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Ghosts of August

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FEATURE
By EDDIE ILARDE

THERE are places in the world where rituals are performed at the onset of the month of August. Misfortune, calamities, and portentous events happen during this month since olden times. That is why, up to now, divine mercy is implored through rites that border on the religious and occult. Burning incense or lighting a thousand candles by people doing various kind of penance have evolved into what psychologists call “masochism or destructive tendencies upon oneself,” all done to appease the gods and ward-off evil – in this case to buts the ghosts of August.

The Julian Calendar which was the first daybook-almanac, listed August (which had a different name then), as the 6th month of the year but when the Gregorian Calendar was mandated by Rome for general usage, it became “August,” the 8th month, in honor of Augustus Caesar. There are no accounts whether that was the start of the “August boom and doom history” when virtuous leaders and political scoundrels were born, untimely deaths of known people and violent events happened; what the world saw then, we still see today – mysterious August phenomena that defy explanation.

In this country, many August events have happened which were sources of joy, grief, fear, and anger. Manuel L. Quezon was born August 19 and Ramon Magsaysay, August 31. Cory Aquino died August 1, the Ruby Tower collapsed during a strong earthquake which occurred August 2. The still unsolved Plaza Miranda bombing occurred August 21 and Ninoy Aquino assassination, also August 21, 12 years after.

In other parts of the world: William Jefferson Clinton who became Pres. Bill Clinton, like Quezon, was also born August 19, Lyndon Johnson, August 27; Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa, was born August 27, the first black president of the US Barack Obama was born August 4, Fidel Castro of Cuba, August 13, The first atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, and the second in Nagasaki, August 9; Japan’s formal surrender or VJ day was signed August 14.

The deaths of politicians and entertainers are the most remembered: Elvis Presley’s untimely death was August 16 at age 42; Marilyn Monroe, August 5, and the most memorable was Princess Diana’s horrible death in a car crash in France, August 31. There are other August events that shall never be forgotten: “the invasion that should not have been done,” which is what is now known as “Desert Storm” in Iraq, happened on August 3. A lesser-known but charismatic German chancellor named Adolf Hitler became president on August 19, the start of what was to be Europe’s terrifying era of Nazi Germany’s invasion and occupation.

There are many other dreadful August occurrences such as natural calamities: hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods that have happened in the past and today, as we write this piece, heat waves, forest fires, landslides, and other calamities of modern vintage. This August of 2018, a strong temblor in Indonesia has claimed the lives of many. As in the past, many unrecorded powerful natural disasters have occurred on the month of August which have killed thousands of people.

No explanation was ever forthcoming from scientists, wise men, and prophets to explain the phenomena of August – only speculation and assumption; that it is inexplicably accursed and blest at the same time for the dualities of good and evil which happen: great men being born, the sad and sudden passing of well-loved people, and the terrifying events which happen mostly during August. Yet immortalized in prose and poetry and in love songs are “The Merry Month of May,” “September Song,” “I’ll Remember April,” “Libra Sun,” and the bright and beautiful “August Moon.” May the prayers and rituals to appease the gods and ward-off the ghosts of August be answered.

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