Epiphany is one of the Chuch’s major and spectacular feasts. It occurs on January 6th, the final day of the 12 days of Christmas (in some locations it is transferred to the Sunday between January 2 – 8). In some places it is also called Twelfth night or Three Kings Day. This is the day the Church commemorates the Magi arriving to give homage to the newborn King of Kings with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, symbolic of all the Gentile nations coming into the Kingdom of God. In many places around the world, this was the traditional day of gift-giving in celebration of Christmas.
At the start of every year we always ask ourselves, “what’s in store for me this year?” I’m sure many of you asked poor 2019 about it when it has not even lasted a full day yet. But didn’t it even occur to you that it is us who create our own destiny? A year is not like a box filled with all of life’s goodies. A year is not a sentient being. We should not liken life to a calendar year. While life may be a box filled with chocolates, a year is an empty box. And we have an obligation to fill it up. Therefore, it is good ‘ol 2019 who should ask us instead:
“What are you gonna fill me up with?”
A year is just a number. But with our own perseverance and faith in God, we have the capability to make it come alive. Don’t falter whenever you encounter bad-tasting chocolates; that is part of life which Forrest Gump’s mom failed to tell him. Just spit it out and move on. As we say in Spanish: así es la vida.
So let us make 2019 a meaningful one. ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! And may God bless and guide us all!
What’s your favorite Rizal poem? Chances are, you won’t be able to name one save for, of course, the usual stuff they taught us in school: the very last one he wrote. Do you even know how many poems he wrote? Are you even aware how exquisitely beautiful his verses are, and what are the usual themes of his poetry?
(as expected, I hear crickets chirping)
You see, Rizal was first and foremost a POET, a passionate bard who masterfully versified his profound love for Filipinas. He began his writing career as a poet and ended it as a poet. He is not all about the Noli and the Fili. He is not all about the Propaganda Movement. It is most unfortunate that he can no longer be understood by today’s generation when, at the turn of the 20th century, our forebears were cut off from his culture by a new language —THIS language I’m using right now— imposed by a nation experimenting with imperialism. When Rizal and his contemporaries were already soaring like Cervantes and Clarín, those hapless Filipinos who came after them had to learn anew the ABCs of another culture. So now we read him through bastardized and oftentimes annoying English translations. Unfortunately, we never soared like Shakespeare and Tennyson using the English language.
There was one, however, who came close: Nick Joaquín. But he was on a league of his own: his first language was Spanish, and many attribute his mastery of English, aside from his being an indefatigable bookworm, to his proficiency of his mother tongue (English and Spanish are cognates). It can even be argued that his translation of Rizal’s valedictory poem was more superior than the original. Perhaps among all Rizal translators, it was only Nick who was able to capture the imagination and depth of the national hero as well as the spirit of the Filipino.
But since we have been linguistically cut off from that faraway culture, our REAL culture, not all of us can be Nick anymore. Not all of us can be Rizal anymore.
Why is Rizal a hero to you?
Rizal is a hero not because of his defiance to authority. He is a hero because of his deep love of country, a burning love that can only be understood by reading his verses (NOT his novels) in the language in which he wrote them. This is something that all patriotic Filipinos should think about every time Rizal Day falls, so that its celebration will not be rendered futile.
It is sad to note that the essence of Rizal’s heroism today has degenerated into mere hero worship and opportunistic commercialism. There is nothing wrong in honoring Rizal, but it is best that we thoroughly understand what his heroism really is all about. Understanding him is the best way of honoring his memory.
Exactly a year ago, I was hospitalized due to tuberculosis (TB). It was the third time I suffered from the disease: the first was as a toddler (for kids, they call it primary complex); the second was a few weeks before college graduation. I wasn’t admitted for the first two. Medications did them in. But the third was the most frightening: I was coughing up too much blood I thought I was the victim in some slasher film.
A few days prior to that, we really thought that I was going to die because no hospital would admit us: no pulmonologist was available because of Christmas break. The medications prescribed by a clinic didn’t suffice as they didn’t deter the bleeding (I started coughing up blood before Christmas Eve). I was weakening up so fast, and the burning night fevers were numbing.
Finally, I was admitted in a hospital in Alabang. I thought that I only had TB. But when the doctor read out to me the findings, I was shocked when I was told that I also had pneumonia. Two killers were murdering my already weakened lungs. And there was already a hole in my right lung. But there was no pain, only severe weakness and high fever. I just wanted to drift off, do nothing, and watch the ceiling from my sick bed. What really frightened me were the surgical needles. I contracted trypanophobia ever since my bout against dengue when I was in Grade II. It was embarrassing each time I had to face nurses who were out to get my blood sample, or who regularly had to apply intravenous medication. There was one time when my visitors had to restrain me while a nurse was getting my blood sample. Arnaldo witnessed it and was having a good laugh at the way I squirmed and shook and cried like a sicko strapped a straitjacket. 😝
I thought my hospitalization would last for only a few days, and that I’d get to celebrate New Year’s Eve with my family. I was mistaken. I celebrated New Year’s Eve alone. My wife had wanted to accompany me, but I said she had to be with our children. Nothing should spoil the little ones’ Christmas feasts.
Even after the Christmas revelry I was not given an exact date on when my release would be because they were still monitoring the severity of my TB, i.e., if the bacteria were resistant against the medications given to me. I prayed and prayed for my immediate release. Finally, I was given a clean bill of health on January 9, or thirteen days later, on the Feast of the Black Nazarene of which I am a devotee. Me and my wife attended afterwards to give thanks, even when still weakened. I had not missed a single traslación ever since becoming a devotee in 2011.
How does one contract TB? From what I have gathered, almost everyone has TB bacteria. Healthy people are unaffected. But once the immune system has weakened, that’s how TB bacteria start to affect the lungs. My immune system weakened due to lack of sleep and missed meals. That is why after my third bout with TB, I took it easy. I haven’t been reading and writing that much since. I stopped blogging for several months (resuming only in June). It’s difficult continuing to do so anyway, considering the sad fact that I’m a nocturnal corporate slave commuting several kilometers nightly on polluted highways.
TB may no longer be as deadly as it was nowadays compared to a few decades before (some of its most famous Filipino victims were Graciano López Jaena, Marcelo del Pilar, José María Pañganiban, and Manuel L. Quezon; Rizal almost had it, but survived). But it is deadlier the third time around, especially when it has an accomplice (pneumonia) to assist it in its hushed killing spree.
And it’s a real pain in the pockets because of the six-month medication. The following people, however, made it easy for us to survive the ensuing months: thank you so much to Gemma Cruz Araneta, former Mayor Calixto Catáquiz, Mama Beth Córsega and her daughter Jonafel, Señor Guillermo Gómez, Nonia Tiongco, my mother-in-law, and my dad. Special thanks to Ate Christina Capacete and Riah Ramírez (Chief Nurse, City of San Pedro) for assisting my wife on the treatment side of things.
Now, because I live in a place where the air is polluted, I could no longer afford to go out of our apartment without wearing a face mask. And I usually experience shortness of breath whenever I do strenuous physical activities. I long for the day when I get to live in a place surrounded by nature, where it’s safe for my lungs.
Thank you to all those who prayed and showed concern for me during my fight against tuberculosis and pneumonia. May God bless you all!
EVANGELIO DE LA MISA
(Lectura del santo Evangelio según San Juan 1:1-18)
En el principio ya existía la Palabra, y la Palabra estaba junto a Dios, y la Palabra era Dios. La Palabra en el principio estaba junto a Dios. Por medio de la Palabra se hizo todo, y sin ella no se hizo nada de lo que se ha hecho. En la Palabra había vida, y la vida era la luz de los hombres. La luz brilla en la tiniebla, y la tiniebla no la recibió. Surgió un hombre enviado por Dios, que se llamaba Juan: éste venía como testigo, para dar testimonio de la luz, para que por él todos vinieran a la fe. No era él la luz, sino testigo de la luz. La Palabra era la luz verdadera, que alumbra a todo hombre. Al mundo vino, y en el mundo estaba; el mundo se hizo por medio de ella, y el mundo no la conoció. Vino a su casa, y los suyos no la recibieron. Pero a cuantos la recibieron, les da poder para ser hijos de Dios, si creen en su nombre. Éstos no han nacido de sangre, ni de amor carnal, ni de amor humano, sino de Dios. Y la Palabra se hizo carne y acampó entre nosotros, y hemos contemplado su gloria: gloria propia del Hijo único del Padre, lleno de gracia y de verdad. Juan da testimonio de él y grita diciendo: «Éste es de quien dije: “El que viene detrás de mí pasa delante de mí, porque existía antes que yo.”» Pues de su plenitud todos hemos recibido, gracia tras gracia. Porque la ley se dio por medio de Moisés, la gracia y la verdad vinieron por medio de Jesucristo. A Dios nadie lo ha visto jamás: Dios Hijo único, que está en el seno del Padre, es quien lo ha dado a conocer.
¡Feliz Navidad! ¡Merry Christmas! ¡Maligayang Pascó!
EVANGELIO DE LA MISA
(Lectura del santo Evangelio según San Lucas 6:39-45)
En aquellos días, María se puso en camino y fue aprisa a la montaña, a un pueblo de Judá; entró en casa de Zacarías y saludó a Isabel. En cuanto Isabel oyó el saludo de María, saltó la criatura en su vientre. Se llenó Isabel del Espíritu Santo y dijo a voz en grito: —«¡Bendita tú entre las mujeres, y bendito el fruto de tu vientre! ¿Quién soy yo para que me visite la madre de mi Señor? En cuanto tu saludo llegó a mis oídos, la criatura saltó de alegría en mi vientre. Dichosa tú, que has creído, porque lo que te ha dicho el Señor se cumplirá.»
EVANGELIO DE LA MISA
(Lectura del santo Evangelio según San Lucas 3:10-18)
En aquel tiempo, la gente preguntaba a Juan: «¿Entonces, qué hacemos?» Él contestó: «El que tenga dos túnicas, que se las reparta con el que no tiene; y el que tenga comida, haga lo mismo.» Vinieron también a bautizarse unos publicanos y le preguntaron: «Maestro, ¿qué hacemos nosotros?» Él les contestó: «No exijáis más de lo establecido.» Unos militares le preguntaron: «¿Qué hacemos nosotros?» Él les contestó: «No hagáis extorsión ni os aprovechéis de nadie, sino contentaos con la paga.» El pueblo estaba en expectación, y todos se preguntaban si no sería Juan el Mesías; él tomó la palabra y dijo a todos: «Yo os bautizo con agua; pero viene el que puede más que yo, y no merezco desatarle la correa de sus sandalias. Él os bautizará con Espíritu Santo y fuego; tiene en la mano el bieldo para aventar su parva y reunir su trigo en el granero y quemar la paja en una hoguera que no se apaga.» Añadiendo otras muchas cosas, exhortaba al pueblo y le anunciaba el Evangelio.