Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Never underestimate the value of your personal example, no matter how invisible you think you may be.

These two sisters made a lasting impression on me in my childhood.  And all they did to do that was go to Mass.

These two sisters, Tan Rita Tenorio Tuncap on the right dressed in the mestisa, and Tan Amanda Gumataotao Tenorio on the left, lived in a house just behind Saint Jude Church in my home town of Sinajaña.

I was a tanores (altar boy) and served Mass every single day, and these two sisters were there every single day, especially for the earliest Masses possible.

Our people had the reputation and custom of being early risers.  When the Americans first took over Guam in 1899, they found it unfamiliar (and even irritating to some) that the Chamorros started their day at 4AM.

Part of the reason was the agrarian nature of their lives.  People grew what they ate, so they started working on their farms and ranches while the morning was still cool.  The other reason was that many people went to daily Mass, which was as early as possible in those days when one had to fast from food and water from midnight till Mass.  Then one has to remember that there was nothing at night to keep people up late, so they went to bed early (for us moderns).  Echoes of Ben Franklin's "Early to bed, early to rise..."

Weekday Masses at Saint Jude's were at 7PM, and the two sisters were there.  On Saturday and Sunday, they would walk to church in the morning darkness to go to Mass.  They were so quiet.  They didn't talk while walking.  They would come inside, bless themselves with holy water, go into their pew, kneel and make the triple sign of the cross (Pot i señåt....) then the full sign of the cross from forehead to breast to shoulders.

After Mass they'd walk home just as quietly.  They smiled and returned greetings, but otherwise said nothing.

I always noticed the two sisters always wore black or some dark clothing.  This may have been because they kept the old tradition of wearing black as a sign of mourning (luto).  Tan Rita was a widow and probably wore the luto in mourning of her husband.  Tan Amanda never married and may have worn the luto in honor of her parents, or, she may have just preferred dark clothing.

Many women wore black for a year after the death of a close loved one and, in that year, did not go to parties.  Some widows wore black for the rest of their lives.

A member of the extended family told me that one of the two sisters (I forget which) kept a promesa, the custom of keeping a promise to observe a certain novena.  In preparation for the finakpo', the last day of the novena, she would not only hold a dinner for those who came, she would also buy hams or turkeys or what have you and give them to neighbors or others who were not expected at her own dinner.  She did this as a way of giving thanks for the graces obtained through the novena.  Che'cho' karidåt.  Works of charity accompany prayer.

Wise scholars?  Astounding preachers?  Yes and no.  Not in the usual sense of those words, but they were wise because they knew the fear and love of God and they preached eloquently through their actions.  What did I learn?

1. Do the good; do it every day. 
2. Do it because it is your duty to God, and for no other reason. 
3. Church is a sacred place.  God is present.  Show you know this through your decorum.
4. Pray and do works of charity because God gives you graces in His charity towards you.
5. Celebrate and throw a dinner.

What they may not have known is that someone was watching, and was edified.  This is also our duty.  Not only to do good for the love of God but for the love of our neighbor who sees you do good and is inspired.

But Tan Rita and Tan Amanda were too humble, in the real sense, to have even thought for a minute that what they were doing was inspiring to anybody.

1 comment:

  1. I love and miss my Grandma Amanda and my Auntie Rita. I remember when visiting them as a kid they would always walk to church in the darkness of the morning and return after mass and cook the largest breakfast that filled the whole table for all to enjoy. Si Yuss Masse Nana.