by Candy Gonzales – Blancaflor
AC HS 1986
Jade Jubilarian 2021
In November of 2020, at 51, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mum suffered a stroke soon after that, right after the new year of 2021. Amidst a pandemic, juggling marriage, motherhood, work, my mum’s health and affairs, I stared at Death in the eye. And after battling 6 months of chemotherapy, I continue to pick up my sword and fight again. My scars tell a story. They tell a story of my Magnificat, my Song to God.
I was 12 the first time I heard the singing of our nuns in “purple dots”. That was what I fondly called the Assumption nuns in their purple habits. Sister Bernadette’s jingling keys and the click-clacking of her footsteps on the wooden corridor of the dormitory was the signal of angelic voices rising from the school chapel. “Girls, time for vespers!”, she would exclaim in a voice almost like a whisper. I was one of those few girls she called, or “forced”, to sing the Psalms with them right before morning Mass and in the early evening before dinner. Maybe she liked my singing. Maybe I needed disciplining. Or maybe she was hoping that I would become a nun, like her! All these thoughts flew in my mind while we sang. But there was always that one still voice I heard in the stringing of the guitar. It soothed me like a balm on my heart that suffered bouts of homesickness. For a 12 year-old girl away from home, this voice taught me to be courageous and brave. It was Mary’s. Her voice and song became mine.
In the melody of every verse during vespers, there I proclaimed together with Mary, the greatness of the Lord. Although I didn’t know it then, my spirit was already rejoicing in our God who blessed me with good things – a loving family, a remarkable Catholic education, a lifetime of friendships. Slowly I came to Him as myself, and He prepared me for things to come.
Right before high school graduation, my father, who was my hero, died of lung cancer. My heart was crushed. At 16, while agonizing in pain, my heart learned to ponder with Mary. In all the numbing experiences of college life at the Ateneo de Manila, the hurdles met at graduate school in the United States, the virtues lived in my professional career and family life, Mary kept me in her heart. While I missed my dad everyday, Mary’s presence was palpable. She taught me to sing my tears and joys to heaven. Each bead of the Holy Rosary was the crown of her love for me. My life, with all its glories, crosses, and contradictions, became my prayer, and my prayer became my life.
Since Dad’s passing, Mum immersed herself in her work and advocacies – education, politics, her philanthropic and civic duties, her family obligations. Those years of independence and distance, somehow, left us at odds with each other. However, in all my being, I continued to watch and emulate her. I was reminded of Jesus and how He honored Mary and Joseph. The fourth commandment demanded humility and obedience. After God, my honor is owed to my parents. This commanded respect from a child and is reaped from gratitude. I am grateful to my parents who brought me into this world, entrusted to me their love and work, and empowered me to grow in stature, wisdom, and grace. Despite our differences, disagreements, and painful experiences, I remained faithful and obedient to my mother, as Jesus was to Mary and Joseph. Being the eldest of three, I endeavored to be this example to my siblings.
I will always remember joyful memories with my dad. His vision, philosophy, love, and discipline, will remain with me every day of my life. And as I strive to keep my mum comfortable and happy in her last days, her humility, kindness and generosity of spirit, her forgiving heart and strong work ethic, will continue to be the love story I will stand on till my last breath. I will cherish both their hearts as they continue to beat in mine, and I promise to honor them both and those who have gone before them in the face and spirit of my son, and in those who will come after him.
The Assumption taught me the Canticle of Mary. It planted in my heart the seeds and fruits of gratitude and praise to God. It empowered me to become a woman wearing the armor of faith and swinging the sword of action. It reminded me that the God that I sing to and shared my breath with on the bathroom floor was to whom I belong. My song was my badge of courage and hope. No war, battle or even death, can stop a daughter of God to be bold as lions. Nothing can stop her to serve and love, as she was created to be. The Assumption was the nest where the godly was born, the warrior, the song.
As I turned 52 last August and on the road to remission, the sound of my Magnificat endures. Each note carries a crick of a bone and the whining of menopause! It hums the daily grind of service to family and to community. It sustains itself with friendships of Old Girls in plaid – older girls who sing the same song – and girlfriends who carry me through this journey. It is a love that marks me with eternal signatures of husband and son, and punctuates with an inspired quote by Brio, from a favorite Marvel hero, “I love you three thousand to the power of infinity!”
My scars tell a story. They sing the loves, the joys, the works and sufferings, the prayers of my life. They remind me of how I broke and crumbled, and how I rose, picked up my sword, and prevailed to fight and face the sun again. This is my Magnificat.
This video is published with the kind permission of Candy and of AC HS 1996, the Silvers of 2021 who established VELADA TV from where this video is sourced.