Samar News.com Mobile Website
INSIGHT

Tender Mercies

By ROBERT Z. CORTES
June 12, 2017

Three Saturdays ago, I and two of my friends met a lady who can easily qualify as the coolest and funniest octogenarian of our lives - even if she could hardly walk. (She's not in the picture though :) )

She lived in a house also occupied by her older brother and his wife who, she later told us, both hardly minded her. She had one little corner in that house but it was practically a separate unit since it had its own private entrance from one side of the house.

Our random meeting happened through the recommendation of a barangay counsellor-friend who knew her semi-abandoned plight. That first meeting was unforgettable. There was a kind middle-aged lady who led us to Lola, and what followed was easily an hour of laughter and deep insight when we thought it was just going to be 10 minutes of expressing our piety and pity.

The upshot of that first meeting was that we resolved we were going to visit Lola more regularly - bringing our other friends. Pope Francis, after all, has been very clear about not abandoning our elderly – they’re one of those in the peripheries of the Church. And here was one who would not only give us an opportunity to obey the Pope; she was even one who could make our and our friends’ Saturday mornings much more meaningful. Most importantly she pleaded with us to please come again.

Last Saturday, we made that next visit. It was raining but it didn't matter. When we arrived at Lola's side of the house we saw that the main door was open, but the screen door was locked. We then called out to Lola. However, instead of her, someone else heard us who came out from another door. Seeing the apparition was like an encounter with Medusa: we froze.

And it was not because she had snakes on her head (in fact, she only had a fake flower stuck on top of her left ear). It was rather because she was someone we knew as the "pious lady" of the parish church nearby: always hopping around busily fixing things on the altar, approaching people nicely, making sure shawls were placed on "errant" girls who insisted on wearing sleeveless tops, etc. But she was now anything but that. She had been transformed to the imperious lady boss of the compound.

Looking at us like we were masked men about to take Lola hostage, she asked us what we were doing there. When we told her we were going to talk to Lola she asked what for. And before we could answer, she asked what we were going to do after we talked to her. And while we were formulating the answer to that last question – wondering if we were still going to answer the previous – she asked how long we were going to talk to Lola. This time one of us was quick enough to say “around 30 minutes,” and she replied, "one hour?" I then realized she really was paying attention. And very interested in our answers.

Seemingly satisfied that she had made quite an impression on us, she then pounded on Lola's door with all the vigor that her imperiousness could muster, as if she were demanding the Maute rebels to come out or else. She muttered impatiently under her breath why on earth Lola locked her door. (I thought I saw some flames coming out of her nostrils, but most probably I was just seeing things.) Very condescendingly, as if taking pity on the suffering we were about to be subjected in the visit, she advised us to be patient with Lola since Lola was "baliw." She then walked away.

I was interiorly shaken when I entered Lola's unit. I had begun to understand that Lola was around someone who didn't regard her the same way we did and wondered what other sort of abuses she received from this woman the rest of the time. Thankfully, Lola was her old self the last time we met her. We again laughed and learned from each other. We soon found out that she was the ignoble sister-in-law (ISIL) and Lola gestured that the lady was "baliw" by waving her two hands in circles near her head. The feeling was clearly mutual. That fact was a source of a good laugh for all of us and we continued our gossip in whispers. It was good, albeit innocently mean conspiratorial fun.

Pretty soon the meeting had to end earlier than we had wanted. After all, we were painfully aware that someone was timing our stay. When we went out of the door, planning to pay our respects to the ISIL before we left, we realized she was nowhere to be found. We then headed to the gate fearing she didn’t want to be disturbed anymore. And just when we were opening the gate, she made her second apparition – and she was definitely no Lady of Fatima.

Nope, after all, she caught us "red-handed" leaving without even the decency to say goodbye to her. Didn't she see us opening the gate, and we never even bothered to look for her? There’s a door, you should’ve knocked! Is this how you do things - you are welcomed like decent guests and you sneak out like thieves? Don't do that to me or anyone else ever again you understand? Sige, umalis na kayo!"

That was the end of the rope for me. As we were out of earshot I said, “What a disgusting creature.”

One of my friends asked me, “Why do you say that?”

I said, “Don’t you realize that the Gospel this morning was about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who paraded their piety outside but were full of wickedness inside? Didn’t she hear the priest’s homily this morning? She was right there in front, piously folding her hands.”

My friend meekly answered, “Well, maybe she needs a visit herself.”

Well... yes.

His reply gave me pause, and I immediately knew where it was going. She’s one of those in the peripheries, too.

I also quickly realized that he was right, but I just wasn't willing to fully admit it. Not yet. Darn it – how can someone so mean be in the same peripheries as such nice people as Lola? In fact, I wanted to resist the idea so much I managed to quip, “Well, I can ask a psychiatrist to visit her.”

But a few more steps, I had to accept a fact that was as clear as day: I was now like her. By putting her in the category of the disgusting, I was now in that same category. What a sad thing: many times we don't realize that we who think ourselves very much within the Church are in reality in its peripheries.

But with acceptance comes hope. Thankfully, the source of hope is clear. "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy." It's the very same idea that brought me to the coolest and funniest octogenarian I've ever met. Only now I understand better how much more deeply I still need to understand that word "mercy."

More News:
MSME receives 5th International award in chocolate competition
Increased health risks feared among people displaced by Marawi fighting
Mondragon Declared as Stable Internal Peace and Security Condition Municipality
ABAC Philippines to focus on MSMEs in pursuing inclusive growth agenda
135 Candidate Soldiers take oath
© Copyright 2013-2017 Samar News.com Mobile