Contesting the ‘Agua de Mayo’

An entrance road to the resident of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is cordoned off in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, May 17, 2018. Malaysian police spent hours early Thursday searching former Prime Minister Najib Razak's house, reportedly part of a money-laundering investigation linked to a state investment fund that is being investigated abroad. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)

No one remembers when the rains during this month of May came. No one, now, bothers with those things. The weather has shifted: We have rains in summers and chilly mornings, as well. April is cruel only because of the memories of war and not the remembrance of temperature. August, which used to be dry, now is visited by typhoons. October does not have crispy air. December is not only cold but stormy as well, and when Christmas day comes, it becomes as hot as March.

May used to be the month when the first drops of rains were considered propitious. Grandparents would urge their grandchildren to run out and bathe in the rain. The old climate then made obvious the arrival of rains in May: March and April would be dry, hot. Then on the second or third day of May, dark clouds gathered above the horizons, and the observant in the community would assume the role of seer and forecast the coming of the rain. The first rain would come in shy droplets. As the children ran, the rain would cease, and bathers would be left with their arms sticky, their hair barely wet. The timid ones would scamper back to their homes; the brave ones would stay on, kicking the tiny, muddy puddles that had formed on the ground.

In May of yesterdays, prayers answered: heavy drops of rain, almost without introduction, would start to fall, the sound of a sudden storm not enough to quiet the shrill screams of little boys and girls. Blessing from Heaven, the old ones intoned. God had, once more, fulfilled the cycle of seasons.

Ominous it was when the first rains remained on the level of gracious, small showers. That was not the water of May. The water of May had to be strong, persistent and without remorse.

We were told that the church in our town gathered the first rains of May to fill, each day, those fonts made of shells at the sacred entrances.

That was how potent and divine the rains of May were.

This year the rains came. No one noticed at all it was already May, and the message from the divine above in the form of rains had come.

The month of May is not only known for the auspicious rains; it is also marked as the season of harvest. In other parts of the world, May is springtime. In this part of the world, May is the time for fiesta and bounty, for young girls and old women to dress themselves for the pageants that memorialize the search for the Cross. May is when flowers are gathered and offered to the Virgin.

Rains are of nature, but what about the politics and histories linked to May? What dates are significant to await in the month of May?

Marx, Freud and Machiavelli were all born in May. That means we owe to this month of May a radical explanation of social change, the connection between biology and destiny and the shamelessly frank formula on how to manipulate power. Two pioneers in dance were born during this month: Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham. Duncan danced barefoot, and Graham reminded dancers that there was the ground to which they could always fall and not deny. Two popes belong to May: Pope Leo XIII and Pope John Paul II. Leo was the pontiff who witnessed the Church struggle against industrialization and modernization of the world; John Paul, the first non-Italian to be voted into power, struggled with the Church as it continued to define its role in a rapidly changing society.

In May Constantinople fell and was named Istanbul; The French in this month suffered a stunning defeat; and the French-Indochina war ended, a catastrophe that would hint at the fall of another empire, that of the Americans when they were defeated in the Vietnam War in the coming years.

The Renaissance ended during the month of May. It was also in May when Ho Chi Minh was born.

The Council of Nicaea met during the month of May. In this gathering, they finally declared Christ as divine and instituted the Nicene Creed, the prayer that we utter now: I believe in one God, the Father Almighty…”

The month of May, therefore, is the month of belief and disbelief, of creating versions and presenting subversions. If no one remembers the rains or any of these historical points and personages, then May will also be remembered when a country dropped all its rules, but made a population of nonreaders conversant enough to talk of supreme courts and to discuss “quo warranto” forever.

If we read the signages of the past as we read rains, it appears anything can happen in this country. The country and its people can either disappear without notice or raise itself up and be proud of itself with the new consciousness. It can also call everyone to action. It can reinvent integrity.

We cannot be timid before the rain, or we cannot even wait for the rain anymore. We can simply, like that council in Nicea, start to believe, believe in something that is powerful, unchanging, literate and less unpredictable as the rain, like the laws of lawyers. Like prayers.

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Image Credits: Jimbo Albano

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