2003/04/10

Something Written

We all have stories to tell. We never tire repeating them nor tire hearing them.
For days on end--and then years on end--we have added anecdotes to our collection of stories that have grown part of the living “mythologies” in IHMS. We remember why “patok” or “kingkong” got his name, or how “maru” or “igit” replaced an otherwise beautiful nickname. We remember how Baston Bobitch Gang became Baboga, although we may have forgotten why we called our class that name. For in fact, it did not mean a thing. It was simply a wild thought devoid of meaning.
How we loved those stories. We always found time for them. After meals when we congregated under the avocado tree near the canteen, in what is now part of the mini zoo. We spontaneously assembled under the mango tree or the talisay tree near the pathway leading to the auditorium. And towards the end of our college days, in 1984, we even sought refuge under the shade of pines and mahogany that lined the sea wall in front of Baclayon church. If only trees could talk, then we would have found the best chronicler of our stories.
The longing to leave something behind, even if they be just simple stories, runs deep within. Thus, we left a photo album of our “exploits” in college. We even passed on our stories to those who came after us. But, as in any oral traditions, we know now that stories will live only as long the storytellers. It has been more than 30 years since high school entrance, when we started telling stories. It has been more than 27 years since our high school graduation in 1980. And it has been 23 years since our college graduation. Those who knew of, and retold, our stories have all moved on too. Those in the seminary today belong to an entirely new generation. They haven’t heard of us, nor do they know our stories.
This is the reason we sometimes feel alienated at the IHMS today. We always say that things have changed at the IHMS. We have become a stranger to the place; yet deep within still strangely at home. The stories we hear are no longer recognizable. The jokes and jargons are different. Yet somehow we feel at peace, for we have tucked within each of us stories of this place that we weaved with our friends.
As we grow old, we can leave those stories as they are--hidden in the fading memories of each participant. Or, we can put them on paper--or online, like this blog--and retell them one more time . . . for posterity. Once written, they stand a better chance of persisting in time.
This blog--unofficial and unauthorized this may be for this is started by a couple of balding alumni who have other things to do in between--provides that venue. We do not have the luxury to meet and talk, as we used to do. But we can continue telling our stories through this blog.
Here, thus, we share with you our memories of our days in IHMS. Journey with us as we turn our memories into “something written” -- a Scriptum. (nox arcamo)

2003/04/08

A Summer to Remember

Summer was starting. The temperature was beginning to rise. Most schools were already done with their commencement exercises. But the humidity and heat of the afternoon could not dampen the eagerness of the party of five to order 1 beer grande each at Rose Restaurant along CPG Avenue. For after all it was probably our last time to be together. We just had their college graduation the day before.

Therer were six of us, survivors of the Baboga Class, McAbs, MarJals, Ingents, Nox, and myself. Only Oloy was not around that afternoon.

There was much emotion, heightened by the spirit of the beer we gulped like water. Our lively discussion was interrupted several times mostly by boisterous laughter, as each one would recall funny experiences in the seminary. First round of beer, second round…third round. It was too much perhaps, but not to the five of us who would be parting on our separate ways.

The clock seemed to tick faster than usual. But no one was minding it. It was like eternity as each one reminisced the old days. The more we talked, the faster time seemed to move. One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, four o’clock, four thirty…Mario had to bid goodbye or else he could not catch the last trip to San Miguel. Each one was teary-eyed as Nox offered a toast. I felt something hollow in the stomach as Mario walked towards the entrance door of the restaurant. There was a short silence, followed by laughter. We couldn't understand our ambivalent feelings.

Not long enough, it was my turn say goodbye for I had to catch the last trip to Sevilla. I left Rose Restaurant bringing with me unforgettable memories of our life together in the seminary.

That one afternoon happened in 1984. And true enough it was our last time to be together, the six of us who were remnants of Baboga Class. It was indeed a summer to remember. Since then we followed different directions in life. Sadly though, not much have been heard of the others. Only some sketchy second hand information. A newsletter like this may be a good one to keep in touch. Not only for the six, but also for the 42 original Baboga members that started in 1976.

As we grow older we become interested in recalling the past. We want to tell the story of our lives. Maybe we want to say that we have lived life to the full. But as we tell our own stories we cannot help but also tell each other’s stories because each of us has become a part of our individual lives. Maybe another round of beer is needed; perhaps not a grande anymore but just few bottles to arouse the consciousness to tell and retell our own stories. We need to make another afternoon of remembering and someday be remembered! (soc)

Just Another Class Outing

March 26, 1984, Monday afternoon.. The sun dawdled for a while, close to the edge of antenna-studded roofs. The last streak of light that managed to filter through the iron-grilled curtain-less window bathed one corner of Rose Restaurant at the mezzanine with yellow cathedral-like glow, forming linear shadows on the white linen.
There were five of us, the best of friends and batch mates, sitting around a square table. (Jeffrey had excused himself since he had to supervise a high school commissioners’ outing.) There was nothing special about the occasion really. It was just one of those “outings’, except that it was our last outing together, after having lived under the same roof and rules for eight long years.
The day before was our graduation. We remembered how we started eight years ago in High School. There were around 42 of us in the batch. But as the years rolled on, the number decreased. There were 24 of us by the end of High School and was further whittled down to 4 by the end of College. Soc, MarJals, Oloy, and I came from the original batch in High School. There were two, McAbs and Ingents, who joined and completed our batch in College.
Eight years seemed too swift and too short from hindsight. We practically spent most of the eight years of our lives together--through the crests and troughs, the pains and joys, of growing up together like brothers. We had followed the same routine, used the same precis, ate the same blend of “flour-ed” scrambled egg and dried fish, played the same game, ran the same 3:00 AM jog, and agonized under the same Latin and Greek classes. We fought and made friends again. Yes, we went through the tumultuous years of adolescence and the monotonous de more of seminary life together. We lived a sequestered but contended life together and never confronted the specter of life outside the four walls until that late afternoon when the realization loomed forbiddingly.
The realization caught us all unprepared, although on the outside it was a celebration devoid of emotions. There was nothing sentimental about it--or so it seemed on the outside. That was the real character of our batch, detached and undemonstrative. Or perhaps that was what we tried to project to other people, but which we were not too good at. Thus, it was as it had always been in the past, an afternoon of beer, memories, and vain attempts at concealing anxiety and emotion.
Soc and McAbs were applying for theology at the Mission Society of the Philippines in Tagaytay. Oloy wanted to pursue theology in UST. MarJals and Ingents were uncertain but nonetheless submitted requirements for enrolment to St Augustine Seminary in Tagaytay and to San Carlos Seminar in Mabolo, respectively. I had taken the exam and was planning to join the Society of Jesus in Manila.
The anticipation of parting ways and being on our own from that day onwards started to weigh down on our consciousness as the spirits clogged up our eyes. In between the toasts, laughter and surge of reminiscences, we recalled the names of long lost companions--those who had once trodden alongside our path and then left. We cracked oft-repeated jokes just to break the deafening silence that followed every recollection. And we interspersed long silences with boisterous laughter at every opportunity.
Now the day was drawing to close. It was time for MarJals to go. He had to catch the last trip to San Miguel town.
“O sige. Mauna na ko kay basi’g mabiyaan na ko sa last trip.”
Unya na,” Christopher protested, holding a bottle of San Miguel close to his mouth. “Nag-order pa ko’g duha ka grande.”
Soc and Ingents also tried to stop MarJals from leaving. Ingents continued with the task he was so good at--tig-tagay. But MarJals was firm. He grabbed his bag and started down the stairs, and without looking back, shouted, “Sulat baya mo, ha!”
Soc was bound for Sevilla, but getting on the bus was the last thing in his mind as he quietly brooded over his bottle of beer, which he held with both hands. McAbs was seriously absorbed in playing with the tiny bubbles that formed on the side of his mug and which slid down as his finger paved a watery path to the bottom.
“Anus-a ka muadto sa Manila, Nox?” Soc broke the uneasy silence that followed.
Sometime in May, kun madawat.”
“Ahh, unya na nang biya-biyahe. Imna sa na,” McABs smirked. “Di ba, Gents?”
So I raised my glass for the nth time that afternoon. “Bottoms up ha!”
“In vino veritas!” they chorused, gulping down a mugful of beer.
That afternoon was a spontaneous gathering after packing all our things in the seminary that morning. We had nothing else to do. It was still early. So we decided to leave our things in the seminary and have one last lunch together. And we stayed practically the whole afternoon talking and drinking.
O, tagay pa,” Ingents smiled, pouring my glass until it overflowed. “Daghan pa baya ni, ha. Ayaw mo ka ikog.”
“Palahubog gyud ka, Gents, ba!” McAbs butted in in his adulterated Cebuano-like intonation, “Mora ka’g si Oloy.”
We laughed and thought of Oloy who couldn’t join us. Then, memories poured in once more. Soc recalled that morning, several months ago, right after breakfast when Canete played the guitar and we sang “Softly” for JunTabs at the Seminary gate. He had decided to leave the seminary for good. That morning was the major turning point in JunTab's life. We remembered how JunTabs picked up his bag and started walking towards the junction, alone. He broke down and hugged the gatepost. Then, he continued walking . . . alone . . . until he disappeared over the slight mound near Bill Romo's residence.
Soon it was time for us to go.
“Ako na ang mag-bayad, bay,” Ingents offered, catching us be surprise since it was the first time ever that he offered to pay the bill.
“Sige lang, Gents, tungaan na lang nato,”  I countered.
As we stood outside the restaurant, we were all speechless. Then for the last time, one of us--I cannot recall who it was--broke the silence with a wisecrack which made us laugh and teary-eyed.
Soc, McAbs, MarJals and I left Rose Restaurant to get our things from the seminary. From there we proceeded to our house in J.A Clarin St where I dropped my things off. And then we proceeded to the bus terminal near Frons Restaurant. There, McABs left us, and then Soc, who took the bus bound for Sevilla.
So finally, only Ingents and I were left standing at the bus terminal. I remember feeling so lonely. Hoping to break the sadness, we decided to spend time at the Arcade meeting friends and acquaintances, wasting time, unwilling just yet to face the reality of being on our own. We wandered around. We lost each other in the crowd, but somehow managed to meet each other again unintentionally.
I met the girlfriend of a friend--I really don’t know how I got to know her--got into a conversation with her and walked her to her apartment near the provincial hospital. When I got back to the arcade Ingents was there. It must have been after five when we knew we had to be on our way. Ingents didn’t have money left, he told me, but he wanted to buy some peanuts. So, I gave him enough to buy a bag. Then without looking back and bidding good-bye, we went on our separate ways.
I walked leisurely, taking the long way home, passing in front of the provincial library, the capitol building and the PNB, then turning left on J.A. Clarin St.
By 5:45PM I was home, but there was still light and I didn't want the day to end just yet. So I wrote a one-page entry into my diary in bold red ink, summarizing the events that transpired that day. I felt uneasy and unsettled, being I was alone in the house. So I decided to take a walk, re-tracing the places that hold the memories of that day--remembering the faces of people I may not meet again until several years later, and the day's events which were now just memories.
Just like all the other class outings. (nox arcamo)

2003/04/03

Kanbituon


Summer of 1982. Just for the heck of it, JunTabs and I decided to volunteer “didto sa lugar nga walay gusto moadto” (there in the place where no one wants to go) for our summer apostolate.

It was a protest. We were dis-edified at those who were picky about their apostolate assignment and went to the extent of demanding to be assigned to the big, rich parishes.

It was also pride. We wanted to show that we had what it takes to tackle even the most difficult assignment.

It was also youthful idealism. We wanted to live out what we thought a follower of Christ must be and do.

We got their wish. We were assigned to Inabanga--not just Inabanga but a remote barrio of Inabanga called Kanbituon (or Cambitoon). It was so remote that to get there it was easier and faster by way of Sagbayan. It was not only a “bituon” (heavenly star). It was a “kan-bituon“. The word “kan” was attached to names of places that were so remote.

In Inabanga, there was news that an encounter between the government troops and rebels happened in a sitio beside Kanbituon. It bothered us. But we were undeterred.

We arrived in Sagbayan at a house I vaguely remember now as belonging to the friend of the parish priest. And from there we were transported aboard a motorcycle to a barrio at the edge of Sagbayan. It was dusk when the host, the barangay captain, who didn’t seem too enthusiastic, accommodated us. We stayed for the night.

We left very early the following day, after a breakfast of coffee and bread, anticipating a long hike ahead. There was no transport to Kanbituon. We had to walk to reach our destination. How far? Nobody could tell except with the “pout” of a mouth. It was the practice to point with the finger places that were nearby and to point with the lips places that were far. They point to Kanbituon with their lips. So, we knew it was way out there.

The road was gravel and narrow and the field on both sides were wide and empty. There were few houses visible from the road. It was quiet. And peaceful. The sun was merciless, but the wind was cool and gentle. After an hour, we chanced upon--actually overtook--a pison going towards the direction of Kanbituon. We hitched a ride, proud of having the once-in-a-lifetime experience of riding a pison. It was slow, and it vibrated tremendously. But we savored every minute of it. Until it was time to proceed on foot again.

The land was flat, though it definitely was on high elevation. There were no trees by the roadside to offer us shade. But we walked with leisurely abandon, unmindful neither of the sun nor of time.

We enjoyed sharing their dreams and aspirations. The serenity of the place must have prompted us to dream of missionary life or even of monastic life. We exchanged stories along the way, expressing our deepest hopes. JunTabs wanted to be writer. I wanted to go to remote and distant places. We both wanted the solitude.

Finally we reached a solitary sari-sari store that, although it was open, looked deserted. We asked for directions from an old woman. She told us that we had reached Kanbituon.

It was almost noontime.

There was a small clearing with around five houses around it, including the small kapilya (or chapel) and the barangay captain’s house. The clearing was deserted.

Soon, we settled at the captain’s house, which was entirely made of wood and nipa. It was clean and decent.

From Kanbituon, Bohol Channel and even Cebu island could be seen from certain spots nearby. Houses were widely spread, but probably within hearing distance from the kapilya. People would gather when they hear the bell. Rarely had they had a priest visit them, we were informed. And they would tell of those rare visits the way they would tell of myths told by their grandparents. “Sa una pa kadto. Bata pa ko. . .” (It was a long time ago, when I was still a child.) The people were excited to see two sotana-wearing seminarians in their midst. So on few occasions, Juntabs and I gathered the people and conducted adult catechism sessions. Sessions were also conducted for the children. The rest of the time we spent enjoying the serenity of the place, visiting people in their homes. We also attended mananita on cold mornings.

A special occasion it seemed to be to the people for having a couple of visitors from the city. Taga-Tagbilaran. Mga city boys. We stayed for around two weeks there. Until it was time to leave.

When we left one early morning, it was still dark. There were no people to bid us good-bye. In the same manner as when we arrived, we left quietly. We stopped by the same sari-sari store that greeted us when we arrived. We paused for a moment to reflect and wonder: “Anus-a kaha ta makabalik aning lugara ha?” (When do you think will we be able to return to this place?) We smiled to each other and started walking on the lonely road that stretched in front of us.

ooOoo
It was more than ten years before one of them, JunTabs, could return to Kanbituon for one brief visit. By then married with family, JunTabs penetrated the remote place to deliver brandy in his delivery truck. He asked around if any seminarian had visited them. The people he asked recalled: “Wala na sukad niadtong mianhi kadtong anak ni Tabel ug kadtong si Arcamo." (Not since the time when that son of Tabel and that Arcamo guy came.) Memories of that visit have lingered. And they told tales of that visit in the same way as they would tell of myths told by their grandparents.

They didn’t even recognize JunTabs who was asking them the question. (nox arcamo)