Saturday, March 8, 2014

San Vicente IS Series: A Place of Gems and Flowers

In honor of St Vincent de Ferrer, patron saint, on his feast day celebrated April 30
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School on Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday



San Vicente 17th century church,
unique Baroque architecture

"Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The deep unfathomed caves the ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste their sweetness in the desert air."
Thomas Gray, Elegy on the Country Churchyard

It took several editing for Thomas Gray to perfect, so to speak, this passage from his most celebrated work, for the reason I believe, that it touches a very sensitive nerve of human society, that the unsung are actually the pillars of institutions - the unknown soldier, the unheard bard, the unknown sculptor of a Venus de Milo's version, the artisan of edifices only by their structure are known, the musician who by ear composed a local Verdi or Othello - these and many others have made epics living and legends true characters - by unknown people, the "sleeping gems and the flowers in the desert".

But the passage speaks well of truth, and if it does not gain much credence to people like in Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, it is because truth is a Diogenes with a lamp at noon time. But indeed there are gems pure and shining but they are in the obscure places, there are flowers sweeter than a Givenchy, and more beautiful than any Vanda or Cattleya, but whose scent and beauty are too far out of reach by the senses. 

For San Vicente is in the deep or in a vast desert of anonymity, even with today's Earth Google and satellite GPS, and if one would merely rely of these gadgets, he would be taken to different places around the world. Perhaps it is there that a bit of San Vicente is found, maybe a doctor or a nurse in London hospital, a professor in an American University, an engineer in the middle east, a teacher in Papua New Guinea, a missionary on the island of Jamaica, a governess in Hongkong. And when one finally succeeds in his search, he finds a small town classified at the lower rung of the economic ladder in Adam Smith economics. He is unimpressed. There is no fanfare. The old callejon is still the main road. The pre-war elementary school is well preserved. He enters the old church so massive it makes a minuscule of all buildings and houses. He walks toward the altar. A message written on the altar cloth. It is in Ilocano: Ur-urayenka Anakko. I am waiting for you my child. But the translation is inadequate to capture the vernacular quaintness of the message.

Unless he asks a bona fide balikbayan. But it is not easy to compress history, to build instant bridges of memory. But it is the homing instinct that reverses the direction of the feet and the march of time. It brings back the life of the dead, relives experiences on the stage,transforms the past to present, dusting off the archives.

It is homing instinct, more than the native Alaskan salmon's determination, or the homing dove's accuracy, that takes every native of the place to go back home - to live the golden years of his life, to die and be buried there. And when a balikbayan is asked, "Where have all the children gone? " he takes a deep breath and releases it with a sigh of joy we call nostalgia. Then silence reigns. And time moves backward. Everything seems beautiful.

Because the gems, even in the deep unfathomed ocean, do shine; flowers bloom - and in all places - in a desert. Then he asks, Where have all the children gone?

And the balikbayan with teary eyes has a simple answer, "They have gone to all corners of the earth."Memories about people may be short-lived; of events, for a lifetime perhaps; but for a cause - some ideas bigger than themselves, may last for a long time. Or until that particular idea has arrived in its own sweet time.

What is music, for example? Here Maestro Anselmo Pelayre is a pillar in the conservatory of Ilocano music. He wrote for the high mass, sarzuela, orchestra. His own compositions are still played in Ilocano communities and homes here and abroad. Maestro Selmo's commitment to music is its inseperability with culture, tradition and history, the lyrics as conveyors of the vivid, the detail; and music the soul, the spirit. It was, and will forever be, a fight for a cause in the midst of intercultural homogenization, even after the Great Maestro is gone, when music has evolved into abstract forms bordering music and non-music.



Re-enactment of the Passion of Christ by the town folks, Good Friday


In the same way Ilokano, the language, and Ilokano, the culture, are one. Gain in one is gain in the other; lose the language and lose the culture. And gaining both enhances heritage to permeate into the head, heart and soul of the Ilocano, and therefore the Ilocano heritage lives in the person - wherever he goes, he does, he meets, and more so, in raising his own family. Dr Nicholas L Rosal in his dissertation Understanding an exotic Language - Ilokano, "language reveals structures and expressions that can tell social characteristics of a people... concepts and feelings conveyed are as human in one language as in another." His book revived the formal structure of the language and projected it to international consciousness.

At the grassroots, several writers from the town have likewise gained famed through the vernacular Bannawag, Samtoy, Ammianan, and through TV and radio broadcast reaping recognition not just for the quality of their work but for the cause in preserving the art of literature and communication - the "fine art of living" threatened by postmodernism.

But what projected San Vicente into the national and international scenes are products of artisans, among the makers of the finest furniture, Spanish fans meticulously carved from lanute wood, which are at par with the world's best; bigger-than-life religious icons, paintings bearing qualities of Renaissance art, salt (asin) whiter and more refine than sugar, basi table wine surpassing European standards for Port and Sherry. 

The best cigarette tobacco is raised here, so with vegetables. San Vicente shares with its border neighbor Sta Catalina the vegetable bowl of the Ilocos region.  Here semi-temperate crops are grown from cauliflower to shallot and yam. If self-reliance and sufficiency is the main gauge of economic status, then the town is a first class municipality, and in fact can stand by itself from the political structure as a satellite to a metro city, Vigan, the former capital of the province. 

But the biggest contribution of San Vicente, though not specific in terms of economics, law, science, education, sports, arts, and the like, is greater than the sum of all these - true service of its citizens.  Like goodness itself, it is synergistic, building on the philosophy that goodness builds on goodness, be it in the field, shop, court house, classroom, hospital, street, office, or humble dwelling, whether here or in some parts of the world. As a wise old man from the place proudly said, "Tell me a place in the world and San Vicente is there.  Tell me of a career and San Vicente is there, In any event - one of celebration, or compassion, or reverence - count on a Vincentian."       

Which speak of the philosophy of Saint Vicent Ferrer, one of the greatest scholars and teachers of the church, the inspiration of every Vincentian. ~

About Saint Vincent Ferrer

He was born in Valencia in Spain, in 1350, and at the age of eighteen professed in the Order of St. Dominic. After a brilliant course of study he became master of sacred theology. 

For three years he read only the Scriptures, and knew the whole Bible by heart. He converted the Jews of Valencia, and their synagogue became a church. Grief at the great schism then afflicting the Church reduced him to the point of death; but Our Lord Himself in glory bade him go forth to convert sinners, "for My judgment is nigh." This miraculous apostolate lasted twenty-one years. He preached throughout Europe, in the towns and villages of Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland. 

Everywhere tens of thousands of sinners were reformed; Jews, infidels, and heretics were converted. Stupendous miracles enforced his words. Twice each day the " miracle bell " summoned the sick, the blind, the lame to be cured. Sinners the most obdurate became Saints; speaking only his native Spanish, he was understood in all tongues. Processions of ten thousand penitents followed him in perfect order. Convents, orphanages, hospitals, arose in his path.

Amidst all, his humility remained profound, his prayer constant. He always prepared for preaching by prayer. Once, however, when a person of high rank was to be present at his sermon he neglected prayer for study. The nobleman was not particularly struck by the discourse which had been thus carefully worked up; but coming again to hear the Saint, unknown to the latter, the second sermon made a deep impression on his soul. When St. Vincent heard of the difference, he remarked that in the first sermon it was Vincent who had preached, but in the second, Jesus Christ. 

He fell ill at Vannes in Brittany, and received the crown of everlasting glory in 1419.




Arial View of the San Vicente Poblacion Circa 1976



About Saint Vincent Ferrer

He was born in Valencia in Spain, in 1350, and at the age of eighteen professed in the Order of St. Dominic. After a brilliant course of study he became master of sacred theology. 

For three years he read only the Scriptures, and knew the whole Bible by heart. He converted the Jews of Valencia, and their synagogue became a church. Grief at the great schism then afflicting the Church reduced him to the point of death; but Our Lord Himself in glory bade him go forth to convert sinners, "for My judgment is nigh." This miraculous apostolate lasted twenty-one years. He preached throughout Europe, in the towns and villages of Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland. 

Everywhere tens of thousands of sinners were reformed; Jews, infidels, and heretics were converted. Stupendous miracles enforced his words. Twice each day the " miracle bell " summoned the sick, the blind, the lame to be cured. Sinners the most obdurate became Saints; speaking only his native Spanish, he was understood in all tongues. Processions of ten thousand penitents followed him in perfect order. Convents, orphanages, hospitals, arose in his path.

Amidst all, his humility remained profound, his prayer constant. He always prepared for preaching by prayer. Once, however, when a person of high rank was to be present at his sermon he neglected prayer for study. The nobleman was not particularly struck by the discourse which had been thus carefully worked up; but coming again to hear the Saint, unknown to the latter, the second sermon made a deep impression on his soul. When St. Vincent heard of the difference, he remarked that in the first sermon it was Vincent who had preached, but in the second, Jesus Christ. 

He fell ill at Vannes in Brittany, and received the crown of everlasting glory in 1419.

Home, Sweet Home with Nature, AVRReference. Ti Pakasaritaan San Vicente, Lorenzo L Mata, 2005; Internet (Life of Saint Vincent Ferrer). 

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