Filipineses


My first Glorious Fourth (for One Shoot Sunday)

fireworks, courtesy of wikicommons

The heat of the merciless Manhattan sun: this is the first thing I remember of that morning eleven years ago at a July 4th celebration, my first, in New York. The earnestness in the rush on the streets leading to Penn Station is the second thing which struck me as I huffed breathlessly through that mile and a half from downtown where I was staying with a Filipino friend.

Where was everybody going?

Inside the cavernous station, I felt even more lost as moving walls of people seemed to heave, instead of step, into their trains. Like hundreds of New Yorkers on a holiday, my friend and I boarded one of those coaches to Long Island’s north shore. I learned that Independence Day in most of America is celebrated in homes – among families.

Right off Westbury Station, our stop, I gleaned the Stars and Stripes planted on yards and home fronts. But didn’t I notice them flapping on Manhattan building facades? Maybe my focus was fuzzy in between the towers that slice the sky in the city, but sharper on the Long Island landscape of pretty houses with peaked roofs and latticed balconies.

On dappled sidewalks, passing through trimmed lawns, I felt the air enriched with holiday sounds such as shrieks of children, parents’ firm voices, and music from parties in progress. The air too, was textured with the scent of food – most sharply of meat being barbecued in backyards, some by the swimming pool and others under terraces, or shades of conifers.

waiting for the fireworks, image by Gay Cannon

My friend’s niece decked her terrace with Stars and Stripes buntings; even the table cover and napkins bore the colors. But the laid-out feast revealed the history of the household’s family, a narrative so common in families of America. There was pancit canton guisado (Chineses noodles) cooked by the niece’s Filipino mom, pasta from the Italian mother-in-law, hipon (shrimp) and alimasag (crab), from a Filipino aunt, sausage and peppers the Italian husband laid out on platters, rice and, of course, barbecued hotdogs and burgers.

Talk among family members were to me, slivers of life I had only imagined. An uncle of the host, a recent senior citizen ID carrier, spoke of his age with a new tune – it puts him first in any line like a boarding queue on a plane or in Disneyland; and it gives him 50 percent off bus fares and hotel rates, allows him time for more tennis and carpentry and Social Security perks.

The Italian grandmother in a motorized wheelchair showed off a cap with matching belt bag she got at a discount store that carries production overruns and sells everything for 99 cents. She had shopped on 6th Avenue from 24th to 32nd a week before, rolling up and down the sidewalks where there are defined ramps at every curb. She had taken the bus too, that ‘kneels’ as the door opens and the motorized steps flatten out turned into a ramp, and then raised to the level of the bus floor where on a designated row, the wheelchair locks into place.

There was talk about a Chinese in-law wrapping up work in Connecticut before she moves to Texas to a job with a fatter paycheck. A nephew who got his Med Tech degree at UST but who finished grade and middle school in New York had just returned, landing a job as a night lab technician. He didn’t mind the hours, and has taken a day job that gives a higher pay. He is in the Hall of Fame at his Long Island high school where he played tennis and won awards. Some nights, he puts this skill to good use, training petulant daughters of the privileged in an exclusive New York club.

Mere family banter but which, for me, unraveled the heart of democracy – equal rights and equal opportunities. As I listened, my awe dimmed when I thought of home in the Philippines. Isn’t my country ruled by the same principles? I thought, a bit sad.

Lunch over, we rolled up the table cover, crunched the napkins, and tossed these in the trash. As I crossed the lawn to sit on the swing, keeping to the edge fenced by the uniformly growing pines, I glimpsed through adjacent yards where barbecue lunches were winding down, too. Except for sheer markers like trees – a pear serves as a “cornerstone” – no walls topped with barbwire set off properties here.

I thought it was the end of the celebration when we said our goodbyes to catch the train back to Manhattan. The summer sun was yet mid-way its fall on the horizon as we boarded the 7 p.m. train.

We came back to a city jammed to the seams. The morning exodus at Penn Station had reversed; everybody had trained in, headed toward the East River for the fireworks. Blindly moving with the horde, we finally came to one of those parks opened to the public by private owners. This was at Kips Bay behind one of the many branches of New York University Hospital. Standing on the plant boxes, we scanned the sky. The fireworks were launched that year from four barges afloat the East River. This year, according to my friend, these were set on seven barges, a double whammy from South Street Seaport and the East River.

At 9:30, as in past years, the night sky started to breathe a quiet fire, exploding minute blossoms, and then raining splinters of the rainbow, swarming with shards of moonbeams or pompoms that heaved into giant chandeliers later falling on our faces. The display held us in what seemed a beatific moment. Around me, I saw faces lit by the shower of stars. With each variation – and not one seemed alike – our “ohs” and “ahs” swelled and ebbed.

That was all the sound I heard because we were too far to catch the symphony to which the pyrotechnics danced. No ear-splitting bawang or gunpowder smoke choked the air. Again, I thought of home and wished for a New Year’s Eve like the Fourth of July, and its promises I woke up to in New York.

Copyright © by Alegria Imperial as published in the Times Journal, 7/11/99, Manila

Posted for One Shoot Sunday at One Stop Poetry, the inimitable gathering place for artists and poets. Come check us out!

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If unstopped SM to sit beside the San Nicolas Church,IN soon

San Nicolas Catholic Church

MANIFESTO

We, the undersigned Catholics of the Parish of San Nicolas de Tolentino and other concerned Catholics respectfully bring to Your Excellency our serious concern about the seemingly imminent lease or probably sale of a southern portion of the lot on which the Catholic Church stands. We only came to know this from some concerned Catholics of the town. Although we do not have a direct knowledge about this rumor, we are convinced it is true.

Visualizing what may happen next, this is the scenario we believe will transpire: that the southeastern portion of the Catholic lot immediately adjacent to the Catholic Church will be leased or maybe sold to SM, a giant commercial corporation that operates malls in different parts of the Philippines. How big the land to be leased is only a matter of our imagination but it could be the site of the convent and probably to include the eastern side of the original building of Santa Rosa Academy.

The size of the land rented or leased whether small or big is not important to us. What concerns us is the desecration of a sacred ground and the invasion of the privacy of our Catholic Church and Sta. Rosa Academy considering the fact that the commercial building will be built just beside the Catholic Church on its southern side and adjacent to the old building of Sta. Rosa Academy on its eastern side.

Please note Your Excellency, that the said place to be leased constitutes the most prominent portion of the lot of the Catholic Church. It is, to us, of sacred significance. The prominent location of the place is the reason why Father Fidel Albano, a parish priest of San Nicolas, selected the place as the site of the present convent. That was in the twilight of the 19th century. The construction of the present convento was necessary after Father Fidel Albano handed the old convento (now the main building of Sta. Rosa Academy) to the religious sisters who were asked to administer the school.

The present convento was constructed by the Catholics of San Nicolas under the leadership of the parish priest, Father Fidel Albano. We object to its being torn down and relocated.

True, renting the site of the convento and some buildings of sta. Rosa Academy on its eastern side will generate millions of pesos in revenue. But for what purpose? And at what expense? Will the end justify the means? Does the Catholic Church of San Nicolas, which comprise the Catholics of the town, need that money badly? Is the revenue of the church as of now failing so badly? On the contrary, the revenue of the church is sound. It is good!

It is worthy to note that while a house of worship and a school should be insulated from the material world, at San Nicolas a design is in the making to define the sacredness of the church by building, a mall just beside it and pollute its spiritual atmosphere with materialism. The presence of the mall just beside Sta. Rosa Academy will destroy its academic dignity. This will scandalize us, the Catholic faithful.

Relative to the operation of a mall, just beside the church, we are reminded of the scene when Jesus witnessed repulsive materialism that corrupted a church of god (temple). He saw people making money right in the temple of God, and in anger, He protested and cried aloud, “Take those things (referring to the objects sold in the temple) and do not make the house of my Father a house of business.” (John 2:16). Is not placing a mall for the sake of money, just beside the church a desecration of the church of God?

At Laoag City business establishments are indeed located around the Cathedral and this situation maybe used as justification for the building and operation of the mall beside the church of San Nicolas. However, the situation at the Cathedral of Laoag and the Church of San Nicolas are two very different things. The business establishments such as Chowking, Jollibee, McDonald’s etc operating on land owned by the Cathedral are at a decent distance from the church. At San Nicolas, SM will be sitting just beside the Catholic Church. The very thought of it is not only shocking but obnoxious and repulsive to the decency of the concerned Catholics of San Nicolas.

The undersigned would have no opposition to a mall built on the church property on the vacant lot north of the church as long as it is built at least at a decent distance of about 30 meters away from the northern wall of the Catholic Church. The Catholics of San Nicolas however desire transparency and involvement in the project itself.

In case the needs of the church for repairs is made as an excuse for the lease. Throughout the centuries when the church was destroyed by typhoon, fires and earthquakes, the Catholics of the town were forthcoming in producing the funds for such repairs.

In the construction of the floor of the church and other projects, did not the Catholics of San Nicolas (with help from other people) make the projects a reality? No less than Father Danny Laeda said so during the closing ceremony at the Plaza during the feast of Christ the King on November 2010. Therefore, there is no need to lease the site of the present convent and its surroundings to SM just to produce money.

Premises considered the undersigned and all other Catholics who may not have signed this Manifesto but support its cause voice their strong objection to the lease of the lot where the present convent stands and adjoining lots. They strongly oppose the transfer of the convent to the lot north of the Church.

Truly yours in Christ:

Ma. Cielito Valdes-Lejano (Quezon City, Philippines)
Leonardo B. Lejano (Quezon City, Philippines)
Alegria Albano-Imperial (Vancouver, Canada, formerly of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte and Manila)
Elizabeth Medina (Chile)–granddaughter of the late
Gov. Emilio Ortega Medina of Dingras, Ilocos Norte

Victoria Rosario Albano (Vancouver, Canada, formerly of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte)

If you support this ‘plea’, you may want to add your name in this manifesto by leaving it as a comment and I’ll add it here.

Dios ti agngina ken sapay koma ta denggen ti Apo daytoy a dawat tayo.

Also posted at http://www.iluko.com