I think the reason why Halloween, at least it’s commercialized version, is not a somber affair (isn’t it, reminiscing your dead especially when they went out like Horacio Castillo III?) is because of what comes afterward the much anticipated Christmas time. Businesses would not want to spoil the momentum of the holiday spirit which in the Philippines starts as early as the first day of September and thanks to broadcast media’s synchronized Countdown to Christmas people are cheered on toward the finish line that is spending (and funny that while buyers spend, media people acquire). Children, why them, are dressed up in fancy costumes that get fancier and fancier by the year and sent trick-or-treat-ing at doors. Yes, why children? Why don’t the adults who like in the case of Atio Castillo are complicit and deserving of doors going slam! at their faces– no trick nor treat for you! Children because of their vulnerabilities and limitations are much more easily dismissed hence end up the most hurt. Or, dead. This institutionalized behavior, of not really understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing, is the real horror, much more horrific than what some of us relate the term with ie. ghosts and supernatural beings.
The New York Times recently ran a story on the institutionalized children of Tuam (pronounced Chewm) in Ireland who went missing and found though it was much later and only due to serendipitious events. While it looks like justice is finally served the children, their collective story of deprived and destroyed childhoods is so stunning that there simply is no word to describe what overzealous adults, believing they’re in the service of good, are capable of.
Given the misogyny, morality, and economics that informed the public debate of the time — when a pregnancy out of wedlock could threaten a family’s plans for land inheritance, and even confer dishonor upon a local pastor — imagine that naïve young woman from the country: impregnated by a man, sometimes a relative, who would assume little of the shame and none of the responsibility. She might flee to England, or pretend that the newborn was a married sister’s — or be shipped to the dreaded Tuam home, run by a religious order with French roots called the Congregation of Sisters of Bon Secours.
the St. Mary’s Mother and Baby Home, a massive building the color of storm clouds, a way station for 50 single mothers and 125 children born out of wedlock… The building opened in 1846 as a workhouse, but almost immediately it began receiving victims of the Great Hunger… The government repurposed the building to be among the institutions intended as ports of salvation where disgraced women might be redeemed. These state-financed homes were invariably managed by a Catholic order, in keeping with the hand-in-glove relationship between the dominant church and the fledgling state.
The years passed. Galway County moved forward with plans to demolish the home and build subsidized housing. And the memories of hobnailed pitter-patter faded, replaced by the faint sounds of children outracing the home baby ghosts that inhabited the property at night.
Catherine still wonders what led her to the story of the mother and baby home. Chance, perhaps, or distant memories of the little girl she once teased. Despite her bone-deep modesty, there are even times when she feels chosen.
One day she copied a modern map of Tuam on tracing paper and placed it over a town map from 1890.
And there it was, in the cartographic details from another time: A tank for the home’s old septic system sat precisely where the two boys had made their ghastly discovery. It was part of the Victorian-era system’s warren of tunnels and chambers, all of which had been disconnected in the late 1930s.
Did this mean, then, that the two lads had stumbled upon the bones of home babies? Buried in an old sewage area?
“I couldn’t understand it,” Catherine said. “The horror of the idea.”
She kept digging, eventually paying for another spreadsheet that listed the names, ages, and death dates of all the “illegitimate” children who had died in the home during its 36-year existence.
The sobering final tally: 796.
– The Lost Children of Tuam, Dan Barry, The New York Times
The blinding belief that gave way to such horror ie. you do not conform therefore you are evil and therefore will be reformed into my view of good has been carried over to present times and underpins much of human suffering today. Terrorism. Physical dislocation. Social, economic, and political displacement. And it goes both ways ie. majority on the minority, minority on the majority, as well as, within either the majority or minority.
This century saw the rise of minorities who like the restless ghosts of the children of Tuam have had enough of being talked down, labelled, ostracized, hidden, regulated, threatened, exterminated on the first opportunity. It’s not guns or regulations that would settle the situation, as we have repeatedly seen, but rather, basic human respect manifested for example by consistently delivering on promises and allowing the other to also work at the chance of a happy and satisfying life. The other choice is to remain living from horror to horror in a suspended bubble of forever Halloween.