Monday, October 26, 2009


The Carmen Guerrero Nakpil - Cafe Havana group lunch I regularly attend which meets every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month is a mixture of interesting people. Writers and poets, journalists and pundits, generals and putschists, artists and con-artists (pun intended). But all well-meaning and honorable in their craft.

Last October 14 was a treat for me, after receiving a copy of Chitang Nakpil's latest book Exeunt. Well, it wasn't really for me. It was, as Chitang would warmly write on the first page of her book a dedication for my father: "For Ariel, Best Friend Forever, Chitang."

It took me a few more days until I had personally delivered the book to my father, not to mention the joy of reading a few pages, part of which was a personal account of Mrs. Nakpil of the EDSA 1 revolt. I too have my own, a sort of mental account as well having witnessed many undocumented facts as I had been closely identified then with the Enrile family for many years. But that shall be for a future post. For now, let's go back to the book.

I sat right next to my father as I handed him the book, and I immediately saw a teary smile as he read portions of it, including the chapter where he was mentioned by the author.

He handed me back the book. I turned to the last page and read with much interest to him its entire passage: "And Ermita (Ah, my Ermita! My home-town with the snob appeal, the long gone citadel of urban civility) is now only the anachronistic surname of the recycled general in the Arroyo cabinet, who finagles with an inescapable Batangas accent.

I tremble at the thought of what monstrosities lurk ahead.

Now, that I'm alone most of the time, waiting for what we Catholics invoke as "the hour of our death", I have begun to understand many things, both small and huge, fripperies and profundities, like the nature of our compassionate God, the steadfast qualities of the Christian religion, the peace that sustains all believers. Also, why the millions of sweat-stained driven men on the streets of Quiapo, or the flagellants of Good Friday, maim each other to touch the hem of the Nazarene or to draw blood from their backs, and why God must love them more than He does the learned clergymen and theologians with their Bibles and their ornate vestments.

We Filipinos draw our endless patience, our good nature and our trust in God's master plan from a simple unshakeable faith. I surprise myself by quoting to a distraught son, daughter or friend, Teresa of Avila's comforting lines which I learned when I was 9, "Nada de turbe. Nada de espante." Let nothing disturb or frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Solo Dios Basta. God alone suffices.


No longer restless or fractured, rid at last of all strange gods, this very old heart withdraws into peace.

In the very end, after all is said and done, we need only God. Everything else is Vanity of Vanities. All is Vanity."

We were both speechless after.

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