Misa de Gallo and hilot

By: Raymund Fernandez December 19,2017 - 11:12 PM


Tuesday morning, I felt a desire to attend Misa de Gallo. This came perhaps out of a sense of nostalgia since it has been ages since I attended this early morning Mass.

But this was something I used to do with my late mother. We lived in a street of many names, P. Del Rosario Extension., Private Riverside, Private Deretso, etc.

My mom and I walked to Sto. Rosario Church for this Christmas tradition. I remember the nippy cold of morning and the breakfast of puto maya and sikwate at the tabo-tabo, the corner market along the way home.

I went to Redemptorist Church for the Mass. The homily was about God’s promise coming to pass.

Quite a positivist message coming at a time when people need it. And mostly for the weather, the storm that fizzled out, and the storms of politics we have all grown quite used to.

Such a message as could be taken several ways considering threats of revolutionary government, martial law, or a God-sent-hoped-for-possible end to all our troubles.

The season was all about hope in a season of incredulity and the dumbing and numbing of moral sensibility consequent to so many thousand senseless murders. Irony. And yet, my morning went well.

I was there for a needed dose of nostalgia for the old days when my Mommy was also my barkada. I was then only beginning to realize my own ability to help her life, our lives. It was a happy time. I remember that.

But quite quickly, my morning of nostalgia and ironic hope brought me to the parking lot at Carbon market for the week’s shopping. It was a pleasant day. The rains were gone. The sun was up. The sky was blue.

And I found myself hanging out in the shades near the corner stalls where they sold all manner of fowl: ducks and a pair of turkey wandering about in the drying mud, chickens and pigeons crammed into cages small enough to cast doubt of the human capacity for empathy.

A cock crowed for me a reminder of the literal meaning of Misa de Gallo. A rooster’s Mass even if this one was tied by rope leading to a nail stabbed into the ground to keep him from wandering away.

And as it turned out, the fowl seller was also the resident manghihilot. And I found this out as he treated his first patient of the day.

The patient was a bearded young man looking very much like Manny Pacquiao. His right hand was an ugly black and blue, and bloated from either a sprain or a gangrenous infection. Doctor Hilot didn’t seem to care either way.

The patient narrated how the hand was crushed by a big basket of tomatoes he was carrying on his back and unloaded obviously wrongly. I asked permission from both to listen and take photos. They didn’t mind.

The manghihilot could not have been one for empathy judging by the state of his fowls crammed as they were into their tiny steel cages.

But I became sure of this as he pressed his thumb into his patient’s back and moved him to lift his head and grimace in pain, openmouthed and toothless, such as I have not ever seen a man grimace in pain before.

A silent scream. But it might have been my misreading.

I could not help wondering if what the patient felt was a mix both of pain and pleasure; or possibly, relief after the pain went away. And as he looked very much like Manny Pacquiao — the senator endorsed by the sitting president to soon become president — I must have to admit my own reaction was both of pain and pleasure, even mirth, at this sight.

I made sure not to show my true feelings to the two characters I was literally spying on.

But when the manghihilot started working on the bloated right hand, that was it. I thought I was out of there.

And yet, I stayed. The camera was my insulation from the sight of such unimaginable excruciating pain.

And then I could not help issuing forth a prayer: Dear God, Please don’t make us go through anything coming close to this before you fulfill for us your promise of salvation.

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