When planning for this trip, I’d focused a lot on the Battle of Mactan. It’s what we Westerners tend to focus on in history: the battles, the wars. I’m not the first (and won’t be the last) to notice that we human beings seem to mark our epochs from one time of war to another. Even the word “Peacetime”, which my elders lived through, means the time after MacArthur, the time after WWII in the Philippines. Peace, often becomes synonymous with an absence of war, rather than a fertile and vibrant time that defines itself. What does the heart of peace look like? What IS actually a creative sense of PEACE? How is it lead from the Spirit?
So, when, a few days ago, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to attend the Re-enactment, it shocked me artistically. It made me realize how much I was depending upon the idea of this battle to define Filipino history. It’s a challenge to feel tossed at sea with no clear sense of the Story. But, like most things, I find that when I surrender to instinct, try and humble down and listen to what life has to teach, ultimately it leads to a deeper place.
When I thought I’d miss the Battle of Mactan Re-enactment, it forced me to rethink would I could see in its absence. And what I saw was this:
* The Santo Ninyo Basillica (still missing the tilde!).
* I saw elder women selling red candles before the open doors of the cathedral.
* I saw people praying for transformations in their lives.
* I saw very poor, hard-working tinderas at the side of the road selling Sto. Ninyos.
* I saw a country, rich in natural beauty, rich in family ties, rich in spirituality even as the politicians may struggle with corruption and a hard economy.
* Songs and dances in praise to God.
* Offerings to Diwata, Nature Spirits.
* Boys with their arms draped around each other in camaraderie.
* Old traditions of babaylans continuing, though much changed, today.
The Elder women here fascinate me. They are small and wiry, bronzed by the sun. Two things are persistent about them: Their powers of negotiation at the market stalls and their smiles, very humble and sincere. Theirs is not the strength of canons, but the enduring strength of palm trees. They are able to bend with the flow of wind current and survive.