The second coming
Sometime in the distant past, somewhere in Bethlehem, the couple searched for a place where Mary could deliver her child Jesus.
Somewhere in Makati City, sometime in one of those “ber” months, the service vehicle I ride coasts sluggishly on Ayala Avenue, searching for the shortest route to transport us safely to our homes.
Good thing that the air-conditioning in the driver’s vehicle is functioning, unlike those I chance upon on my not-so-lucky days, where there is but faint air, or worse, none at all. Inside the vehicle, a pine-fresh scent tinges the cool air. Filling the vehicle is a song that lends a feel of Yuletide: “Silver bells, silver bells/ It’s Christmas time in the city…”
As if the sloth-like travel of our vehicle were not enough, I masochistically flip the length of my 935-page e-book of William Gaddis’ “The Recognitions.” Reading it while in transit proves to be a double-edged sword, a boon and a bane. It’s truly a reprieve when one experiences heavy traffic like this day. The downside, of course, is its length and the depth I need to fathom. Coincidentally, I’m on pages where several allusions are told about Christmas. Right on page 108, there’s a lady (in alto) singing, “Hark the herald angels sing!”
Breaking my attention, I look outside. There’s a drizzle. I can see lights and bulbs from afar, of different shapes and colors, brilliant and blinking, enveloping trees and dotting buildings.
How those Christmas lights remind me of the fireflies crowding the dapdap tree (Erythrina indica) on a clear night back in the province! When I was a child, my cousins and I used to gather and put them inside a transparent plastic bag; we shake the bag, and watch the fireflies glimmer. When we’ve had enough, my cousins would let them go, watch them fly and disperse into the blackness of the night.
In that childhood also, my imagery of Christmas was confined to the homemade lantern for a school project and to the used socks I would hang on our window, awaiting the candies or coins that Santa Claus would drop in.
Christmas, as I visualize, is a tapestry of colors. It could be that huge and dazzling parol. Or a winding of LED lights forming Christmas images like Santa Claus and his eight reindeer (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen) galloping in our neighborhood. The number of reindeer depends on how many one can afford. Or it could be a grand display of fireworks, bursting and painting the sky on Christmas Eve.
What if Christmas would be like a supernova bursting, its essence shattered into bits and pieces, spreading all over the world, blown by the cold Yuletide air? I can only imagine these bits and pieces clinging to everyone and everything.
These pieces transform themselves into good tidings. One was received by our family last July, when my nephew was born. Looking at my nephew, I see those bits reflected on his little, innocent eyes while his proud lolo cuddles him and clowns around just to elicit that elusive smile.
Fragments can be seen glimmering when my mother takes out and dusts off our Christmas tree, spruces it up and plants it in a little nook in our house. Barely perceptible glitter laces the paper cutouts my sister has prepared and pastes on our wall. It’s that ubiquitous greeting (“Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!”) welcoming everyone who visits our humble abode.
Some fragments find their way in the lilting voices of children singing outside our gate. The younglings wish they will be given coins and candies which they will divide among themselves. They end their carols with a gleeful shout (“Namamasko po!”) that sends positive vibes.
A faint whiff I can smell in the laughter and stories over cups of coffee at a December reunion of friends and classmates. I can feel those pieces hiding in the aroma enlarging after the hellos and usual conversation openers. Unending stories follow, unearthed from the depths of memory boxes.
A sliver transforms into an imaginary band tying everyone present, basking in the canopy of dancing lights in the Ayala Triangle Gardens. How it amazes the child witnessing it. There’s an old couple, sitting on a bench, holding hands. Are those tears of joy I see glinting in their eyes? How about that group of officemates who happily holler while teasing one among them with a joke I cannot hear? Everyone is looped in that imaginary tie.
I see an invisible shard making a part of the huge parol on that street corner. I see it reflected in the eyes of a bystander, planting in him a seed of hope. He’s a survivor of that recent typhoon, struggling to live each day with a belief that tomorrow will be a new one. A better day. He’s a phoenix that will grow from its ashes.
A morsel splashes on a billboard, a message informing all onlookers: “Christmas won’t be Christmas without gifts, without huggers and kissers.”
While I observe these things, a chip makes its way through me, growing, urging me to write this piece, like an epiphany of a sort, feeding me words, thoughts and realizations:
Though we don’t have gifts like the Magi had on their visit to the Holy Family—their gold, frankincense and myrrh—we can have our own, precious, albeit intangible, offerings. How? Through the love we give to our parents, neighbors, officemates and everyone we meet in our lives. Through the respect we give to other people despite our individual differences in belief, tradition, race, gender and religion. Yes, those random acts of kindness we do to strangers.
Back in college, in our religious education, we were told that Advent is a season observed as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity. We prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ—the Parousia.
We know that this preparation does not mean the aggrandizement of our homes. Not the hustle and bustle that occurs while shopping for grand Christmas trees and gifts for Him to appreciate. Not the handsome Noche Buena we could offer Him to eat. Not the most expensive holiday vacation we could invite Him to attend. It is the willingness to accept Him in our hearts that matters.
Walking toward home, I see a man standing near our gate, luminous, as if beckoning me to enter. Is this the second coming that I am thinking about, happening right at this moment in our backyard?
As I approach, I realize that it’s just our neighbor puffing on his cigarette. Perhaps the slowness of the trip, the lateness of the evening, and the drowsiness I feel are leading me to this dream-like state.
Sometime around midnight, somewhere in Pasig City, I am glad to be home at last. Though everyone at home is asleep when I arrive, the thought that I am surrounded by people who love me, my family, comforts me.
Meanwhile, as we are told, sometime in a distant past, in a barn somewhere, the couple found a place where Mary could deliver her child Jesus. They were surrounded by animals—to me, alluding to the men and women of the distant future, expectant of His second coming.
Bryan Amerila Adato, 26, is a CPA working in Makati City.
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