photo credit: badongski
The streets are quiet tonight. I can even hear the quiet under the music playing in my digital player. I’ve been running for over 30 minutes and I don’t feel like stopping, but I know that I have to stop in a while. Just a few more meters, I tell myself. Forget the rain, forget the strain in my legs. I just need to stretch it out a little for just a few more meters and then I’m good.
The light drizzle, softly touches my skin and blends with my salty perspiration. I quicken my pace a little as the rain begins to build momentum. I am practically running in the middle of the street. Not a lot of cars tonight. only a lonesome sedan or taxi and a desolate jeepney every twenty paces.
I stop for a quick breath in a street corner, in front of a closed restaurant. I bend a little just to so that I would not lose balance. My tank top is drenched with the salt of my fluids and the rain. I lick my lips to rid of the accumulated sweat. They are very salty.
I need to sit down so I sit by the curb to rest a little. I turn off my digital player and just sat by the curb watching some people and cars pass by. There were people passing by, mostly hobos and the occasional hooker and hustler. The hobos stare at me as they push their cart pass me, while the hookers and hustlers give me the sideward glance. Nobody bothered me though. They probably thought I just another crazy person running in an ungodly hour like tonight. I try to read each of their minds when they look at me as they pass me by. I don’t have the powers to do it but I try all the same. I wonder what they were thinking. They prolly thought I was some pervert looking for a trick, or some killer looking for a kill, or some runner practicing for an upcoming marathon, or probably just a nobody trying to get noticed. Who knows…
As I take the night’s silence, I notice something different tonight. The lit candles outside the doorsteps. In fact there was one a few meters away right beside where I was sitting. I remember now. I though IU have forgotten because I slept most of the day. It’s the First of November – the Feast of All Saints. Tomorrow would be the the Feast of All Souls.
In the Christian Tradition, November first is for the commemoration of all the holy men and women who have dedicated themselves in the service of Christianity, The Feast of All Saints. The rest of the departed are remembered the day after. In this country, people forego the commemoration of the saints and go right to remembering their dearly departed. I think that it is just fitting. Why would one bother remembering someone he does not know, who has no relevance or significance in his life? I am not one for holidays. I enjoy them because I get to not work. I slept most of the day because I figured that this was the only day that I get to sleep in. Fuck’em saints and let me sleep a little. I’m pretty sure they’d understand.
Today is a national holiday. People go in throngs to the cemeteries and columbaries and ossuaries of this country to clean their departed’s tombs and light candles and pray and even sing karaoke (they do, and this is how we roll in the Islands).
The irony of the matter is, I never went to the cemetery today. Reason is, I didn’t want to. Not just because I slept most of the day, but mostly because I didn’t see the point of going just because it was a day to commemorate dead people, albeit it’s actually the day to commemorate holy Christian people.
I’m prolly making excuses to myself, being the asshole and cynic that I am. I look at the candles burning bright and I could smell the wax and burning wicks. Another hobo passes by and gives me an odd glance. He’s prolly wondering why I’m looking at the candles with such diligence of a schoolboy. He prolly thinks that I was going to steal them. He prolly went to the cemetery today. He prolly bought his own candles and matches. Or maybe he just borrowed some matches from another hobo.
I don’t get it sometimes. Why do we have to light candles in front of our doorsteps when we’ve already lit the candles in the cemetery. Would it make any difference if we place lit candles in both our dearly departed’s tomb and our doorsteps? In the the greater scheme of things, it probably serves a purpose. It probably gives us a certain level of comfort or security. That they may have passed but us left behind who bear the bittersweet yoke of remembering must assure ourselves more than the departed that we will never forget. This is probably the reason why nobody remembers the Feast of All Saints. Because in the microcosm of our own universes, they never mattered. They mattered to those that knew them. But then again, they are all dead. In the end, it’s all about the souls and not the saints. We are all sinners in our last breath.
I snap out of my reverie and stand up and start my run again.
I continue southwards. I go to the park where I usually run in the mornings. I haven’t ran in a long time. I have been mostly busy with work and trying to stay afloat. I’m sweating again and I like the feel of it. I try to quicken my pacing but gravity humbles me. The rain is building up a little and I do not mind. I cross the elliptical road, not bothering to use the pedestrian underpass since there are not a lot of vehicles tonight. Once on the other side I circle the park three or four times till my legs begin to give in.
There aren’t a lot of people in the park tonight. Most probably because of the holiday or more likely because it’s a Monday. There are couples in benches, kids playing frisbee in the grass, hookers and hustlers roaming around looking for their Johns and Johns looking for their tricks and security personnel trying on the look for the unsuspecting John caught in the act. The amusement park is closed. Some kiosks are open (prolly trying to break even or something). Nobody’s buying though. I only saw a couple of people running like me. It’s a bit of a relief to see that I am not the only one running at this time of night.
In the middle of the park is a monument, three obelisk like structures, with an angel holding a wreath sitting on each structure while appearing to be gazing downwards. The obelisks are connected by three horizontal beams that forms into a triangle if you stand at the center of the structure and look up. Below are three powerful headlights that change color every 3 minutes or so, each positioned on each obelisk which kind of gives the viewer an ominous and foreboding feeling when one actually gives time to look at it from below. It does look eerie if you sit on one the benches and try to look at one of the angels. I once did that in one of my morning runs and I could faintly see that the angels have their eyes closed or seem to be asleep. Sometimes I wonder if they ever open their eyes when people are not looking.
The monument is actually a mausoleum that houses the remains of a dead president. It is rather ironic to think that I did not want to go to the cemetery today and light candles and shit because I wanted to sleep in, only to end up running around a supersized tomb.
I stop at the foot of the monument, sweat and rain and all. I head for home as I take that realization as a sign. I maybe a cynic but I am a cynic that believes in palpable signs. A cynic still, albeit a superstitious one.
I took the jeepney going back. There were only a handful of us inside the jeepney. Most of them probably went to the cemetery as some were carrying a bag of candles and flowers and all. As I was going back to my apartment, I began thinking of the people I’ve lost that actually mattered to me in one way or another. They are not many, but there are some. And they mattered to me.
I came into my box apartment and took out some candles and incense which I “borrowed” from my upstairs neighbor. I lit them. I placed some candles in my room. I placed one outside my door by the stairwell. I placed the incense outside. Should I say a prayer? I don’t know. But instinct or something inside me told me to light the candles and burn incense. I do not know if it was guilt for not having gone to the cemetery or because this was a selfish act of self preservation or because of some divine or cosmic mandate that I should revere this day.
But “something” told me to light and burn tonight. I have never forgotten them, truth be told. They remain in my thoughts. They remain in certain places, in certain books, in certain food, in certain things, in certain films and songs, in similar situations, in other people. They remain. And I bear the bittersweet yoke of their memory not because I of tradition, but because they mattered. And to this sinner, they continue to be significant.