Our Christmas of 1970

The Guinarona Parish Choir in its present incarnation.

Now that much of Leyte is decrepit, no thanks to the super typhoon, one would think that Christmas–or any semblance of it–is a goner. Or didn’t you know that life goes in ebbs and flows; that into each life some super typhoon must fall?

We are saying this because adversity is not foreign to us–and neither should it be to you.

Let us start this discourse with a throwback: Unofficially, Guinarona became a parish in 1969, through the efforts of Msgr. Esteban Justimbaste. Fr. Dira was its first parish priest. (On November 5, 1971, with pomp and hoopla, Guinarona was inaugurated as a new parish by Msgr. Manuel Salvador, Bishop of Palo.) Back then, our national highway was a far cry from what is is today–it was a macadam road, very bumpy, very dusty. Our streets were as dark as an ashfall. Carabaos made a mess of them, their dungs littered every which way, not to mention the huge craters in them, which the cargo-laden carabaos caused.

We are proud to say that we were the Guinarona pioneers of the Misa de Gallo, the series of novena masses to herald Christmas. We started the Guinarona Parish Choir in October 1970 with such stalwarts as Corazon Dagami, Jose Bacal, Evelyn Fabian, Justina Carocha, Imelda Carocha, Orlando Cardante, Eufrocina Lobrigo, Elsa Lobrigo, Helen Belonias, Present Almaden, Rodrigo Lamamigo, Ruben Cesar. Emiliano Lobrigo, Ramon Berida and Basilio Bardillon. By this time, Fr. Romeo Mazo was Guinarona’s parish priest.

Then came the start of the Misa de Gallo on the wee hours of December 16, 1970. Everybody–just about everybody–congratulated us for the harmonious and lively mass songs that we performed from the Misa Antipona. Thus the process went as smooth as silk until December 23. Because, truth be told, we did not know what happened after that.
Because, as with the super typhoon, tragedy struck. Our father, Eleuterio Maray, Sr. died at 12:30 p.m. on December 24,1970 from a massive heart attack. So you think you have a unique, forlorn Christmas on account of ST Yolanda? Think again.

Imagine the adrenaline we spent when Father died the day before Christmas. We could have lit up the whole Guinarona with it.

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