an enlightening experience
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AN ENLIGHTENING EXPERIENCE (Third Eye Awakening)by Dulz Cuna
Back in 1995, I had some sort of "Kundalini Crisis". Everything was going awry, my marriage was touch-and-go, my career was on "what-ifs", my family was on "hey-we-had-barbeque-in-the-lawn-where-were-you" and my friends were on "you're-sure-this-is-doing-you-good" trips that sent me to a surreal limbo. I had bad dreams, slept irregularly, grew fat in the wrong places, smoked heavily inspite of my early morning asthma and I moped...moped...all my life thru...And suddenly, out of the blue, I told all of them: I want to be a Hermit.
Maybe it was some kind of soulsearch, or mid-life crises (it was too early for that!), or just doom & gloom bipolars, and I deduced that I wanted OUT of here for awhile...I was toying on the idea, what if I could DIE if I liked, as if Death were some kind of vacation Spa and come back renewed to this same bitchy Life and really be in control this time with things. I started meditating heavily, doing yoga exercises but I always was cut short with a "Hey Mom! Wattya doing inside! I need to use the bathroom" or "Hey Mom! Telephone..." or "Hey Woman! I need you to darn my trousers.., have you seen that f***kin' light bill?" and so on and so forth. Thus, I tried to look in every moments and idylls if this was indeed,..Life.
They've been talking about the Hermitage somewhere on the hills of Kananga, Mary the Queen was its name and suddenly my spirit longed to be there. So with a borrowed camping gear, a few canned victuals, a forsaken kerosene lamp, some sleeping clothes, my sketchpad and pastels, a walkman and tapes and my humanity in my pores, I ventured to the Hills.
The Hermitage was situated on the foothills of the geothermal mountains of Mahawan, Lim-aw and Tongonan, near the Tubud river and beside a acre of pineapple. It was Holy Week and 14 wooden
The Hermit: “In the Spirit of Shakamuni” 0il, 1995 by Dulz Cuna
crosses were dug into the dirt road leading to the monastery. I begged and pleaded to Sister Mary John that I'd be fine pitching my tent near the deep well in the garden when she insisted of giving me the receiving room as quarters."There are snakes abound," she said, "they might slither inside your tent.""They may be there Sister, but they are Unreal.." I said. To that she smiled knowingly and allowed me my 1st day at the Hermitage.My tent ready, and dusk slowly falling, I made my appearance first to the Priest living with the Hermits (whom I did not see but only their whispers behind the walls). Fr. Villacorte was a kind priest who listened intently to my mind meanderings, whether this venture of mine was a Search or not..He did not give any comment but invited me to a service in the little chapel that evening, where the mountain folk would gather for Holy Wednesday prayers...That night, I struggled with my lamp, I fumbled in the dark for the wick which was buried deep into the can of kerosene...There was no electricity in the Hermitage compound, only candles and lamps..It was Holy Week, they shut off the indulgence of a generator and went to the simple life again...About to be exasperated, I heard that Voice:
"Be ready with your Lamp...always be Ready!" In that I tried to peer in the dark, calling out Fr. Villacorte's name..Finally, I had it lit and joined the handful of simple mountain folk carrying votive candles in the chapel. After the services, in the rectory, I asked the good priest if he was the one who called me to be ready with my Lamp. He said no, but that was a phrase from the Parable of the Ten Virgins and their Lamps in the Bible. Something I never thought about at that moment!Early Holy Thursday morning I found a pot of eucalyptus tea, a slice of pineapple and a piece of bread beside my tent. The Hermits wanted me to join them in their simple breakfast. I started the day greeting the sun with my breathing exercises and I planned to go for a walk...It looked like a walk but I know I never left my tent, but I also suddenly knew what was beyond the pineapple fields...Then at last...I went into my the world of Silent Music...the world Inside...The afternoon was spent sketching and drawing and talking to the mountain children who gathered around my tent. I let them sit for me and showed them the rudiments of drawing eyes, ears, nose and mouths. I gave them sketches to bring home to their shanties...I've never felt sooo good....
I listened to Jim Chapelle's music in my walkman, His album jacket "Dusk" had a beautiful picture of a lenticular cloud over the Arizona dessert. I wondered whether we could have clouds like this in the Philippines. I showed the picture to Father V and he said we might have clouds like that if only we knew what to see..The afternoon was now falling pastel and some shades were about to show, the mountains were turning sfumato and some purple nightwings flitted in the tangerine sky...and then I SAW IT....A lenticular cloud, very much similar to the one in Jim Chapelle's album...in the sky...There was a mad rush in my body...as if I was changing, metamorphing into something Unreal...something intangible...As if my body was a city of gears churning in rhythm, a world beneath my skin...something Alive in me was Inside me...That night the wind howled over the mountains. Strange shadows came over my tent, thumps came into the ground as if I was in the middle of a stampede as I cowered in my blankets, the lone kerosene lamp
sputtered as if holy water was sprinkled over it. I saw to it the zippers of my Coleman tent were fastened well...for awhile I thought I was Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz story being flung into a core of the tornado...I fell into a deep sleep..and dreamed..of St. Paul falling down from his horse and seeing a bright cross in Heaven...his Conversion.
Good Friday woke me up to the clanging of the chapel bell..just a faint toll...and when I looked outside from my tent, down the road. I saw the crosses, now festooned with flowers--suntan, kalachuchi, yellowbells...and beside the first cross near the gate was a Horse! The horse in my dream! A man came out with Father V, straddled the horse and galloped away. "That was Pabling, he brings the groceries." said Father. "Pabling" was a diminutive for "Pablo". Pablo in English is Paul...My Good Friday was spent so still, I fasted...I did not know how long I sat under the Dapdap tree..But I felt conscious as dusk fell in and the fog surrounded the hermitage..Only the lone chapel candle was burning..everything was shrouded in purple cloth, the buildings in fog...even me...The whispered prayers of the Hermits were substituted by the trill of the crickets..the croak of the marsh frogs and the trickle of the water wheel near the well...This silence, once again, was my music...There were about six cars parked near the gate of the Monastery compound that Holy Saturday. Some pilgrims, I deduced...Or relatives of the Hermits. They could only see their hands, but never their faces in the receiving room.
I felt hot. I haven't changed my pajamas since Wednesday, and have not taken a bath...No, it was not self-imposed Ascetiscm..I just had no time for bodily ministrations...Or my mundane body clockwork stopped.I even didn't feel bedraggled when Father V introduced me to the visitors. I only felt that they looked at me in awe. I saw a lady with a forlorn face and said "Don't worry, he'll be coming home...I think next month." There. I just said it. And she broke into tears. I threw a questioning glance at Father who said her husband, who was a seaman, fell sick in some country and had to remain there. She just had word that he was well again, she came to the Hermitage for thanksgiving and she believes that what I've told her added more relief and thanks...Honestly, those words just blurted out of my mouth when I saw her forlorn face, I never knew her story..That night, skyclad (nude), before midnight, under the cover of the bushes near the well and the wind wild, whirring weird, I took a bath...Easter Sunday Eve at Mary the Queen was unforgettable.The mountain folk came all dressed in white cotton frocks, the men in white shirts and pants..They carried baskets of flowers and fruits to the chapel. They carried with them long tapering white candles tied up in ribbons and lit them singing songs I've never heard before. Beautiful songs of mountains, rivers, valleys and of the Mother Mary...I enjoined. We went on a hop, skip parade around the garden singing a song about Mary not to be sorrowful anymore..so beautiful, yet so haunting...We then gathered inside the pewless chapel where the Easter Mass was held, and once more the choir of Hermits sang...
Late that night I dreamt that I rode the local commuter JD Bus going home for Easter...I then decided it was time to go back..
Easter Sunday morning found darkening clouds. A storm was brewing.Yet the whole compound was in a festive mood. The mountain folk had visitors from the town, some Evangelists. Food came pouring in the parlor sent by well-wishers and those who believed on the powerful prayers of the Hermits, Sister Mary John distributed the baskets of colored eggs and candies to the mountain children. I took part in introducing the games and managing the treasure hunt..but all the time I kept glancing to the sky where the storm clouds gathered and wondered if I could make it back home."All bus lines are cancelled, so are the boats and ferries at Ormoc. No JD buses operating." said an Evangelist. There goes my Easter plans to be with my family. But no, the dream told me I WOULD RIDE A JD BUS GOING HOME THAT EASTER. That faith was within me all day as I mingled with these people of the mountains...Different from those I know way back home, simple, uncomplicated and not paranoid of storm clouds.
At Noon, the winds were howling like wolves outside. But everybody was full with food and music for somebody brought in a guitar. Father V announced that another roast pig arrived compliments of Mr. Jesus "Jess" Doyon...and the man is waiting in his Pathfinder truck outside for "Somebody" who needs a ride home to Tacloban. I gasped. That's gotta be ME! I just couldn't believe my ears and how things fell into place. "By the way, Father." I asked the smiling priest. "Who is this Jess Doyon?".."Well, my dear, he's the owner of JD Buslines..." said Father Villacorte, knowingly...I winked at the Heavens. Miraculously...as I was riding kind Mr Doyon's Pathfinder...the storm clouds abated...