Sunday, March 02, 2003

Just finished watching "Like Water for Chocolate" based on the book Laura Esquival. Don't know if the movie was really able to capture the magical sense of exaggeration that's used in the book. So, read the book. But yes, it's another one of those movies where characters communicate through food. If only there was smell-ivision.

As for the pinakbet, it'll have to wait til at least Wednesday. Oh but the sweet rice and mangos, to drool for! Now if only there was someone to do the dishes..hmmm...

So, Ms. Winepoetics, just let me know when you have a wine for pinakbet and sweet rice with mangoes.

Dinner last night was also quite enjoyable. My friend's mother passed away recently and spent much of the evening exchanging family funeral stories. Funerals are really hilarious things. Don't get me wrong, the death itself is always hard and sometimes the pain of the loss never quite goes away. Death is one of our biggest fears. We're afraid of dying, afraid of loved ones dying, afraid of causing someone's death. But the process of funerals, particularly Filipino funerals, are tragicomedies.

On TV, most funerals are small somber occasions and weddings take 10 minutes. I've gone to maybe 2 weddings that actually took 10 minutes. And the funerals and wakes I've gone to are always filled with laughter. keep reading and I'll explain.

First the family. If you ever wanted to know who you're related to, go to a funeral and you'll meet every single one of them. Especially if the deceased had contentious relationships with them. Filipinos fear ghosts more than anything else and they especially fear ghosts coming to visit them. So, if you had a bad despicable relationship with a deceased person, you BETTER go to the funeral and make amends before they take the elevator to the afterlife or else you'll have an unexpected house visit. And for proof that you went, take a picture with the casket, that way when the ghost comes by asking why you weren't there to say goodbye, you can show them the lovely picture. Like my friend's partner commented, "It was like the prom! I'd never seen so many pictures taken."

Prayer. According to Catholic tradition (most Filipinos start out Catholic) you're supposed to pray the rosary every day for the first 9 days from the day of death, on the 40th day, then at the 1 year anniversary. That's about 50 Hail Mary's, 6 Our Fathers, and about 100 different names for the Virgen Mary known as the litany. At least 30 minutes. Not only will the rosary be prayed, but if you're lucky, it's in a different language that you don't understand. Now, if family members converted to other religions, they'll want to pray too. but they usually want their own prayer session, so you might say the rosary 2-3 times in a day for each of the religions. It's not any different really. Filipinos will usually oblige even if it wasn't the deceased's religion because, well, at least somebody is praying for them and the more prayer the better. Saying the rosary could be an Olympic event for Filipinos, because there is always someone in the pews critiquing the way it's being led. They might as well be given score cards.

Lastly, it's all about the after wake dinner, where you greet all these relatives you never knew you had giving condolences then wanting a crash course cheat sheet on getting to know you in 2 minutes or less. Bonus footage is when you get to watch all these relatives who haven't spoke with each other in years trying to interact and have conversations, add drinking and gambling and oh what a night! hahaha! sigh, but they're family and they're the only ones you got.

Suffice it to say, there's not much room to deal with the actual grieving. But, that's a longer process. As a martial artists, death is something that sits in the back of my mind. I learn techniques to kill and hurt people. And I practice techniques so that I become more efficient at it. Not that I go out looking to hurt people. On the contrary, the better I get the less I desire to use any of it. But, if in a situation I might have to, but by all means avoid it.

In being a warrior, I must not be afraid of death. A story I heard from my teacher about his teacher, Grandmaster Ben Largusa, goes like this. The Grandmaster used to work at the postoffice, like many Filipino immigrants. Most of his coworkers never knew about his life as a martial artist, except for one, a young man, who every day asked the Grandmaster if he could test his skills with him. Each day the Grandmaster would say no. Then one day, the Grandmaster agreed to spar with him and met him outside. When the young man approached, the Grandmaster took a stance and said, "I'm ready to die. Are you ready to die?" well, of course, the young man wasn't. For the Grandmaster, doing kali wasn't a game.

So how can one be ready to die? Easy. By living well. By treating the people in your life well. By taking care of the things and people you are responsible for in your life. By creating good things in your life. If you have lived a good life, then dying becomes simply a process of life.

For the people left behind, all you can do is take each day. The time we have for people in our lives are limited. I have to believe that when people leave, they have completed their journey in this life. And in turn, gave us, all we needed to receive.

So, go, pick up the phone, call someone close to you, get to know them again and live life well.

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