Against the dying light

by Evans Yonson

Keep it burning!

Barcelona – Today, 2nd of February, is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. In the Roman Catholic Church, this is also known as the Candlemas. This is a special day considering that this feast is included in the Joyful Mysteries (the Fourth Mystery) of the Holy Rosary. In the Philippines, this is seldom celebrated now except for town fiestas. I remember when I was younger, this day was always celebrated with us going to church and buying the best candle there is and have it blest by the officiating priest after Mass. The candles are then brought home to be lit only on special occasions. We would use these candles to burn the palm leaves for Ash Wednesday; to welcome the Risen Christ on Black Saturday; and, in times of family distress and merrymaking.

Other religions also use candle in so many ways. In Sikhism, candles are lit on Diwali, the festival of light. In Buddhism, the lighting of the candle is seen as representing the light of Buddha’s teachings. In Judaism, the eight-day holiday of Hanukkah, also knwn as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by lighting a special Hanukkiyah each night to commemorate the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem.

What does a candle signify? What is it made of that makes everyone see in the dark?

In the summer of 1980, my parents (God bless their souls!) decided to renovate our house, the whole house. We had to transfer to my grandparents’ house and stayed there for four months. My grandparents (God bless their souls, too!) didn’t have electricity then so we had to contend with candles during summer and the first two months of classes. They were against using kerosene lamps as it would emit smell and blacken their ceilings.

A candle is a solid block of fuel (commonly paraffin) and embedded wick, which is lit to provide light, and sometimes heat.

The summer nights were fun because the Mindanao was experiencing more than 12 hours of black out/brown out daily. My friends and I would gather around the biggest tree in the neighborhood, each one with their own coconut shell with a small candle inside. We were like fireflies in the dark jungle. Each one took turns in telling horror stories during these nights. Thanks to my grandmother, we would never run out of horror stories to tell our friends. When the classes started that year so did the monsoon season. We stayed indoors most of the time with candles everywhere to brighten the whole place and at the same time heating it up as the rains would pour incessantly for several nights. At home, we had to contend with our big dining room as our common study table. It was like candlelight dinners every night sans the five-star treatment. Each one of us would have at least two candles on each side so that would make that 10 candles in one table filled with books and notebooks. Not counting the noise of croaking frogs outside, tapping of the heavy rainfall on our roofs, and the buzzing sound of malaria-free mosquitoes.

A match is used to light the candle that melts and vaporizes a small amount of fuel. This fuel then is combined with oxygen to form a flame, providing sufficient heat to keep the candle burning via a self-sustaining chain of events: the burning of wick and the melting of the paraffin. As the paraffin melts and wick burns, the candle goes shorter and shorter.

Our lives are like candles. We wait for someone or something to fire up our desire to live our lives. We get inspiration from people we love, from events we experience, and from places we visit. As it slowly burns and its smokes fill the air, the candle slowly melts away but for naught. For it has lit the darkest and coldest of nights. It has quenched the desire of the scholar to learn.

The candles of my childhood are long gone now but the memories that went with it are always hovering in my midst.