Padilla: Lenten memories

BEING an Adventist, my mother honored only two Catholic-declared holidays -- Christmas and Holy Week in a household that was both Catholic and Adventist.

While Christmas was all festive, the Holy Week was the exact opposite in our very small household. We were asked to tone down our music (to Papa's chagrin who loved to play his vinyl records loud); refrain from watching too much TV; and exchange the fiction we've been reading for Bible Stories or the Bible. Of course, we all groaned with the last request but Mama made up for it by reading aloud the Bible stories or by just telling the story of Jesus crucifixion.

Though the OR nurse in Mama was always on Code White (alert) status during holidays, it was during the holy week when she was best our mother. We didn't eat meat during the week but binignit, sugbang fishda, ginataang gulay, and fruits filled our young stomachs while others fasted. Mama's excuse was we were kids and kids didn't fast. But even at 21 and till today when I am already a dinosaur that excuse still runs through my head.

In time, the story of Lent became part of the literature in our lives. Admittedly, it was only when we were older that we were wise enough to understand the meaning of Jesus and sift through our schizophrenic beliefs which included the superstition that wounds obtained during Lent will not heal.

Mama's 'musts' have imparted to us the values of prayer, penance, sacrifice, and good work. In my book, the scene of prayer at Gethsemane is the most heart wrenching prayer in the Bible. Then there's Dimas to embody penitence and Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry the wooden cross until the hills of Calvary as good work. Of course, what sacrifice is greater than the one on Good Friday.

Mama didn't believe in flagellating during the Holy Week as she said there are many ways to sacrifice and to do good during the whole year -- all 365 days. When we were adults enough and my two other brothers had families of their own she reminded us that there's no use of beating ourselves for our past mistakes, making sure not to do it again or to correct what we have done wrong if there's an opportunity to do so.

She wasn't the perfect mother or person. She was a better OR nurse than a cook. But at Lent my memories of my mother's bible stories while we rolled the bilog-bilog for binignit or when we shared the bed in their room takes a mental space while I travelled from highland to island during the holy week.

In quiet moments on the road, the very imperfect me relished the thought that the holy week, wherever one is, reminds us that someone up there or out there loves us perfectly and I carried that weight in my tattered back pocket and felt safe, very safe.

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