While many Filipinos chose to hie off into beaches and hotels during the humid days of Holy Week, I joined a select group which goes up the hills of Angono to refresh, reflect and contemplate on the passion and death of Christ. And I’ve been with them for the last 22 years, save for the 2 years when we settled in Antipolo. This is where I met my training and running buddy Dave in 2000.
We’ve always had Fr. Rey Loredo, SJ as our retreat master until 1995 (when he succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease) and Kuya Vir Ignacio took the lead of our 3-day sojourn. Our practices are based on St. Ignatius 19thAnnotation, compressed for 3 days of sessions, reflections, and mostly solitary prayers. During its early years, we kept the silence and solitude seriously – keeping things to ourselves and not disturbing the peace of our co-retreatant with even a smile or a nod.
Many of us originated from Christian Communities Program (CCP), a Catholic organization in the campuses of the University of the East (I being from Sta. Mesa). Persistent issues on family, relationships and prayer life never fail to disturb and elicit discussions and emotions during the open sessions. So if one can’t face or open up to these everyday issues and stand naked and humble among the throng, he/she most likely won’t make a comeback. It’s not for everyone but for some who persisted, it became a yearly habit.
One of the many rituals we observe in Angono is to join the church services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday at the town parish. It’s a complete opposite of our silent, spacious, surrounded-by-nature environs up on the hills. Last Thursday, Dave and I considered running to the church, a good 4 kms or so but the sweat and fatigue might throw us off our ‘silent’ state. Besides, we’d already done the Masinag-Valley Golf run that morning with Ian and Paul.
With Angono, being a traditional and artistic hub of the country, I expected nothing less of its artistic flourishes in full display. And it was there during the Thursday mass with still a hint of solemnity even with the whole community in full force as the drama of the Washing of the Feet was staged to violin strums and the heavenly voices of the local choir, in Latin at that.
After the mass, the ciborium symbolically containing the body of Christ is slowly paraded out of the altar as women and men spread their respective linen over the banig (mat) on the church aisle where the congregation passes. Everyone genuflects as the noise of the bamboo clatters fills the air.
Friday would be more dramatic with the 7 Last Words and the giant replica of the cross erected in the middle as the sounds of thunder signal Jesus’ final moments on the cross. Soon enough, festooned carriages bearing the images of saints take through the town’s narrow streets. That’s when we make our quick escape and repair ourselves to our quieter quarters on the hills.
Another regular feature among retreatants is doing the new (!) 14 Stations of the Cross (now made more significant with the inclusion of the Resurrection and the Last Supper, among others). We usually reflect on our family, with mothers (or fathers) being the crucified Christ and us as Pilate or the Roman soldiers. This year, I’ve included running and my current state in my contemplations and the familiarity and parallelism seem boundless, even with the 7 last words. Here goes:
“It is Finished” ~ How far have I gone? Did I make the cut? Did I learn anything from this run? Finished with what? When do I start again?
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” ~ It’s up to you Lord – whether I finish or I DNF, whether I live to cross the finish line, whether I improve as a runner or a person or whether this inflates my ego and bragging rights.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ~ Where is my frigging support? Can You give me that second wind? Where are You when I needed You most? Is this part of Your plan? When will the pain and cramping disappear?
“The Agony in the Garden” ~ Why did you put me in this race? Will I ever survive this one? Will you be with me when the ‘beast’ shows up? Will I be able to deal with that ‘beast’? Would you ever abandon me even if all my friends would? Will I have the strength, perseverance and will power to finish this race?
“Jesus takes up the Cross” ~ This is heavy (and the 102 kms is just too far) but this is my cross and I obediently (and reluctantly) accept it. Will I be able to carry it (or crush under its weight), bring it all the way to the finish line and be crucified on it?
“Jesus falls under the weight of the Cross” ~ Why’d You let me hit my wall? Will you let me overcome it? Will I be able to pick myself up and continue this race? Why is this Cross too heavy for me?
“Jesus rises from Death” ~ Thank You for being with me all this time and giving me that push when I was about to give up everything. Now I know why You’ve let me run, agonize and finish a good race.
“Jesus dies on the Cross” ~ Just what is the meaning of all of this? Did you take me this far just to leave me to die? Is death the final destination? Where do I go from here?
Indeed, Running is made up of the 14 stations of Life…and we experience it every time we hit the road. Happy Easter! Special thanks to Ludy Tebelin, Aaron Anievas, Julito Jojo Pauly & Vener Roldan for some of the amazing pictures…