Ex Umbris Ad Lucem

A series by Fidel Ala

  1. Dragonflies

When my dear friend Joseph asked me to be part of this endeavor, I was in my mind reluctant, very reluctant at first. I considered myself not religious enough to have a definitive opinion or testimony about my journey in the faith beyond that which I have acquired through my Philosophy studies in Ateneo, and well yes the littlest of crumbs I’ve collected along the way, through my measly 29 years.

See when I was little my father was kind of a faith journeyman himself. We grew up at our grandparents’ house in 11th Ave. Cubao, and I remember very vividly my Sunday morning ritual. After putting on my sundaybest, I walk towards my grandfather, his black plastic comb in my hand, presenting it to him like an offering.

My grandfather back then was an executive for San Miguel Corporation; a very sharp looking man. Standing at 6 feet high with his completely white hair all brushed up, he would give you the feel of an old 50’s movie reminding you of the golden ages of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, the OGs of their time.

And ever so slightly noticing what I had in my hand, he would almost instantaneously understand, and reach out, and start combing my hair the exact same way he does his – slight division to the left, and the remaining chunk all brushed up, Noli De Castro style. Once in a while, somehow I can still smell that thick pomada scent, and that Brut aftershave perfume we shared.

The whole family would then drive, traversing the streets of baranggay Socorro, passing by our favorite icecream place in Liberty Avenue, getting a glimpse of our ever so reliable suking panadero in 10th Avenue all the way to the then Santolan road now called Boni Serrano to finally arrive at St. Ignatius, a parish inside Camp Aguinaldo. We heard mass there, every single Sunday for about the first 7 years of my life.

Looking back now, that place only reminds me of three things. The smells of freshly cut grass amidst the display of assault tanks, and the dragonflies hovering above them. One Sunday morning, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember if it was to play a prank on me or not, but somehow I was all alone amidst a sea of strangers inside that church. It was all of perhaps a minute and eyes blurred with tears before my mother appeared laughing and holding my hand. But I assure you it felt like hours. Somehow sometimes when I see dragonflies it gives me a sense of being a bit lost.

*photo by Sabina Espinet

(to be continued…)

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