11 September 2008

'Only in da Philippines' and 'Mama Mary'

Thanks to Jackie Parkes for Murillo's Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Tomorrow is the memorial of the Holy Name of Mary.

‘Only in da Philippines’ is an expression that Filipinos us when they are bemused or angered or amused at something that happens here. It’s kind of self-explanatory but often is used in the sense that my mother used to say ‘Poor Ireland. She’s rearing them still!’ when somebody would do something particularly stupid.

A couple of months ago I really smiled when I saw a white Mercedes being towed by a motorcab, ie, a motorcycle with a side-car for passengers, the two linked together by a bamboo pole! Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera. But it was truly an ‘Only in da Philippines’ moment.

Last Monday, the Birthday of our Blessed Mother, I flew from Bacolod to Manila, a 50-minute flight, on Cebu Pacific. They usually have a game as an excuse to give three prizes, basically small giveaways. They might ask, for example, for someone to raise a senior citizen’s ID. The first to do so would then get one of the prizes.

However, last Monday, the cabin attendant asked those celebrating their birthday, and with something to prove that it was their birthday, to raise their hand. She reminded us that it was the Birthday of ‘Mama Mary’, as Filipinos often describe our Blessed Mother. She had some giveaways but, unfortunately, there were no birthday celebrants on board. I turned to my companion, Fr Pat O’Donoghue, from Cork City, our new superior in the Philippines, and said, ‘You wouldn’t hear that on Aer Lingus or Ryanair!’

I must confess that I dislike the expression ‘Mama Mary’ but the cabin attendant was expressing her own faith in such a simple and unselfconscious way that I was moved. And I was thinking that we need more such ‘Only in da Philippines’ moments. And there are plenty for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.