"As Eager As Stone"
Oliver Bayani
San Miguel, Pasig City 

 


It took me around almost two hours standing in a corner inside Baclaran Redemptorist Church to get this photograph of this woman. I had the chance to talk to her, I guess aged around her mid-30s, and was able to ask a few questions why she was there, standing quietly – for almost 20 minutes.

Before she stood in front of that lovely image of Mama Mary, I saw around 30 or so people do the same thing more or less.  They gave roses, closed their eyes, and said their prayers – difference was it just took around 5 seconds for them.

Sadly, it appeared to me that praying for most of us is like a routine, a set of actions we mindlessly do. I admit it appeared heartwarming, seeing lots of people going to Mama Mary to pay respects but they just stood there, held the statue, and quickly went away. It felt like they were praying to a statue made of stone, forgetting the idea and intention behind the marble.

I was hesitant when I approached the lady since I heard her sobbing as I went closer. I told her that I took a picture of her while she was praying and that she was standing for 20 minutes. She said that she didn’t notice that it took that long and only felt that her legs were actually sore when I informed her.

After she cleaned her eyes with a tissue, she told me that she came to Baclaran church to talk to someone about her problems. I was hesitant to ask what these problems are but she was kind enough to tell me that it was about money and her family.

I thought that she was waiting for a priest or an ordained minister to have a conversation but she clarified that she was already talking to someone when she stood in front of Mama Mary for 20 minutes. The statue appeared to her not just a figure made of stone but a symbolic representation that Mama Mary’s love and kind ear is as unmovable as stone.

“…nakakagaan ng loob, alam kong di sumasagot yung istatwa, pero alam ko nakikinig sya at alam ko nararamdaman nya ung problema ko sa likod niyan.” (…my heart feels lighter, I know a statue won’t talk back, but I know she is listening to me and I know that she feels what I am going through behind that statue…) 

I have taken pictures of EDSA II, been to Quiapo many times to catch devotees, and saw hundreds of people in many events praying to glorify His name. But I have never seen a more intimate image of what prayer is and what Mama Mary meant to someone than this simple picture of the lady I met in Baclaran church and her story.

We are slowly forgetting that Mama Mary is beyond the grand gestures, beyond the lovely bouquets, beyond the lofty sparkling costumes we adorn her. Yes, we indeed honor her through these things but we forget that she is more excited for our stories, prayers, dreams, worries, and problems like a friend or mother, waiting patiently and eagerly with an undying love as unmovable as a statue.

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