IT STOOD about 100 meters tall. Its features possessed Gothic-like attributes such as three-tier elevations, shafted piers, and flying buttresses. The doors were set into pointed arches. The large, central rose window had multi-colored glass panes. The inside, constituted of a longitudinal floor, was intersected at one end by a portion that ran in right angles to the long central part of the nave—like a Latin cross.

At least that was how I remembered an old friend of mine describe it. He was the art and architecture expert, not me. I was the expert guesser, but not at all times. I used to tell him that all it seemed to be missing were gargoyles and it would have probably looked like the Notre Dame Church. Of course, that didn’t seem likely from where we lived. So instead, above the arched doors was a row of statues of angels surmounted by more windows and a row of columns.

The church this old friend and I used take photos of, draw sketches of, and hear mass in every Sunday looked the same as it did some ten years ago. The only difference is, now, I take photos, draw sketches, and hear mass in there every Sunday by myself.

I’m not sure why or how I stopped seeing him. He never bothered telling me anything, so I figured he was dead. At one point, I almost grew frantic looking for him, until his parents told me he left without warning. He must have taken off to France to study architecture or maybe even marry some French girl. That was always his dream. Or at least I thought it was.

As a child, each time I went through old photos of churches and cathedrals in his pre-20th century architectural books, I grew accustomed to thinking that gargoyles were designed to scare off all the mischievous boys and girls from entering places that were said to be for public worship. That was an imprecise notion, I soon found out. Gargoyles were more purposely designed to clear rainwater off the building. There was not much of a reason for its grotesqueness unless whoever carved it meant it that way. I never saw the sense in people creating something so ugly.

Mahabang biyahe

The years that went by gifted me with more common sense. I realized then that, miraculously, all kinds of people were permitted inside church—the rich and the poor, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Of course to the Creator, all things were beautiful.

Nonetheless, it was quite a surprise for me to find an actual “gargoyle” lurking about inside church one Sunday morning. That day should have been as ordinary as every other Sunday. I, as always, was five minutes early. It was to make certain I got to sit somewhere in the front (the second bench at the right side end of the church, to be exact) because it was the best place to get a good view of the projector with the oh-so tiny Old English Text font. Also, this was the part of the church that was closest to the strongest air conditioner.

During the exchange of peace-be-with-yous I would turn around to smile at the elderly women who, like me, had the same routine every Sunday: church, lunch, home. But today, when I turned around to utter the same sacred words, it was not the wrinkly smiles of elderly women that met me, but the piercing eyes and furrowed brows of a “gargoyle”.

Before I could turn to face front again, having hoped it hadn’t noticed me, it spoke with a tone of genuine surprise, not of the ambiguity that his facial expressions implied. It inched closer to me, so that only I could hear its voice.

“What are you doing here?” its voice was deep, though mellow, almost even sweet. If I closed my eyes and listened only to its voice, I might have mistaken it for—no, it still was a “gargoyle” clad in a cotton-white polo shirt and loose jeans. I struggled to come up with an answer without showing the slightest hint of emotion. I could have chosen not to reply, but that was a rude thing to do inside God’s home.

Taking a leaf of fate

“It’s hot outside,” I said, instantly realizing that what I had said sounded stupid even if I meant to sound sarcastic. I could only hope the “gargoyle” would read through its context. It did. I think it tried its best to grin. I turned front again. I realized that the question it asked me did not make as much sense as the reply I gave it.

The mass ended and the priest told everyone told to go in peace but that was hard for me to do this time, considering how the sight of the “gargoyle” made me want to execute it by strangulation. Instead, I avoided unconsciously committing any more sin, by making a quick exit at the door closest to where I sat.

I was already outside the church and was about to make a run for it when the “gargoyle” called my name. I kept walking pretending as if I hadn’t heard it.

“I think you left something behind,” it finally said, and, at that moment, I searched my purse to find my wallet missing. It was only then when I turned around to face it. I heaved a sigh and opened my palm, instructing it to return it to me or else. It returned my wallet. I mumbled an insincere thanks, because it was the right thing to do even if it was against my will. Then, I marched off without saying goodbye.

“Do you want a lift?” it said, its voice hopeful. “I think I still know the way to your house.”

I was not about to give it a chance to revel in the idea of both of us finally being reunited after almost two years. Two years wasn’t that long. Every so often I forget why I was angry in the first place. Still, I was.

Thomasians pay tribute to true Master

“Normal people would tell their friends and family about their intentions to leave,” I said, quietly, with resentment. “But you aren’t normal, are you?”

It was taken aback. It seems to have forgotten how its old friend can sometimes be a little too emotional. It was the opposite. It was emotionless—the only expression it wore on its face was uncertainty, hence, the piercing eyes and furrowed brows.

Emotionless like a gargoyle made of stone.

I flashed my old friend a smile, and with full effort, he returned one too.

We took our time to admire the church—the exquisiteness of its form and the grandiosity of its structure. While he took photos outside, I slipped inside the church again and fixed my eyes to the altar. To the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe, I told Him this: Dear God, thank you. Please don’t let him make a “gargoyle” out of himself again.


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