12 October 2010

Visiting the Brother Lolo

Today is the Brother Lolo’s birthday. Hard to believe it has been almost four years since he was unceremoniously plucked from this Earth by an errant wave somewhere along the coast of Zambales. To think he used to tell his driver that when his time came, for the latter to have his remains wrapped in a bed sheet and cast into the sea.

Guess he got his wish – sans the bed sheet...

On a spur of the moment, late this afternoon I thought I would pay the Brother Lolo a visit. Thought that was the least I could do for him considering the number of stories he left me to write about in this blog. And there will be more, I promise…

I remember how faculty and staff would creep up to his room dawns on his birthdays and then rouse him from sleep with birthday serenades. That is just about all I can say because I never went. Much as I can help it, I do not get up early. Period!

But of course, the first thing I did when I got to school during his birthdays was to seek him out... He so loved celebrating his birthdays, particularly when he was surrounded by little children and the faculty and staff fawned all over him.

I understand from some colleagues that a few people from the school had already gone to the Brothers’ Cemetery earlier in the day. For those who do not know, the cemetery is located inside a 5-hectare property just behind the school where the Brothers have their Novitiate. Thus, I sometimes hear them jestingly refer to Lipa as their “first and last assignment.”

It had rained briefly prior to my short walk to the cemetery. The grounds were, therefore, lovely in an almost surreal way. For one thing, the property is heavily wooded; and with the ground damp from the mid-afternoon drizzle, the air was most pleasurable to suck into one’s lungs.

It was also eerily quiet; such a strange thing when one considers that the noisy highway cannot be more than half a kilometer away. The stillness was intermittently broken by the cries of some novices playing volleyball – I was told – behind the house.

I had not gone to the cemetery recently, so I was surprised to see that its remodeling had been finished. From a distance – and with a small chapel right next to it – it looked not unlike a resort up in the Swiss Alps.

There were even fountains and benches built in front of it. Lovely... In the fading light of the afternoon, it was unbelievably lovely...

I thought the Brother Lolo would feel right at home. Once – I believe it was during another of his birthdays – one of his sisters described the Brother Lolo as the kind of person who loved to surround himself with beautiful things. Now, even in eternal repose, he is...

I was all alone inside the cemetery building where quite a few old friends now rest. Before I even sought out the Brother Lolo, I paused by the tomb of Brother Greg, an old friend who was both a former teacher and a former colleague.

But of course, I had come to see the Brother Lolo... There were, in front of the tomb, a portrait of him, flowers and some candles burning. I paused for a while to say a prayer in memory of a great man to whom not only I but so many from this city owe so much for what we have all become. And what we have all achieved…

Just two decades ago, none of what we have now even remotely seemed possible. He started with a dream for the school and the city. Then, he made us dream along with him, making us push forward until our dream – ultimately – became a reality.

Of course, just to say that short prayer I had to steel my forelegs to remain rooted to the floor. My head was starting to feel like it was growing in diameter and the hairs at the back of my neck were starting to stand on their ends. Oh, I must have forgotten to say that while I do not see “things,” the hairs at the back of my neck standing are the surest sign that I am in the company of those who cannot be seen.

I tried to reassure myself that there was no need to fret, that I was with old friends. However, I was still goosebump-y when I finally decided to leave. Then, as I walked out of the building, to the left through the corner of my eye I saw an object in white coming towards me.

Thankfully, the white turned out to be the t-shirt worn by Brother Joseph, an Indian Brother who introduced himself as visiting from Rome. He was taking a late afternoon walk. I am sure I must have – if just for a moment – looked positively startled and ready to break into a run.

And the Brother Lolo, from wherever he was watching me, was probably doubled over in laughter...




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