IT ALL started for me in Barili. My hometown got me squarely on the road to an exciting yet fulfilling intellectual, emotional and spiritual journey. And I am happy to say I like where I have arrived at so far in the adventure we call life.
Life when I was bare-footing in Barili revolved around the Catholic church, the public school and the municipal hall. The Church, for better or for worse, etched the deepest impression. Like it was the most natural thing to believe that only “bad” people did not go to Church or obey the parish priest. It was not until much later in adulthood that I learned there are many good non-Christians or non-believers.
I also questioned this later (earnestly in both word and deed and in the process becoming a “bad” person to many Catholics) but at the time I readily accepted as God’s will that Barili society was composed of a few rich, mostly big landowners, and many poor most of whom were tenants of the former. I distinctly remember the section in our parish church that was reserved for the town’s rich. It had specially designed ornate pews, complete with side doors to keep people out.
How can I also not recall the socialized pricing of Church services. Special baptisms, weddings, funerals and sung masses were priced higher for the rich in stark contrast to the drab and monotone services priced lower for the poor. No longer socialized, Church services still carry a price tag.
Born to school-teacher parents, I belonged to the town’s respectable middle class that numbered more than the rich but much less than the very poor. By today’s standards we were really poor having to subsist on corn grits, fish (often the dried and salted variety), and vegetables. But farmers thought of us as well-to-do simply because my parents were salaried school teachers.
Clothes were at a premium. My parents had to sell a goat or a pig to be able to buy us new apparel. My scant wardrobe included two nice shirts and a pair of leather shoes that I would only wear to mass and special occasions. I went through my whole elementary schooling barefoot. Not until high school in the seminary did I get to wear shoes or slippers daily.
My mother told me about flush toilets, but ours was an outhouse, a bamboo and nipa affair built over a pit in the ground. It was quite a challenge relieving oneself when one had an upset stomach.
Life was hard but simple and enjoyable. I’ve always thanked God for Barili that, through parents, relatives and friends, got me started in life on the right foot.
I share this fond memory with the people of Barili today for whatever it is worth. Happy Fiesta. Celebrate with me my gratitude to God and Sta. Ana for the blessing of a solid start in life in Barili.