Life with the candles

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MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/28 August) — Her stall in front of the San Isidro Cathedral in Malaybalay City measures just around 2.5 feet x 3 feet. And on top and around it she cramps the assortment of things she sells daily to people who pass by or go inside the church to pray – candles, rosaries and crucifixes, pamphlets containing prayers, bark and twigs of plants believed to have curative properties for certain illnesses, and other stuff that reflect the way Filipinos blend formal religion with folk beliefs.

Nicasia "Neneng" Resania rests on a chair while a customer scans the prayer pamphlets on her stall in front of the San Isidro Cathedral in Malaybalay City (August 27, 2015). She says selling candles and other religious items has been her livelihood for several years already. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno
Nicasia “Neneng” Resania rests on a chair while a customer scans the prayer pamphlets on her stall in front of the San Isidro Cathedral in Malaybalay City (August 27, 2015). She says selling candles and other religious items has been her livelihood for several years already. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

Nicasia “Neneng” Resania, 80, says this has been her livelihood for several years already. She cannot remember how many years exactly. “Basta kay dugay na gyud, Dong” (it’s really been long), she declares, her eyes taking glances at passersby.

“My first stall was there,” Nanay Neneng says, pointing to the side of the church compound which now houses a devotional room, beside where devotees light candles for their petitions to Heaven. The building forced her to move to the sidewalk of the Rizal Park, just in front of the church, where her stall stands beside those of cut flower vendors.

She adds she not only sells material goods but also offers prayers on request. “Gamhanan man gyud ang pag-ampo, Dong, so kung naay magpatabang sa ako, akong ampoan,” (Prayer is really powerful, Dong, so I pray for people who come to me for help). “Klase-klase nga problema ang ilang iduol sa ako.” (They would confide various problems to me)

Nicasia "Neneng" Resania, 80, attends to her stall in front of the San Isidro Cathedral in Malaybalay City on Thursday (August 27, 2015). She says selling candles and other religious items has been her livelihood for several years already. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno
Nicasia “Neneng” Resania, 80, attends to her stall in front of the San Isidro Cathedral in Malaybalay City on Thursday (August 27, 2015). She says selling candles and other religious items has been her livelihood for several years already. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

Asked if she has no plans of “retiring” given her age, Manang Neneng replies she has to fend for herself because all her children already have families of their own and are living outside Malaybalay. “My husband died in 2011. He collapsed there,” she recalls, pointing to a spot in the plaza. “We brought him to the hospital but he did not recover.”

In the middle of our conversation, a lady customer arrives looking for a pamphlet. Apparently, she’s been to Nanay Neneng’s stall a couple of times and believes her stuff indeed work. “Nangita unta kog balasahon ba, kadtong naay pag-ampo alang sa pagtanum. Kadto akong napalit sa una, epektibo baya.” (I’m looking for a pamphlet with a prayer for planting. The one I bought before was really effective)

After the customer leaves, I notice a bunch of black candles hanging on the corner of her stall. “These came from Siquijor; these are only for special prayers and only healers with a high level of faith may perform such prayers,” Nanay Neneng says, her statement more of a warning than a declaration. (Siquijor, an island province near Cebu, holds a reputation among the superstitious as a haven of witches.)

Whether she performs such prayers, she doesn’t say. And I choose not to ask. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)

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