Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Return of the Native ("Ur-urayenka, Anakko" - I am waiting for you my child)

Dr Abe V Rotor
San Vicente (Ilocos Sur) Parish Church built in the 17th century

I am a modern day Prodigal Son. I spent fifty long years searching and searching for a place I may call my own in the whole wide world. Yes, fifty long years of my youth and in old age – twice longer the fiction character Rip van Winkle did sleep – and now I am back to the portals of my hometown, to the waiting arms of my father.

The proverbial Lamp I still hold flickers, but it is but a beacon in embers now, for it have spent its luminance in the darkness of human weakness and failures, it beamed across the ocean of ignorance and lost hope, it trailed the path of many adventures and discoveries, and it kept vigil in the night while I slept.

And what would my father say? He meets me, embraces me, and calls everyone. “Kill the fattest calf! Let us rejoice.”

San Vicente is my home. It is the bastion of my hopes and ideals. At the far end on entering the old church is written on the altar, faded by the elements of time and rough hands of devotees, Ur-urayenka Anakko – I am waiting for you my child. When the world is being ripped by conflicts or pampered with material progress, when mankind shudders at the splitting of the atom or the breaking of the code of life, when the future is viewed with high rise edifices or clouded by greenhouse gases – my town becomes more than ever relevant to the cause for which it has stood through the centuries - the sanctuary of idealism in a troubled world, home of hundreds of professionals in many fields of human endeavor.

“Kill the fattest calf,” I hear my father shout with joy. It is celebration. It is a symbol of  achievement more than I deserve. But my feelings is that I am standing on behalf of my colleagues for I am but an emissary. Out there in peace and trials, in villages and metropolises, in all endeavors and walks of life, many “Vincentians” made their marks, either recognized on the stage or remembered on stone on which their names are carved. I must say, it is an honor and privilege that I am here in humility to represent them that I may convey their unending faith and trust to our beloved hometown.

The world has changed tremendously, vastly, since I passed under the town arch to meet the world some fifty years ago. I have met wise men who asked the famous question “Quo vadis?” -where are you going? I can only give a glimpse from the eye of a teacher, far for the probing mind of Alvin Toffler in Future Shock, or those of Naisbitt and Aburdane, renowned modern prophets. A teacher as I know, and having been trained as one, sees the world as it is lived; he makes careful inferences, and takes a bird’s eye-view cautiously. he is a conveyor of knowledge, and even with modern teaching tools and communication technology, cannot even qualify as chronicler, nay less of a forecaster. I have always strive to master the art of foretelling  the future, but frankly I can only see it from atop a misty mountain. How I wish too, that I can fully witness the fruits of the seed of knowledge a teacher has sown in the mind of the young.

Limited my experience may be, allow me to speak my mind about progress and developments in the fifty years I was away from home, but on the other side of midnight, so to speak.

1. The monster that Frankenstein made lurks in nuclear stockpiles, chides with scientists tinkering with life, begging to give him a name and a home.

2. Our blue planet has an ugly shade of murk and crimson – fire consuming the forests, erosion eating out the land, polar ice shrinking, flooding the shorelines, and boring a hole in its jacket.

3. One race-one nation equals globalization. But globalization is not the ultimate goal of mankind, and neither shall build for him a dreamworld of Utopia. The shrinking of the gene pool predisposes man, or any species for that matter, to its doom. Aculturation is leading mankind to early to its demise.
Homogenization is the death sentence amid a bed of roses for mankind. How we have  taken the role of God in our hands! It could be the greatest sin of disobedience after the banishment of our ancestors from Paradise because they eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

4. Today the whole world is wired, and it travels fast on two feet. Thanks to communication and transportation. The Concord, the first supersonic commercial transport, would take a busy executive around the world and back virtually in three days, sending to the archives Jules Verne's 17th century novel, "Eighty Days Around the World." Space tourism would soon be taking people to the moon and back, like hopping from one continent to another. Video-conference, satellite images, kinect sensor, virtual realities, and the Internet, continue to give us more and more access to the enormous wealth of information, through the magic of communication the world over. And the greatest human invention - The Tablet like Pocket PC and i-Pod will soon become available to the ordinary person, thus making him "citizen of the world" in modern parlance. Despite these, scientists are wary about the "diminution of man role amid his own inventions," which leads us to wonder what our future.

5. Man-induced phenomena are too difficult to separate from those of natural causes. We take the latter as an excuse of our follies, a rationalization that runs counter to be rational. Only the human species has both the capability to build or destroy – and yet we love to destroy what we build.

6. The dangerous game of numbers is a favorite game, and our spaceship is getting overloaded. Man’s needs, more so man’s want, become burgeoning load of Mother Earth, now sick and aging. Will Pied Piper ever come back and take our beloved young ones away from us, as it did in Hamlyn many years ago?

7. Conscience, conscience, where is spirituality that nourishes it. Where have all the religious teachings gone? Governance – where is the family, the home? Peace and order – Iraq, Afghanistan – another Korea, another Vietnam, only in another place, in another time. And now social unrest is sweeping over North Africa and the Middle East.

8. Janus is progress, and progress is Janus. It is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is The Prince and the Pauper. Capitalism has happy and sad faces – the latter painted in pain and sadness on millions all over the world. It is inequity that makes the world poor; we have more than enough food, clothing, shelter, and energy for everybody. What ideology can save the world other than Capitalism?

As I grew older I did not only learn to adjust with the realities of life as I encountered them, but to grasp its meaning from the points of view of famous philosophers and writers. I studied it with the famous lines from William Blake’s famous poem, Auguries of Innocence.

To wit.

“To see the world in a grain of sand;
And a Heaven a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.”

- William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
If ever I have ventured into becoming a redeemer of sort, armed with a pen in hand, I too, have learned from Blake’s verse of the way man should view the world in all its magnanimity yet in simplicity. If ever I have set foot to reach the corners of the Earth, and failed, I am consoled by the humble representation of “a grain of sand” that speaks of universal truth and values.

And beauty? If I have not found it in a garden of roses, I dare not step on a flowering weed. And posterity and eternity? They are all ensconced in periodicity, a divine accident of existence – to say that each and every one of us is here in this world by chance – an unimaginable chance – at “a certain time and place” which - and I believe - has a purpose in whatever and however one lives his life. But I would say that a lifetime is all it takes “to see the world” and be part of it. It is a lifetime that we realize the true meaning of beauty, experience “infinity and eternity”. Lifetime is a daily calendar of victories and defeats.

While the world goes around and around . . .

The world like in Aristotle’s time continue to struggle with the preservation of values; the species will continue to evolve as postulated by Darwin; culture will express itself more fully since the first painting of early man dwelling in the caves of Lasceaux in France.

Trade and commerce will continue to progress, reaches a plateau and declines - a normal curve that goes with the rise and fall of civilizations. Yet leaders do not see it that way. Not even the Utopia of conquerors like Alexander the Great whose global economic vision two thousand five hundred years ago is basically the same as those of the great powers of today - United States, European Union, ASEAN.

The great religions will continue to bring man to his knees and to look up to heaven amidst knowledge revolution and growing complexity of living. Man’s infinitesimal mind continues to probe the universe. Never has man been so busy, so bothered, so confused, yet so determined than ever before, trying to fill up God’s Seventh Day.

As I go on reflecting I came across the book of Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 1994. He warns us succinctly.

“This world, which appears to be a great workshop in which knowledge is developed by man – which appears as progress and civilization, as a modern system of communication, as a structure of democratic freedom without any limitations – this world is not capable of making man happy."

- Pope John Paul II, On the Threshold of Hope

Now I am home, my father, my hometown. . Thank you for being a native of this most beautiful place on earth.

Take me into in your arms once more, dear father. ~

Aerial View, circa 1976

San Vicente
(My Hometown)

In my childhood I saw detours of footprints
dividing the East and the West, two warring niches
where the zone of peace was the holy ground,
and beyond was wilderness - and the unknown,
beyond the confines of Subec and the Cordillera,
the memory of Diego Silang, and the Basi Revolt
on old meandering Bantaoay River.
In my youth I saw the sun sitting
on acacia stumps and on the tired landscape,
but rising in dreams and visions on the horizon,
and in the wisdom of my forebears,
the old guards of your fort.
Time has stood still since then.
I come to pay homage in your temple,
and into the arms of my people, my roots;
I see the footpath of yesteryears,
now grown and multiplied, and always fresh,
leading from the East and West,
and the many corners of the earth
converging at your portals in pilgrimage. ~

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