Thursday, June 16, 2011


A very innovative liturgy director, a religious sister, danced the offertory procession in 'attractive' costumes and playing the banjo. The bishop was presiding on this occasion of the pastor's golden jubilee. As the "dancer" approached the altar the bishop whispered to the pastor: "If she asked for your head on a platter, she'd have it!"

Friday, June 10, 2011

About a Mistress

In my latest post I mentioned about digging into this interesting work by Eleanor Herman about Olimpia Maidalchini. I found this book while poring over the shelves at FullyBooked at Bonifacio High Street about a month or so ago. Actually I first read some pages of it in a friend's ipad but it didn't catch my fancy then. It did when, with nothing particularly interesting in my hands and with a lot of time to kill, I finally came upon it in the history section.

 It would be imprecise to call it a novel, because it's not. I think it could comfortable called a resource, except that its written in such a way that it's different from the typically heavy and bearing history tomes about obscure figure that history has conveniently swallowed up. It's substantial but not heavy, entertaining and juicy but not frivolous. Yep, just the right mix. I enjoyed reading it I had finished by the time I arrived back in Tacloban.
The book cover discloses very little about the author, Eleanor Herman, who had also written other books on historical matters. She had hosted episodes for the National Geographic Channel and the History Channel (which has a revisionist tendency most times).
The title of the book says it all: Mistress of the Vatican, though I thought the next line pushed the envelope a little too far: The true story of Olimpia Maidalchini: the secret female pope. For all her machinations and power wielding she may have truly been the mistress of Rome, but its quite absurd to call her pope.
Anybody can learn about her here, so I'll go straight to some of the things which make this an interesting read.
It was interesting to note that in those times, women didn't really have much of a choice on how to manage their lives, if they were really able to manage them. It seemed that only two options were open for them: to be wed or to be locked up in the convent. I would imagine that convents during that time would have to be full, but that didn't exactly mean that the convents were filled to capacity due to genuine vocations. 
A nun slept alone in a narrow cell, on a hard bed, with an unlocked door through which the abbess could enter anytime to see what she was doing. fraternization was frowned upon as nuns, having devoted themselves to God, were not supposed to have any friends, even among their fellow nuns. Nuns who laughed and gossiped when cooking together or sewing in small groups could be subject to severe punishment. Forbidden to have pets, many nuns adopted chickens they raised for eggs. Some nuns sent letters to their bishops complaining bitterly that the upstairs corridors were ankle deep in chicken turds because other nuns, looking for love where they could find it, kept so many pet chickens...
...Nuns were allowed to meet relatives in the convent parlor, a gathering place where laypeople waited for a religious relative to come to the grille that separated the nuns' world from the real world. male visitors were limited to a short list of fathers, brothers and uncles, but female visitors could be more distant relatives, former neighbors, and friends. An older nun past the age of indiscretion--forty--was instructed to stand nearby and listen to younger nuns' conversations in he parlors to make sure nothing inappropriate was being said.
Usually the relatives would bring food and drink and make merry in the parlor, slipping wine and food through the grille to the nun while she, in return, slipped them delectable convent cakes. Bishops routinely tried to clamp down on such excesses but just as routinely failed. It was, after all, the only fun a nun could have. And the rowdy relatives were not nearly as troubling as another problem in the parlor, which was becoming the favorite pastime of Italian youths. Boisterous young men--drunk, bored or on a dare--pretended to be nuns' brothers, snuck in, and exposed themselves, waving their members and grinning at the shocked virgins behind the grille. The Neapolitans were the worst, some of them making the grand tour of Italy with the express purpose o flashing all the nuns.
Well, I'm glad such things and such reclusion don't happen in convents nowadays, and I haven't heard of any nun who was forced to enter the convent.

Here's something that reminds me of some local--and I mean local--politicians whenever they careen down the roads with their convoys and flashing lights:
The dignity of a Roman nobleman was measured in the number of his retainers, most of whom rode noisily down the streets following his carriage no matter where he went--to church, to a friend's house, to his tailor, even to his mistress. When the maestro di casa rang a particular bell, within fifteen minutes all male members of the famiglia were required to be mounted on a horse, ready to fly through the streets of Rome behind their master. Those who were not ready would forfeit a week's meals. Even the cooks, gardeners, and servant boys would fling on the family livery and raise madly through the streets, creating as much din as possible.

On writer's blocks and wilful ladies

I've been taking a walk in the blogosphere these days. I find it more appetizing to read from other blogs than to write my own entries. Blame it on the writer's block, blame it on sheer literary laziness. I haven't been too successful lately in coming up with a good entry these days. I've been wanting to write about the readings that I've had these weeks but the Muses seemed to have deserted me. The first time I went to Manila in order to work on my travel papers (haven't I mentioned it somewhere here that I would be going abroad once again to study?) I came across a book about a woman who held the reigns of the temporal affairs of the Catholic Church during a good part of the Renaissance, sort of like Pope Joan but much better. Forget Joan (she wasn't real anyway, no matter how much liberal feminists would swoon at the fantasy of proving that women had that kind of authority within the Church). The book was about the mistress of Innocent X (clearly he wasn't too innocent), Donna Olimpia Maidalchini. The book makes even better reading than Dan Brown. At least with the book (which is historically accurate to a flaw, though it has some feminist leanings, but not too much) busog ka. It makes for a very satisfying read, especially if you're looking for a glimpse of how life was in Rome during that time, the etiquette, etc. What makes it really good is that it's full of details, from the ones which serious historians (which I hope to call myself after wrestling with my studies at the university in  four  years' time) would really appreciate, to the ones that the likes of Boy Abunda would really fish for. I'll blog about this later.
Well at least I've been able to break the logjam and keep thought torrents flowing this time..

Friday, June 3, 2011

MOrnIng AdreNalin RuSh

Why is it that whenever I get thiiiiisss close to getting something a glitch always happens? Like when I was about to triumphantly print my thesis way back when I was in college, about to crown my whole college life with the last brick, when suddenly the printer malfunctioned? (I was a worse technical ignoramus back then now.)

I've been in Manila for days now, trying to get the required papers for my visa application for my four-year "upgrade" at my alma mater in Pamplona this August. I've been through medical checkups, aided by the nurses and the doctors who were kind enough to make things swift for me (I do appreciate what the effort, though when people give me special treatment, it makes me uncomfortable in the least, and embarrassed at most. But thanks a lot anyway!!!); I've made trips to government agencies to authenticate documents, where my documents were likewise expedited. I've begun a love affair with the city rail train service (the MRT), and I've been in every mode of decent transportation there is in the city, from the taxi to the jeepney to the humble padyak.

This morning the seemingly daunting task of trying to decipher that maze which is calling the Spanish Embassy call center to secure a scheduled interview nearly drove me nuts. After a few unsuccessful attempts at the telephone I made for the embassy, which is at Gil Puyat Avenue. I asked help from the guard at the main entrance (by the way I'm staying at the Bahay Pari at the San Carlos Seminary Complex), something which takes a lot of patience (we weren't calling for a cab, we were fishing for a cab). Finally the kind guard was able to flag down one, and a yellow (airport cab) one at that. I gave him directions and we were off. By the time I finally located the building I had already secured the driver's number for my return trip to the airport this Sunday. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone!

I arrived at the Embassy only to be informed that applications for scheduled interviews were only done by phone. I felt like crying, to be honest. So back I went to my lodgings at the seminary, and asked Mang Boons, the accommodating guy at the front desk, if I could use the office phone. After two or three unsuccessful attempts, I was finally able to make contact, secure the interview for me (July 11) and for Fr. Pol (June 30, that means no fiesta for him), and finally breathe deeply in relief.

And now, after all this, I'm feeling much, much better.