Author: Fr. Francis Ongkingco

Roadkill

I was strolling with a friend when we spotted a very disgusting sight on the road. It was a grotesquely mangled cat that was like a bloody three-dimensional Rorschach spread.
“Oh, my! How horrible! Won’t they remove the poor thing?” she gasped when she managed to reconstruct what had occurred.
I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I’m not exactly sure, but such mishaps are simply left for the cars to flatten, to dry and disappear.”
“That is so unfortunate. In other countries, a roadkill is reported and the city’s sanitation department disposes it.”
“Is that so? That would require more taxpayer’s money,” I said.
“True, but it also tells a lot about a country’s standards and sensibilities.”
Her last observation struck me and I realized that a ‘simple’ roadkill could actually spell a lot about who we are as a people and a country.
There different types of roadkill from rats, cats and dogs. Dogs are a rare sight because they have maneuvering skills that cats don’t have. Cats are wired with a defense freeze mechanism that shuts them down when a threat is nearby. They freeze when caught in the middle of a road and are easy targets for any vehicle. This is one reason there are more roadkill cats than dogs.
I occasionally drive through EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue). The avenue was born on the 19th of June in honor of Dr. Jose Rizal’s birthday. The Americans also called it Highway 54 or as MacArthur Highway after Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
EDSA is world-famous for a historical ‘peaceful revolution’ that toppled a long-standing dictatorship. Today, it is infamous for being the country’s largest parking space due to the still unresolved traffic congestion. Finally, this avenue also hosts random roadkill scenes.
I believe an EDSA roadkill illustrates how little historical sense Filipinos have. For example, our peaceful revolution has already been “roadkilled”. Its relevance may now be as dry and flat as the concrete road itself. We, especially the young, seem to have already forgotten this historical landmark and simply drove onwards.
Undoubtedly, every individual has a ‘his-story’, but we do not seem to have a clear identity and dignity bound to a common story that propels us towards a brighter future. Some historians affirm that a history could not deeply take root since an archipelago was only a bridge for our ancestors to pass through. No one really bothered to stay on and build for good. This may explain the absence of imposing structures like the Pyramids, the Great Wall or Angkor Wat.
Although history isn’t something merely left carved on structures or written on signs, how much harder can it survive within the fast flux of a concrete thoroughfare where events are run over, and over again until they are flattened and forgotten. Thus, it isn’t really clear what we are passing on to the next generation.
Although our society may not cradle and nourish a deep historical sense, it has one saving grace that could actually help consolidate our people’s identity: our Christian heritage. Pope Francis, however, reminded us that this heritage is not passed on like a museum piece to be studied and observed. It is handed on alive and fruitful—in words and deeds—founded in our Christian heritage.
Our faith is what will make it possible for us to forge a story that constantly purifies the intellect, inflames the will and delicately guides hands to make our history more attractive for the next generation. This will eventually build a society with a strong identity, with clear goals and for the common good.
Thus, the Pope says, “The elderly have dreams built up of memories and images that bear the mark of their long experience. If young people sink roots in those dreams, they can peer into the future; they can have visions that broaden their horizons and show them new paths. But if the elderly do not dream, young people lose clear sight of the horizon. (Christus vivit, no. 193)”
In the age of the Internet, a virtual information highway, it is easy for the young to lose sight of a previous generation’s dreams and aspirations. It is easy for many ideals and values to be roadkilled in this virtual avenue. Instead of simply writing about static past events and personalities, which undoubtedly have a place in our culture, it is more important to build spiritual bridges to remove generational gaps so that the elderly may pass on their stories, their experience, and dreams to the young.
Among these bridges are family dining table conversations, visiting old or sick relatives, gathering photos and letters that can be enjoyed and read from time to time, keeping a family diary, having a family vision and prayer intentions, and many other spiritually bonding activities that gradually build the material and spiritual history of our society.

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