i grew up in a middle class neighborhood in the north of metro manila. like many villages or subdivisions, we had a church, a clubhouse, a tennis court, a playground.
the church was situated three blocks away from our street. close enough to walk to; a distance enough to escape to if i didn’t want anyone to catch me meditating.
every sunday morning and afternoon, the church bell would toll. a low, heavy, soothing sound around 7am and 4pm, nothing too brash or drawn out; just a reminder to church goers that mass was about to start.
i appreciated it then, even when i had begun to grow tired of going to mass in my later years of high school. years of having your way of thinking scoffed at and dismissed by nuns can do that to you. if anything, it became a reminder for me to wake up from a siesta and join my sister for merienda.
D and the kids and i now live near a church. right beside it actually. but the carillon and the bell-tolling are a far cry from what i used to hear when i was younger.
it comes several times a day; on sundays, it begins its tolling at 5am, continues almost every hour with a break between 1pm to 4pm, then continues till early evening.
it’s a tinny, clanging sound, and it goes on for three minutes. minutes.
at first i tried defending it to D. “it’s ok,” i said. “maybe they’re just excited to use the bells because they’re new.”
it’s been a month now. and with all respect to the catholic church as an institution, the clanging hasn’t stopped, and my irritation is growing. it’s so loud, i can hear it even if i have my earphones plugged in my ears and the volume turned to maximum. i love Jesus Christ, i love the universal love He stands for—but this? the “bells” make a racket that’s long and insistent and asynchronous. it’s not created by someone slaving away happily at a carillon; it’s computer-generated. it’s fake and metallic and abrasive.
and it speaks in desperation, much like how maybe the catholic church must be feeling nowadays.
my mother says it’s a sign, that the church is calling for us to return.