Latest Stories

Glimmers from Patmos

Feast of friends


Red sunsets are not an everyday phenomenon, at least not in Benvolio’s book. He supposes they occur only at certain times in the calendar. For instance, that Saint John’s feast, the 27th of December, the third day of Christmas 2013.

That date, the horizon bled at dusk. Countless florid shades hung as one like a master weaver’s curtain over the far west where from his vantage point, Benvolio could not tell if the sea played or lay asleep.

He had a knack for spotting cords that bound together the palpable world and the rich unseen universe of thought. Before long, he concluded that the red evening twilight which made fine silhouettes of the mangroves of Tuburan town anticipated the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents (cf. Mattew 2:13-18), commemorated the next day, the fourth of Christmas 2013.

* * *

But what did the crimson sunset have to do with the memorial of Saint John the Evangelist, patron of friendships? Earlier Benvolio had gone through a four-hour bus ride that took him from Cebu’s east coast and across the hills to the spring-slaked seaside valley northwest, where 17 of his brothers in the faith from the world over stayed.

They were winding up playing soccer when he came. After they washed up and he had caught his breath they went to the kitchen where he and cooking enthusiasts in the party prepared lunch: steamed rice, fried mackerel, grilled squid, raw squid salad and mixed vegetables stewed in coconut milk.

Dishes simmering and over a bowl of peas, peanuts and corn grits, Benvolio chatted with Jim, a Scottish physician and cleric who had authored books and led symposia about moral issues from pornography to natural family planning. He met John, a Singaporean who came over to experience Catholic life in community. Over lunch, Benvolio reminisced with Australian missionary brothers Francis and Daniel the winter days that he spent with them down under.

In the afternoon, they went out to sea aboard a kayak, a motor boat, a banca and a bouncing banana boat. The tide was just coming in so they had to put out farther to get to the deep. There the sea bordered on wild and they had a grand time splashing in and laughing with the waves that caught a million suns.

* * *

Past supper at a restaurant in town, they spanned a hundred-meter footbridge from shore and assembled by the moonlight in a thatched-roof gazebo on stilts. There, Francis retold the story of the young Jeremiah, who found the will to embrace the call to prophesy after all his excuses for fleeing it melted away in prayer.

Francis shared his own story, too. It was a story of twice picking a girl over or together with God, of twice discovering (with the girls), that God led him elsewhere and of experiencing the incomparable beauty of surrendering oneself to the Lord. Benvolio noted how Francis’ story paralleled that of Saint John, who according to tradition, thrice happily stood on the verge of getting married, save that Christ on each occasion drew him to himself with joy beyond compare.

Francis gave each of his brothers a torch. “Let these symbolize your openness to God,” he said. They processed on the bridge, pausing to listen to some brothers testify about the merciful interventions of God in their individual lives, families and work.

When they reached the shore, they sat around a bonfire that they started with the fire of 18 torches. They spoke of faith and hope and love and all things that endure. They spoke of how this time of gizmo tablets and banana boats call for men to take courage and bear the light of Christ to the world. Francis urged his brothers to be Christ’s men, wherever life may take them.

Tiny sparks leapt like fireflies from the crackling flames. Benvolio tailed them with his gaze and looked at the heavens. A ring, white at first, rainbow-flecked later, encircled the moon. Against the swishing surf, he remembered fisherman Saint John’s lyrics early in the Fourth Gospel about light, light from God’s own life, light that shines in darkness, light that darkness could not overcome. (John 1:4-5)

Benvolio easily attributed the events of the day to the saint’s predilection for friendships, those relationships without which, Aristotle said, a man would refuse to live, though he had all goods. After some time, Benvolio also found the link between the blood-colored sunset and the friendship saint’s feast: The fourth evangelist alone recorded that Christ said, “The greatest love a man can have is to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Other Stories:

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  2. Cagayan mayor shot dead after flag-raising ceremony
  3. Obama, family cause a small stir at Easter service
  4. Santiago sees Palace hand in Gigi’s return
  5. ‘Malang’ next crocodile attraction after ‘Lolong’
  6. Gigi Reyes’ only option: tell all
  7. Malaysia Airlines jet turns back after tire burst
  8. Ancient enigmatic carvings in danger of disappearing
  9. New plant to boost supply of clean energy
  10. More bodies from ship; transcript reveals wavering
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  5. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  6. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  7. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  8. Massive infra spending set
  9. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  10. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • Annual blackout simulation drill held
  • Saudi Arabia reports 3 more deaths from MERS virus
  • Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  • Why are Americans obsessed with missing plane?
  • Napoles to have surgery on Tuesday – report
  • Sports

  • PBA D-League: Waves edge skidding Superchargers
  • Ilad’s last-second basket lifts Gems over Bakers
  • Reigning champs Miami open playoffs with win
  • Spurs subdue Mavericks in playoff opener
  • Wawrinka beats Federer to win Monte Carlo Masters
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • Arrest warrants out vs. Deniece Cornejo, Cedric Lee, et al over serious illegal detention
  • Lindsay Lohan says she had a miscarriage
  • Discovery network cancels Everest jump
  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Business

  • Century Pacific Food sets IPO price at P13.75 per share
  • Oil prices down in quiet Asian trade
  • Asian shares mixed in holiday-thinned trade
  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Technology

  • PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos in Middle East urged not to panic amid MERS-CoV scare
  • Obama on mission to quiet Asia skeptics
  • Search for Etihad passengers launched
  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • Marketplace