Christmas in the time of Covid — yuletide thoughts

Christmas in the time of Covid — yuletide thoughts Featured

THE title is a paraphrased from the 1985 book of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (GGM), El Amor en los Tiempos del Colera, perhaps one of the most compelling love stories of all time. The title reflects partly the seeming incongruence of love within the grip of a pandemic. In a parallel context this yuletide season, the Christian world commemorates the birth of Christ, traditionally a time for love, merriment and gift-giving. The deadly irony is that the intimacy of exchanging gifts is perverted by the protocols of the contagion — wearing of masks, maintaining social distance and minimal contacts while awaiting a vaccine that may thwart Covid-19. This article and the book’s similarities ends at the title, Love in the Time of Cholera. (But Florentino biding his time for Fermina for 53 years, seven months and 11 days is a poignantly riveting love story).

But a year since the coronavirus burst into the scene, we are aberrantly condemned to the confines of our abodes. Many families are in dire straits. I can sympathize how government has been on its wit’s end providing for these poor souls. Millions of Filipinos have been deprived of jobs and means of livelihood, unable to put food on the table during this lockdown period. But the alternative is a possible contraction of the disease — or just an egregious attempt at instilling fear and panic by those whose interests are served and for reasons opaque to us all; thus, we are all caught between a rock and a hard place.

Coping and making do
But there are still countless others who can at least afford to cope, uncertain when this will all end — this contest of perishables, our resources versus our resilience. And some of us may be the lucky ones in a country where the disparity between the haves and the have-nots is a deep chasm, where the 10 percent owns 50 percent of the wealth. Many of us are embedded in the resilient fraction of the upper 90 percent. And God help us if we have few more months of this pestilence.

So, we are left to our devices, enduring and making do. For what it’s worth, these past months provided me the time with which to use them with unsparing generosity compared to when I had so little of it. Thus, I poured time profusely with my grandchildren that child psychologists assured me prolongs my years on earth, in direct proportion to the daily hours spent based on a nebulous formula. I suspect however that these hours aggravated with cries, shouts and the general ruckus produced by the 5-, 6-, and 8-year-old dynamos are inversely proportional to my timeline of 75 years. A year less for each month may not be farfetched.

100 Years of Solitude
Consequently, for a little privacy I devised a schedule where daily I would repair to my man-cave and assume sole control of some space-time to review the books in my library accumulated over a lifetime, some of which have never been unsealed but displayed prominently, still enclosed in their original book jackets that I made sure did not clash with the furniture. Quite a few of these tomes are from impressive authors though only the titles and a page or two had been read by me, inclusive of the preface. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novels however came to the forefront, suggested in part by a co-sufferer, Flora Nimfa Santos vda de Leocadio y de Aguinaldo (’66 PWC). I never really appreciated this Columbian author until his 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. Cien Años de Soledad was one that I tried to read in the original during my years of pretentious intellectual arrogance. It was such heavy reading that somewhere along the 417 pages I promptly abandoned it except for some unforgettable passages: “Many years later as he faced the firing squad, Coronel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

This is the first sentence of what I rediscovered to be a really fascinating book, but this time comfortably rereading it in English — complemented by a downloaded audio book and a movie format in Spanish with English subtitles. Reading GGM’s opus had me parsing over seven generations of the Buendia family characters growing old and dying, “only to return as ghosts or seemingly reincarnated in the next generation.”

This epic compendium of passionate romance, unrequited, dangerous, and sometimes incestuous love backgrounded by civil wars and political conspiracies propelled Latin American literature and GGM into global prominence. Also, the novel introduced a unique literary genre where supernatural phenomenon interspersed within the natural flow of the stories are depicted in a realistic and matter-of-fact cadence; known as “magical realism,” it has spawned several noteworthy novels worldwide and computer-generated images (CGI) in movies.

Another classic story
Despite this pandemic, the vaccine, if it can really defeat this contagion, is welcome and timely this Christmas season as the ultimate gift for humanity or at least those lucky enough to be vaccinated before the wretched ones are ravaged — and be part of the gruesome global statistics now approaching 70 million cases and 1.60 million deaths. Nearer yet is the Philippines where we have now almost 9,000 deaths out of almost 500,000 infections. We can still consider ourselves fortunate compared to our “kababayan” in the US where the delusional outgoing President Trump leaves a legacy of 16 million cases and 300,000 dead Americans. Comparatively, our own President Duterte who did not shirk from his responsibilities may have to be seen through a new prism of leadership. At this juncture, I would like to share with him and with my readers excerpts from an essay written by Fr. Horacio de la Costa, a Jesuit professor of Dinky Munda (Class ‘65 AdeM, Class ’60 high school AdeD).

“Christmas is when we celebrate the unexpected; it is the festival of surprise… when wise men go on a fool’s errand, bringing gifts to a prince they have not seen, in a country they do not know… This is the night when we are told to seek our king, not in a palace, but in a stable.

“…We were promised a savior, but we never dreamed God Himself would come and save us. We know that He loved us, but we never dared to think that He loved us so much as to become one of us.

“…But that is the way God gives. His gifts are never quite what we expect, but always something better than we hoped for. We can only dream of things too good to be true; God has a habit of giving things too true to be false.

“Now, more than ever, living in times so troubled, facing a future so uncertain, we need such faith. We need it for ourselves, and we need to give it to others.

“We must remind the world that if Christmas comes in the depths of winter, it is that there may be an Easter in the spring.”

Maligayang Pasko sa lahat! And be safe, everyone!

N.B.: For the complete essay, please access Dinky Munda Jr.’s FB.

Read 148 times Last modified on Wednesday, 16 December 2020 11:59
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