The First Mass

It was the summer of our first year in college in 1981. Fr Silex was the Kura of Taloto and he instituted an experimental way of managing a parish. He established the sobre system, wherein parishioners contributed using a sobre (letter envelop) and in exchange get all sacraments for “free”--that is, without the usually corresponding fee or “donation”. Thus, KBL or Kasal-Bunyag-Lubon libre.

It was my first pairing with Junior who would eventually become a perennial partner in several misadventures.

One of the tasks assigned to us was to gather the people of Peñaflor for an anticipated mass. It was one of the efforts of Fr Silex to bring the holy mass closer to the people. And there he would explain the mechanics of the system.

Junior and I spent the entire day visiting the houses near Peñaflor, telling them of the mass. We started our long walk at the intersection near the Taloto church. Like Mormons--except that we were in denims, T-shirt and rubber shooes--we braved the summer sun.

Jovil was supposed to be with us, but being several years older had other important things to do and couldn’t join us. We were expecting another one, a special class student, who was supposed to arrive that day.

In one of the homes we visited, there were three young ladies in the sala. They were kind enough to offer us water and invite us inside and listen to our invitation to the mass. We only realized they were non-Catholics when we were about to leave.

We continued on our way towards the main highway. People were receptive to our invitation. The holy mass was supposed to be held right in front of the Veloso residence. But it was transferred to a vacant space across the street, under the coconut trees, when we realized that there would be more people coming than expected.

We prepared the altar with the help of the people in the vicinity. They provided the table, white mantil and chairs. It was the bayanihan spirit in action. They were excited to have a mass right in their neighborhood.

The special class seminarian turned out to be Morj who came on board a tricycle. He was on his way to the seminary but decided to join when he saw us. The moment he arrived, and before he could utter any word, we asked him to help carry the chairs. Looking so clean and crisp and covered in sweet perfume, Morj must have felt revulsion looking at the two haggard-looking seminarians who were sweating and reeking of foul earth.  That must have shocked him. He carried a couple of chairs, and we did not know what happened to him after that. We just saw him fled aboard the first available tricycle that passed and never returned.

The anticipated mass started at 6:00pm. Our efforts seemed rewarded at the turnout. There were many people in attendance. All the available seats were taken. There was nothing unusual in the mass, except that for Junior and me, it was a solemn and memorable one.

NB: We haven’t gone back to the site for a mass. But we heard that there had been several masses after that one. A chapel was built right in front of the Veloso residence where masses were held. (nox arcamo)