I want to reveal some of the things I did for Candle Light . . . some of the things that happened which I wanted to write about but for one reason or the other I never did. And so here are some of them.
I think I am the only priest in Iloilo who stood on a mountain of garbage, alone and with arthritis, right there in Brgy. Calahunan as I did an article on the garbage problems of Iloilo. I climbed my way to the top, struggling, with all the “what have you” beneath my feet, with flies darting to and fro like World War II flying Aces and buzzing Zeros, all the while undecided whether to breathe or not to breathe because of too much muscle and joint exertion and the terrible, unimaginable smell. But after awhile I got used to these and managed to take a few photographs for the issue along the way. When I reached the top I wanted to shout, “I made it, I made it” and plant the Vatican flag right where I was standing. And to think that the climbers of Mt. Everest thought they deserve better and grander accolades for planting the Philippine flag on its peak. Try climbing the city’s refuse, for though I never got an award climbing it, every time I pass that site I would always smile and congratulate myself for what I achieved.
On the list of the people I interviewed are the following: The Regional Director of the Department of Agrarian Reform, the City’s Chief Engineer, the Regional Director of Pag-asa, the weather bureau, Bishops, Priests, young people and the man and woman on the street, including vendors, street children, and drivers. But the most embarrassing interview I did was with a mayor. He came to the convent to be interviewed and while responding to the interview questions, the kiao (a myna bird) kept on shouting, “mango, mango, mango (stupid, stupid, stupid).” I was totally lost, as in I do not know what to do.
I have to admit that one of the causes for the signature limp and cane when I was in the cathedral was Candlelight. Stress is not the cause of arthritis but stress can worsen the pain of arthritis and I think that is the reason why it dramatically subsided when I was transferred to another parish. Anyway at one time when Msgr. Joemarie was also assigned in the cathedral after an accident and while he was wearing a neck brace, a taxi driver out of curiosity asked what we were doing in the convent. “Why,” Msgr. Joemarie asked, “why do you ask?” “Well,” the driver explained, “yesterday I brought in a priest who was carrying a cane and now I am bringing in a priest with a neck brace. Is everything alright in there, Father?” Well I really don’t know what impression we made with the taxi driver but it became clearer at one time when Msgr. Joemarie and I went out of the car together – with him wearing the braces and I limping with my cane in hand, and right there and then we came to know what the cathedral had become because of us when they said, “ay ari na ang ambulancia (here comes the ambulance).”
I also wanted to write about Msgr. Gamboa’s dogs. I was aware then that there were rumors going around that I was the cause of the death of one of them. I vehemently deny this! I have even heard some saying that I attended the burial just to make sure that the dog was really dead and buried under a pile of dirt. I too deny that though I admit that it was true that I attended its burial. I attended because, for one, I never attended a dog funeral before and it was a first for me. And second because I wanted to know how Msgr. Gamboa would handle this sad event. Probably the usisero in me. But yes I admit I taught those dogs some habits – good dog habits. Probably people have noticed that when I’m around, the dogs are either so well-behaved (for example they don’t sit on chairs or climb tables when I’m around. I would often say to them “you are dogs, d-o-g-s, dogs, and chairs were not made with you in mind.”) or they are nowhere to be found. One of the self-realization I had in the cathedral – I am a natural dog trainer.
Do you know that on most Thursdays after the deadline for Candle Light I would refresh myself by riding on a taxi in the evenings and just had a joy ride of some sorts around the city? And for me the most beautiful sight is the shipyard just at the junction where the two ports meet near the Rotary Park. I don’t really stay long to linger around. I just tell the driver to drive slowly by in order that I can catch a glimpse of the sea, the land and the horizon beyond. It was quite a refreshing experience. It was one of the things I did to maintain my sanity. Probably the port reassured me then that things will not always be as it is. There will always be a leave-taking . . . and, O my God . . a homecoming!
These are just a few events I remember when I was assigned in Candle Light as its second editor many years ago. And this is what I meant when I tell the editors not to despair. There are so many things to write about. And this is also the reason why I tell people that every issue and every page has a story to tell, a story that can only be read in between the lines, and stories lovingly kept in the memory of those who work for it week after week. It was not really that gloomy in Candle Light. It was fun . . . and challenging . . . boring . . . painful . . . heartbreaking . . . heartwarming. Above all, it was all a privilege.
I raise a toast to Candlelight. Happy Anniversary!