Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Freddie Kruger tractor, shit-colored church, and riotous baptism

Exactly one year after Puerto Galera, the gang is together again for yet another summer escapade. This time, though, Flores, Boo, Jake, Raymond, and his friends did not make it. We’re just here with Adie, Licel and her officemates, JP (with his girlfriend, Nikki, whose family lives here), Gail (my seatmate on the bus; I scared her out of her wits with my horror stories as we zoomed through the shadowy countryside last night).

We arrived here in Alaminos City around two this morning, went straight to bed, and woke up to a dry, languid sun. Like any other provincial city, the whole place showcases drab concrete and asphalt everywhere—the usual, ostentatious trappings of cityhood.

Since all these concrete roads and buildings intensify the heat of the sun, I ended up having a slight headache. Not wanting to spend my first few hours here nursing my throbbing temples, I decided to go check out the city all by myself (Licel was busy reading Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress; Adie was hanging around Buddha knows where; and Gail was snoring her way to dreamland).

Just right across Adie’s uncle’s house (where we were staying) is Nepo Alley, a pocketsize mall that houses your usual chain of bland fast food stalls and tiangge-ish boutiques. A walk around the mall, which looked more like a classy, high-ceilinged warehouse, convinced me that it wasn’t a place for me to hang around in. Save from an uncharacteristically clean wet market at its back (where you could have your purchased milkfish de-boned for an additional five pesos; the de-boning process itself is such a joy to watch), there was nothing special to see in there. So I just went into its one-peso-per-pee restroom, relieved my complaining bladder, and headed to the exit.

Just before I went out, I saw this display of “great prizes” for some raffle draw the mall was sponsoring. The third prize was some squarish appliance that looked like a small washing machine or a rice dispenser. Second prize was a weird steel machine with an iron snout straight from the workshop of Freddie Kruger. And the first prize was a long, monstrous agricultural implement. Adie told me later that it’s called a hand tractor or kuliglig. Not exactly the type of prizes I would wildly jump up and down for. It’s a raffle I’d gladly not win in, not unless I’d want to use that freaky tractor thing as paperweight, as Licel ingeniously suggested.

So out went my hunky little ass from that mall-cum-Freddie-Kruger-shop to go to (where else)Alaminos City’s place of worship, St. Joseph’s Cathedral (jeez, I’m getting too predictable).

The church is something that could only come out of an interior designer’s worst nightmare. The whole place was painted tombstone-white while the moldings and trimmings were splashed with a gaudy shade of yellow-green, reminiscent of liquid shit that comes out when you have diarrhea. There was a crass attempt at eclecticism by throwing in together a neo-classic retablo (main altar) in pastel colors and striking stained glass windows depicting the crucified Christ with God the Father behind him. These pieces would’ve looked great individually, but together, the effect was anything but godly.

Priests should be trained at the seminary to cultivate their aesthetic tastes so that such bastardization of supposedly sacred ground would be averted. How can one concentrate on her Hail Mary when the church itself reminds her of an unflushed toilet bowl?

The first few pews near the altar were filled with excited parishioners. There would obviously be a ceremony. Great, I’d get to hear a mass in Pangalatok, or Ilocano, or whatever language they speak here. So I sat down behind one of the scaffolds (they’re not yet done applying shit-colored paint at the choir loft and the ceiling) and waited.

After seeing some wailing babies dressed in lace and satin, I knew that this was going to be a baptism. True enough, a lay minister brought out a tacky, light blue Orocan pitcher and a fluffy white towel. Then, an old, bored-looking priest came out. He silently surveyed the noisy crowd, and, without waiting for them to settle down, he began reading from a small, black book.

He spoke with a calm, soothing, monotonous voice that was as enthusiastic as a static TV screen. The poor guy must’ve officiated religious ceremonies all his life; he must've had one too many. From where I sat, I couldn’t catch what he was saying as the sound system was a bit muffled and he was speaking English with a thick accent. So much for my wish to hear a Pangalatok rite.

Curiously, nobody was listening to him. The people were chatting, laughing, taking pictures, or tinkering with their cell phones. Here and there, the din was accented by a loud cry of a baby or the gleeful squeals of little boys. Restless adults were hopping from one pew to the other, greeting guests and exchanging pleasantries as in a party.

Amid all these, the priest simply continued his monotonous drone, unmindful of the cacophony of chattering and shrieking. A few minutes later, he stepped down from the dais and, followed by his assistant with the Orocan pitcher, perfunctorily blessed and baptized each of the garishly dressed babies.

A confusion of flashbulbs, a concert of clicking cameras, and the whole thing was over. Fifteen new infants had just unwittingly become members of the Church. The priest slowly walked back to the sacristy, with the Orocan guy trailing behind him.

At that point, I also walked out of the church while Frere Jacque was blaring from someone’s cell phone. Somehow, I was no longer pissed by the church’s terrible interiors.

Maybe these people deserve it.



At 2:33 PM, Blogger weng said...

ey, san na yung continuation?
have a great day! =D

At 10:48 AM, Blogger slim whale said...

ayun na, nasa taas yung continuation! :)


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