It’s always 3 o’clock in Misericordia. The place is white. Stark white. And everything is ruled by time. When it’s time to eat, eat. When your memory descends, you have to go through it. When everyone’s been through theirs, it’s time to rest, so rest. There are 4 rules in Misericordia. Find a place and own it; when food packs fall, eat; clean up your mess; and don’t mess with the Keeper. The Keeper rules time and comes from above. She signals when it’s time to do what. She descends with your memory.
Sometimes, we chance upon Misericordia. It is a place, you see. One where everything is a routine. Think, Pleasantville. Only this time, no picket fences. Only red barb-wired fences. And people are pale.. with no personalities whatsoever. Well, perhaps they lost theirs along the way even if they try to remember or pretend that they do. And you can’t exactly blame people who tend to or intentionally forget who they are when they keep doing the same thing again and again; when they have to because it never ends anyway–the pain. So they hold on to how it feels just so they have a glimpse of a life they once had, before they gave up and settled for what’s convenient and comfortable–where it’s safe. Besides, in reality, that’s all we’re practically suppose to do; work hard to find your own place; eat, nourish, rest; and clean up after each mess. But because everything is plain white in Misericordia, the people there forget that there is more to life than just doing what they’re told.
Misericordia means have mercy on us. There are Terminos who were stripped of having a life; Vespers who were haunted by their past; Itchs with stingy itchy wound scars to scratch; unforgiveable Vidas; and accidental Juans. Misericordia may well be a purgatory of lost souls. Or a stage in our lives when we seem like corpses walking on earth with no purpose in life, except to eat, sleep and remember. Because at some point, we only have our memories to keep us alive. And when we remember, our memories are the only things that remain real to us. Misericordia may well be misery rather than mercy. Because living out pain, fear and doubt all at the same time isn’t what being alive is suppose to be like at all. Sometimes, we have to make up stories out of our memories so that we can move on beyond the pain. Because the truth is, when Misericordia descends on us, the Keeper intends for us not to succumb, but to lift it up on our shoulders and challenge the world that everything in Misericordia–the dullness, the routine and the pain, is a mere fraction of a life we once had.
In Misericordia, the Keeper is the key to their pasts–to their pain. She is horrible, fearful and monstrous. The Keeper holds their time, their space, their actions and choices. The Keeper holds them hostage. And no one knows the price to pay to bargain for happiness, joy and forgiveness.
Sometimes, we think that our Keeper has all these planned out. We say it’s all up to Him and that He shall have mercy on us one day so long as we obey. But the truth is, the Keeper does not hold our memories. We hold the Keeper in faith. And so we must kill the Keeper we know; the Keeper who we thought allowed all the pain; the Keeper we knew to be so merciless descending the pain on us again and again; the Keeper and the memory of pain. We must move on and have faith that beyond our memories, we can make our own stories that are full of hope. We must kill the memory of pain so that we can ransom our way beyond that place. It could have been real. But seeing vibrant colors besides white; finding the light; courageously opening doors to the unkown; and living out of the routine and less convenient, may feel more like life itself indeed. We must realize too that our Keeper is merciful after all. It is of our own choice we remain hostage to our past. And so the Keeper allows us the privilege to remember, be grateful and live out our stories by challenging only that who can take and give some more.
Be the Juan to challenge yourself. Take charge and scratch your curiousity like Itch. Plays were not just meant to demonstrate life but are integral to social growth so that we can challenge the intensity of the social norm. So be the Keeper of your own time. Palanca-awarded play, Death of Memory by Glenn Mas has shows besides 3 o’clock at the Rizal Mini-Theater in Ateneo. Watch Tanghalang Ateneo’ and Dr. Ricardo Abad’s third season production this December. National Artist Salvador Bernal creates the design. (And I did the makeup and performed in the memories in a film by Katski Flores, so yeah, do as you’re told. Watch this play) 🙂