One of the first things I learned in life was how to pray. My grandmother, who was my main caretaker, taught me the basics of the Catholic dogma as soon as I could speak: the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary. As I got older, my parents enrolled me in a Catholic school where I spent ten years of my young life, mostly in rebellion against the very practices I was being taught. My mother forced us all to go to church on Sundays, which I despised, on top of going to evening confirmation classes in my last year at the Catholic school. I felt at the time that religious practice was filled with hypocrisy. I would see families gathered together in a forced fashion for an hour, much like mine, pretending to be devout followers of the lessons of peace being preached, only to be cursing at other drivers trying to leave the church lot in haste. An hour in the church did not feel like it was enough to be genuinely in touch with your higher power. It bothered me. I began studying other religions and modes of spirituality in my teenage years. It wasn't the idea of God that I was against, but I needed a practice that would work for me. I always knew that the Philippines’ deep-rooted Catholicism came from its colonial history with Spain, but I began to wonder what came before it. I looked high and low for what Filipinos may have practiced before Catholicism, but I didn’t come up with much. In the meantime, I became very attracted to Pagan spirituality for its secrecy, its mystical nature, its spiritual practices that didn’t seem forced and its rituals that were not bathed in pageantry.
But all along, if my grandmother invited me to pray with her at home, I never hesitated to join her. She is a deeply devout Catholic, yet something about her spiritual practice resonated with me. She never questioned my rebellion or reminded me about church and because of that, I never argued with her about spirituality. Instead, I followed her lead. She would offer simple wisdom in Tagalog: “If you feel troubled, talk to God. Come and pray with me.” I would sit quietly with her and watch her light a candle, take a rosary in her hands and close her eyes. She said nothing aloud, nor forced me to say anything. It was beautiful to just watch her, and wonder what she was thinking, or saying to God. I couldn’t help but notice how similar her practice was to some of the Pagan rituals I'd researched.
Later in life, no matter how much I tried to deny my religious upbringing and break away from my family’s spiritual identity, I found myself practicing the same things as my grandmother. Away from my family in college and confronted with bewildering new situations, I began trying to talk to God on my own. I stopped going to the church, but my practice continued, quietly, in the peace and privacy of my own mind.
Nowadays, I don’t subscribe to any religion, but I feel I’ve found my spiritual practice, and it takes the same form as the practice my grandmother and I used to do together at home: a quiet meditation and a one-on-one conversation with the powers that be. It’s helped me get through a lot of difficult situations when I've felt that there is nothing left for me to do but go back to that quiet place in my mind and heart. I no longer feel like I need to rebel against Catholicism and the Church anymore - I see that it enabled me to seek my own truth and opened me to the possibility of something beyond what's tangible and logical. I understand now that spirituality is more than just a religion, but something deeply personal that transcends man-made rituals and practices. It’s incredibly life-enriching to find and create a spiritual practice, if you can allow your mind and heart to go there.