I have a memory which keeps coming back on Good Fridays. It was afternoon. My family was preparing to leave for Church. I don’t exactly remember how I felt that day but I went out of our house whistling a tune. Our neighbor, a kindly old man, whom we call Tatang cut me “Good Friday ngayon.” (Today is Good Friday.) Tatang’s been dead for many years now. And I’ve been living my life for many years carrying that memory in head.
When I was still young the elderly had the tacit right to correct their neighbor’s children. It was not seen as an intrusion by parents more than as an essential part of their children’s formation. “Oh, listen to what they are saying,” the parents would tell their children once reprimanded by the elders. All the while I thought of that incident on Good Friday along that line, that Tatang’s action was just a customary act of reproof.
But as I think over it again, there is more to it than that. If reproof is reason enough then why would the memory persist? I have a reason for why Tatang reprimanded me, but it is insufficient to explain why the incident becomes so memorable after more than twenty years. Perhaps I don’t need to ask why it happened more than how I feel about it. Feelings contain memories.
Feeling as a starting point leads to a different route to examining memories. Whenever I ask “Why it happened?” or “Why do I keep remembering it?” I tend to seek for causes. But when I ask “How do I feel about it?” I begin to free memories from the shackles of causes-effect-chain; I begin to situate myself within the experience.
What, after a very long self-examination, I have arrived at is that when Tatang reprimanded me for whistling on Good Friday I felt embarrassed. More than anything, and now “I remember,” that my source of embarrassment lies in my incapacity to regard the day’s seriousness. Old folks solemnly regard Good Friday (or Lent in general) and I did not. Tatang made me feel the seriousness of that day – that it isn’t just any Friday, it is Good Friday. It dawned on me that, yeah, I had always been like that. When I don’t see something that others do, I feel uncomfortable. What was it that Tatang sees on Good Friday that I don’t? Still I don’t see it, though I regard Good Fridays more seriously now. But what I am driving at is that the feeling of embarrassment kept the memory alive. Feelings store memories.