memory's sacred domain

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Sadness on Valentines’ Day

A poem by April Bernard (New York Review of Books, Nov. 2, 2006 issue)


I pine. There is an obstacle to our love.

Every time I hear the postman, I think: At last, the letter!
He has overcome the obstacle —

(It is a large obstacle, an actual alp, with a tree line
and sheer rock face streaked with snow even in July)

— for love of me! For three years, nine decades, and one century
or so, there has been no letter. I still wait for the letter.

But lately I wonder if my predicament is outside the human,
neither noble nor farcical; if my heart courts pain

because it aims for immortality, something grander
than I can imagine. Most of what I imagine,

what I want, is small: Hands with mine in the sink, washing dishes,
the smell of wool, feet tangling mine in bed. I know

the gods punish the proud, but I do not yet know
why they punish the humble. Although after all

it is not humble to ask, every minute or so, for happiness.


On the way to work this morning, the breaking news from friends: two people whom we knew held so much promise, perished in a car crash as they were driving to work. A bus lost its brakes and plowed into the path of other vehicles, and rammed into their car.

On Valentines Day, Pastor Kevin Alamag and his wife Belle left behind two little ones.

I remember Kuya Kevin and his improbable life story — a son of a desaparecido, he grew up and was educated in the Catholic convent in the days of revolutionary ferment in the mountains of Abra; At a young age, he joined the communist guerillas to fight the government. But he met a miracle in the battlefield: one of his commanders, who had become a Christian, shared to him the Good News of Jesus Christ. It would change his life forever

His journey from the mountain jungles of Abra to the fastness of Diliman is itself quite a story. After receiving a notice that he had been accepted into the state university, he hitched a ride on a logging truck, not quite knowing how to get to Quezon City. But get there he did, with only a few clothes and a few pesos to see him through. His first week at UP, he slept at the Sunken Garden, because he had no money to pay for a room in a student’s dormitory. A kindly dormitory manager at the now defunct Narra Residence Hall would eventually take pity on him, giving him a room and a job.

After earning a communications degree at UP, he worked as a writer/researcher for ABS-CBN, but soon, he found the pull of ministry irresistible. He went to seminary and it was there where he met Ate Belle.

I came to know Kuya Kevin when he became associate pastor at our small student-led church. I remember his first fumbling, if very bookish, sermon. And I remember how little by little he grew into a well-loved preacher. With a growing family (Ate Belle, after graduation, worked at seminary as registrar, until recently) he eventually moved to a big and a very challenging assignment, outside the familiar comforts of our denomination — to UP’s old Protestant church. An evangelical in a mainline church, Kuya Kevin’s mettle as a pastor was severely tested. But I can say he acquitted himself well there, with a preaching ministry that drew people to the church. He tried hard to bring the church back to its evangelical roots and I believe by the time he transferred to the Greenhills Christian Fellowship, he had made many in the congregation realize how far they’ve pulled themselves away from the vitality of faith, from that Old Time religion, as the hymn says.

Increase our faith, O Lord, in our moments of doubt. Be our comfort in our times of grief.


Written by Romel

February 14, 2008 at 3:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. My sincerest condolences. They are great workers in His vineyard. I pray the Lord comfort those they left behind.


    February 14, 2008 at 4:58 pm

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