NOW I know where and when my desire to become a priest was extinguished, while that of my brother’s was born.
It must have been in 1968 or 1969, 1970 at the latest, when, as young boys, we took part in one of the Black Nazarene celebrations.
Admittedly our participation wasn’t really 100% voluntary. You see, with working parents who needed to commute from Cubao to UP Manila daily, my brothers and I were being raised in part by my father’s two elder sisters Elisa and Gloria, the latter a professor of linguistics at the Philippine Normal College while the former, a childless widow, was our constant companion to UP Elementary School. Tita Elisa (corrupted to “Tita Sa” by my elder brother) was oftentimes mistaken as our mom as she hobnobbed with the other mothers and guardians during class hours while waiting for us to be dismissed. When my parents were in Iowa in the mid 1960s these two aunts kept us company and made sure we went to school and did as well as we could. (Well, my brothers did; I had fun!)
One day, the day of the traslacion, Elisa decided that rather than leave me and my younger brother RV alone at home, what better way to hit two birds with one stone than to bring us along? And that’s how, at the ripe old age of 6, or maybe 7, there we were in the midst of the throng at Plaza Miranda, not knowing full well what everyone was going gaga about and why they were throwing Good Morning towels to and fro.
Imagine a six or seven-year-old boy in the middle of that hoard today, yes?
But here was what made our experience exciting – and became the turning point of our budding religious “callings.” In the midst of the throng, my aunt Elisa fainted. And sooner or later my brother and I realized we were no longer holding on to her!
Thankfully, life was different then. Young boys were not yet being kidnapped for their internal organs, or to be filmed for explicit videos. Instead, some kind-hearted souls led me and my brother to the rectory, if that’s what you call the quarters of the priests next to the church, where some nuns took us in and kept us entertained. It must have been an interesting moment for them because, I am told, my brothers and I didn’t converse except in English when we were kids. So you could imagine that some of the nuns may have had bouts of nose bleed – which thankfully they didn’t claim to be miraculous signs.
But what was miraculous was that we were soon reunited with our aunt because for one reason or another she also found her way to the same place. Maybe some angel disguised as a devotee told her where to go. Or maybe she followed a star. I never got to ask her, but all I know is that she found us and soon we were safely back home. And my aunt had to confront her irate bunso of a brother who was horrified at the thought that we could have never been found – or at least found that easily.
Then again maybe in those days it wouldn’t have been hard to have tried looking for two good looking kids who spoke English, yes? Ok, ok just one good looking kid (me) and another one who by that time may have had the beginnings of some sort of halo around his head as a sign that eventually he would become a priest. (PS: Am happy it ended up him rather than me!)
And that’s how my brother (who is now a priest) and I almost got lost as kids during the first and only Traslacion we ever participated in!