Sundays in Pasay


My favorite place of worship when I was young was Don Bosco Church in Makati. It had an unimposing aura about it as it is a school and church, and most importantly, it was directly in front of Makati Cinema Square which didn’t use to be a pirated DVD and cellphone repair stalls haven. It used to be, from what I recall, a decent enough mall where Catholic families such as ours could go after the extremely nourishing Sunday homily. I can’t honestly say that I cared for homilies when I was in grade school age, but Don Bosco was truly like heaven with its perfectly mowed lawns and playground-like courtyard, making it easier for young Catholics like me to suffer the burden of hearing English-speaking priests speak allegedly virtuous aphorisms. Sundays spent hearing about Christ our Lord was worth it as long as there was a promise of mall entry immediately after. If only Christopher Hitchens had some sort of reward for being inundated with religion early on in his life, he may have been slightly less vile towards religion and/or just Catholicism.

Santa Clara Church in Pasay, on the other hand, just wasn’t the right place to be taking your kids for Sunday mass if you’re a parent who wishes to have a religion or god-conscious children. I wish my parents knew this then. The best it could offer were cheese curls and popcorn stands which were hardly capable of making mass-averse children okay with going to church. In the mind of a young person, those precious 1.5 hours pouting and salivating (for cheese curls) at church could have been spent playing Rockman 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Santa Clara in Libertad held no wonders for children wanting to spend their Sundays more productively. Masagana had treats for the adults (the sleaze-infested cinemas, the cheap grocery) and teenagers (arcade games) but none for little children finding their place in the world, specifically, in Pasay City. Since I was not a special child, I behaved predictably and never had fond feelings for church-going as a Sunday activity.

Going to other churches within the Pasay-Makati vicinity was just too depressing to even contemplate, not to mention very unnecessary, and so, I believe that as child, I exercised what very little conviction I had, when I refused to go to church if the church were neither Don Bosco nor Santa Clara. I would have rather spent the remaining hours of that Sunday entertaining thoughts of befriending Satan, than go to a church that is unfamiliar and even bleaker than Santa Clara. I don’t know that this is what really went through my mind as a church-negating child, but I recall quite vividly that hearing the Apostles’ Creed is one of Sunday mass’s greatest providers of relief as it signifies the end of the homily, a 30-minute gabfest that I never once remember appreciating the existence of. Looking back now, I think priests had much more freedom to talk smack about reproductive health and similar bills and things that are supposed to be the causes of inflammatory language in most opinionated Facebook persons’ posts. Back then, there was just no way anyone could badmouth any priest who deigned to preach antiquated lessons, moral or not, in a free medium for all to see. It can be supposed that people are a lot more caring now and more enlightened.

I grew up and that meant one thing: I have become a Masagana target market. As a ten, eleven-year old boy in Pasay, I finally recognized that there are sources of joy where one dares to find them even in a place as delectably grimy as Pasay. Interest in video games transitions into a mild addiction for arcade games and Masagana had arcades, ugly though their joysticks may be. Also, ten and eleven is when I started being fascinated with cassette tapes. It could be an interest in hearing music and nice songs first before the cassette fascination, but it was great either way. I bought my first album, 4 Non-Blondes, in Masagana department store and it was great. What’s Up was such a big hit in the early 90s and Spaceman, the second single, is also wonderful.

Tapes were truly great, I soon discovered. One of the best incentives of growing up is having a genuine interest in a thing and mine seems to have been throwing away money at record store cashiers. Yes, throwing. After 4 Non-Blondes, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Cranberries, lots of Eraserheads, Alamid, Rivermaya and even Orient Pearl and plenty others. I liked my taste.

Then, I started reading. In the topmost floor of the Masagana super store, there was a stack of very randomly arranged books that were sold for 5, 10, 15 pesos. That’s when I first realized that shoplifting can be done if one puts enough thought and effort into doing it and doing it well. 1993 was a good year in literature and life education for me.

Odyssey soon appeared. With its twice as many albums and CDs, life was never the same. I was already in my teens which meant that TLC has penetrated my consciousness. Beyond the greatness of Waterfalls, I was slowly appreciating the significance of this group to a music-appreciating life. They have talked about very worthy topics such as having confidence in yourself, taking care of yourself (by not having unprotected sex), the value of creeping, dealing with unrequited love and lust, and a host of other subjects involving self-empowerment.

I wanted so much to buy the hologram version of Fanmail but that would have meant pawning one of my mommy’s jewelry, back when I still had one of her jewleries. If I were more audacious, I would have pawned the gold charmbracelet she gave me (through my daddy) and bought the Fanmail special edition which, according to rumors, had the rap version of No Scrubs featuring Left-eye. It would be so much later in life when I would learn the value of audacity, and also patience. As for patience, I thank God for providing me it early in life because having that virtue meant waiting for albums to get cheap. Sometime in the last decade, I found a Japanese edition of Fanmail with a bonus track, a track which you can never ever find in any other version of the album.

Called into blandness

The church, with all its rules about sex, the modern world, and books and matters of dogma, had become absolute proof to me that God didn’t exist. The idea of God belonged to the utter falsity of Catholicism. If an edifice like that was a pack of lies – and it had to be a lie that one could burn in Hell for all eternity for masturbating or kissing a boy, or reading a novel by Alexandre Dumas, or an essay by Sartre – then there was no God.

-from Called Out of Darkness (A Spiritual Confession) by Anne Rice

As I’m sure a thousands of masturbators in the planet would agree, a God that damns you to Hell for all eternity for masturbating a boy OR kissing a boy (that’s how it reads to me), is surely one that couldn’t deserve all the praise and devotion, and not entirely because those thousands put boy masturbation or boy kissing above anything else in the world, but because such belief is definitely a pack of lies, even if Anne Rice doesn’t say so herself. Without going into detail about how nowhere in the Bible does it imply that masturbation is sin, the only thought to ponder is: how could one possibly live a life, Catholic or not, without masturbation or kissing?

We are now thankfully in an age that’s grown quite indifferent to Catholic dogma such that people who make spectacular displays of filibusterism against the church get their very own Facebook pages where a million likers can profess an innocent-seeming thumbs up, although this habit of support giving is a no-brainer as everyone knows too well that these online things serve almost exclusively our time’s devil incarnates: Zuckerberg, et al. So, liking a church protester’s well executed Holy mass disruption, out of nowhere, unprovoked, is seen as totally acceptable behaviour and what better platform to show support for that than through FB.

Anne Rice is a strong woman-type like Oprah, Madonna and Kathy Griffin. She gets away with saying things like the above, whether in fiction or non-, just as other strong women types get away with being preachy, bitchy and strong. They are admired by the meek, by those who struggle with aggression because SWT not only do things their way, they get praised and paid for it. Anne Rice, who in her thirty years of being an atheist has conveniently said Fuck you to the church through Lestat, has returned to her faith, has been called out of the creative darkness she got so well off of, writing now only for Jesus Christ.

It’s probably the least exciting thing in the world to vigil for the most recent developments in someone’s love-hate relationship with religion, but not if it concerns a much admired and considerably widely read novelist who made mind-blowing literature off of it such as Anne Rice. Judging from the length and apparent devotion it took to create these two types of literature (the pro and anti-church), the non-Christian books with the faith-challenged anti-heroes by far seem more likable than all the ones with Jesus as main inspiration, and that’s not necessarily a knock on Jesus’ popularity.  It simply doesn’t take a scholar to realize that for example, Blackwood Farm had much more thought and heart put into it than Out of Egypt, and not just because BF is thicker than the two Christ the Lord books combined, but because Tarquinn Blackwood, Mona Mayfair and to some extent Lestat, seemed more alive than the young Yeshua. Again, not an attempt to diss Jesus in any way, just saying in the context of Anne Rice’s writing. And yes, any of the Vampire Chronicles except maybe Blood Canticle, rule out the Jesus novels.

I’m not in general averse to spirituality or God or Jesus but if I were to measure my fondness for spirituality in relation with my fondness for Anne Rice, I’ll have no trouble admitting I would have much preferred the Anne Rice who would write a memoir with sharpness and traces of rage (see above) than the one who now is at peace with her faith.

Anne Rice bailed out of the Catholic Church again, just recently, resulting to chills (or shrugs) running up and down the collective spine. Whether that will lead to a more ‘edgy’ new series remains a mystery, sort of. Maybe she can make angels appear as interesting as her living deads but it’s best not to hold thy breath.