CEBU CITY–“Add this to your ‘No Erasures List,” Betty Chalkley of Press Foundation on Asia wrote. “This” was an obit on the recent death of former China Morning Post and Hong Kong Standard journalist: Matilde L.Montilla. Dende, 84, passed away in Tacloban after battling Parkinson’s disease.
Former Press Secretary Cris Icban and I scribbled the original “No Erasures List” on a napkin at Mythers, watering hole for Manila-based journalists. We jotted down the names of departed colleagues.
“No traveler returns … from this undiscovered country,” Hamlet muttered. So, there are no erasures on this kind of list.
Dende is the latest addition. She completed her journalism at UST. She won a Rotary scholarship to Marquette University in Milwaukee. On return, she worked as business reporter/editor for the Manila Chronicle, Manila Daily Bulletin, and later public relations officer for DRB Holdings.
She also helped to establish the Parkinsonian Support Group in Hong Kong.
Earlier, we tacked on the name of Corky Trinidad, 69. He was Honolulu Star Bulletin’s award-winning editorial cartoonist.
Born in the Philippines, Trinidad was the first Asian editorial cartoonist to be syndicated in the U.S. His cartoons were picked up by diverse papers from New York Times to Politiken in Sweden, Buenos Aires’ Herald and Manila Chronicle. “He specialized in caricaturing and skewering politicians, most notably Ferdinand Marcos.”
Name recall, however, dims among people whom columnist William Safire joshed as the “almost-old.” We cast about for names of those we worked with, for almost two decades, in the United Nations. Did half a century of journalism pile up so many names?
“We’re in the twilight of life,” I told Press Foundation of Asia officers. “Don’t say that,” publisher Eugenio “Geny” Lopez Jr. gently remonstrated. “We’ve plenty of time.” Before the year ended, Geny was gone.
Life beyond a handful of ashes is the capstone for All Souls’ Day. “Death is not the extinguishing of life,” Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote. “It is putting out the lamp because dawn has come.”
The No Erasures List also stresses aching beyond the grave. “It is a good and wholesome thought to pray for the dead,” the ancient Book of Macabees teaches.
In the year 998, the Benedictine abbot Odilo of Cluny picked Nov. 2 for this remembrance. This practice spread to other countries, including the Philippines.
In Europe, “All Hallows Eve” marked the Celtic new year Irish immigrants brought those spooky costumes to the US in 1848 . Today, it’s called “Halloween”, a fun-filled kids’ feast.
”In California, our grand-daughters Alexia and Tai Noelle join trick-or-treat parties”, the wife mused. “Here, grandchildren bring flowers and light candles for family graves. And those graves will include ours, sooner rather than later”.
Oh that.The celebrations do differ. But the essentials remain. “We give them back to you O Lord, who first gave them to us,”an ancient prayer of this day says. “Yet, as you do not lose in giving, so we have not lost them by their return… Death is only a horizon. And a horizon is the limit of our sight.
“We thank you for the deep sense of mystery that lies beyond our mortal dust… Lift us up that we may see further, as one by one, you gather scattered families from the strife and weariness of time to the peace of eternity.”
The liturgy for All Souls spotlights this reality. ”For unto your faithful, O Lord, life is changed, not taken away,” the priest leads in in the Eucharist’s preface. The same theme resonates wherever religious or laymen pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
Our grandchildren belong to the post-Vatican II generation. They never heard the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) of requiem services of our long-vanished youth.
Tuba mirum spargen sonum /Per sepulchra regionum/Coget omnes ante thronum, the choir would sing. My now-hazy freshman Latin translates that into: “Trumpets blare through sepulchers, calling all to appear before judgement’s throne.”
Oblvious to the lengthening “no erasures list” of vanished colleagues, news desks can be absorbed by today’s reports — from policemen as hostage takers to senators like Panfilo Lacson playing coy fugivitive. “Is that all there’s to this?,” an editor wearily asked.
No, it’s not. The familiar can blur realities beyond the customary. Still, the central — and stunning — reality remains of life beyond a handful of ashes.
”We Filipinos use the idiom Itaga mo sa bato to assert our utmost confidence, Pastor Lino Pantoja writes. Such were Job’s exact words: “Oh, that my words were engraved in rock forever.”
They’re words of Job’s primitive theology of the Resurrection: “I know that my Redeemer lives. And in the end, He will stand forth upon the earth. And after my skin shall have been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”