It started with pandesal.
On a travel high, I woke up at 4:30AM to plan to tag along with Gramps to the market to get fresh pandesal. I went ahead and skipped at 4:30AM while he was outside fresh and bright eyed.
“You can’t come.”
“Why not?” I playfully joked with him and ran back in the house to grab my bag. I came back out again fresh and bright eyed.
Gramps started at me. “Roy!!! You’re coming then! Get out here now! Let’s go!” he said in Ilocano.
Uncle Roy looked tired. Two weeks he had been in the Philippines visiting from California too. 4:30AM and someone was shouting at him.
I felt a light, hard smack on my arm
“Owww! Graaampppss! Geez!” He used to do this thing instead of pinching us grandchildren for our attention, or hitting us, he’d do this tap/smack/flick his hand motion on our body. “Go put on pants.”
It is 81 degrees outside in the early morning. What do you mean put on pants?!
“Go put on pants now.” he repeated. It’s not like I was wearing something a 12 year teenager would. I was in regular shorts. But being from an old school I went inside and changed. I brushed my hair again. Then felt another tap/smack/flick. Grandma was behind me. “Go put on a blouse.” and she walked away.
What the heck! It wasn’t like I was wearing a tight tank top. This was one of my business satin tops. A Trina Turk top I had purchased at Nordstrom. Aunty was seated in the living room and overheard. “We’re going to church, Jacky.” she explained.
Why couldn’t they have said that earlier?! But first, fresh pandesal. Mmmmm – still hot from the oven. How many provinces around the Philippines make this their livelihood? Fresh pandesal everyday please!
Aunty Heidi had told me a story about Our Lady of Manaoag. The church is always full. When she was a child, they would take a bus from Luzon to Pangasinan to go to church. After, they would have picnics on the beach before they came home. There is a statue here of Virgin Mary. And people come from far away to see this statue. It is said, that when you pray to Mary at this church and shrine, it will come true. Be detailed, know what you are looking for, and it will come true. Every year she has been coming here, and every year, the prayers are answered. Blessed.
It is a beautiful Spanish style church. Vendors lined the street with plastic replica statues of our lovely Mary. Jacob the Dreamer was there as well. A continuous sea of people were walking in and out of the gorgeous building. Mass would begin every hour. A rosary, a blessing of religious artifacts. Another crowd in the mass ran to the front, making sure their ornament would have a sprinkle of the holy water. I ran with them. Bless my Jacob the Dreamer I had just bought at the gift shop upstairs.
Mass ended and we were shooed away before the next one would begin. Aunty took my hand and motioned for me to follow her as we slipped in to the front. There was a separate kneeling pad and section for those who were praying to Mary. This is where she had been making her wishes for years. I knelt down to Virgin Mary. I had recited the wishes in my head on the car ride over. I studied the shrine first. Elegant, like all in the Catholic Church, but the Philippines have the gifts from Spain. I marveled at the jewels, the intricate detail of the crowns. Then closed my eyes to talk to Mary for my prayers and wishes.
Religion is such a powerful tool. When you believe in a higher being and however you practice, it can only benefit you.
An outside prayer room was planted in front of the church. The light from the candlesticks danced this beautiful dance while I watched other light the skinny wax for more prayers. The closing of the eyes, the soft sigh, and sadness, the happiness, the sincereness of what they are going through. We are all going through something. Such is life. Religion is such a powerful tool. When you believe in a higher being and however you practice, it can only benefit you. Prayers up, darlings. Love you.