My dad just called. Our dog Samer just passed away. He caught a virus and he wasn’t able to get treatment. When Papa arrived in Candelaria, Samer was still alive. Papa touched him, and he died.
It was like he was waiting for Papa to come home.
Papa’s both sad and frustrated, so is Ate Dhels, our housekeeper. Ate Dhels is the one who mainly gives Samer a bath. Imagine a 5-foot-tall woman keeping a full grown pit bull in line.
I liked that dog. He was playful, like he couldn’t quite believe he wasn’t a puppy anymore. He was also a quick learner, when I last visited he already knew a few commands.
We named him Samer because he came to us during summer vacation. It was originally a joke by Miks, especially as it’s spelled with Tagalog in mind. However, it stuck, so our little pitbull puppy was Samer.
I had often said that reunions should occur on happy moments, not on times when there is a loss. However, it is not often the case. My trip to Dumagete was just that. Though I was excited to visit my relatives and see the place, I wish that I had better reasons to be there.
I barely remember my great aunt, Lola Auring. I think I met her only once, when she was in Candelaria for my Lola Lilay’s funeral. I remember her children more, my aunt Marilyn and my uncle Melvin (who had also passed away not long after Lola Lilay) and I haven’t met any of my cousins from that side of the family.
So I was both excited and apprehensive.
The first cousins I met were my aunt Marilyn’s sons, Jun Jun and Biboy. When Tita texted me about who will pick us up from the airport, I was worried because I don’t know them from Adam. When we went out of the arrival area, Lolo immediately walked towards two young men I didn’t know, whereas I was trying to hold him back. Thank God he knew them.
At the funeral parlor, I greeted my aunts and another great aunt, Lolo’s youngest sister Juliet. I talked a bit with my aunts and uncles, who introduced me to more cousins.
What hit me the most was that these cousins of mine had strong similarities to my brothers. That’s when it dawned on to me that my lifelong belief that we got our looks either from the Banares side or the De La Llana side was shattered. A good chunk of it came from the Sales side, and it was rather amusing to note.
I must have stared at them for a long time. Jude looked uncannily like Dion, while several aunts said Carl and I share similarities around the eyes and cheekbones (though I think he looks like Nunik). Finally, I know where my cousin Jordan got his most distinct feature, because my cousin Neil has it too.
Amidst the sadness of the loss, I made discoveries. Perhaps this is the silver lining in the cloud.
A few weeks ago, I read an entry in Ivan Henares’ blog about his tour around Sta. Ana, Manila with the Heritage Conservation Society. In the entry, he talks about the richness of the Sta. Ana area (he notes is as “the seat of the Kingdom of Namayan, one of three major kingdoms that dominated the area around the upper portion of the Pasig River before the arrival of Spaniards.”) and how several historical homes and buildings were being torn down to make way for malls and shopping centers.
One of the houses in danger of such fate is the Jesuit Xavier House, the home of Father James Reuter.
Built in 1859, it is one of the two houses inside the Society of Jesus compound. It served not just as the home to Jesuit priests here in the country for the past 50 years, but was also the center for the first EDSA revolution. It survived bombings, hurricanes and other natural disasters, only to be brought down by the need for profit and commercialism.
The Inquirer news article published today, March 31, says that it was the SM Group who purchased the property. Despite the denial of Fr. Jose Cecilio Magadia, provincial superior of the Jesuits in the Philippines that a deal has been reached, a representative of the SM Group said that a supermarket is being planned for the area.
What bothered me more was the part in the article that said there was a “willing seller” for the property and he didn’t bother mentioning the opposition coming from conservation groups regarding the sale. Father Reuter turns 94 this May, and has called the Xavier House his home for the last 40 years. The house is more than just an architectural treasure, but also a living testament to the history of the Philippines.
Reports say that SJ superiors have asked Fr. Reuter to move out of Xavier House and relocate to either Ateneo de Manila University or Xavier School in San Juan. The priest, however, said that he doesn’t want to go.
“Money is nothing, and this house is something,” he said. “The memorial we have in this house is worth more than money.”
Unfortunately, historical preservation doesn’t seem to be much of a concern here in the Philippines, especially for cities like Manila. Many older buildings are still in place and some programs to keep them alive are ongoing, but mostly through the initiatives of private persons and often foreigners, not the government or locals.
I understand the need for advancement and progress, but I wonder if they have ever thought of ways to achieve this without sacrificing these architectural treasures? Other countries, not just the Western ones, but even our neighbors here in Asia are able to do it, why can’t we?
In a recent episode of Bobby Chin’s World Café Asia, he said something about how our country is fast becoming a “mall culture.” I don’t think that was meant to be a joke, but a statement of a fact, to which I can’t help but agree to. I once told a friend that you can visit any province in the country and you’ll find an SM mall. Despite knowing that a mall equals establishments equals jobs, I am still saddened by the loss of what used to be where the mall(s) now stand.
Reuter said he fully understood that the SJ had run into serious financial need to sustain its operations.
“There was talk, there is talk of selling Xavier House for money. The superior apologetically said that. That to my mind will be a terrible mistake,” he said.
“It’s not that they want to sell this house, but they need money, and that’s a terrible thing. Love of money is a vice and the Jesuits don’t have that. They need money, which is a different thing,” said Reuter.
He shuddered at the thought that the house would be demolished to give way to business. “You shouldn’t sell a place like this for money,” he added, saying the money could be raised in “some other way.”
What ways could that be? Perhaps the Jesuit community could’ve done more? Perhaps the students of the Ateneo and Xavier schools could’ve banded together to help raise funds and save the Xavier house? Perhaps all of us who are concerned could reach out and help… I hope only it’s not too late.