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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

entry arrow3:44 PM | Love and Lent

[an update on a previous post]

And just like that, it’s February. (It has barely begun for the most part, but as of this writing, we’re approaching the end of its first fifteen days fast—a testament to the month’s lightning quick consideration of days.) It is the shortest month of the year, but it carries with it a kind of gravity that makes it a month where pivotal things happen. The perceptive among us—those for which the days are never just dates on an impersonal calendar, and who are able to sit back and observe acutely how the times flow and rearrange the minutiae of our lives—may be in quiet celebration for having survived the testy beginning waters of January, a month where resolution and reality necessarily collide with each other. January was a battle. February is a most-needed return to sanity.

February is also a kind of reality check, a chance to reconsider the hopes and furious aspirations we laid bare for ourselves in the beginning of the year. February is when the year really starts for many of us, when we take note of the currents of our own Oriental bearings and hope for the best in the Year of the Rat. February is when things finally take root after the frost of New Year. For some, February is Arts Month, when the country bursts into a celebration for our cultural heritage. February is also the love month—and that takes care of the sentimental reaches of our lives. February also marks the beginning of Lent—and that takes care of the spiritual.

I love February for its gentle days. (At least, that’s how February is in the slow motion of Dumaguete.) There are certainly winter chills in China now, and elsewhere the severe cold has just began to wreck havoc on what is often considered the coldest month of the year. Forgive me then for knowing only this: suddenly, last Tuesday in fact, the first day of summer has seemingly arrived in Dumaguete, and by the weekend, that intimation of beaches and frolic continue unabated.

Last Tuesday, I was leaving the Audio Visual Theater after Myrna Peña-Reyes’s most insightful lecture on the writing and reading of modern poetry, when I sensed something both different and familiar: I felt the February sun tripping on my skin in that most gentle of nipping absent for most of the year (but becomes a cocoon of sorts at the height of Maytime).

People in Dumaguete know very well that I am not talking about your regular, ordinary hot day where the sun is content with its bland and ruthless campaign to burn everything. They know that the sun becomes poetry during summer days in Dumaguete, and its shine has its own flavor only the true native can discern: the heat is of an underwhelming sort, something that comes as an embrace rather than an oppression; there is a certain stillness everywhere that engulfs—but not entirely devours—everybody into a sweet kind of narcolepsy; and the slant of the sunlight on everything gives the whole city a sepia glow. Last Tuesday was the first day of such manifestations. And I think: this may be a great day to be alive, in Dumaguete, with that promise of summer just around the bend. I like February, because it brings with it that promise of the eventual end of a hectic schoolyear (especially for a teacher like me), and because it is the very portal to summer.

But there’s something else about February—a paradox of some sort—that I discovered I liked. Around last Wednesday, I was having coffee—alone—in a little café somewhere in the city, trying to think up something to say about Valentines for this post. (The bane for regular bloggers is trying to say something about current seasons.) It was a most hopeless pursuit, and I kept telling myself: What else is there left to write about love, and loving, and Valentines Day? I could tread on old grounds, but I am not one to repeat myself in this post—and I certainly did not want to end up writing a mushy piece about a most mushy season.

In the middle of sipping my coffee mocha, I was snapped out of my writing quandary when a friend approached to tell me: “Advanced Happy Valentines Day!” She said it with such gusto. She also said it with a strange mark on her forehead—a dash of ash that quickly told me this was no ordinary Wednesday. It was the mark of the start of Lent. Those two things combined—the ash mark on my friend’s forehead and her gleeful Valentine greeting— dawned on me as being particularly curious.

It struck as being both particular strange and appropriate that the whole Valentine season should fall somewhere near the beginning of Lent—only a week or so after the orgiastic revelry of Fat Tuesday and the beginning fast of Ash Wednesday. The whole parade towards the high holy days of March for most of Christendom includes, if you really come to think about it, this brief interlude when “love” becomes the centerpiece of everybody’s consideration.

Suddenly, even with the somber promise of Lent, there is this mid-February rush for flowers. Suddenly, there is competition for tables still available in the gamut of restaurants that dot the city. (The ones that are more decidedly romantic are quickly blanketed with iron-clad reservations that can make for a case of a heart attack.) Suddenly, there is a run for those bars of chocolate. And motel rooms. Suddenly, there is a barrage of love songs filling the air as one radio station after another competes to saturate all of us with the mushiness that comes with the season.

The Lenten season, though, is a period of sacrifice. The fact of Valentines Day occurring within it may demand from all of us a kind of redefinition of its celebration. For what is love really but the human ability to sacrifice for the sake of something we feel for, and truly believe in? In the most excruciating example of this spiritual dimension of loving, we have the final scene of Lent—that of Christ on the cross—sacrificing his life for the sake of mankind.

And on that note, I finished drinking my coffee. And (advanced) Happy Valentines Day to one and all.

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