Lent in a Philippine Island

a writing by Elizabeth Padillo Olesen

Dear Christ,

There has been no rain in my home island since the advent of your Lenten season. It is so hot as seen by the dusty roads and the sad plants on the clay pots,the green grasses slowly turned brown,the lonely noontime that marks people`s short nap, and the shadows of the coconut trees that promise a good shade from the Lenten heat.

Waters from the wells which we drink are now getting saline. Soon people from the mainland will come to sell their fresh water by cans and plastic jars.Water tank owners rejoice over this hot Lenten Season because rain water from the water tanks will now be sold at a higher price,though rain is your free gift for us all. Rain water is preferred to groundwater from the wells because it tastes sweeter and can quench the islanders`thirst during Lent.Water from the wells turn salty during these hot Lenten days.

In few more days, the usual scene through all the years will be seen again,the re-enactment of what happened to you many years ago. And the brave volunteer of the year will have to go through the physical pain as he is paraded on the road,beaten carrying a cross, groaning as the beatings leave bleeding wounds on his skin. And the inquisitive children who follow him either share the pain in pity or react in innocent laughter over what seems to be a sheer comedy.

There`s going to be a long procession in today`s usual holy Friday,dear Christ, and the people, barefooted will walk on the hot roads followed by sentimental music that cannot help but touch the devotees to weep and weep loudly as if the flood of tears can best measure the value of a lost treasure that is you.

How long shall we weep over your weakness? How long shall we look at you as the weak hero who merely summons our guilt,and whom we think, can be appeased only by a display of our sorrowful faces till your burial place?

Why did you have to die, Christ, my insides are asking. If it is only to leave in our cultural value of debt of gratitude (utang na loob), that solicits a sacrificial payment from our side in the form of service for you, why do we have to go through a deep mourning for you when we know that you are going to resurrect anyway as the Lord of Life?

Forgive me,but sometimes I feel being cheated by you. And I see these honest devotees cheated,too, by this simple drama in your life highlighted during these Lenten days.

However, when I remember you on the cross bidding brother John to look at the crying woman, and the crying woman to look at John,I see your dying not really meant for you, our mourning not really meant to be a mourning over your dying but rather a mourning over our own deaths--your people`s wounds. I am simply amazed that it takes a Lord, you Christ, to open us to the reality of our people`s wounds and deaths with your call that we do something for people`s dying because you have given your life in order that we all may live.

Christ, make yourself much real now. As the celebration of Lenten season is highlighted by the traditional processions of too many people, dramatizing to bury your dead body to the grave like the traditional service we render to a beloved friend and relative, let this be a procession, instead, of committeed people, willing to break the graves where you`re buried or have been buried - where thirst, hunger, disease and poverty thrive, where justice or freedom is denied, where sorrow, fear, despair, hate,hopelessness and deaths loom in darkness.

Call us rather to weep over these graves, your grave - which is ours and that of your people. And grant that such a weeping may lead us into a form of cleansing,renewal and commitment to lay open these graves like in your resurrection.

Sincerely yours,


Context of the Reflection: My Home Island in the Philippines, the fishing island of Hingotanan, Bohol.

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