REQUIEM FOR A DEPARTING BROTHER
It was, no doubt, the most unforgettable wake and burial the town of Guindulman ever witnessed. But let the aging lion narrate the events that transpired from the start..
Last Sunday, February 18, the lioness arose early at four in the morning and after applying mascara on her face and donning on her Sunday wear, left for the church but not after saying she will be home late in the afternoon as she, Baby and Arlene Palac, the last-named of whom just arrived from the States, are bound for Tagbilaran to do some grocery shopping. They will also be accompanied by Manny, Arlene’s husband and therefore may return home late as ladies’ talk will surely occupy their time. The aging lion can only meekly nod his head.
By seven, however, she was back teary-eyed, saying Tio Dadong Palac has just died and that while they will still proceed to Tagbilaran, it will be for another purpose- they will attend to all matters that will prepare the old man’s wake and burial after the four other daughters of the deceased and their respective husbands would have arrived from the States. Again, her aging pet could but nod his salt-and-peppery head.
Wires burned. Calling the four sisters overseas, they were informed they can only return home Thursday evening at the latest as Monday was President’s day at the other side of the hemisphere. It was fortunate Tante has a friend who owned a travel bureau and so the needed tickets were secured without difficulty. The two sisters and the lion tamer for their part, attended to the needs of the wake that will last the whole week that will culminate at two in the afternoon of Saturday.
Knowing that the deceased was a Mason, the lion tamer asked her pet what the aging lion’s plans are for the old man and received a curt one-word reply: “Nothing!” When asked why, he simply said “Unless of course the spokesperson of the family manifests that a Masonic Last Rite should be performed in this deeply parochial community as holding one would surely stir the hornet’s nest. “And what about the brethren of Dagohoy Lodge No. 84?” she barked back, and received this reply: “The old man’s death was already announced via the Internet and three lodge officers were furnished copies. As the three are second or third generation Masons of the lodge, that data sent via the Internet should suffice, and should there be no reaction on their part, then the death of the old man should be as good as the passing of the wind.
Relatives, friends and town-mates trove to the town’s most beautiful and definitely imposing house especially during the evening when the traditional prayers for the dead are regularly held. When one asked whether gambling should be held especially during the night as is the custom during wakes, the sisters curtly said no as the percentage of the pot (in local parlance, tong) is not needed. An announcement that flower offerings be omitted and in its stead money intended be given as donation for the ongoing church improvement be made instead But a few still could not help it, they wanted their names seen beside the coffin and ignored the announcement and sent in their condolences through wreaths of flowers anyway.
The folks from the States arrived Thursday evening with Tante, the eldest son-in-law, leading the pack in two sleek vans from Tagbilaran. Tante for his part, narrated their 36 hour arduous trip home but not after saying he again brought with him two books titled “The Gnostic Gospels” and “Inside Secret Societies”, the former with an eye-catching phrase that says The Complete Idiot’s Guide to, and the latter with the mystic skull and crossbones drawn inside a triangle that can easily mislead Freemasons that the book is about the Masonic Fraternity.
Then Saturday came. The well-attended mass at the at the church was held at one o’clock in the afternoon with the town’s parish priest officiating and with three other priests playing supporting roles as singers (The grapevine says the former was given P10,000 for his stipend and the three priests P500 each for their efforts.). During the homily, the priest extolled the virtues of the old man’s family and mentioned the valuable assistance that the family did in renovating the church (the roof, the attic, and now the sacristy) the last-mentioned of which is still ongoing. Four melodious, albeit sentimental songs were sang by the three men of the cloth before the coffin was brought to the funeral car to the cemetery and was followed by a motor caravan that saw for the first time the largest number of vehicles that trooped to the town’s cemetery atop the hill in living memory.
The final burial rites were likewise as imposing. The old man, being a war veteran during World War II with the rank of captain, was accorded the 21 gun salute and more than a hundred white balloons were let loose in the mid-afternoon air when the coffin was placed inside the tomb as if as if to signify that these balloons are to accompany the soul as it soars up the heavens. The family also saw to it that the accompanying mourners are well-cared for what with the abundant supply of sandwiches and tetra packed soft drinks that were distributed to quench their hunger and thirst.
For his part, the aging lion can just silently watch the entire proceedings at the sidelines. Never mind if he was unable to find a sprig of acacia to place atop the coffin, and never mind if no Last Rite was held; he fully knew that although in the end no one extolled his Masonic virtues during his wake and burial, he well knew that deep inside he was a good man the Craft has made better!
Note: This article is the final sequel to the article “Qoheleth at the Edge of the Earth!” Reactions from readers are welcome!