The Reluctant Human

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Today, I am hereby temporarily suspending all sense of humility and modesty, and granting myself full bragging rights as a mom. My daughter was nominated and has been accepted into the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society! Please indulge this one proud mom for just one Tumblr moment!

Today, I am hereby temporarily suspending all sense of humility and modesty, and granting myself full bragging rights as a mom. My daughter was nominated and has been accepted into the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society! Please indulge this one proud mom for just one Tumblr moment!

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A little story about religious traditions, singing angels, and being human

I often miss the religio-cultural traditions of the Philippines, the uniquely Filipino ways in which we observe them. (To clarify, I’m sure there are very similar traditions in other Catholic countries, such as Latin American countries and some European countries. But I am referring to those traditions to which we’ve added our own special touch, as an expression of our culture.) A favorite of mine is the Easter Sunday celebration called “Salubong.” Salubong loosely translates into meet-up, in informal, contemporary English, or rendezvous, borrowed from the French language. It represents the solemn but glorious meeting of the Risen Christ and Mother Mary.

In my hometown, Pila, Laguna, the Salubong is set to occur before dawn. The town’s faithful (I sound like a priest!) form two processions: one carrying the statue of the Risen Christ—joined by men and boys, and another carrying the statue of the Blessed Virgin—joined by women and girls. The two processions come from different starting points and proceed toward the meeting place—the Galileya (Galilee), which rotates yearly, so that the different neighborhoods each get a chance to “host” the Salubong. A tall wooden arch decorated with lights and palms is built to represent the Galileya. It has a ladder at one side (or both sides) and is made to be sturdy enough so that a person could climb up to the top (much like a pedestrian overpass).

When Jesus and Mary come face to face at the arch, a little girl dressed as an angel, waiting atop the arch, sings Regina Coeli (“Queen of Heaven”) a beautiful Latin song I have yet to translate in its entirety to understand. While singing, the angel lifts Mary’s black veil to symbolize the end of her mourning, and the two processions converge and head as a single procession toward the church in preparation for Easter mass.

It is such a marvelous and fascinating tradition that I am proud of as a Filipino, and that I hope to someday see and be a part of once more. That is the happy part. But there is a bit of a sad side to this tradition, or at least a sad memory that I associate with it. You see, when I was a little girl, my mom wanted so much for me, her eldest daughter, to be an angel at the Salubong. So when she volunteered me, I acquiesced, no matter how terrified I was deep inside. As a child, I was extremely shy, and the idea of singing in front of all those people scared the heck out of me! But I was going to do it for Jesus and Mother Mary; I had to muster all the courage stored in my young heart to make it happen! I learned and memorized the Regina Coeli. And I practiced, and practiced, and practiced.

On Black Saturday, I broke down and begged my mom to let me back out. It killed me to crush my mom’s dream of seeing and hearing her firstborn sing as an angel at the Salubong, but my stage fright (or should I say “arch fright”?) proved stronger and larger than my desire to do something to make her happy and proud of me! My mom, the kindest woman I know, was very understanding and forgiving, and never once reprimanded or guilt-tripped me for letting her down.

But my poor mom had to find another girl to bail me out, fast! No time whatsoever for practice! Who could do it on such short notice? No one! Well, no one, except—a girl named Melody. Now this girl—in my eyes an angel in more ways than one—was practically a pro at this role, having done it a few times in previous years. My mom talked to Melody and her parents, and we had an instant substitute angel!

I remember looking out the window on Easter morning (must have been after the mass) and catching a glimpse of Melody humming and hop-skipping past our house—still wearing her white angel gown, but with the wings slung over her arm. I remember admiring and envying her at the same time for her self-confidence and her fearlessness. I was convinced it wasn’t a mere coincidence that her name was Melody. She was made for the part!

As for me, I’ve made peace with the fact that I was not meant to be an angel. Never will be! But one thing for sure—I can keep striving to be a better human!

Filed under holy week easter easter sunday singing angels