MEDJUGORIE, HERE THEY COME
© 1995 Fred Natividad
They chatted noisily at the international terminal at Chicago’s O’hare airport. To non-Filipinos near them they sounded distinctly talking in a foreign language, some kind of pidgin called Taglish notoriously common in the Philippines.
Actually nobody really paid much attention to the chattering group except a few white, beyond middle age ladies, who did corner-of-the-eye glances. Either they were in transit to, or from, some hick town where they have never seen nor heard chatty Filipino women. Maybe these white women were just nosy characters accumulating some gossip to tell their neighbors over the fence back home.
Chicago, for one thing, is full of immigrants. And since O’hare is an international airport the sound of all kinds of strange tongues is not unusual. To mainstream Americans Taglish is no more unusual than Swahili. The gossip-over-the-fence women can’t understand strange tongues anyway – they are not trained CIA linguists.
“Ay, comari, yo ar heyer, olso?”
“Aba, op kors! Si maring Chuchi ay nag-tor na sa Lordis kaya tayo naman sa Mediogori.”
“Pero, mari, magsa-sayd trip yata tayo sa Pompi…”
“Pompi? Sa Itali yon, ah.”
“O-o. Magsi-siyaping tayo ng pornityior.”
“Okey, huwag lang nating kalimutang bumile ng stetiyo ni Mama Mary sa Mediogori.”
“Di ba marami ka na niyan?”
“O-o, bat alam mo namang wala pang Berhing Mediogori si Chuchi.”
“Ay si. Okey, bat witiminit, awt op di wey ang Itali.”
“Hmm, yo ar rayt. Okey, magtotor nalang tayo neks yir sa Roma. Malapit ang Pompi doon.”
“Eniwey, kabibili lang ni Chuchi ng pornityior sa Marshall Field. Med in Spain daw. Ibig sabihin wala pa siyang pornityor na med in Pompi.”
Meanwhile, the weather was terrible and the Yugoslavian plane that was to take the Chicago pilgrims to Zagreb was delayed in New York. Every minute of delay meant an opportunity for another round of drinks at the bar of the international terminal where half of the customers were husbands of the religious women speaking funny Taglish.
“Pari,” one of the husbands said to another man beside him, “ikaw ba’y bilib sa mirakol sa Mediogori?”
“Eh, haw kam nandito ka?”
“Hino-hyumor ka lang ang misis ko.”
“Beri relidiyos ba siya?
“E, marami siyang berhin sa bahay, e di relidiyos siya.”
“Witi-minit, asawa mo hindi ka syior?”
“Pari, lasing na rin kitang dalawa, ay tenk okey lang to til yo di trot.
“Gelprin ko lang yan, pari.”
“Oki, sa mga panahanon ngayon dir is nating rong sa dalawang mag swithalt na nag-i-islip togidir…”
“Pari, huwag ka lang maingay. Ang hosban niyan nasa Maynila. Ako naman, ang misis kong nars ay bising nagdo-dobol dyioti gabi-gabi. Si tenks nasa awt-op-tawn bisnis trip naman ako.”
“Tang-na pare, bilib ako sa yo. Por yor abilidad, sa akin ang neks rawn.”
“Hindi pari. Sa akin pa rin ang rawn na ito. Pera ng gelprin ko lang naman ang nasa walit ko, e. Anader rawn plis, bartindir…”
The bartindir -er, bartender, gave the two semi-drunk men a nasty look, who, he gathered, were on their way to a religious pilgrimage. But, with a frozen smile, he poured another round of Scotch for each. He may not like like these little brown hypocrites but he is not stupid – he liked their generous tips.
Just then the public address system blared that the Yugoslavian plane that will take the pilgrims to Zagreb just landed after a two-hour delay in New York. Flight number so-and-so will board in forty-five minutes.The semi-inebriated, nattily dressed brown men gulped their unfinished drinks, paid for their drinks, left generous tips, and went out of the bar to join their forever-chatting ladies.
The bartender watched them with relief because the other casually dressed blue-eyed customers began to grimace each time a Filipino in a suit and tie said something loudly in some kind of pidgin. But the bartender was ambivalent – the brown men were good tippers. He has to like them. They might be coming back to his bar on their way to another trip out of the country.
The group filed into the plane as noisily as when they were waiting at the terminal. As soon as all were seated a Filipino priest, their spiritual leader whose travel was subsidized by the pilgrims, promptly began to lead the rosary aloud. He ignored the stewardess who was trying to demonstrate, without enthusiasm, for a hundred million times, the intricacies of surviving a crash, gesturing like a French mime with an orange inflatable vest.
Women from sixteen Filipino couples excitedly put out their rosaries and began to respond to the priest. The flight hostess ignored the rosary-clutching women and continued her mime performance with bored disinterest. She didn’t seem bothered at all by the monotonous drone of Hail Mary’s.
“Psst,” one woman whispered to another between the Holy Mary’s, “whir did yo git yor rosary? Ang akin binili ko sa Patima… holi-meri … mudder-op-gad…”
“Pram Roma ang akin. Pero meron akong med op gold na iniwan ko sa bahay. Galing naman sa Nevers iyon… mudder-op-gad … pri-poras…”
The men, meanwhile, promptly went to sleep, dreaming of the hour when the flight hostesses with frozen smiles will begin to serve alcoholic drinks. In less than 8 hours the pilgrims will land at Zagreb and will be whisked by bus to Dubrovnik and thence to Medjugorie.
Our Lady of Medjugorje
Medjugorean merchants, ready with all kinds of rosaries and pictures of the Lady of Medjugorie, will rub their palms in glee to welcome these new pilgrims. The pilgrims from Chicago will be equally ready. They will giddily unload their precious hard currency into the Medjugorean economy.
And, yes, they will also kneel with reverence at every spot where the tourist guide claimed the Lady of Medjugorie “miraculously” appeared to some village kids. Some of the men will just stay at the hotel to enjoy cold drinks at the hotel’s bar.