Editor's corner/ Over a cup of tea
Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the
Year for the State of
“Wake up, it’s 4 a.m., we don’t want to be late for the mass at dawn,” my mother orders her five
children, aged 4-15, who are sleeping soundly on two large mats covered with mosquito nets. It
takes her several times to repeat her “wake up” alert — coupled with gentle tickling of our toes —
until the three older ones finally start to move. Being the oldest, I am expected to respond immediately
to her call and to help my younger siblings prepare for church. It is December 16, the first day of the
nine-day dawn masses leading up to Christmas Day, the happiest and most important day of the year
for Filipino Catholics.
“Let us leave the young ones then,” mother says when she notices that they are sound asleep.
“Ka Toyang will take care of them.” Ka Toyang is our katulong (house help), who usually goes home at
night and comes back to our house early in the morning. She doesn’t charge my mother very much, I
guess. We are not wealthy. In fact, we are poor and have been this way since my father left us a few
years ago; but my mother is a teacher, and it is necessary to have a katulong whenever she is out
working. In the Philippines, there are many women who work as katulongs; it seems it is the only job
available for those who never had the opportunity to go to school. My mother treats Ka Toyang as an
older sister. I often see my mother giving her some rice and used books for Ka Toyang’s own children.
We go to church and I take my place as the church organist for the Immaculate Concepcion Parish
Church in the town of Santa Cruz, province of Laguna. I love playing the sacred music during the
mass and, of course, the Christmas songs during communion. I feel I am offering my talent to God
every time I play the church organ, although I usually complain to my mother that my right foot is having a hard time pedaling the
old organ. “That is part of the sacrifice, honey,” my mom says. “Let’s pray that our church receives funds or a donation for a new
It is a good idea, I tell myself, so every day, during the mass at dawn, I pray for three things:
1) To help my mother and our family survive and have a happy and long life;
2) To help all those in need, especially our relatives, neighbors and friends; and
3) To help our church purchase a new organ.
I see my mother crying as she prays, and I think I know why. With five children and no husband to help her, the future is
uncertain. The Christmas season makes it more difficult for her to feel happy because she cannot afford to give her children new
clothes, shoes and toys – things kids love to have for Christmas. Her face lights up when she listens to the parish priest’s homily,
though. It is always a reminder of what is truly important in this world and in this life. “Christmas is a day of giving because God
the Father gave His Son Jesus to us,” Father Limjoco says. “He loves us, and no matter how difficult life is now, you can
overcome this trial, because He will always be with you in your journey. Knock and the door will be opened to you.” Such
soothing words are very important to many parishioners who, like us, are needy and uncertain of things to come.
We go home after the mass with a better outlook on life and a stronger faith. With whatever little money my mother has, she’ll
buy kakanin (sticky rice treats) such as puto bumbong (sticky rice cooked in bamboo stems), puto (rice cakes), or suman (sticky
rice in banana or coconut leaves) for her children and Ka Toyang. The day starts well for my mom and her kids.
When Christmas eve comes, there is always a “Santa” (my aunt and godmother Tia Onor) who visits us, with new clothes,
shoes and toys for the children. She never forgets what we, the children of her brother (my father), need, especially during
Christmas season. “Don’t forget to pray every day and to be good in the eyes of the Lord,” she reminds us children. “You’ll be
blessed.” Tia Onor is always there for us, to help ease the pain of having an absent father. I really believe in my heart that Tia
Onor is our angel.
Of the three things that I pray for every day that Christmas season, one is immediately answered – a new electronic Yamaha
organ, and it has a soft pedal! The donor is an old lady who is always sitting at the back of the church choir. Perhaps she knows
my predicament as I play the old organ.
I can say that God has answered the two other things I prayed for, although it took Him awhile. The beautiful thing is, He is
still answering them and He has not stopped helping our family and those in need.
I remember the homily of our parish priest then to “Knock ...” But that wasn’t all. Father Limjoco also said, “... but you have to
prove to God that you are worthy.”
Merry Christmas to all!