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Friday, November 6, 2009

IN LOVING MEMORY: BOTTLED MEMORIES OF OUR BELOVED DEAD


In Loving Memory:Bottled Memories of Our Beloved Dead
by Ioulene Grace Intano, Ignite, Sacred Heart Parish Newsletter Editor-in-Chief


How do we keep the memories of a departed loved one alive? I can think of different ways: to keep the things they treasured most when they were alive or to share anecdotes whether it be funny or sad. But most especially we keep them alive by how they touched our lives and by imparting the lessons learned to others.

But at Sacred Heart Parish, Fr. Jason K. Dy, SJ project coordinator of In Loving Memory thought of something much more artistic, lasting and personal. It begun with 300 empty recycled bottles which the parish was giving away for free. Each artist or non-artist parishioner got to decorate the bottle to his/her liking as a way to remember a loved one. Those bottles are now on display at the parish’s parking space turned exhibit hall. Those who were not able to get hold of a bottle, may write the names of their departed on a piece of cloth mounted at the entrance. Each wall and corner of the exhibit hall is filled with uniquely decorated bottles. Each bottle has its own story.

I was lucky enough to hear first hand testimonials from the persons who personalized the bottles. One parishioner shared that the empty bottle of perfume and other small items were things that her deceased relative gave to her. Another parishioner shared that the picture of a woman and small figurines of angels inside the bottle, represent her sister and her twins who died of complications during childbirth.

Several adorned bottles caught my attention. One bottle has no decorations at all, just a simple yellow pad paper with writings on them. Upon closer inspection, one can conclude that it’s a letter addressed to a deceased loved one. A few words gave me pause, sige lang ug hilak walay hunong ug hilak gibasul nako ang Ginoo, (always crying, I blamed God) such remorse, such reproach and such courage to conquer one’s doubt and to continue to believe in the Soul of the World.

A bottle wrapped in a cradle, a baby mitten inside in memory of a few days old infant. Another, a mother wrapped her bottle with colored papers to remember a two month old fetus she carried in her womb. I can only imagine the joy of the expectant parents and the grief they went through. To overcome that grief and move on reflects a triumphant journey of life.

A water-filled bottle with several colored wires and two different sizes of stones at the bottom to remember the happy memories of a father who jumped in a well with his child. Remorse filled my heart upon hearing the story.

An elaborately wrapped bottle same as gifts one gives signifying the person’s memories as beautiful and special.

A dressmaker added a lovely dress on her grandmother’s picture. A show of talent and gratitude to a person she loves.
An angel figurine attached on top of the cork symbolizes that the angel would bring the souls to heaven.

A bottle tightly wrapped with ropes that in my humble opinion reflects the kind of close relationship that the departed had with this particular individual. The artist somehow subconsciously imparted to me that the memories that she holds are too precious to let go, that she will be keeping them with her, no matter what.

Several small mementos that the departed were fond of or were part of them like buttons, a cigarette, dried flowers, broken glass, beach sand, pebbles, precious stones, pictures, rosaries, novena booklets, wedding ring, etc. can be found in these bottles. Each bottle holds a piece of the person who adorned it and of the person to whom it is dedicated to. And through this exhibit, these integral parts of these individuals are shared to friends and strangers alike.

In another section of the exhibit hall, more bottles are on display. One wall occupies photos of Jesuit priests who are now deceased but are continuously in every parishioner’s prayers.

On an elevated portion of the floor, a lone bottle is singled out with one end of a black wire connecting from a water pipe that’s sticking out of the wall and the other end connecting to a bottle filled with flood water and mud from Marikina, in memory of the victims of Ondoy.

For forgotten souls, a wall chest full of ordinary belongings: pair of reading glasses, a piece of tooth, a broken piece of wood, among others is attributed for them. Signifying that the living has not completely forgotten any of them.

The most striking bottle for me would be the one located in the corner most, placed above eye-level with a bloodied cloth inside a broken bottle, taped together with band-aids in a form of a cross and below it a single white flower. This broken bottle is offered to all victims of judicial killings. Adjacent to this bottle a broken image of a crucified Christ somehow silently saying, You are not alone in your suffering, Come and I’ll give you rest.

Through this exhibit memories of the departed will always be remembered and cherished. And by sharing, the living are somehow strengthen by the knowledge that every visitor will offer a prayer for the ones who are left behind and for those who have left them behind.

Before I left the exhibit, I overheard a young man said jokingly to his friend, “Can I place my picture there, too?” In deeper reflection, I thought, after I die, I too would like someone to decorate and dedicate a bottle – in loving memory of me.


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