Imagine the scene: church birds continually chirping at noontime.
This is momentuous.
And I like this scene.
I like the scene to keep on rolling and rolling in my mind, heady for the sound and sight of birds singing their canticles of joy, their psalms on the church tower, their chanting in church naves.
It is that I like going to church, any church for that matter, when I know that there are not many people around, when I can say that the whole place is mine for the keeping and the praying and the praising.
I had the chance to go to the Vatican several times.
But the visit that I enjoyed most was when I was not with a group, when in the late evening I would go down the piazza and see from there the glory that was Rome, with its grandeur in the lighted night, with its sacred loneliness when only a few people would wander into its courtyard.
Like a thief, I looked at the ruins surrounding the Vatican. I commit the details to memory.
And I am transported to the present.
I imagine the large marble columns carried by black slaves. The columns gleam even in the dark and their solidity awes me: solid marbles with the solid sins of those who have thought of building up a temple for God's glory at the expense of slaves.
But enough of this sour-graping.
I am now in the courtyard. I am facing the grandiose church of the many popes that reigned here, some of them entombed in the crypts below.
Towards me is the entrance, magnificent for its hardwood, aged by time and the mercy of the elements, harsh history and the eternal God.
Towards my left, in the narrow street that looks like an alley leading to the ruins of imperial Rome, is one flowing spring that comes from the old aqueduct from the mountains, the same spring water that the ancient Romans drank, Dionysian feast or no Dionysian feast.
I go to the spring, its metal faucet cannot hide its history, what with the historical marker reminding the drinker of this faucet's storied past.
I drink, and I drink again.
I drink some more until I could not drink anymore.
It is 10:00 in the evening and the sun is still up.
The sun god has yet to go away, rest in the horizon to come back again the following day. But at this late hour, it is still there, watching all believers and atheists and all people who are trying to look into their hearts for whatever faith is left in their hearts' cheery--or chilly-- chambers.
I am transported back to the Nativity Church in Torrance.
It is an old church, but not that old to have known the history of exiles and immigrants like me.
The congregation is Hispanic and white, with but only a handful of Asians and Blacks.
Filipinos, you can count the fingers of your left hand and no more. Keep the other hand in your pocket for other sinister uses.
But this church has its peculiar charm to me.
Its beauty lies in its being in the middle of Torrance, that part of a huge Rancho de San Pedro that is as hilly as Marikina and Antipolo and their environs, with the cliffs generously bowing to the eternal splashing of the sea waves.
It is quiet here.
It is silent.
It is calm.
These are the categories I am on the lookout for when I go to a church.
I have began to hate the rowdy one, the raucuous places of worship, the ones with the bozza-nova beats at the wrong time as if you are in a concert of rock and roll or metallic rock.
When you are weary in summertime, you cannot afford to be sad.
You have to be prayerful, and to be resigned to ruach, to chi, to prana, all the life-giving energies that will prod you into looking at life with kind eyes, with mercy to yourself, with gentle understanding to the circumstances that lead you to that human condition that you want redeeming from.
At the Nativity, I have for company the church birds continually chirping at noontime.
Before I go to work, I make it a point to pass by this church. It pays that my work begins at 12:45 and I take possession of the church, the whole church, for a time.
At noontime, the Nativity is mine, all mine. I allow my hopes to be born here, renewed, and born again.
Nobody comes around in here at that time.
I sit at the left corner pew, last row, the pew knowing me so.
I allow silence to speak to me, the silence of a God that talks to me even if many times I keep complaining about being an immigrant, being an exile, being a party to this Diaspora.
I listen to the silence.
The church birds keep on with their singing at noontime.
I get out of the church only to come back to it next time around.
A. S. Agcaoili
June 3 & 4, 2006