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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


A Christmas Message delivered at the Sampaguita Senior Citizens Club 2011 Christmas Celebration, December 17, 2011, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

My friends, fellow seniors, ladies and gentlemen. 

My wife and I are delighted to have been graciously invited to your annual Christmas celebration. Sometime, or the other, we were here with you, happy to remember a holy and happy day. I remember, too, that I was likewise asked to give an “inspirational” talk before I sit down for a sumptuous dinner. (If I have learned any lessons in public speaking, it is never a good idea to delay dinner on one’s account; particularly a speech.) I am doing the same thing, today---not the same presentation I had last year, thank God---but I will not disturb your digestive systems this time by reciting some of the poems I write to keep my mind working. However, should it stop working in the middle of my talk, please remember to throw some leftover bread in my direction to remind me I am addressing a live audience and that I am not talking to myself in public. 

Such, alas, is the misfortune of growing old. But that is a harsh term, isn’t it? Growing old. In my old country, nobody grows “old”---“kalabaw lang ang tumatanda---only carabaos grow old,” the old proverb quoted by seniors more often than not reminds us urgently. Therefore, I will not use that term again. It is more poetic, indeed, to use the disguised endearment: “in the twilight of our years.” 

Whose twilight, though? We are not done yet with this Earth that God has given his beloved Son, Jesus, to save and to die for. We may be at a stage where we can say with the poet William Wordsworth, “Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower, we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.” 

Bring back the hour of splendour? Glory in the flower? Why, we have not stopped falling in love ardently, nor loving fiercely. We have merely toned it down by living and loving wisely. 

At the risk of sounding like a Don Quixote attacking the windmills, let me repeat what surveys keep on saying: 1. Seniors remain as the most capable buyers of goods and services---from croissants to coffins; 2. By 2016, 60 % of Canada will be seniors; 3. The most influential voting block is the senior sector—no Prime Minister nor the smallest politician has yet dared to ignore this; 4. The leader is wise, indeed, who would nourish the undiminished influence and aspirations of the nation’s seniors, because they are the natural repositories of the wisdom, ambition, and conscience of the human race.  

So, my friends, “in the twilight of our years,” what remains behind? Our collective strength is preserved. Each “grandpa, grandma, abuelo, abuela, nonno, nonna, grandpere, grandmere, mami, papi, apo lakay, apo baket, Baak, Impo, Nanang, Tatang--whatever or however we are now addressed by children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren---bear the insignia of  caring, rearing, raising, shaping, enriching (yes, with RESPs, too for the grandchildren), and above all loving the inheritors of this Earth that we are stewards of. We have the strength and abiding courage to hand down this planet to our children, their children, and their children’s children in its most progressive, peaceful, and productive state yet. With heads held high, we will keep this promise.  

But have our leaders been supportive of this promise? Have they proven faithful to this pledge? Unfortunately, we are still witnesses to wars, famines, discrimination, abuse of natural resources, corruption, and rank indifference to the duties and responsibilities of being human. Man’s inhumanity to man is still rampant. I submit, my fellow seniors, that these are things we can still correct.  

Paulo Coelho, a Portuguese poet and novelist, and recently a Facebook friend, wrote in one of his posts: Keep your eyes wide open, if you want to dream.  We do dream---each day that this great Gift of life, this Earth, this Paradise regained will be there nourishing our human specie until the consummation of the world when we all  go back to our beginning who is God and know him only for the first time. 

We see what neglect can do to our borrowed home, this wounded Earth. Because we dream with our eyes open, we will still adorn this home with the beauty and peace that it deserves. We will not dream of days gone by, we will dream of the wonders that are yet to come.  

In the meantime, do we still realize what dream comes true all the days of our lives? That we still receive the greatest gift of all from God, his Son who died for us that death itself will no longer have dominion? So that we can dream still with our eyes open, of a Happy Christmas---(Never mind a White Christmas---no snow please---we seniors have thrown our shovels but an evergreen Christmas to mark the everlasting freshness of the Christmas of our Youth)---when we visited Christ’s manger in our hearts, and kept him warm, like we were two babies warming each other up in that cold, cold manger.  

Do you remember that story of the boy in a German orphanage sometime in 1994 who drew two babies in the manger? When asked by his American Peace Corps teachers, why? He said: “I told baby Jesus, I have no Mama nor Papa, so I don’t have a place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t because I did not have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a gift. Jesus told me: “If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.” So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him...for always. Little Misha found someone who will never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him---FOR ALWAYS.”* 

If we dream with our eyes open this Christmas, will we dream of one with Jesus Christ back in the manger with us? 

My friends, thank you for this opportunity to address you, and we wish you all a Holy and Happy Christmas!

Dec. 17, 2011

*Courtesy of Rev. Fraqncisco R. Albano who forwarded this from the Secretariat of the National Clergy Discernment, 12-17-2011 (Author Anonymous)

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