The View from Rizal
By GOV. JUN A. YNARES, M.D.
March 31, 2012, 11:08pm
MANILA, Philippines — Last week, I chanced upon Lolo Sisong at the Capitol grounds in Antipolo, Rizal, after the commencement exercises held yearly by the University of Rizal System (URS).
Lolo Sisong, our regular readers know, is the 80-plus-years-old sage of Rizal who serves as the walking data bank for the history, culture, and politics of the province. Despite nearing the end of the eighth decade of his life, Lolo Sisong remains healthy and maintains the proud stance of one who has seen many glorious moments in the province’s history.
I held Lolo Sisong’s arm as I walked beside him, and asked him how he plans to mark this year’s celebration of the Semana Santa.
I waited for him to enumerate the various Holy Week attractions of Rizal province: The pabasas (chanting of the passion of Christ); the unique Cordero of Morong (reenactment of the preparation of the paschal lamb for the Passover meal); the Visita Iglesia to the historic churches of Antipolo, Baras, Tanay, Cardona, and Morong; the senakulos (passion plays); the famous giwang-giwang of Binangonan (literally, “swaying” – which is what happens to the image of Christ as “Santo Sepulcro” when devotees try to touch it during the procession).
I was also expecting him to mention the well-attended “Salubong” (Meeting of the image of Christ and the Virgin Mary on Easter dawn).
Lolo Sisong gave me a puzzled look, as if to say, “How could you not know what the most important things are during this time of the year?”
“Junjun, at my age, I prefer to do what matters most during the Holy Week,” Lolo Sisong finally ended the moment of great anticipation.
“And, what is that?” I asked.
“I enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with this time of the year,” Lolo Sisong answered.
“What?” I blurted out. “And miss the many Holy Week attractions of Rizal?” I said in near disbelief.
“Yes – and attractions are one of the things I try to rid myself of during Holy Week,” the old man answered.
“Explain,” I was finally forced to ask.
“You see, Junjun, once a year, I take time to quiet myself,” the old man began.
“Growing old, I realized there are three aspects of my person that I need to quiet down,” he continued.
“I need to quiet down my senses, my mind, and my heart,” Lolo Sisong said.
“How does one quiet down the senses?” I asked, knowing he would give more of a philosophical rather than physiological answer. I got what I expected.
“To quiet down my senses, I detach from the usual things I do to delight them – eating excessively, listening to junk like news and gossip, watching television and movies, and the like,” he started.
“To quiet down my mind, I spend a lot of time alone in my farm, appreciating the beauty of nature, and getting my thoughts off my usual worries,” he continued.
“To quiet down my heart, I focus and reflect on how good it is to have a simple life,” Lolo Sisong said. “By appreciating the joy of simple things, I tell my heart to remain free from the handcuffs of too much desire for comfort and luxury,” he added.
“Isn’t this effort at quieting down one’s being difficult,” I asked the old man as we made our way into the Capitol lobby.
“Yes, but the mood and tranquility of the Holy Week make it easier,” he pointed out.
“So, what does this do for you?” I asked.
“It makes my friendship with myself stronger,” he answered. “More important, by quieting down my senses, mind, and heart, I feel the presence of God,” he added.
Then, he stopped just as when we were about to take the stairs up to the second floor.
“I won’t accompany you to your office, Junjun,” Lolo Sisong said. “I will allow you some peace and quiet,” he added, smiling. Then, he turned and slowly walked towards the main door. I watched him as he did, and saw a man slowed down by time, but definitely at peace with himself, with the world, and with his Creator.
Then, I remembered a text message sent to me by a friend just as when the Lenten season set in.
It was a quote from Mother Teresa:
“We need to find God and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence.”
May you find God in the silence of the Holy Week.