(A talk prepared for the Badoc-Pinili Women’s Association, St Paul Church, Beretania St., Honolulu, Hawaii, on the occasion of their annual gathering and the recognition of high school graduates whose parents or grandparents are members of the association, Feb. 7, 2009.)
Let me start my talk by giving you my warm greetings. Iyawatko kadakayo ti naimbag a rabiiyo.
I have since waited for this day since Mrs. Honesta Rohr asked me to come and be with you in your gathering—and many things stood in the way and yet my eagerness to be with you did not wane a bit, I must say.
I must say with all honesty and humility that I am so honored to be with you and to share with you my thoughts on certain things that are our common interest, or so I think.
Ngarud, palubosandak koma nga agyaman nga umuna iti daytoy naisangsangayan nga oportunidad iti daytoy naisangsangayan met laeng a panagtataripnong.
Makautangak kadakayo iti naimbag a nakem.
I am aware of two things this evening: that you are going to be honoring our widows and we are going to be honoring as well our children who have come past high school, gotten their high school diploma, and now thinking of getting a real life, more independently from their parents and guardians this time.
But I hope these children who we are honoring as well tonight will think of a life in college, get their degree, and from there on, strike it out and lead us all into greatness.
My concern for these children we are honoring stems from my being a parent myself and from my being a teacher all my life.
As an Ilokano parent, I was willing to pawn my house if only to send my kids to school.
This is what most Ilokano parents do: they mortgage everything including their chance to enjoy life the way they see fit in order for their children to get an education and have a better life than their parents.
Before I scare away these young people who are with us, let me go back to the first call of the night: what to make do with widowhood and how to honor our friends who are here who are going through this rite to owning up their grief.
I speak as a student of life—and my view on the matter is borne of my constant reflection, an act of thinking through of life in general, and life on the edge, in particular.
Even at an early age, while I was studying to become a priest in the Catholic Church, I had occasions in which I had been exposed to the finiteness of life, to the challenges of mortality, and to the almost endless challenges of living a life with meaning and honesty.
I worked in a center for the dying of Mother Theresa; I worked in the spinal ward of an orthopedic hospital.
In all of these, I have seen what death is all about.
I know: I have seen loneliness and loss in death.
My mother is a widow herself, and I could see in her eyes the moonglow that tells of light, but this light is one of a sheen that can only reveal a layer of pain.
That pain, I do acknowledge.
That glow of the moonlight that is not the same as the glow of the noonday sun speaks of the sorrow one must come to terms with in the end.
But of course, they say that there are two kinds of widows: one who is bereaved, and another who is relieved.
Adda kano dua a kita ti balo—wenno nabalo: daytay addaan iti babantot gapu iti nadagsen a rikna ti panagpasina wenno daytay nakarikna iti panaglaan ti rikna a nabantot gapu iti panagpasina.
Iti ababa a pannao: adda dua a kita ti balo: daytay agdungdung-aw iti “Apo, Apo, apay a sinigudmo nga innala ti asawak?” ken ‘tay agkunkuna, “Yaman pay, Apo, ta nalagipmo, nga innala!”
Iti daytoy a grupoyo, paggaammok: Dakayo dagiti adda iti umuna a grupo, ket kunkunayo, “Ikkam iti inana ti asawak, Apo!”
Ikararagtayo: maikkan koma ti inana dagiti assawayo.
Ngem kunatayo met: ikkanyo met ti inana dagiti isip, panunot, ken bagbagiyo.
Ammotayo daytoy a banag: amintayo ket sumaklangto iti Namarsua—ket kas iti kunadan—maysa a nakas-ang a kinapudno, adda dagiti umun-una, adda dagiti sumarsaruno.
Admitirentayo daytoy ket ditay sikapan nga adayuan no di ket sarangten a situtured: awan ti agbiag nga agnanayon iti mortal a biag ngem adda agbiag nga agnanayon iti sumuno a biag.
Daytoy nga adal ti panagkunak ti mangsalvar kadatayo kadagiti leddaang, kadagiti gulib ti panagmaymaysa, kadagiti kettang ti panaguray lallalo ta ita awanen ti ur-urayen ta napanen iti sabali a biag.
While we do have an obligation to our dead—we have an obligation, an equal one—to ourselves.
By all means, we have to go through this ritual of bereavement marked by sorrow, loneliness, pain.
The nights can be long as the cold days can be long.
And everywhere we see are clouds, and mountains with clouds, and fields with clouds.
And the evenings, even if bathed by the full moon, appear to us in that sunken light, its sheen that of sadness we have never known.
I know: my mother went through that—and she went through that believing that her life has ended in her widowhood.
But she had to think of her children—and that was when she pulled herself together again, gather her strength, gather her words together so that again, so that once more, she could to recite the stories of her life from her memory.
That realization cannot come at the same time for all widows.
Some go through a ritual of grief far longer and far more intense than the rest.
Some go through a ritual of grief with no sense of self and meaning in the beginning.
But let us look at it this way: that widowhood is not an end.
That widowhood is a mark of time but does not mark time—but leads us to look at time in the eternity of life’s graces and blessings.
For indeed, while it is true that widowhood marks the end of a life of a spouse, it is also true that the same widowhood marks the beginning of a life of a person renewed by the experience of loss, by the story of suffering, by the narrative of pain.
It is true that widowhood marks the end of the story of a couple in love, with only one of them left to relive the stories, it is also true that widowhood is the beginning of a new-found story of gathering one’s own words so that the stories can be told again with vigor and vitality.
It is true that widowhood marks the destruction of a life, but it is also true as well that the same experience of widowhoods marks the possibility of rebuilding a life that is destroyed by pain.
For when the widow begins to gather her inner strength, a new life comes, a life come anew, a life comes with its promise of memory with its valleys of challenges and truths and beauty.
In effect, what we are saying is that widowhood is not an end—it should never be an end.
It should be quite the contrary—it should be the opposite.
Because the widow who is accepting of the possibilities of grace and blessings and lessons in life revisits what life can offer and begins to look at life again with its potentials, with its vast possibilities.
In effect, what we are saying is that the widow must—and must she ought to do this—learn to live again.
There is no way out except for her to learn to live again.
Failing to do that, widowhood becomes a futile, useless exercise.
In a sense, widowhood is a metaphor of loss—and each one of us has gone through an experience of loss, some more losses than the others, some having had more profound losses than the others.
But here is not cases of how many losses have you lost but how many triumphs have you gained out of these losses.
Saan a pannakapukaw ti pinakaimportante amin.
Ti pinakaimportante amin ket ti pannakabirok iti bukod a bagi—ti panangisubli iti bukod a bagi—iti agtultuloy a dana ti biag kalpasan ti pannakapukaw.
We will always have widows as we will always have widowers and people losing other people, in sickness as in our mortalities.
And you were not the first widows in town.
The moral now is that: what do you do with that widowhood.
Ti leksion ket daytoy: ania’t pamay-am iti panagbalinmo a balo.
I am certain that a number of you are still in your early stage of grief—for which we would like to offer our condolences and prayers.
What I say is that you go through that rite of grief always in prayers and with an open heart and soul.
Feel each moment of that grief—and remember it as remembrance can.
And out of that experience of memory, go, go back to life, go back to the world, go back and reclaim your life by learning to live again, by learning to live again in joy and contentment for the memory that is left with you.
What does this mean? It simply means this: Go now, go heal yourself.
And in the healing of yourself, go, go heal the others, heal the other widows, and heal them so that they can find themselves again.
Now let me turn our students who have gotten their diploma.
We offer you our congratulations and our prayers and wishes that you will use the lessons you learned in the classroom and in life to serve others.
This is a cliché, I know, but it is not a cliché when you realize that there are others who are less fortunate than you are, that out there are the others who have no homes, that out there are the others who have no parents, that out there are the others who would have wanted to finish high school but can’t because simply, they have no means nor the time nor the resources.
When you have enough, you may not see that blessing you have got—as philosophers would sometimes remind us that only in the lack would we sometimes appreciate what we have got for a time.
The trick is that we are not going to wait for that lack to come by; the trick is that we look for the abundance that we can share with others, the grace that we can partake of with others, the blessings that we can shower with others.
That is how simple it is.
But sometimes, the simple things are the most difficult things to do which is why you have to find your way into living life the it ought to be lived: a life in freedom and yet a life lived with a commitment; a life in truth, and yet a life lived in the difficulties of truth-telling; a life in contentment, and yet a life lived in the eagerness to lend a hand to others.
These are not easy—these are difficult acts to do.
But that is how our humanity is supposed to be—and that is how our being people is supposed to be marked.
And no less.
This is why I insist that if you ever get the chance, go back to school, and do all you can to finish school.
The Ilokanos of old would remind us: A, ti adal ti kinabaknang a di mapukaw, di matakaw.
That was wise—that old saying of the Ilokanos: Education is one wealth you can never lose, one wealth you can never be robbed of.
Let me conclude by making light our circumstances at this time.
On a happy note, I have heard of a joke from a friend who has lived an unhappy life with a husband.
She said: I am so pissed off because I am not yet a widow—Makarurodak pay ta saanak pay a nabalo.
I am sure that somewhere, there are some women who envy our widows, who would say in silence: Taltalekna pay ta nabalon!
That, of course, suggests a virtue in widowhood, and I pray our friends here who are widows will now go past their grief and embrace life once more by letting their wounds to heal, finally, and soon.
To our young men and women we are recognizing, we salute you for your achievement.
Have courage in life and gain from the experiences of your elders.
To all of you, good evening.