2004/03/06

The Cathedral Within

Sept 2, 1983. It is our Monthly Going Home, a quiet afternoon with nothing else to do. Ten minutes before 3:00 PM, I find my way to the St Joseph Cathedral. The city lazes under the sun, as the air starts to cool in anticipation of the season. It’s been less than a month since the brutal assassination of Ninoy on the tarmac. There’s supposed to be anxiety and fear in the air. Yet it seems so far away, as people go about their usual business.


Inside, the sound of the city is muffled in the church. There are few people on the pews. Most are old people. The huge side door opens up to the clear sky. Swallows that inhabit the eaves enter through this door, a favorite stop for candle vendors and beggars who squat on the tiled floor.

From where I sit, I could see the stone steps near the children’s playground. The breeze is gentle as it touches my skin and calms my thoughts. It is so peaceful. Even the occasional sound of a tricycle doesn’t disturb my mind.

I watch the flickering lights at the altar and listen to the muted mumblings of a manang saying the rosary while walking the entire length of the nave on her knees towards the altar. Two lovers enter and settle on a less frequented pew. They sit in silence, holding hands. A student enters from one side, genuflects and makes the sign of the cross, and then exits on the other side.

My entire awareness is in the here and now. I see what my eyes focus on, not what my mind is thinking. I am aware of everything around me and much more. Soon I realize that an hour has passed in what I thought was only a few minutes. It is time spent in solitude.

I make the sign of the cross, stand up and start to walk towards the Arcade. I loiter for a while, watching commerce and human traffic. The world is well on its course, as it has been and will be. I am in the midst of all these affairs, and yet I am outside looking in.

Half an hour later, I start walking towards J.A. Clarin St. I am bringing home with me the silence of the Cathedral.(msa)