By Oscar Penaranda
Finding the Sun is a collection of essays and articles by a variety of people from all walks of life, people who have seen and weathered many storms in their lives, and celebrated many joyful moments, small or grand, intimate or public. It is, so to speak, their letter to the world.
Themes of Catholic life are common threads to their stories, like Tess Castañeda’s “Centering Prayer” and Neny Regino’s “Gratitude for Life,” along with the humanistic qualities of gratitude, patience, and love of family. Moreover, the penchant for the display (sometimes some might say over display) of awards and high positions and name-dropping, one might notice in their writings, underscores the importance and the stratification of power in their respective social worlds.
In “St. Martin’s Bread,” Tess Isaac tells bittersweet memories of that beautiful land Mindanao and the ugly war that raged (and still does) and ravished the land, family lives, and town structures.
One of my favorites is Bella Pilapil’s “Happily Ever After.” I could see the woman behind the writing, her confidence and wit, her off-the-mainstream attitude, and her personal rationale why she chose not to marry. She reminded me of a couple of aunts of mine. “Happily Ever After” is a cleverly constructed tale starting with the title. It is an appropriate style for her attitude and stance in life, pretty much all her life, that being your own person is a much worthier and satisfying goal than just following conventional social norms and expectations. Light, witty, and at times biting, her personality shines through the writing. Pilapil talks of her “out-of-the-mainstream” attitude—humorous as life itself. It is a very interesting insight of a woman in her sixties who has been single all her life. I loved her spirit with a nostalgic bent.
The rewarding feelings of volunteerism is enumerated by Marite Cuervo in her essay, “A Life Helping Others.” Actually, “Nancy With the Laughing Face,” is a song for Frank Sinatra’s first wife Nancy, and the mother of Nancy Sinatra, the singer. It was the daughter that was named after the song that was inspired by her mother whose name she carried: Nancy. Nancy L. Ty, a multitasker of a woman, finds solace in Sunshine Place.
In Clarita Villacorte Cabochan, “A Working Woman,” historic Baliwag town in Bulacan, made famous by what is now a legendary and revolutionary tune called “Jocelyn Baliwag,” inspired by a woman freedom fighter, is a major character in her story. The tune was sung by the people during the Philippine Wars for Independence against Spain, the United States, and Japan; the terror and trauma of wars during and long after the wars and the interrupted and damaged lives the Second World War brought unto the country.
Tess Castañeda’s “Centering Prayer” has several samples of running themes throughout many of the articles, such as: prayers and Catholicism integrated in daily living, providing comfort and community.
In “Life Begins at 80,” Bert Galano outlines his achievements starting with being the youngest guerilla in his hometown at 8 years old.
The many metaphors used by Maggie Hayden in “What the Hell is She Up To” to describe life is a delight to read because she sprinkles it with her independent spirit.
And the most touching of all the essays and the most candid is Neny Regino’s piece on her realization of the difference between loneliness and being alone, and coming to terms with pains and hurts, her moving narration on coping with loss and revival is indeed “Grateful for Life.” For after all, her essay is really what the book is all about!
About the writer: Oscar Penaranda, born in Barugo, Leyte, is a US-based retired teacher. He has authored numerous stories, poems, and essays which have been anthologized internationally for about 40 years now. He has published two books: Seasons by the Bay (a novel in stories) and Full Deck (Jokers Playing): Poems, a collection of poetry.
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