Philippine Daily Inquirer

Back to an uneasy normal


The Easter holiday is over. Holy Week came in a blaze of heat and ended with sudden downpours of rain spawned by a tropical depression.

Our meditating is done; penance was at least attempted. The eggs were hunted and found, chocolate bunnies all devoured. Fasting and abstinence are over and I’m willing to bet that those who gave up eating meats or sweets are back in the stores getting their treats by the bagful.

This happens every year. There are 40 days of penitencia when we go on automatic “sacrifice” mode. We even make lists of don’ts.

Our teachers in convent school made us write down whatever we were giving up for Lent. Perhaps they wanted us to show total commitment. Or maybe they just wanted to take a peek at our “sins.” Sneaky, those nuns.

I enjoyed those four long laid-back holy days. Everyone was in a vacation mood.

Party’s over

There was a sudden excitement about meatless meals and apparently these were a big hit among millennial­s. Hello quinoa!

Someone who took several hours to reach a nearby destinatio­n whined that Waze was no help looking for alternate routes to get to the best places to beach it. Another app?

It was tempting to totally disconnect and just lie down on a papag, breathe in fresh ocean air and listen to the waves; or maybe climb a guava tree and pretend it was a sailboat, like I used to do as a little girl.

Those of us who chose to stay in Manila loved the quiet unobstruct­ed streets. It felt like the good old days when we took trouble-free paseos on Dewey Boulevard. Those were the best times. Simple. Our biggest thrill was riding on the top deck of the Matorco. We were even al- lowed to buy a cone of “dirty ice cream.” What a treat! Well, the party’s over. The weekend showers did help cool us off. But as if on cue, the temperatur­e has resumed its climb to the high numbers, never mind the forecast of isolated thundersto­rms. Warnings are out on social media. Hydrate, don’t go out at high noon and, if you must, slather sunscreen on your face, wear a hat or take an umbrella, keep your pets and the elderly indoors.

We are back to the bumperto-bumper days. Color-coding is in force again. Everything is back to normal, business as usual.

A sense of unease

But even as I relish the shelter and cool comfort of my casita, it is hard to find peace in my heart. There is an undercurre­nt of fear and foreboding in the air. Do you feel it?

I’ve kept an eye on “breaking news,” holding my breath about North Korea. What are these frightenin­g nuclear threats, and are you just as worried as I am, wondering if someone will tweet us all to kingdom come?

I understand that in some political and social gatherings, people are not dealing with the imminent possibilit­y of a global conflagrat­ion. It is like “the elephant in the room.” No one wants to talk about it. But it won’t go away. Can you sleep nights? How can we allow the future of our universe depend so dangerousl­y on a whim, or a dare, or on someone who was “just kidding” or on who can outstare whom?

Seriously, who is in charge here? Who is calling the shots? Please! I need a Valium.

It is hard to find peace in my heart. There is an undercurre­nt of fear

Let’s talk love instead

They say that bruises and scars will fade with time; but memories linger. Still, in spite of my falls and flops, I ama softie when it comes to romance. I just love a love story.

Late Good Friday on our way home from “Walkway,” I was with several ladies and we were in a celebrator­y mood, happy that the seniors had made it to all 14 stations. We rewarded ourselves with Chow King halohalo. Delicious! On a hot and humid evening, it was just what we needed.

The conversati­on was animated. But the lady seated across from me was quiet. She was humming.

I recognized the song: “Love Letters,” a Victor Young masterpiec­e. I joined her and we sang a few lines. And I suddenly remembered when I was young and foolish, and thought about the man who I learned to appreciate, a little too late. Sad.

Love letters straight from your heart. Keep us so near while apart, I’m not alone in the night,

When I can have all the love you write. She smiled with misty eyes. “It was our theme song. My husband was a good man. We laughed a lot. We never quarreled.”

Today when she talks about his work, his career, she refers to him as “Attorney.” But when she tells us about their happy life, she softly calls him “Raul.”

Minda was widowed a little over a year ago, not long after their 55th wedding anniversar­y. She remembers how on their 50th he made plans for them to go on a cruise “when we reach our 55th.” But he became very ill and a few months later was gone. What a shame. Another reason to carpe diem.

“I have collected and saved all of my husband’s love letters,” she continued. “I kept his cards, notes and the little tokens. When I am sad, I take one of his letters out and I read it again and again. And I feel blessed, and my heart is full.”

In the words of Winnie the Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

So true!

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