March 16, 2015

The Piece of Plank

The small island of San Lazaro is inhabited by lazy people. Consequently, their supposedly beautiful island is dirty and lifeless. There are no flowering gardens nor vegetable patch. The beach is littered with trash and the houses are drab and shabby.
If they don’t spend time to clean their houses and their surroundings, their little church is even more neglected. However, the parish priest, Fr. Dindo, who loves not just his parishioners but the island itself keeps it neat and warm.
One night, a storm hit the island. Though it wasn’t particularly strong, the storm left leaves and broken branches on the streets and a relatively big plank on the beach. Curiously, the islanders went over to the beach to have a look at the seemingly ordinary piece of plank. But there was something familiar about it. All of them agreed that they have seen it somewhere but no one could quite place where. So, they fetched Fr. Dindo. He is well read and widely traveled, so, surely he would know what the plank was.
Fr. Dindo looked at the object and agreed with the islanders. It really looked familiar. He was sure he’d seen it before but couldn’t remember where. He looked at the expectant faces of the islanders. They were holding on to what he was about to say so he said..
“Yes, I think this piece of plank is familiar but right now I can’t remember where I saw it. But since the church is the only place I go to, I probably saw it in a church. It might be from an old church pew or a piece of the cross a statue of Jesus Christ was nailed to…”
The islanders gasped. A piece of the cross! It is something miraculous then. Then a loud buzz came as the islanders argued about what to do with this magical object. They agreed, however, that it must be placed somewhere everybody could see it, so they all agreed to put it at the church.
Fr. Dindo was somehow appalled. it wasn’t his intention to let the islanders think of the plank as a religious or miraculous object. Wherever it came from, it was just a piece of plank. But he couldn’t see any harm in putting it in church.
So, the plank was placed in one side of the church. The sacristan, Lando, filled with awe of the hard, red plank, polished it until it shone which made it look more magical. Three days after the plank was put in the church, Lando received a letter. He passed the scholarship test in the school he applied to in the mainland. Filled with raw gratitude, Lando hugged the plank and filled it with kisses.
In a short time, the whole island learned of Lando’s scholarship and attributed his passing the test to his polishing the plank. However, Fr. Dindo pointed out that Lando is a really smart boy and that it was no surprise he passed the test, but the people brushed him off.
The following week, the widow Aling Maria, who consistently puts a santan flower she picks beside the church, at the foot of the plank, found a box filled with paper money from her dead husband’s belongings. Fr. Dindo, who heard from the late Mang Juan’s confessions that he wanted to leave Aling Maria, wasn’t surprised. He knew that the old man couldn’t stand his wife’s nagging anymore and had it in mind for a long time to leave the island. However, he was hit by a motorcycle the day before he was supposed to leave.
The people went wild. The plank was indeed miraculous. They searched for something to offer to the plank. They started planting vegetables and fruit bearing trees. They started to grow flowers. They started to raise cattle and poultry. They also made a schedule to clean the church regularly and put a cord around the plank. They offer the plank the best of their produce and sell the rest. To their delight, the islanders began to feel life getting better and better. Inspired by the miracles performed by the plank, they started to clean their houses and the entire island. Eventually, the island started to be visited by tourists who bought the products of the islanders. And all because of the piece of plank washed ashore after a storm.
Despite Fr. Dindo’s happiness over the islanders’ change of behavior, he doesn’t fail to remind them that it wasn’t the plank which made their lives better but they, themselves with the help of the Lord. But the islanders wouldn’t  have it. They strongly believe that the plank was from the cross of Jesus Christ and that it performs miracles.
Then one day, Fr. Dindo was invited to bless a newly-opened grocery store in the mainland. As he was saying the mass, he realized where they had seen the plank before. It was one of the walls of the old grocery store which was torn down where a new one was built.
As soon as he had the chance, he told the islanders what he discovered. A first, the truth came as painful and disillusioning. But Fr. Dindo told them that the plank, though it was only an old wall, did something very special to the islanders. It gave them hope and inspiration and thanks to it, the island is now a better place to live in and the people are among the most outstanding in the country.
The islanders, despite their initial disappointment continued to treat the plank with reverence. Old habits die hard.. so they say.
(Original story by the blog author. Any similarities with other stories, fiction or otherwise, are purely incidental.)

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