September 16, 2020
Do You See This Woman?
September 17, 2020

The way these words are carelessly uttered in this country nowadays, you’d think it is the easiest thing to do. I was busy with paperwork one night when I overheard this line being uttered at least twice during a late night news program. I stopped working and paid attention to the news reports.

“Move on na lang tayo!”

It was almost a command that was made concerning two issues – the presidential pardon of Joseph Scott Pemberton who was convicted for murdering a transgender named Jennifer Laude and the move by some politicians to honor former President Ferdinand Marcos by declaring September 11 as Marcos day in Ilocos Norte.

“Move on na lang tayo!” they said with smirks on their faces — like moving on is a pack of cookies that can be dispensed from a vendo machine in an instant, or an empty wrapper that one tosses carelessly into the trash bin. I felt offended by the dismissive tone. These “move-on-na-lang-tayo” personalities   were commanding the offended parties to forget the sin that was committed against them as if it never happened at all.

Moving on entails a long and arduous process that begins with grief. This happens in stages – from denial to anger to bargaining to depression to acceptance. Only then can forgiveness and moving on be possible for the offended party. Forgiveness comes in stages, too. There has to be acknowledgement of the wrongdoing, a deep regret, a sincere apology, and an act of reparation. From the Catholic perspective, as proposed by Bp. Ambo David in one of his homilies, healing and reconciliation follow a four-step procedure: confession, contrition, penance and absolution. There are no shortcuts.

I remember a beautiful story of forgiveness and healing that happened in the town of Sto. Tomas, Pampanga a few years ago. A parish priest figured in a row with members of the parish community. He was trying to introduce reforms in accordance with Vatican II but the traditionalists among his parishioners resented it. Some of them pelted the rectory with stones intermittently. Unknown to them, the priest collected the stones that his helpers found on the roof of the rectory. It was enough to fill an earthen plant pot. One day, this priest surprised the townsfolk with the announcement that the mass he was celebrating at that moment would be his last in the town. When he left, he took with him the pot full of stones. He kept these as reminders of that bitter episode in his priestly life. Not long after that, he left the priesthood, started a family and quietly pursued his passion for Kapampangan cultural heritage.

I had the chance to visit this man when I was doing research for a book project. I knew him because he was assigned in my hometown of Lubao. I remember my mother mentioning that she and my father sometimes went to him for confession. He warmly welcomed me into his home, showed me his vast collection of Filipiniana materials, and told me stories of his yesteryears.  It helped that he knew my relatives who were men of the cloth like he was.

There was something that struck me about this man. He talked animatedly about Kapampangan cultural heritage but I noticed that even when he was smiling, there was sadness in his eyes. It was so palpable I could almost taste it in my mouth. I felt a strong bond with this sad man who shared my passion for cultural heritage. Before I left, he gave me a copy of a leather-bound book that he himself made. It contained the writings of another Kapampangan priest.

“Nobody is really interested in literature at the seminary,” he said, so I took it upon myself to gather and reproduce the work of Kapampangan priests,” he added. He signed the book, handed it to me then he escorted me towards the gate. I visited him twice after that. The visits had something to do with our common passion. He talked a lot about heritage but he kept the painful story in his heart.

A beautiful twist to his story happened a month before he passed on. An ex-seminarian resident of Sto. Tomas named Irwin discovered the pot full of stones and the sad story behind it. He asked the man if he could take the stones back to Sto. Tomas. The parish community made a move to reconcile with him. They organized an event to honor him and his numerous achievements. Part of that event was the burying of the stones of wrath as a symbol of reconciliation. Both he and the community freed themselves from the shackles of the past. It was done in the presence of the archbishop and ended with a tight embrace between the two men of the cloth.  This is the beautiful story of Fr. Venancio Samson who did so much for the preservation and promotion of Kapampangan cultural heritage. He breathed his last with peace and forgiveness in his heart.


Compare this story with the move-on pronouncements made my some quarters recently: “Move on na lang tayo! Why hang on to your anger and your pain? As if it will change anything; as if it will bring back the dead.” I cringe at the thought that our collective memory is being hijacked by wackos in power.

“Bakit nga ba hindi natin isinulat yung mga karanasan natin nung martial law?” That was Prof. Bienvenido Lumbera talking in a casual conversation with his fellow professors at UP CAL (University of the Philippines-College of Arts and Letters). He seemed to be thinking aloud. I do not remember the occasion. It must have been after the deliberations on my thesis where he was one of the panelists along with Profs. Albina Peczon-Fernandez (critic), Prof Jimmuel Naval and Prof. Lilia-Quindoza-Santiago (adviser). He answered his own question: “Siguro dahil masyadong masakit.” That got me thinking. Here was an eminent scholar, a master of words, a multi-awarded writer acknowledging that pain can sometimes be too deep for words.

Many professors and students of UP were detained; some were tortured. Many became desaparecidos (disappeared) and never made it back to their families.  I remember the story about one professor who cautioned his students not to wear green in his class. He hated the color because it reminded him of those times when his torturers shoved his face into a toilet bowl full of feces that had a greenish tinge.

Moving on is of two types: one that is based on denial that a wrongdoing was ever done and one that is anchored on heartfelt remorse and a sincere act of reparation. Only the fool and guilt-ridden would favor the former. (NLBT, 9/16/20)

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