Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Reaching out to the past All Souls' Day

Nathan Cabello - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Today the Catholic Christian nation troops to the cemetery. This is the biggest occasion in the year for remembering departed loved ones. But why remember?

There may be no ready answer why. It just seems to be in the grain of human nature to spend a lot of time thinking of the past – past events and people of the past. On one hand, this tendency makes it difficult for change to take place; on the other, it makes people feel founded and belonging to a bigger set of things.

Yes, past mistakes are hard to forget – or even correct – if these were committed under pleasant circumstances and as part of a beautiful experience. That’s why it’s so difficult to overcome an addiction. That’s why old lovers who are already separately settled with other life partners easily rekindle old romantic flames on a chance meeting.

The so-called patterns of behavior, the way people communicate with others have their roots in the past. People develop habits and habits are hard to break. Some even adopt the excuse: “This has worked in the past, so why stop it now?”

But, in silence, people know they’re deluding themselves with their own excuses. They know that there are certain things about the past that need correcting or improving or changing in the present. And this point is a good thing.

The past can be a great teacher and source of wisdom. By studying the past – like in History – people learn precious lessons – that there is no such thing as a good war, that there are two sides to independence, that no earthly thing lasts. Many things about the past can become warnings for the present. In the words of George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” 

And there’s the inspirational side of the past, as well. The struggles of earlier generations that put the present one where it is can provide people with a sense of self-identity and self-pride. It can fire them up to build on the achievements of their forebears. Many families, for example, have been on the winning streak since the time of their elders.

It is not good, of course, to simply rest on the laurels of the family’s past. One needs to carry well the torch of accomplishment that has been passed on to his hands. A question may be asked: “Where do I take the family’s story now?”

The past is indeed a vital reference for the present. By looking back in time, one gets two kinds of ideas – examples and warnings. The examples are the things to emulate; the warnings are to be avoided.

In going to the cemetery today, it is good to reflect on how part of the past still lives in the present. The genes of dead ancestors are alive in every new baby born to the line. And young people may learn better about themselves by studying the family history.

Some young Smart Aleck today would insist on living in the here and now. They think of the past as irrelevant to the present conditions. Such thinking is not quite right.

The past is never irrelevant, for the simple reason that it’s where the present comes from. Life is a continuum. One need not hold on to the past, though – one only needs to reach out to it for his guide, for his own good.

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