Metro Manila, along with other provinces in Central Luzon, has been ravaged by continuous, heavy rains since Sunday. My family lives in a neighborhood with some low-lying areas, but our particular street seems to be slightly higher than others. Meaning, a thigh level-flood elsewhere would probably be just a beginning puddle in front of our house.
Meaning, with rains such as what we’ve seen the past couple of days, we watch, we wait, then we start getting nervous.
Most of us were awoken by the scariest, loudest booms of thunder we’ve ever heard in our lifetime. Then the rain came pouring down somewhere around 3 A.M. Then didn’t seem to stop.
By around 7 in the morning, the water around the corner was already knee-deep. In front of our house, the water was about ankle-level, and rising fast.
My mom was calling to check on us every 2 hours. Cook all the food in the freezer, in case you need to turn the power off. Make sure you have water and food provisions on the 2nd floor. Charge all your cellphones. Plus one, final instruction: “Do you still have those blessed candles I gave you last February? Now is the time to light them.”
Every February 2, during the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, my mom never fails to have candles blessed during mass (a tradition only a handful of faithful still remember). She then distributes these candles between me and my sister, for our respective households. The explanation I heard once was that should the end of days come, and perpetual darkness engulf the earth, these blessed candles would be the only ones capable of holding a flame (and would probably be the only things that scared zombies away).
But every year, I would accept and keep these candles. They were still blessed, after all.
So for the first time, I took 2 of the candles from storage, put them in glass holders and placed them on either side of the front door. To ward off what, I wasn’t sure, but by then the water was already just a few feet away from entering the house. It was a little before noon.
The rain just kept on pouring and pouring. By around 4 P.M., the downpour seemed to be gaining momentum once again, this time with harsh, whistling winds. Peter and I made a decision to start hauling up what we could to the 2nd floor, and finding ways to elevate the larger furniture and appliances that were just too heavy to carry upstairs.
And yet, despite the ever worsening torrent, the water near our house never got closer, didn’t get any higher.
And the candles kept on burning, despite the constant sprays of rain, despite the relentless winds.
Later that night, as the rain finally ceased, Peter and I took one last look at our front porch. I picked up my makeshift candle holders; nothing was left but flat, discs of wax at the bottom. I thought about how hard it rained all afternoon, and how the water never got a chance to reach our door. “You know what, ” I told Peter, “I think the candles helped.”
Before going to bed, I got curious and tried looking for the origin of the practice of having candles blessed, where it came from and what they were for. I saw this under the Wikipedia entry for the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple:
Traditionally the Western term “Candlemas” (or Candle Mass) referred to the practice whereby a priest on 2 February blessed beeswaxcandles for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home. In Poland the feast is called Święto Matki Bożej Gromnicznej (Święto, “Holiday” + Matka Boska, “Mother of God” + Gromnica, “Thunder”). This name refers to the candles that are blessed on this day, called gromnicy, since these candles are lit during (thunder) storms and placed in windows to ward off storms.
Now, that, I didn’t know.
You, Lord, give light to my lamp; my God brightens the darkness about me. –Psam 18:29
Oh, and Mom? Thanks for the candles.