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Honoring the dead

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok October 31,2016 - 08:07 PM

I’m following my friend and media colleague Jhunnex Napallacan on the social networking site for local and national news updates which he, as lead anchor of Station dyLA, delivers without delay. His commentary style is folksy and street-smart, often laced with sarcasm and humor — that’s why many people follow him in the multimedia platform. I also think humor is his way of coping because the work of a full-time broadcast executive and anchor of a flagship news program is no joke especially around this time when Jhunnex, who is also the station manager, needs to deliver the goods in terms of programming and the bottom line.

Thus, when Jhunnex advised people who are unable to go home to the province to visit the graves of their loved ones not to worry because their souls would be visiting them instead, he was actually trying to make light of a particular situation he was in. The post got a lot of “likes” with some followers remarking the joke got them scared, but it was all “komedya” or in the spirit of fun according to my media colleague.

Yesterday, my newsfeed had Jhunnex saying he was still making the same joke on air when all of a sudden, the main door to the announcer’s and technician’s booths slammed shut by itself so hard that it made the hair on his skin stand up. This time, the conversation thread became static.

Jhunnex’s weird experience reminded me of a story shared a few weeks ago by Fr. Harvey Argoncillo during a mass in the Schoenstatt Shrine in Lawaan, Talisay City. In his homily, Fr. Harvey talked about “unsettled souls” or what Cebuanos call “mga kalag nga wa mahiluna” and how his Marian devotion helped him to cope with the spiritual needs of parishioners.

While still a deacon assigned in the St. Joseph Parish in Tabunok, Talisay City, he was dispatched to bless a room in a public school building in a neighboring barangay. Thinking he was to bless a newly built section of the school building, he showed up at the appointed time, but to his utter surprise, he was asked to away drive evil spirits who “took residence” in the rest room.

The deacon said he was about to enter the room when an unseen force grabbed his hand, but he proceeded with the rites which included prayers and sprinkling of holy water. He later learned that the place was a “killing field” referring to murders perpetrated by insurgents in the late ’70s to the early ’80s in Talisay, which was still a municipality at that time.

To recall, communist rebels went on a killing spree similar to the extrajudicial killings in the current bloody war against illegal drugs, which earned for Talisay the pejorative, “killing fields.” Insurgents dumped off dead bodies of anticommunists in several places in Talisay, many of them in the public school that deacon Harvey was called to bless.

After the rites, the teachers had a scared look on their faces and told him the “ghosts” were standing right behind him, so he left in a huff. A few days later, he returned with a priest to celebrate mass and offer prayers for the dead. They went back a few more times to offer mass and prayers, and according to Fr. Harvey who is now assigned in the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, he has not heard of any more strange stories from the teachers, perhaps because the “restless souls” had been guided to their final resting place on the wings of the prayers of the faithful.

The twin memorial for the saints and the dead comes one after the other because both “speak to us of the beyond,” according to Vatican preacher Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM. He said the elements of the Feast of All Souls, as it is called in other countries, are rooted in the Resurrection of Christ who has gone ahead “to prepare a place for us.” To another preacher, praying for the dead, especially our deceased loved ones and those for whom nobody prays is “the sweetest of all the spiritual works of mercy.”

Instead of praying for the dead, today many people are lured by Western-type celebrations that place the dead in the context of costume parties and elements like ghoulish make up and outfits, trick or treat, and jack-o-lantern. In the subdivision where I live, the association organized trick or treat and even put up a giant ghoulish figure near the entrance. These practices are being fostered by shopping malls and lead us away from our Christian culture. These are subtle attacks against Catholic tradition and devalue not only our culture but also our core Christian beliefs.

One of moving reflections on the memorial of the dead comes from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who said, our prayers for our beloved dead manifest that “Christians grieve differently from all the rest because we believe that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death.”

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TAGS: Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Communism, Communist, DYLA, humor, kalag, killing, soul, Souls, Tabunok, Talisay, Talisay City

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