Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Measure of Faith

In my childhood memory, there will always be places that I couldn't remember not knowing because in my mind's eye, they were always there, always familiar. Or so I thought...until one day they all began to vanish one after another - and it was as if their disappearance happened in perfect sync and complete tandem with my growing up and my growing old.

I am amazed at how, in mid age, I suddenly see my old hometown in a completely different light - being drawn back to the center of my childhood and seeing its images in a completely new dimension. For so long, I lived in my town and among my townsfolk, walked its streets, breathed its air, yet somehow failed to really see it - like being surrounded by things so familiar that that they had become trite, almost invisible. Now, all of a sudden, it is there for me to see - like something new and different, with facets, qualities and meanings that were not there before for my childhood eyes. It is as if I see it now, albeit with the grimmer eye of middle age, as it gasps for breath, at the throes of death, and yet seeing it clearly and more meaningfully as I desperately hold on to it with a firm grip, trembling and fearful that I will soon lose it forever.

I am now rediscovering Cabuyao much like a poem recited from childhood - what was then merely rote and rite has truly become fascinating poetry in my maturity. And behind the poetry and the faith it expressed was reason riding on a giant wave of history - a history that has much to do with defining myself as me and what I have become. I know there will be those who would have the temerity to ask, from point of either denial or ignorance - what history? This is just a small town with nothing much to show for itself but a few things old and forgotten.   And I say a history that is beyond mere dates and events, beyond what is traditionally defined by politics exclusively. A history that is rich and diverse and colorful, waiting for a true Cabuyeno's rediscovery.

  • What remains of our ancestral homes speak of Cabuyao's fine architecture - and architecture as part of culture is history.
  • The Church patio, the "kubols", the ancient acacia trees and the old plaza with its once proud monument to the national hero were all mute witnesses to a peasant people's desire for a better life and equality before the law, ending sadly in the tragic massacre of the Sakdal uprising. These structures and sites and the remembrance of peasant blood spilled on Cabuyao soil is history.
  • It has been said the the old Rizal statue, torn down and neglected and finally lost to scavengers, was born out of the mallet and chisel of National Artist Guillermo Tolentino. And the visual art of Maestro Tolentino is history.
  • The old campo santo where the Monasterio de Santa Clara now stands was established under the leadership and guidance of no less than a former curate, Padre Mariano Gomez. The martyrdom of this former Cabuyao parish priest, together with Fathers Burgos and Zamora at the garrote in Bagumbayan is history.
  • And in Cabuyao lived every great ancestor that one can name and remember - prepping with Maestrang Boyang, learning at the convento and in the Cabuyao Elementary School, worshipping at the old church of San Policarpo, graduating from the Cabuyao Institute, practicing medicine in private clinics for fellow Cabuyenos, buying and selling at the Cabuyao Market, governing civil society from the Municipio, defending freedom, celebrating the Liturgy, teaching our children and practicing patriotism in times of war and peace. What other place in your life is associated with the lives of all of your forebears and their rich legacies? That spot is Cabuyao and its sacred ground is history.
And yet against such a rich historical backdrop, one is left to wonder why there has been such a fall from grace, a "paradise lost"?

Recently, leaving our old house soon after the pre-dawn darkness, I decided to visit San Policarpo. Slipping in through the side entrance door that opens to Mabini Street, I sat in the same spot where my Lola's old kneeler used to be. I watched the parish curate as he said Mass from his new and gleaming high altar, intoning the usual liturgical prayers in a voice made louder and more resonant by modern technology. In the half empty gloom of my old church, that voice sounded somehow tragic – reminding me of distant voices from long ago, from a graceful era that had begun with so much hope and confidence, but was now ending in heartbreaking emptiness and shabby confusion.

My town did not perish when the Japanese put Manila and part of the countryside to torch, any more than it perished in the natural disasters and man made calamities that followed through the years. It has always stood its ground, becoming new yet in many ways staying the same, somehow unchanging even in change - until now. In the past few decades, my Cabuyao has become older and grayer, even shabby and bleak, caught in a slow but steady downward spiral of deterioration and decay.

What happened to the coherent community that was the flesh and backbone of my old town's soul? Where are its lost traditions? Why are its ancient stories and legends now muted, ignored and even laughed at as mere old folks' tales? How can its most solemn feasts - of the Nazareno, the Mahal na Senor and the Purisima - fall from being "Mga Fiestang Dakila" to become ordinary celebrations? And where are the old faces and the familiar names?

I now realize that the style or shape of the vessel is just as precious as what it carried. Cabuyao has lost most of its treasures - but if it fails to rise again and stand back on its feet, I believe it is because it lost not only its heritage but something more.  It lost its nerve. Yes, it was a grim failure of nerve - when those who should have been most faithful to it chose to abandon it instead.

If we hope to "restore" Cabuyao, I believe we have to reclaim it as the center around which we shall again move as one community, sharing and continuing its traditions and rituals, its stories and its legends and yes, even creating new ones.  We have to regain our sense of self and remember that we are Cabuyenos because we share in this continuity and participate in its great traditions and celebrations. We need to rekindle a keen sense of identity, conscious that these were rituals peculiar to Cabuyao and that our fathers and great grandfathers before them had participated in what now includes and involves us.  In the end, a restoration of Cabuyao requires, in no small measure,  a restoration of faith - faith in ourselves, faith in our identity as Cabuyenos and faith in our collective capacity as one community to turn the tide of deterioration in countless small but important ways. When we regain this faith and with conviction say "Yes, I believe we must and I believe we can", then we shall have no reason for regret and little cause for failure - Cabuyao will rise again!

by Cabuyao - Stories, Anecdotes and Remniscences on Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 10:56pm

  • Venus Velasco and 10 others like this.

    • Mariavictoria C. Go Rare & well done!
      November 11, 2010 at 11:32pm ·

    • Mike L. Cariño Excellent piece both in style and substance! Lucid and with a lot of passion! I agree with your thoughts in every way.

      And you never cease to amaze me RB! You are a rare kind indeed!

      November 12, 2010 at 8:00am ·

    • Mariavictoria C. Go Seems like you missed your true calling!
      November 12, 2010 at 8:06am ·

    • Cabuyao - Stories, Anecdotes and Remniscences Thanks, Tita Evic, Tito Mike...the proverbial pen moves swiftly during moments of inspiration.
      November 12, 2010 at 8:50am ·

    • Mike L. Cariño Keep on being inspired and inspiring RB.
      November 12, 2010 at 11:35am ·

    • Lita Oconnor Bravo RB, now if we can only hear from our present alcalde and what he's going to do about it
      November 14, 2010 at 10:41am ·

    • Guring Ramilo So true... so touching... RB you're indeed a GREAT and Gifted Cabuyeño! I salute you!!!
      November 14, 2010 at 11:28am ·

    • Cabuyao - Stories, Anecdotes and Remniscences ‎@ Lita Oconnor : We will be privileged to get the the support and commitment of local government leadership...but let us not lose sight of our collective responsibility to make this work as one community...I am delighted that you like the piece, Lita! Thanks! *smiles*
      November 14, 2010 at 11:55am ·

    • Cabuyao - Stories, Anecdotes and Remniscences ‎@ Guring Ramilo : Thanks, Guring...but I think that I have merely written on behalf of countless others who are, like you and me, fellow the end, being a Cabuyeno is a gift that is shared by all of us! Thanks for believing...
      November 14, 2010 at 12:01pm ·

    • Mike L. Cariño ‎@Cabuyao: I think it was Confucius who said: " A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." So perhaps, individually, all of us can take that single step and then another, and another until who knows... And these steps can take many forms, spreading awareness is one. Getting people out of the doldrums is another. And so on! Anything that is for going forward. It's a very long journey for sure but we have nothing but time.
      November 14, 2010 at 2:47pm · · 2 peopleVenus Velasco and Ena Galang like this.

    • Cabuyao - Stories, Anecdotes and Remniscences ‎@ Mike L. Cariño : Yes, Tito Mike...and we won't stop until our small steps take us a long way forward, closer to the restoration that we all so keenly desire.
      November 14, 2010 at 11:53pm · · 1 personLoading...

    • Mike L. Cariño ‎@Cabuyao: What I wish to see, at least in my lifetime, is some sure signs that the ills of "apathy" and "culture of impunity" have started a turn around. Someone once said: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." I certainly hope that this will not hold true here in Cabuyao.
      November 15, 2010 at 11:21am · · 1 personVenus Velasco likes this.

    • Cabuyao - Stories, Anecdotes and Remniscences ‎@ Mike L. Cariño : keeping my fingers crossed while ringing alarm bells in this page, Tito Mike...
      November 15, 2010 at 1:16pm ·

    • Guring Ramilo ‎@Mike L. Cariño: Yes, I believe in all you say! There's a lot of good men & women here in cabuyao... Gathered altogether we can make a BIG CHANGE hopefully!!!
      November 15, 2010 at 6:14pm · · 1 personVenus Velasco likes this.

    • Gil Bermudez ‎@RB: what a great literary tribute to our heritage...very inspiring...
      December 1, 2010 at 12:38am ·

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