Growing up, there were certain things I had to do during Lent: go to mass on Ash Wednesday to get my forehead marked with charcoal, give up something I liked (usually sweets or chocolates or food that made me happy) for 40 days, buy the palm to wave at the priest on Palm Sunday, trek around Manila to get our 14 churches pilgrimage on Maundy Thursday, try to sleep in on Good Friday because there wasn't anything good on tv anyway unless my mother strapped us in front of the tv to listen to the 7 Last Words, then look forward to ice cream cake on Easter Sunday. Year after year, that was my commitment to the faith, and it gave my life some form of structure and discipline which, I must admit, it sadly lacks these days.
Now, I am older, not necessarily wiser (more sarcastic though), and I have cast off religious convictions. No more Sunday masses, no more tithes, no more communion services. I don't find myself torn if I don't confess my sins to some anonymous male voice who tells me to say the Holy Mary 100 times for wanting to lobotomize my older brother when I grow up. The penalties for modern life don't seem too guilt-ridden these days, and I can breathe freely, except when on Edsa.
There will be as much sugar, meat and such over the next few weeks as I want or need. And when it gets too hot to even think about walking around churches, I will suffer inside with the aircondition on, reading about baboons (an amazing book I just picked up, reviews to come).
Faith is not about the structure and the frou-frou of palms, incense and atonement, it's about something that is planted and sown inside you by your parents, teachers, religious leaders, and the community. My seed withered away and I have not replanted it.