2004/04/30

Maajo mo-Latin!

In 3rd year high school, we had mastered the extremely complex declensions--like rosa, rosae, rosae, rosam, rosa, rosa … et al. Complex para namo ba. We seemed to be pretty good at it--or so thought the higher years.

In reality, we were only better at playing with our names. We would, for example, interchange the last letter of a person’s name with the last letter of his family name.

It was fun choosing a seminarian’s name and converting it using this formula, until VicTag came along. When he approached our group, somebody said to him, “Vicenro Tagate . . . ”

He frowned and thought it was a Latin question. He felt slighted, “Salig mo, bay, kay maa-jo mo mo-Latin.”

Sakpan Gihapon

Ginadili ang panigarilyo sa High School, mao nga sa tago kini gihimo sa uban nga gusto motilaw. Usa ka hapon niana nanigarilyo si Marc sulod sa dormitoryo. Kalit mitungha si Padre Jimmy, ang Prefect of Disciple. Abtik lang nga gilabay ni Marc ang sigarilyo ug gitulon ang aso. Wa moginhawa.
Si Padre Jimmy nga nakabaho’g aso sa sigarilyo mi imbistigar kang Marc, nagutana.
Padre Jimmy: “Nanigarilyo ka, no?
Marc: “Wa…wala, dre, uy!” (Namalibad, apan milugwa ang mga aso sa iyang baba nga mora’g dragon.)

Nakabaho

Nag sponsor ang High School class namo ug usa ka sine sa Royal Cinema. Si Ram ug Junior mao’y gitugutang mamaligya’g ticket. Ilang gi-adto ang principal sa UB High School Department ug ila kining gi-sales talk. Nalipay ang Principal sa pag-atubang sa duha ka batan-on ug “dignified-looking” nga seminarista. Sila pud naningkakay nga magpormal sa ilang nilakwan, sa ilang inistoryahan … sa ilang nilihukan. Kay seminarista lagi kuno, kinahanglan “refined”. Ug kay namaligya ma’g ticket, kinahanglan respectful.

Sulod sa opisina samtang nakig-estorya sa Principal, naka-utot si Ram sa hilum. Atbang siya sa electric fan nga nakapuntirya laba sa Principal. Ang iyang gihimo, gi-unahan niya’g sipat-sipat si Junior. Sipat nga nanumangil ug nanumbat sa kaluluoy nga Junior.

Si Juntabs nga nakabaho apan na unahan sa sipat ni Ram, wala’y nahimo: “Ram, ha… Ram, ha…” , reklamo intawon si Junior.

Samtang ang Principal wa magpakabana, nagpahiyum … ug wa pud intawon moginhawa ug dugay.

Pasumanginlan Man

Si Soc ug si Nox na assign mag parish aid sa San Isidro. Apan wala sila maka sayo ug lakaw kay mibisita si Cardinal Sin sa seminaryo ug naminaw una sila sa iyang pakigpulong. Nahuman ang pakigpulong ni Cardinal Sin hapon na, unya nag ziki-ziki (o nag-celebrate!) pa gyud sila didto sa balay nila ni Jeffrey sa Cogon uban ni Mario, Gents, ug Chris . Mao nga nabiyaan sila sa last trip paingon sa San Isidro.

Ang ilang gibuhat misakay silag jeep paingon sa Antequera. Unya nagpahatod ug motorsiklo hangtod sa usa ka tulay sa tumoy sa Antequera. Ug unya gilakaw na lang nila gikan hangtud sa San Isidro. Pasado alas singko y medya na kadto ug kusog nag taligsik pa gyud. Silang duha nag sakripisyo’g lakaw sa kalasangan.

Gabii na kaayo ang sa ilang pag-abot sa San Isidro. Gikasab-an pa gyud sa Kura Paroka sa San
Isidro.

Fr. Lopena: "Nganong gabii naman mo kaayong mi abot?"

Nox (nakakita’g lusot): "A, diha man gud si Cardinal Sin sa seminaryo. Namati pa mi."

Fr. Lopena: "Cardinal Sin . . . pasumanginlan man si Cardinal Sin."

Nakabalos Pud

Mibisita ang mga ginikanan ni Marc usa ka hapon. Pag-sulod nila sa high school building, nahimamat sila ni Junior. Kalit siyang misinggit.

JunTabs: "Igorot, Igorot naa kay bisita!"

Marclare: "Junior, ba." (Naminghoy nga reklamo niya, nga inubanan ug kawot sa ulo sa tumang kalagot.)

Taud-taud mi abot mga ginikanan ni Juntabs. Nakakita’g higayon si Marc. Pag-park sa sakyanan nila sa ilawom sa punuan sa mangga, misinggit pud si Marc.

Marc: "Kingkong, Kingkong niabot na ang imong bisita."

Acronyms

Sa klase ni Mr. Doblas sa Social Studies.

Mr. Doblas: Ok, Mr. Mesiona, give me examples of famous acronyms.

Soc: NATO -- North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Mr. Doblas: Very Good. One more.

Soc: ASEAN -- Association of South East Asian Nation.

Mr. Doblas: Ok. You (mitudlo kang Alex Teloren) give me an example of a more well-known acronym.

Alex: UBA, sir.

Mr. Doblas: Unsa may UBA? (Nakurat kay karon pa niya madungog ang maong acronym.)

Alex: Ubay Basketball Association, sir!

Mr. Doblas (namula ang nawong): Tinarong mo, ha? Di ko gusto’g binu-ang.

2004/04/10

Mga Damgo Paglabay sa Panahon

Kahinumdum ka ba niadtong panahon nga nangandoy si Dennis nga mahimong piloto aron dayban niya si Dante Temple sa seminaryo? O di kaha kang Junior nga mahimong usa ka banggi-itang manunulat? Kahinumdum ka ba sa imong mga damgo kaniadto? (Diha ba’y nangandoy nga ma-pari? Kun diha man, sa hilum lamang.)

Maski na nga nanginabuhi ‘ta sulod sa “seed box” nga para sa mga umaabot nga pari kuno, wala kita magpagapos sa paghimo ug mga nagkalainlaing damgo.
Nagkadaiya ang atong mga damgo, niadtong batan-on pa ‘ta. Ang kalibutan lapad kayo ug puno sa mga posibilidad. Sa Pilosopiya, naablihan ang atong mga hunahuna sa kanindot sa kalibotan. Puno sa “potentials”. Presko kayo ang atong panglantaw sa kalibotan ug sa kinabuhi. Ug ang ugma mora’g nagahulat lamang sa atong mga desisyon.

Mora’g gamhanan ang atong gibati sa kaugalingon, kay dako ang atong pagsalig nga mabuhat nato ang gusto natong buhaton.

Paglabay sa panahon, naghimo kita’g mga desisyon sa kinabuhi nga nagatudlo sa bag-ong direksyon sa atong kinabuhi.

Hangtod nga miabot kita niining punto sa kinabuhi nga atong gilantaw ang atong mga lakang. Ug nakita nato ang mga liku-liku nga agianan ug ang mga desisyon nga atong gihimo. Diha nianang tungora, nakamatikod ‘ta nga paglabay sa panahon nag-anam-anam pud ug ka bag-o ang atong mga damgo.

Daghang damgo nga wala matuman. Diha’y pipila nga natuman.
Ug karon nga kadaghanan sa atoa lapas na sa kwarenta anyos, lagmit nga lahi na kaayo ang atong mga damgo kay sa kaniadto.

Sa pagkakaron, sakto lang nga masayod ‘ta nga importante nga magpadayon ‘ta ug paghimo ug mga damgo para sa atong pamilya, komunidad, nasud ug kaugalingon. Ang atong mga damgo maoy nagasilbing inspirasyon nato nga magpadayon taliwala sa tumang kalisod.

Unsa’y imong mga damgo karon, klasmeyt? (msa)

2004/04/08

Mi Llamo Saging

Sa klase ni Fr. Neri sa Spanish.

Fr. Neri: Como se llama usted? (Mi atubang kang Nick Castro)

Nick: (Nakurat mao nga wa niya makuha ang pangutana. Mi lingi sa iyang tupad ug mi hinay sa pagpangutana) Unsa kuno, bay?

Iyang tupad (ninghunghung): Unsa kuno’y imong gikaon ganihang buntag?

Nick: Ahh...saging, Padre!

2004/04/06

Kalsada Padulong sa San Isidro

Katapusang tuig kadto namo sa kolehiyo, tuig 1984, sa diktadurya ni Marcos. Kami ni Soc ang na-assign didto sa San Isidro para sa Parish Aid. Misantup na sa among hunahuna nga di madugay, mag-iyahanay na ‘mi sa pag-iskwela hangtod mapari. Busa gi-timo-timo gayod namo ang kada higayun nga magkatipon ang klase.

Adlaw kadto nga miabot si Kardinal Sin sa Tagbilaran ug unya naghatag ug pakigpulong sa mga seminarista. Adlaw nga taliulan. Adlaw nga Sabado.

Tungod tingale nga hapit na mahuman ang tuig, naka sinati na kami ug diutay’ng pagluag sa disiplina. Apan mora’g nabag-ohan lang tingale kami. Nagkauyon kami nga mangadto didto sa balay nila ni Jeffrey sa Cogon, atbang sa ila ka Junior.

Hapon na ‘to. Subo ang langit. Apan malipayon kami sa higayon nga mag-istoryahanay na pud samtang nanilok ug nangaon ug bahaw nga adunay pares nga San Miguel Beer Grande.

Taas ang istorya kun aduna’y bahaw ug grande. Labi na gyud kun ting-ulan ug bag-o lang nakadungog ug mga bulawanong sugilon gikan sa Kardinal. Nagpalingog-lingog kami ni Soc sa dihang gisultihan kami nga last trip sa San Isidro alas singko. Nabag-ohan lang kami sa among bag-ong na diskobre nga kalingkawasan ug dili pa ‘mi andam mobiya sa grupo.

Di ko na mahinumduman kun unsa’y gisakyan namo padulong sa Antequera. Pero kahinumdum ko nga niabot kami didto pasado alas singko y medya na sa hapon. Nag lugitom ang langit. Basa ang kalsada. Wala’y mga tawo sa merkado. Diutay lang ang mga sakyanan. Hilom ang lungsod. Wa ‘mi kahibalo kun unsaon namo pag-abot sa San Isidro. Apan, ni katiting nga kahadlok ug ka balaka wa gyud namo bati-a.

Nagutana ‘mi kun unsaon pag-adto sa San Isidro, ug unsa ka layo-a. Diha’y nagtudlo namo sa tag-iyahan ug motorsiklo. Apan wa siya mosugot kay kabii na ug unya lasang pa gyud kuno ang kilid sa kalsada ug aduna pa gyud kuno usaha’y nga mga rebelde. Siguro sa kaluoy, misugot na lang nga hangtod na lang sa tulay sa tumoy sa Antequerra kami ihatod.

Nalayuan kami sa gibiyahe namo sa motorsiklo hangtod nga nakita namo ang tulay. Kalit nahilum ang palibot sa dihang nawala na ang motorsiklo. Mga gangis ang mipuli ug unya mga langgam nga ningbatog na pangandam sa gabii.

Unya, nagsugod kami’g baktas. Gamay nga backpack ang dala nako. Si Soc gamay nga pouch bag. Maayo gani kay aduna kami’y jacket. Ug naka rubber shoes. Anapog man gud ang kalsada. Wa kami magpaspas ug lakaw. Wa man pud mi mahadlok sa kangiug.

Nagkadagko ang mga punuan. Wa gyu’y mga balay nga makita gikan sa kalsada. Ang anaa sa among huna-huna sukad pa nianang hapuna, mao kadtong mga pulong ni Kardinal nga maski nakilimtan na namo karon, makahulugan kaayo niadtong panahuna.

Dako ang hagit ang nabati ‘namo isip mga umaabot nga mga pari. Dako pud ang kabalaka sa mahitabo ugma damlag. Tungod tingali ‘to sa hagit sa panahon kay dismayado naman ang mga tawo labi na niadtong gipusil si Ninoy sa tarmac. Tungod tingale pud ‘to kay hapit na matapos ang tuig namo sa seminaryo ug unya kinahanglan na ‘mi mohimo na pud ug “life decision” kun magpadayon ba guyd o di. O kun magpadayon asa man.

Si Soc, uban kang Mario, Chris ug Gents nagplano nga mopadayon ug iskwela didto sa Tagaytay. Si Jeffrey nag exam na sa UST. Ako naka-duaw na sa Jesuit residence didto sa Banawa, Cebu. Apan niadtong tungora, wa pa’y klaro ang among mga plano. Nakabitin pa. Mora’g bag-o ug lapad kaayo ang kalibutan para kanamo. Puno sa mga posibleng buhaton namo. Naghulat lang sa among mga desisyon.

Usaha’y makakita kami’g suga didto sa layo. Mahinam kami sa paghunahuna nga nakaabot ra gyud ‘mi sa among padulngan. Apan inigkaduol, makita namo nga usa lang diay ka lampara sa nag-inusarang kamalig.

Wa magpakita ang buwan tungod sa dag-um. Busa nagpadayon ang among pag-inambitay. Alas otso na, wa pa ‘mi makabati ug gutom. Nakahinumdum ko sa upat ka canned beer nga akong dala ug usa ka kahong curly tops. Nag hinayhinay mi’g inum, tambal sa ka bugnaw sa panahun. Gisumsuman namo ug curly tops.

Nagpadayun ang among pag-inambitay sa among mga damgo ug pangandoy.

Pasado alas nuwebe sa gabii, nakita namo ang sobra sa usa ka balay. Ngit-ngit ang lugar. Awaaw ug hilum. Apan kakahibalo kami nga nakaabot ra gyud ‘mi sa among destinasyon sa San Isidro. (msa)

In Anticipation of the Season

Christmas party was a much anticipated annual event in IHMS. It was not only fun-filled, ushering the start of Christmas break. It was also the time, when the young ones feel mature enough to decide for them selves and are expected to behave and remain in control in spite of the overflowing spirits.

The preparations that led to the much awaited night were something worth remembering. Classrooms were decorated with multi-colored and lively designs. Christmas trees were gathered from the beaches of Taloto. And the party itself was marked with competitiveness, as each group try to outdo the others in any sort of thing they could think of--from the cooking of more food to making the group livelier and noisier.

But other anticipated event that the class prepares for was the class presentation. That afternoon, after siesta time, we 3rd Year High School students in 1978, were at the college lobby. Chaos ensued, as would be expected from high-adrenaline teenagers.

Outside, it was raining. I quietly sat on the long wooden bench, watching the raindrops outside of the lobby that we call “parlor”. I do not know, but that image and the stillness I felt in the midst of chaos has long remained in my memory. I can still vividly see that picture in my mind until now.

The noisy ones were finally able to agree on the format and structure of the presentation. The natural leader of the class was Junior, owing to his matured looks if not age. Leodegario was in high spirits. He was going to be the bida of the class that night. Raymund was assisting Junior. He was going to be the other bida of the night. They were to sing solo parts.

Our presentation was a mini-musical narrating the story of the three kings. The grassy lot in front of the auditorium (near what we see now are the talisay trees) served as our open air stage. I can’t remember if there was a bonfire lit in the middle. But it was sufficiently bright and warm.

The final presentation however was tragic. The shots of alcohol apparently didn’t help. Leodegario failed to hit the right note when he started to sing. He tried three different keys, until he settled for one that seemed to be right, “Sa alas doce ang takna, may natawo …” Raymund, in tucked-in shirt and maong shorts, fared better than Leodegario.

I don’t know if I was one of the three kings who really didn’t do much but stand there till the end. I was both anxious and indifferent. Perhaps I was really excited at the prospect of Christmas and of being home for the season. But deep inside I was unhappy because of my unruly classmates. The ambiguity must have been too much for me, drawing me to silence and detachment. Well, probably. (msa)

2004/03/10

Life is a Tale . . .

It is not sufficient to tell a story. For we have to find its deeper meaning.

Shakespeare put it succinctly when he said, “life is a tale . . .” Yes, it is a tale worth telling. Wouldn’t you think so? Isn’t it that, looking back, we find good reasons to continue our stories?
Indeed, with Scriptum, we discovered new perspectives with each new our re-telling. With much richer--and sometimes even painful--experiences behind us, we make new realizations that escaped us in our youth. Each retelling thus brings new understanding.

That makes our story telling, and Scriptum, rather unique. We recall innocent stories that at times entertained us and at some point hurt us. But those stories made us realize things about ourselves and our batch mates.

As we recall them at various stages of our lives, we gain deeper insights. We come to realize that those stories shaped us into what we are at present. They provide us lessons that we can pass on to those who come after us. Hopefully, we have grown wiser because of them, unlike our superiors whom we thought were old-fashioned and unreasonable.

Ah, yes, we remember how difficult and different our superiors were then. They couldn’t understand why first year high school boys should engage in ninja-like operation to infiltrate the teachers’ room and retrieve the previous day’s exam papers. They couldn’t understand why we take pride in being a member of a weird-sounding group called Baboga, which actually referred to the entire class. They couldn’t fathom the reason why we would rather spend time in the bushes looking for spiders, climbing coconut trees, gathering bugnay, cooking mongo, corn, and chicken in the fields, watching birds and planes fly---rather than sleep during siesta. They couldn’t appreciate the reason why we were so curious and daring. For them it was obstinacy, disrespect for the rules and authority, and plain disregard for order. (Or perhaps they understood. They simply had to act their role.)

But, boy, did we have a great time. No amount of punishment, like kneeling for extended period of time under the sun or spending another hour of laborandum, could dampen our resolve to act our age and be like . . . normal boys.

From these stories we see our own development, struggling to get a foothold in a harsh environment. It was harsh, indeed. There was no single decent toilet in the building. The huge solitary rock near the tennis court served as the official toilet of Leodegario, Loel and others at night time. There was no decent meal for growing boys. We had to stay after meal time to gather the leftovers and eat to our fill. There was no counseling given to alleviate our homesickness, after a night spent sobbing and thinking of home. We were so young then. Twelve years old. And it was already a sink or swim for us. There were only the bullies, those in the higher years, who lorded it over on the younger ones. But we survive nonetheless. We learned to steel our selves. But we survived.

Now is our turn to look with understanding on the young ones. Let us hope that our life stories can teach us our lessons and make us wiser. For only then can we find meaning in our stories and ultimately in our lives. Otherwise, our life will become a meaningless tale, or as Shakespeare would put it: “. . . a tale told by an idiot -- full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” So, let us learn from our own tales. But first we have to tell them. (msa)

2004/03/08

My Several Firsts (Various Recollections)

First Visit
In grade 5 and grade 6, I was a member of the Little League Baseball team of Holy Spirit School. I played third base and competed in the provincial meet. In one of our practices, in my final year in elementary, we used the field inside the seminary compound. It was a Saturday morning. The seminarians were having laborandum. They looked neat and happy. The place was quiet and peaceful. I liked the place the first time I saw it.

In that group were Raymund, Dennis and several others who didn’t enter the seminary in high school.

There was one among us who appeared to be an expert in a lot of things, including vehicles. He was talking about a “combi sa seminaryo”. I didn’t know what it was nor had the courage to show I didn’t know. It seemed to me that it was a means of transportation and that it was something grand. Everybody was enthusiastic to see “combi” and much more ride in it. But we never got the chance. We didn’t even see it.

On our way back to the HSS, we walked to the junction. While waiting for a jeepney, I remember our coach telling us to rest and sleep in the afternoon. One of us said that he was tired of sleeping. We all laughed. We were happy. I was happy. Well, that impression must have persisted long after that day since months later I made the decision to enter IHMS.

First Night
I was anxious as I was preparing for bed. The smell of Hino de Pravia, naphthalene ball, starched sheets and factory-fresh Guitar brand shirts filled the air every time I opened my locker.

It was my first night away from the family, except for an overnight Boy Scout camping in Bilar around two years before. I wasn’t comfortable lying down among rows of beds. At home I had my own room.

The sophomores appeared to be hostile and unfriendly. I felt the need to protect my things all the time. I had to keep them in the locker padlocked. I didn’t feel safe. There was no privacy.

That afternoon, I recalled, my parents had brought me to IHMS with my clothes inside a bag. We had to meet with the Fr Rector for an interview. When they left me, I felt panic. It finally dawned on me that I was on my own. I immediately felt that I had made a serious mistake of entering IHMS. I was seriously considered quitting at that point. However, I knew I was in the same lot as my grade 6 classmates. I thought that they should quit first before I did. I challenged myself.

Just before “lights off”, I came to know of Roy and the twins (Moises and Precioso) whose beds were near mine. It was 10:00PM but I didn’t feel like sleeping. I was depressed. My chest felt so heavy. Then I heard the siren of the Coca-Cola processing plant. The last time I heard that sound, I was comfortably and safely tucked in my own private bed at home. I remembered my room at home and how cozy it was. I also remembered my family and how they were at that time. Tears finally rolled down my eyes. I can’t remember what time I slept. I can only recall that it was a long, long night.

First Sunday Outing
Sundays we were allowed to visit our home. It was also my first time to take a public transport unaccompanied by a family member. After lunch, I waited for a group I was comfortable with. Most of my former classmates in Holy Spirit School were fetched. So I went with Meliton.

We were on our way towards the junction when the rain poured. It was too late to go back, so we took shade under the acacia tree by the road side. The tree was only around 50 meters from the main gate. It was not a perfect spot but it afforded us enough space to escape from being drenched. There were two other high school seminarians but I can’t remember who they were. I only remember Meliton making a comment, “Mora man ta’g mga piso nga gibubuan ug pasawan.” We all laughed.

There was a former schoolmate in grade school who also took shelter from the rain, Balbin. He was going the opposite direction. When he knew that we entered the IHMS, he started to imagine what life was inside, “It must be very miserable and lonely to stay there away from your family.” We were silent. I felt the same. But I was also ambivalent. The rain subsided to a drizzle. We started walking towards the junction. It was my first Sunday afternoon outing in IHMS. The year was 1976 and I was 12 years old. (msa)

The Rosary Prayer (The first and last that IHMS gave me)

It was a Thursday in mid-July 2004 in one of the banks in Quezon City. I was one of the early clients. There were only five people in the queue. As soon as the third person was serviced with, the teller announced that transactions would be delayed as the computers went off-line. We were advised to come back in an hour or wait. I decided to just wait inside the bank.

To while the time away, I prayed the rosary. When praying in public places, I try to be less ostentatious as much as possible. And yet the lady sitting beside me noticed my fingers tracing the rosary beads.

When I finished praying, she slightly leaned towards me asking: “Are you a priest?” Her smile was very friendly and almost proud that she was right about me. I replied, “Yes, I was a priest. But not anymore.” My voice was a little above whisper as I added, “Lumabas na ho ako sa ministry.”

My answer must have been a 10,000 kilovolt lightning because the lady’s enthusiasm immediately fizzled out. She stiffened herself and sat back, oblivious to other things around.

Praying the rosary is one thing that IHMS have permanently carved in my life. When I was still active in the ministry, the urge to pray the rosary was within the border of obligation and necessity. But now that I am an ordinary layman, saying the rosary is just a part of my natural impulse.

During our high school days in Taloto, I and Isaac used to go to the chapel to pray the rosary after lunch. There was a kneeler at the sacristy which was our favorite. We liked it for two reasons: It was placed nearest to the statue of the Blessed Mother. And, it was diagonally positioned, allowing me and Isaac a good view of the pews.

From our vantage position, we could observe the different facial expressions of seminarians in their most pious and private moments--when they are praying in the chapel.

Inday had the most audible and guttural voice. Pioux was always his prayer partner. Soc had the penchant for draging his slippers and slightly tiptoeing on his left foot as he enters the chapel. Junior kept his eyes closed the whole time, as if in a trance. Then there was Indac and Serge his usual sidekick (or it could be the other way around). There was also Nox who just looked straight towards the altar-- ijang buhok morag si Jose Rizal. Of course, Jeffrey! How can I forget him! Jeffrey, when already deep in prayer would usually start to inhale air by grinning and exposing his teeth. As the air is expelled from his mouth, it would produce a hissing-slurping sound much like the sound produced by sipping a dripping lollipop.

There were many other--more funny-looking and memorable--seminarians at pray.

Well, those days, none of the seminary fathers bothered to show up in the chapel for private prayers. There was none the seminarians could emulate.

I am confident though that this special prayer is still the prayer of those people.

The continuous chain in the rosary has been the symbol of my connectedness to my past, my Taloto days. It has bridged the different crossings in the life--when I left Bohol to join the MSP, when I left the country for the mission in the foreign land and recently when I left the ministry for married life.

I awaken from this reverie when the bank teller announced that the system was back on line. The lady’s name was called and I was expecting that she would give me a glance even for that "little friendship" that she herself started. But there was none. And then my name was called and I was able to encash my pay check. I left the bank and went back to my office and did what ordinary people do. (chris)

Higher Do

Fr Ites: All right, Jeffrey, it’s your turn to sing the notes. Follow my pointer.

Jeff: Do … Re … Fa …. Do …

Fr Ites: Very good.

Jeff: Do …

Fr Ites: Higher Do (higher octave)

Jeff: Re . . .

Fr Ites: Noooo!!! I said higher Do … caramba! #$@7*(!

Gerund is Coming

Mrs Gallego: Gerund are words that end in “-ing”, for example, “coming”. Coming is an example of a gerund. (Nakit-an si Manolo ng lawom kayo ang gihuna-huna ug galurat ang mata.) Ok, Manolo, give me an example of a gerund.

Manolo: Ah … Maamm … (Naghulat nga naay mohunghung.)

Classmate: (Grasya kay aduna’y naghunghung sa likud.) Kanang pareho sa “coming” nga gisulat sa blackboard.

Manolo: Ah … I know, Maam. The gerund of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Good Life in Dorm C

Second year college, 1981-82. The forty original classmates who started five years ago had grown smaller each year. From our High School batch, only 8 persisted--Nox, Nick, Batchoy, Mario, Jeffrey, Soc, Eric and Junior. After our first year in IHMS, Ram, transferred to UST Central Seminary (“mituo sa nag-ingon nga ‘UST ka pa, wa unta kay manualia!’). He joined another city boy, Rene, who was already in San Jose Seminary, at that time. Cecil, on the other hand, left San Jose Seminary after his first year.

But for us, left behind, it was life as usual. We occupied Dorm C, the one located on the upper left wing of the auditorium. Our room had only one window. And it had a good view of the auditorium.

Because there were few of us, we became all the more close to each another. There was less stress and pressure from school and lie. We enjoyed every bit of our life. Our experience was best captured in a song that Eric composed. A line of the song goes this way, “Kaming mga second year karon gamay ra pero malipayon.”

We had simple tastes . . . and simple joys. Among our favorite was a popular drama on radio at 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon that would cause us to congregate in one of the rooms. The drama was entitled Verboten, a true-to-life story of letter senders. In a rural setting like Taloto, where the afternoon was so quiet as most people would take a short rest, we knew that the neighborhood listened to the same radio program. We could hear their transistor radios tuned in to the same station. The music was our cue. As Jeffrey commented, “Grabe gyud ang music anang dramaha kay manuhot-suhot.” We were not really drama fanatics but we were only interested to listen because of its libidinal undertones. And why not? We were budding youths curious also of discovering the meaning and significance of our own humanity.

Because we were too familiar with one another, there was no rivalry whatsoever, healthy or otherwise. But the downside of it was that we were not so serious of the things we did. I remember Fr. Ites in our music class. He conducted an experiment with us. He played a classical music and instructed us to visualize the song in our imagination. With our eyes closed we were to translate our imagination into a drawing. JunTabs, out of foolishness, made a drawing that looked like a work of a kindergarten pupil. Fr. Ites got so mad and, sensing that we were not serious in class, dropped the whole experiment.

W were also not particular with the way we dress. In fact we dressed ruggedly. There was one occasion when Nox caught the attention of Sr. Lucy, our professor in Psychology. With ruffled, uncombed hair and blood-shot eyes (after an afternoon siesta), he went to Sr. Lucy’s class wearing a green ROTC long sleeves, with off-matched faded and tattered maong pants and a worn out military boots with while shoe lace. He looked more like a “lost command” than a seminarian.

I knew that Sr. Lucy noticed it. So I took the opportunity to pull a prank on Nox. I told her, “Sister, addict ra ba na sija. Estoryaha intawon na sija kay basin naay problema.” Sr Lucy was alarmed. Of course, it was only a joke. But Sr Lucy believed every word I said. Immediately after class she asked Nox to stay.

Nox at first couldn’t understand why he was called. He had never been counseled in the past. Why now? He tried to recall what we did wrong. He couldn’t think of one. He became terrified when Sr Lucy finally asked him the question: “Is there something wrong? You seem to be disturbed. You are not interested in class unlike before at the start when you were very participative. Do you want to talk about it?“

Nox knew where the conversation was going. He was shocked. He fumed in anger at Soc. He was obviously flushed too when the 3rd and 4th year students came out of their classrooms and saw him in a serious huddle with Sr Lucy. They started to whisper to each other. Nox all the while was not making progress, “No, Sister, that is not true. That is only a joke started by Soc.” But Sr Lucy would not hear it, “It’s ok. You can be honest with me. You can tell me about your problem.”

There was no escaping from the spiritual consultation. Nox knew he was trapped. He must have cursed me during the whole period he was talking to Sr Lucy. But Nox saw an opening. Gisakyan na lang. He reasoned out that probably his performance was not due to anything else but to his innate love for nature. He blamed his room in dorm C for not having a room where he can see nature: “I feel trapped, Sister, because I cannot see the sky and the trees from my window. I can only see the auditorium that is always deserted. It’s emptiness creates a similar psychologically effect in me.” The conversation then shifted to ways to cope that particular problem. “Probably it’s the feeling of solitude that is starting to creep in and which I haven’t really accepted yet“, he reasoned out. Sr Lucy finally believed him. I could imagine Nox must have been rearing to wind up that conversation and get back at me.

Well, it was a joke since Nox and the rest of the class were addicts of only one thing “bahaw” and hot sardines. It was also a joke that ended well in a good laugh. (soc)

We were very happy as a class. But time was not fully in our hands. It passed by so quickly. The school year ended almost unnoticed. So was our life in Dorm C. We soon realized that Batchoy, Nick and Eric would not return the following school year. (soc)

Sayang ang Height

Busoy: Sayanga kayo nang imong height, bay, kay di man ka moduwa ug basketball.

RamCims: Ngano man diay. Kun na imo pa ‘ning akong height, di kaha pud ni masayang?

Coming Home to Bohol

I seldom take the direct flight from Manila to Tagbilaran when I go home to Bohol. Usually I would pass by Cebu and take the ferry boat to Tagbilaran. I do it on purpose and take the occasion to visit my community in Cebu.

Last July 17, 2004 I took the 7.15AM flight of Cebu Pacific from Manila to Tagbilaran. I was excited (as always every time I am going home). I checked-in early at the Manila Domestic Terminal, bought a cup of brewed coffee and a couple of doughnuts while leisurely waiting for boarding time.

The departure area was starting to hum with activity as passengers bound for different destinations streamed in. Our flight took off on schedule, even with half of the seats vacant. I wondered if it was always the case. I later discovered that Cebu Pacific had other direct flights to Tagbilaran. The city must be that progressive to deserve an additional flight, I thought to myself.

I took a window seat which was on the right side of the plane. It must have been meant for me, I thought, so that I could see once again the aerial view of IHMS as we descend towards Tagbilaran airport. I waited anxiously for that moment when I could glimpse once more IHMS from a distance. The flight took about an hour and 15minutes. To my dismay, as we descend for landing, I realized that I was seated on the wrong side of the plane. We landed without me seeing the seminary from the air.

So much for the sentimental journey, the reason for my trip was to attend the funeral of Fr. Go’s sister in Dimiao. So, from the airport I went straight to Dimiao. There I noticed that the coastal road was scraped for widening and paving. I felt happy that finally the most visible sign of progress, the paved road, was being cemented.

Late that afternoon, I went back to Tagbilaran and tried to locate Junior. I wasn’t sure where to find him though. I browsed the telephone directory and found the number of Junior’s parents’ house in Cogon. I rang the number and fortunately the lady at the end of the line said that Jun was there. We talked and agreed to meet. He volunteered to call Arnold.

At around 9 in the evening, Junior and Arnold came to where I was staying. I handed to Junior issue #4 of Scriptum, where unknowingly he was appointed as Circulation Manager together with Chris. He was being assigned the task of distributing of the newsletter to our batch mates in Bohol.

We went to Bohol Tropics that night for some drinks. As expected our conversation centered on life and on where we were at present. I was able to get news from them about our other classmates. Deep inside I felt happy and at the same time sad--happy because of the reunion and sad at the fact that some of our classmates were facing difficult times in their lives. Then we talked about the state of our health, a topic we never talked before. It must be a sign that indeed we were already in our midlife, notwithstanding the fact that our heads were already balding. We talked of having arthritis and high blood pressure, of the need to slow down in our food intake, of doing regular exercise (though not anymore the more strenuous one, like basketball and tennis and jogging a la “Jounce Rocker”).

We parted ways almost twelve midnight after a few bites of barbecue and puso at “Sky is the Limit” near the old Royal Cinema.

The following day, I woke up at 6.00AM, took a shower, said my morning prayer and ate breakfast. After browsing the day’s paper, I grabbed my things and took a tricycle to the airport for my flight back to Manila.

At the check-in counter I asked the personnel-in-charge the plane’s direction during take-off. Then I requested to be seated on the window side where I can have a good view of the seminary. My seat number was7E, the perfect side, I thought, where I could see IHMS.

We were supposed to depart at 9.20, but were delayed for an hour. No reason was given. Finally, we boarded at around 10.00. I prepared excitedly for the take-off and the aerial viewing of IHMS. But to my great consternation again, the plane took-off so fast that the moment I peeped through the window we were already above the Maribojoc area. I consoled myself by saying that there will always be another time.

I miss seeing IHMS even from a distance. Years back, I used to listen to the sound of the airplane as it flew overhead by the seminary. This time I wanted to see IHMS from the vantage point of a passing airplane. But the occasion did not permit. Perhaps I have to go beyond the visible, for IHMS is not only the building but it’s also the experience I had which I would always keep in my memory.

Still, I am looking forward to my next home visit to Bohol. (soc)

2004/03/06

The Cathedral Within

Sept 2, 1983. It is our Monthly Going Home, a quiet afternoon with nothing else to do. Ten minutes before 3:00 PM, I find my way to the St Joseph Cathedral. The city lazes under the sun, as the air starts to cool in anticipation of the season. It’s been less than a month since the brutal assassination of Ninoy on the tarmac. There’s supposed to be anxiety and fear in the air. Yet it seems so far away, as people go about their usual business.


Inside, the sound of the city is muffled in the church. There are few people on the pews. Most are old people. The huge side door opens up to the clear sky. Swallows that inhabit the eaves enter through this door, a favorite stop for candle vendors and beggars who squat on the tiled floor.

From where I sit, I could see the stone steps near the children’s playground. The breeze is gentle as it touches my skin and calms my thoughts. It is so peaceful. Even the occasional sound of a tricycle doesn’t disturb my mind.

I watch the flickering lights at the altar and listen to the muted mumblings of a manang saying the rosary while walking the entire length of the nave on her knees towards the altar. Two lovers enter and settle on a less frequented pew. They sit in silence, holding hands. A student enters from one side, genuflects and makes the sign of the cross, and then exits on the other side.

My entire awareness is in the here and now. I see what my eyes focus on, not what my mind is thinking. I am aware of everything around me and much more. Soon I realize that an hour has passed in what I thought was only a few minutes. It is time spent in solitude.

I make the sign of the cross, stand up and start to walk towards the Arcade. I loiter for a while, watching commerce and human traffic. The world is well on its course, as it has been and will be. I am in the midst of all these affairs, and yet I am outside looking in.

Half an hour later, I start walking towards J.A. Clarin St. I am bringing home with me the silence of the Cathedral.(msa)

2004/02/10

Healing Through Our Story-telling

Not all memories of IHMS are good. There are painful ones. But telling them may prove to be good for your health.

In the seminary, we were trained in the tradition of telling stories. It is close to our heart. Our forefathers were good at it. Jesus practiced it. It must be in our genes.
After waking up in the morning, we pray with our précis and listen from the Gospels the story of salvation. We heard, in our drowsiness, the priest’s homily, and we participated in the story of the last supper.

We exchanged stories with each one. Perhaps, those stories even sustained us through the tumultuous period of adolescence. For we must have found solace in those stories, knowing that we were not alone and that we were in the same lot as the others.
We grew up in a sequestered environment--quite unnatural a setting for teenage boys. We were malleable--and clueless. Yes, we did not have a clue as to how our personal development was being shaped in the seed box. We never saw a blue print, if there ever was one at all. We didn’t know the direction our formation was moving towards, or what type of person we were trying to become. We only saw the Boholano priests--in the flesh, so to speak--and in them we saw our own future--which was really not that encouraging! We were not edified at all by them, except for one or two priests who were serious about their vocation--or so it appeared to our idealistic eyes.

So we dabbled in what was given to us, only to realize years later that there were shortcomings. Hindsight affords us this perspective. And we understand the pain that some of our classmates may have harbored through all these years.

Intellectually we were trained well--even if we thought so lowly of each other when we were together. (It must have been the morning Mozart that woke us everyday, but certainly not the arnis stroke on the steel bed and the milk--i.e.“letseng ya . . . yo!”--that shook us to the bones.) We barely expected each other to succeed in life. We never even expected our brand of education to be at par with those of the big schools in the metropolis. We realized later we even had the resource to beat them in their own turf.

In terms of spiritually, we may have been schooled well. We have kept our faith in God, even if at times we cannot fathom His design for us or sometimes we doubt that He has a design and purpose for us at all.

Developing our social skills was a natural result of our constant exposure to the public. And we realize that indeed we have been prepared for life in the community or society.

Things may not turn out well, however, for some of us. And we understand that emotionally, we were ill-equipped for life after IHMS. Our EQ or “emotional quotient” was not one of the aspects of our formation as IQ and spirituality were. It was taken as a given. A sink or swim. We were well and contented adolescents. Like Peter Pans in Never land. And we were happy that way. Growing up was not our plan.

There were some of us who endured the aches of community life. There were others who simply did not fit in. They found their place outside.

For some of us, after IHMS, we had to accelerate our maturity, on the job--as they would say. A painful experience it may turn out to be for some who faltered, somewhat, along the way. Some ended up bitter.

So, not all of us have grand memories of IHMS. There are those that we prefer to tuck in the hidden recesses of our hearts. And we want to keep them there … for good.

But as we have read from self-help books, re-telling them is the start of the healing process. We know that we have come to terms with the ghosts of the past once we are able to tell those painful stories to other people . . . and laugh at our selves.

So, continue sharing your stories. You may only be healing yourself. (msa)

2004/02/09

The Hermit of Elley Hill


It must have been towards the end of school year 1983-1984, when solicitation for the school yearbook was picking up. I don’t know what came to my mind when I heard that a relatively well-off hermit was spending 40 days on top of Elley Hill.

I only recall looking out from my window in Room #3 of Dorm A and seeing the quiet outline of Elley hill against the sky. It was neither imposing nor unreachable. In fact, it seemed to beckon. I knew I had to reach its heights--to solicit for the yearbook.

Unfortunately, my classmates were not as enthusiastic. There was only one person I was able to convince to go with me on the mission--Jeffrey.

On the day we agreed, we took a Matuod jeepney bound for Manga District.

Reaching Ubujan District, we strained our necks to peer from the jeepney’s window. The contour of Elley Hill appeared behind the coconut trees. We didn’t know the way up. We only had the hill as our guide.

We disembarked in an area we thought was nearest to the base of the hill. It was somewhere in Ubujan, where we saw a small clearing near the main road. We crossed the clearing.

The field we traversed was scorched. It was a corn field. The owner must have burnt all the dried stalks after harvesting. Ashes gathered on our feet as we trudge on the field that was gradually rising. We reached the base of the hill and started on our upward trek. The sun was searing for it was around 10AM. There was no road uphill--or so we thought. We simply trudge straight up from the base. There were few vegetation and lots of rocks. The wind became cooler as we neared the summit.

We didn’t talk much except to laugh at our own folly. Sometimes we would stop to look back and appreciate the view. We would try to identify to which direction the seminary was or where our houses were. Then we saw the roof of a makeshift structure at the top.

Then we saw him--the hermit, who was kind enough to accommodate two lost souls on a serious undertaking. I admit he looked surprised to have visitors. In fact, he thought we were simply on a hiking expedition. He never expected us to be looking for him. But he was a good host. He told us lots of stories about his own mystical journey. He even told us about life during the second world war, about the long and deep cave on Elley Hill that sustained the people during the war. There are saltwater fishes in the cave, according to him. He told us that the hill is pockmarked with caves. He seemed surprised that we didn’t encounter one on the way up. And, by the way, he told us, there is a road leading up to the top of the hill. It was exactly on the other side of the path we took. It was supposed to be an easy walk--not as steep as our newfound pathway.

He was brewing leaves in a kettle. He offered us a drink. We drank from the same cup. It was a bitter herb. He said it was medicinal, said to heal a lot of ailments. We nodded our appreciation as we drank dutifully. He told us stories of his anting-anting (talisman), his snake-skin belt, and even showed us a book of prayers, which, with my little knowledge of Latin--after going through years declining rosa, rosae, silva, silvae and conjugating ero, eras and ponere, poneo--I was sure were not Latin at all.

Then he brought us to a spot and called our attention to a magnificent view. We were looking southward. He pointed towards the direction of the sea, which was carved by the curve of Taloto beach.

The picture of the Birhen sa Barangay, which was drawn by a blind person, he explained, had a similar back drop. He surmised that what the blind man saw when he drew that image was a scene from Elley Hill. And we were supposed to be standing right on that spot. He said that we were seeing what the blind person saw. It was really Elley Hill in his mind. So the Virgin Mary was here on this Hill. I did remember an uncanny similarity.

Then our “lesson” shifted to visions. It was then that he asked us to face north. The rolling plain beneath the hill on its northern side facing Kabawan District was green, filled with coconut trees. There were no houses in sight. Only the long stretch of green that met the sky. The sun at that point was near the zenith, and he asked us to face the sun with our arms outstretched. We were to quiet down our thoughts, feel the wind caressing our skin, and hear the distant sounds. With what seemed like a prayer, he mumbled words and wrapped something around our waist as we agonized under the sun. Our outstretched arms were aching. He too did the same, standing between me and Jeffrey. I was hoping nobody would see us, otherwise they might think we were enacting Calvary and mistook me for one of the thieves.

After what seemed like an hour, I opened my eyes a little and looked towards the direction of Jeffrey. I saw that his elbows were resting on his side. Slowly, I did the same.

We never deciphered what the point of the whole exercise was. The only conclusion he offered was about stamina--that I had a good stamina. But for us it was a question of knowing the meaning of that sacrifice than stamina.

We left him a little past 12 noon, taking the same route that we took going up. The trip back was easier and faster.

It was a journey that long remained in our memory. The view was astounding--the seminary (I swear I could make out the outline of my room in Dorm A), the island of Panglao, the sea, and the coconut tree-covered plain. It was probably a personal journey, too. For we proved that we were daring enough to venture into something we wanted to do. We didn’t bring anything on that journey, not even a canteen of water. Not even food. And, I came to realize later, we didn’t even bring a solicitation letter. (msa)

The Leaving

July 27, 1983, Thursday, 10:09 PM. Lights off. Tomorrow we have our prelim exams. But I couldn’t concentrate on my studies. I just came from an after-dinner meeting with Junior. Present in that meeting were Soc, Chris, Jeffrey, Mario, Gents, Val, Stephen, and I.

Junior finally decided to leave. That’s why he called us to a meeting to tell us about his decision. I almost cried. We almost did. Or did we? Well, almost. After all, we’ve been through tough times--during those 8 years when we were together.

We entered IHMS together in June 1976. There were around 40 of us then. There were 25 of us who finished High School in 1980. In college there were 4 of us who remained.

I particularly felt the loss since Junior and I had been to many adventures together. We trekked long distances, with nobody to rely on but each other. We were sent on an apostolate to Kanbituon (see article in issue #2). We visited house to house the residents of Taloto near Peñaflor and Nangka inviting them to the first ever mass in the area that would years later become a mini parish. The mass was celebrated by Fr Selix under the coconut trees in front of Veloso’s house. We even ventured into a house with several people who were not Catholics. Yes, we invited them nonetheless. Together with Jovil, we were assigned to Manga, Tiptip, Ubujan and Booy for the summer apostolate, and were smitten by the same lass in Ubujan.

I got close to his family and him to mine. When I’m not around at home, my parents would call his house. And likewise, when his family was looking for him, they would call our house. These memories came back to my mind and made me feel lonely.

He told us of his plans. He will leave tomorrow. And without bidding good-bye to his family, he will proceed to Albur, and stay there for a while. Then he will proceed to Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, where Fr Ites is currently assigned. Then after that, he couldn’t tell where he will be or what he’ll do next.

We tried to counsel him, trying to bring reason into the surge of emotions that seemed to have engulfed him.
“What about your studies? We’re on the last stretch of the race. We’re graduating this year. Hold on to it. Finish it so you won’t regret it.” But there was no holding back. He was set on simply leaving, leaving the seminary for good. For what, he couldn’t tell yet. For marriage?
He couldn’t make the commitment either.

Finally, I told him that I would not hinder his decision, for it was a decision he had to make.

“All I have to do is hope that wherever you go, you’ll continue to learn and grow as you move along,“ and I added, offering a glimmer of hope, to the point of almost praying, that eventually he would be back: “I hope that someday we’ll see each other again in Christ’s vineyard.”

He said that those words would linger with him long after that meeting.

We concluded the meeting, and quietly went to our individual cubicles. We must have been silenced into praying for Junior that night.

ooOoo
Under the glow of my desk lamp, I write this entry into my journal.

The next day, Junior attended mass for the last time, wearing his sotana. He ate breakfast with us. Then he went to his room to get his bag. We accompanied him up to the main gate fronting Mang Taning’s house. There we sang “Softly, I will leave you softly. Long before my eyes could make you stay …”, accompanied on the guitar by Eric .

Junior hugged the gate post and cried. We watched him walk slowly, alone down the road towards the junction, until he was gone.

There are times when you become conscious of your own mortality. You visit a place and you realize that you may never return to that place again. You see a friend leave and you realize you may never see him again. It was one of those times. So we stayed for a while, until the bells rang, signaling the start of our first morning class.

We hurried to our rooms to get our things and get ready for class. We had to be on our way, too. It was the prelim exams week. (msa)

2004/02/08

A Twist of Parable

The parable of the multiplication of bread takes a different twist with our batch in college. Scholars would explain the phenomenon as a spontaneous sharing of food by the people. In our case it could be explained by some other means.

Take a usual rainy afternoon when we had nothing else to do. Our batch would congregate in Taning’s house looking for "bahaw" (cold rice). We were impoverished, like the multitude listening to the words of Jesus. But we had enough pooled resources to buy one small can of tinapa (specifically a Youngstown sardines).

How could a small can of tinapa feed six famished and growing boys on a rainy afternoon? Jesus’ disciples faced the same dilemma. How could five pieces of loaves and fish be enough to feed thousands?

In our case, we cooked the tinapa with plenty of water, making it hard to find the fish. In addition to that, we would also put at least 10 sili (chili), causing us to drink plenty of water and eat more rice. (The side effect of sili, we discovered, was it made us perspire profusely and made our head itchy.)

The cooked and super-hot tinapa was then served over tons of cold bahaw. The entire class, including the ever constant “ambushers” (Robert and Ping) would feast to our fill. And surprisingly, we always had just enough for everyone. Ah, miracle. (msa)

Dagan ug Binuang

JUNIOR: Phen, I have heard of Nick running for mayor again?

STEPHEN: Mao bitaw. Buang gajuuud [Mabini accent].

JUNIOR: Ug molansar diay buang? Ikaw lagi?

STEPHEN: Depende kun kinsa’y molansar.

Actually, di muot ang istorya, only the characters are.

Wa kabaw

Way Kabaw

JUNIOR: Al Pats, why don't you contribute an article to SCRIPTUM. Just write it in Binisaya so that you will understand what you write.

MC PATENS: Pwede lagi manawagan ko kun kinsa’y nakakita sa akong KABAW?

JUNIOR: Pwede gud. Siguroa lang nga naa kay KABAW.

2004/01/10

Our Timeless Stories

Time boggles the mind.

When we were in high school, in the second half of the 70’s, the “old timers” would tell us stories of how life was during their time. They said they heard mass in Latin. They toured the city, walking in their black cassock--and for the minors was it americana? We never paid much attention to those stories which we thought happened a long, long time ago--i.e. twenty years ago.

In year 2005, we celebrated our twentieth year since our college graduation. Twenty long years! And we cannot understand why the young ones would not pay attention to our stories and in fact find it easy to disregard them. For them it happened a long, long time ago. Yet, for us, it seemed to be just a few years ago.

That is how mind-boggling time is.

At this juncture in our lives, we look at the past and feel how fast it all flew by. And as we look forward, anxiety clouds our heart as we think of the things we still need to accomplish and the miles we need to go before we sleep. For we know that like the past, the future will be as quick.
Our perplexity with time should all the more be the reason for sharing them--and sharing them quick! They are treasures that we can bequeath to those who come after us.

Our stories may not appeal to those who do not share our experiences. But let us continue sharing them, nonetheless. For they are stories of finding one’s bearing in this life’s journey, of growing up, of making mistakes, of making amends, of finding meaning and vocation, of finding joy in life, of friendship, of making lifelong decisions, and most importantly of all--it is a story of hope. And in due time, people will realize the depth of our experiences and the lessons contained therein.

Our stories are like tiny dots on the tapestry of time. They affirm our existence. So let us continue telling them through this blog, and hopefully other people can likewise savor the profundity of our simple, mundane stories--ah, as they would with a glassful of cold beer. (msa)

2004/01/08

The Music of my Life

I was retrieving my old personal files when I came across a crumpled paper that looked familiar to me. I realized it was the certificate I got in 1982 as the Musician of the Year. It was an award I received more than two decades ago--something that had slipped my memory. As I read the certificate, flashback of those events occurred. In what seemed like a fast-paced rewind, memories were brought to my mind until an image settled, surprisingly, on my being a member of the seminary choir. I recall these four instances.

In Second Year High School. The first time I was selected to the seminary choir was during our sophomore year in high school where I was one of the “tiples” of the Jeduthun Ensemble. It was my first exposure of a choral group. I was so proud then for the honor and privilege of being chosen to represent IHMS. Wearing the blue jumper paired with a white shirt, which was one of the concert costumes, was a kind of status symbol then. Among the repertoire were “Pipit”, “My Knapsack on My Back”, “Sa Kabukiran” and “Handel’s Alleluia”--songs that up to now have nostalgic effect on me. The first concert we had was at the Bohol Cultural Center. Then another one was held in Inabanga.

In Fourth Year High School. Again I was selected to join the choir when we were in senior high school. It was a mixed choir composed of high school seminarians and students from Holy Spirit School, the only exclusive school for girls in Tagbilaran. We were to join in the province-wide choral competition. Oh, every music practice was something we always looked forward to! Meeting our female counterpart was always an adrenalin-pumping experience. Even those who were non-members were as excited as we were, for it was one of those rare occasions when we could see and mingle with girls of our age. For those who were too shy to socialize, they were pleased enough to watch those lovely ladies from a distance. But those who were not contented with seeing from a distance satisfied their yearnings by looking up from dark, musty nooks at those goddesses perched high on the pedestal.

The team up of the two schools was thought to be formidable. But overconfidence ate us up for we performed poorly during competition day. We were only third among five contestants. Had we won the first prize we would represent the province in the regional level, and then in the national level. We all felt so down. We ended our team up with an outing at the then pristine Hinagdanan Cave where I saved one of the girls from drowning.

In First Year College. The dream of competing in the national level, however, surfaced again when we were college freshmen. It was at this time that a special choir was formed to compete in the regional competition--collegiate level. Deep selection was made from among the student body of the college department. Only selected individuals were asked to audition. From among those who auditioned were chosen the choir members. I was again so lucky to be selected as tenor. I felt so honored. The practices were rigid and frequent. Smokers were strictly told to abstain from smoking for the entire duration of the contest preparation. We were told not to drink cold water. Salabat was the prescribed drink. There were early morning activities when we would do our vocalization at Taloto Beach, dipping our body in the cold sea water. We spent so much time and energy practicing. Ten repertoires including the contest piece were prepared.

During the day of the contest we thought we were the sure winner because other contestants backed out leaving us as the sole contestant in our category. But the euphoria was short-lived because the judges (who were, by the way, all from imperial Manila) announced that we only got the second prize. Second to no one, in particular. The experience of dawn faded quickly as twilight darkened our feelings. It was a decision that until now I cannot understand. From hindsight, I think the decision was anomalous. For where in the world can a contestant be second placer in a contest participated in by only one contestant? By sheer default, we should have placed first. I have now the impression that it was deliberately done. Manila must have been intimidated. The Bohol Sanghimig choir had won the national competition thrice already. Probably they couldn’t believe that another choral group from an unknown school could sing so well. A potential threat. Yes, I would say we sang well. But then we had to come to terms with our frustration. We consoled ourselves by saying to one another that we did not lose but were simply cheated. (Months later, the choir of the head judge lost to a UST choir led and composed mostly of--guess who?--Boholano seminarians. Ah, sweet justice.)

In Third Year College. The last choir I joined was again the Jeduthun Choir. It was for a concert. It was held at the then Divine Word College gym. I was chosen to sing the solo part of the song “We Are The Champions” popularized by The Queen.

The same choir performed on February 2, 1983 during the CVRAA cultural night presentation at the Bohol Cultural Center. It was a whooping success. We rendered songs that pleased the crowd for the hilarity. We seemed so confident on stage. Our smiles were genuine and even innocent. In fact we were enjoying the crowd, too. The delegates from other provinces were entertained especially with our moving finale. They asked for an encore. We received hearty greeting and handshakes afterwards.

It was the last time I joined a choral group.

I miss being part of a choral group. I miss the music practices. I miss the fun of exercising the vocal chord by intoning “Ma-Me-Mi-Mo-Mu.” There may be frustrations for not being able to win in the competition, but over and above I felt a sense of fulfillment because I--and I believe the feeling was also shared by many--sang not only to win but simply to satisfy my desire for the love of music. As I put my award back in my old personal file, I felt like singing old songs again--songs I learned while I was at the IHMS.

I may not be in the mold of Arnold or TQ, as far as music is concerned, but I know IHMS has taught me not only to read musical notes and sing songs but more importantly to follow rightly the rhythm of everyday life. Thanks IHMS! (soc)

2004/01/05

Bloody Valentines in 1983

It was Feb 13, 1983, Sunday, a day before the much anticipated Valentines Day. It was also a bad day for us college seminarians--it turned out to be. We were deprived of our regular afternoon outing, just because of an egg. An egg! Remember that incident? Somebody took the hard boiled egg from the plate of an absent seminarian before grace was said. The Prefect of Discipline wanted to know who took it. But nobody confessed. So the entire body was punished. “No outing this afternoon.” I could still remember that voice as my world crumbled.

But we had our way of coping. In psychology, it was called sublimation--we joked to rationalize what we were about to do. With an air gun, we scour the surrounding for stray chicken. There were around 7 of us who we tried to coax the chicken to flee from the coop. What a grand time it was chasing chicks. We hunted them with stones and air gun. We caught a couple without firing the gun, by trapping them and grabbing their neck. Just like that. But I remember Robert aiming the gun with one hand. The muzzle was 2 inches from the trapped chicken’s temple. The chicken didn’t stand a chance. All in all there were 3 chickens that were hastily dispatched and expertly dressed by Gents. These were washed with water from a couple of coca cola bottles.

We built a fire among the shrubs and like pre-historic cannibals feasting on a game, we dined our Valentines outing way. (msa)

“Yayo” Was How We Were Called

I was one of the two “Yayo” in the history of IHMS high school. The other one was Issac from Valencia. He is now a doctor, and the last I heard of him he was connected with the Cebu Institute of Medicine as Professor in Anesthesiology.

Why were we called “yayo”? It all started this way.

During our high school days in Taloto, Isaac and I were fascinated with airplanes and bombs. We spent our vacant times flipping over volumes of encyclopedias and other references in the library. We read about Alfred Nobel and nitroglycerin, aerodynamics and propulsion. Isaac was more intellectually equipped than me, but my fascination and imagination about those things were as intense as his.

On weekdays and free days, we would walk to the airport passing through the barbwire-fence of the seminary and into the field. Cutting across a cornfield we exited through a piggery, owned by who-knows-who, we didn’t care. From the piggery, we crossed the Tagbilaran-Taloto road, which looked more like a dirt road, and then into another patch of land to finally reach the end of the airport’s runway. We did this walk in the middle of the day, dauntless to the scorching heat of the sun, the spiky tips of the cogon leaves, and makahiya grasses.

When the plane arrived at 11:50 AM, we were there--ready. When it landed the sound of the turbo-prop engine would seem to drown the whole environment of life and the enormity of its aluminum-colored fuselage seemed to embody the whole of my dreams and ambitions since I was a boy. We usually stood outside the barbwire perimeter fence at the runway’s edge as the giant machine, thundering in front of our face, rushed like a bull charging the earth below. Everything happened in just a few seconds, and yet it would leave us speechless and mesmerized for the next 30 minutes, as we contemplated on the magic of modern technology. More often, we would find not only our hands gripping the rusty barbwire but even our mouths unconsciously biting it, too. Isaac was always the first to laugh at me for doing it, although more than once he also did that.

What about the bombs? Yes, we used to scrape powder from the pospuro (guitar was our preferred brand, because it was drier than the other brands) and mixed it with the igniter to create this homemade firecracker called lubintador. One day, Jones scraped a good amount of powder, almost the size of a ping-pong ball. Together, we placed it in a tin can and compacted it with clay. First we thought of detonating it in the kalibunan, just beyond the football field. But as we prepared a hole in the ground, one of use noticed the downspout (metal pipe) at the side of the high school building, which ran from the roof down to the gutter below the school building.

It was Jones who started the conversation and shifted our attention from the “hole in the ground” to the metal pipe, “McAbs, adto nato ibutang ning lubintador sa baba (lower part) sa tubo unya diha nato pabuthon.”

Isaac, applying his aptitude in physics affirmed the idea saying, “Bitaw. Ang tubo maoy magsilbing (long) barrel. Mag build-up na ug pressure. Kusog jud na’g butu.”

Enthusiastically, the three of us walked back to the building and prepared the lubintador to be placed at the end of the pipe near the ground. We were so engrossed with our project that we never tried to trace where the other end of the pipe was or what was adjacent to the pipe. It was only later after the blast when we discovered that it was attached to the back wall of the Dean’s Office. The distance between the lubintador and the chair of the Dean was less than three feet. The Dean during that time was the brawny Fr. “Borax” Cajes, who was notorious for being strict and stern.

It was around 3:00 in the afternoon. Fr Borax just came down from his room still wobbly from a restful siesta. He was rocking quietly at his big springy chair, massaging his forehead while staring blankly at the ceiling. He must have been enjoying the quiet and solitude inside his office. Fred, the Registrar, was ruffling at some files, at the corner of the office. They were totally unaware of a devious plan that was afoot. Likewise, neither were we conscious too of the fact that we were setting a bomb so close to the Dean’s office. Our whole attention was focused on detonating the lubintador inside that metal pipe. For us it was “the thing” that our hearts desired. And we were anxious to know how big the detonation and the sound would be.

After we ignited the fuse, we ran quickly to the kalubihan, a safe distance but near enough for us to see the flickering fuse. All our hearts and soul, attention and consciousness were perpetually fixed on the burning fuse. Today, as I recall that particular instance, I feel as if it we were in a time warp. Time stood still momentarily. Even the wind and the clouds seemed to pause, and like us were waiting anxiously as the fuse was steadily being consumed by the flame. It was a momentary eternity experienced by one who is at the edge of nirvana.

My eyes quickly shifted focus between the lower end of the metal spout where the lubintador was and its upper end that was perpendicularly protruding at the roof of the building. Then, the burning fuse was gone. From the outside there was no flame. There was a pause that seemed like eternity. There was a sudden flash, and then in a split second, it was followed by a big, thunderous sound. KABLAMMM--sending shock waves through the pipe. Within the next millisecond, the pressure building within the pipe’s chamber weakened its metallic strength and the pipe gave way to the expanding energy of the lubintador. The metal pipe crumbled, with the cracking noise adding a sinister crescendo to the thunderous vibration of the detonation. The bang was huge--bursting the pent-up desires within our breasts to a resounding climax as we patted each other in victory.

Indeed, the blast was strong, well enough to throw the big burly Fr Borax of his chair. According to his own account, he felt being thrown up to the ceiling. Fred, on the other hand, scrambled to the floor mumbling the names of saints together with a sign of the cross as the files he was holding scattered everywhere.

As quickly as the blast faded, the physical shock translated into psycho-emotional shock. Jones, Isaac and I were jumping joyously and by then we were already at the kiosk (that stage at the back of the high school building). Our hands were raised to the sky, feeling that ecstatic “rush” for having successfully detonated the lubintador--something that was more than what we expected.

Indeed what was more than we expected was embodied in the person of Fr Borax who came rushing from that little door at the back. He was a raging bull--nostrils seething and his big bagtak (now looking even much bigger) stumping towards us. Fred was behind him. Nang Feliza and Utan came out from the kitchen, all horrified. At that point, we regained our wits and the feeling of elation fizzled out. Our laughter morphed into an awkward line of smile on our lips.

Fr Borax, in his anger, appeared like a giant glaring down at us. Jones, who was always quick on his feet, was nowhere to be found, leaving me and Isaac against a formidable enemy. Fr Borax was furious, his face flushed like his tiger-painted buggy car. Isaac and I, the two smallest boys in the class, looked even smaller than the hobbits of Lord of the Rings. The priest in his emotional state assumed the rage of a tiger, and with his deep guttural voice shouted in great fury: “MGA LITSENG YAAAAA ...” he could not complete the cuss word. Some seminarians had gathered in curiosity at the scene. He was conscious of their presence. So torn between his seething rage and his urge to temper it, he finally said, “ ... YAAA ... YAYO! Mo! LUHOD mong duha. Hapit ko mamatay sa KALISANG!”

When he left, Joseph B--the one with a perpetual smirk on his face and served like a court jester in the Boraxian kingdom--came to us, jeering, “Mga yaaayo mong duha.

The word “yayo” stuck.

Throughout our high school days, during our free days, Isaac and I became the two “yayo” who busied ourselves on playful and imaginative things, while our classmates occupied themselves in the pursuit of girls in Tagbilaran. They would come home to the seminary on a Sunday afternoon with stories of their adolescent exploits. But for Isaac and me, we always stayed within the seminary compound--contented with the imaginations, dreams and visions that boys like us weaved as we crossed the threshold to manhood. (chris)

2004/01/03

View of Elley Hill from my Window

On my final year in IHMS in 1984, I was occupying room #3 in Dorm A. It was a narrow and elongated room on the second floor formed by the angle of the protruding façade of the main building. It was the only room with two sets of windows, the front window facing the residence of Nong Banong and the side window facing the wooded area leading to the grotto. The front window extends right down to the floor.

And where the floor almost touches the glass panel there was a space enough for my hand to pop in. It was a good hiding place underneath the floor. I even found a ball pen inscribed with the word, “Doblas”. I placed it back, for the future occupants to discover and wonder. I wonder if it is still there.

Below the window was the road that led to the main gates. There was a steel light post near the mushroom-shaped waiting shed. It was in my line of sight, and in fact served as a good shooting target whenever I wanted to unwind with my tirador or slingshot. A sharp clang would echo on direct hit. I was not a bad shooter, I remember.

Also from my window, I had a good, unobstructed view of Elley Hill in Ubujan district. I used to set my bed right beside the window so that I could see the stars when I closed my eyes at night. And I swear several dreams were formed during those moments when “lights off” forced everyone to bed.

I enjoyed sitting on the window sill. I remember that day, October 16, 1983. It was a Sunday, the start of semesteral break. The seminarians were excited to leave for home. I wasn’t. It was past 1:00 PM when everything was calm and quiet, except for the sound of a tricycle and the shouting of some kids from a distance. Most seminarians had already left. Tomasito and Stephen would not be coming back next semester. I felt bad for Stephen. He was advised to take regency. An innocent juvenile prank must have led the administration to decide against him. I felt sorry for Tomasito. A different future seemed to unravel in front of him that day. It would be different from what he had hoped.

That evening, only Soc, Val, Mario and I were left in Dorm A. Around 9:45 PM, everything was still. A piano could be heard from Nong Banong’s place across the street. There was a social gathering going on I supposed. There was occasional laughter. I listened to the music as I watched the stars from my window.

Room #2, which was a lot bigger, was occupied by Chris. It used to be occupied by Jones who meticulously spun the available space with silvery cobwebs and even experimented with giant mosquitoes. What took Jones months of painstaking work took seconds for Ping to destroy using only a tukog. Chris was a lot more conventional compared to the other occupants of that room. But I cannot forget that time when I received a huge analog clock with two external bells. It ticked so loudly at night when everything else outside was quiet. Chris had nightmares hearing the ticking of my clock He was imagining strange Hitchcockian creatures and at one point was even frightened by his own hand that rested on his neck. He wanted me to get rid of that clock. But I didn’t want to since it had an air of antiquity attached to it. And I liked things old. Besides I didn’t have another clock to use. The compromise we reached was for me to keep that clock literally under wraps--under my clothes!--at night.

A thin ply wood separated our rooms. I used to climb the wall whenever I was almost finished with my can of San Miguel Beer. And McAbs would laugh and rant, “Lauga kayo o. Di pa gyud manghatag. Aku na na ‘na bi! Aku na!” And I would let him curse the night away as I quaffed the last drop of warm beer.

On the other side of my room was Mario. He was eternally quiet. With his sloth-like movement, I wouldn’t know if he was present in his room or not. I would only be jolted by his own sudden interruption of his deep thought, “Gents, naa ka bay notes sa Philosophy? Wa ko makakopya ganiha. Pahuwam.” Gents who occupied the room opposite Mario would simply answer in his usual somewhat-Cebuano-like accent, “Wala sad gani ko.”

Gents seems to have acquired Mario's penchant for talking aloud in the middle of his musings. And I recall that incident in the Dorm A lavatory. It was sometime in December of 1983--the air was cool and the scent of the season was in the air. Gents was quietly washing his clothes that early afternoon during siesta time. I was carrying a guitar, nagging Gents to stop what he was doing so that we could start practicing Christmas carols. He wanted to finish just a couple of clothes. So I waited for him, strumming and humming a few notes, and once in a while nagging him, while he nonchalantly meditated on his dirty clothes.

Then all of a sudden, the big burly Fr Migs appeared in the lavatory doorway, frowning. I froze. Gents went on with his task, not knowing what was happening. “Wala pa gani time. Gipukaw mo na ba sila?” he blurted out in the middle of his thought.

Fr Migs looked stern and angry, having caught me red handed breaking silence during siesta time. “Unsang orasa naman?” he asked. But I couldn’t answer him. I was shocked. I also wanted to tell Gents to keep his mouth shut, “Gents, Gents …” But Gents didn’t hear me, “Lawgaw man sad ka kayo, Nox. Nganong ako man lang intawon ang imong gisamuksamuk?

Then from out of nowhere, Chris appeared squinting and with a towel around his neck. He just woke up from siesta. Since Fr Migs was blocking the way, he said, “Excuse me”, and proceeded to squeeze in between Fr Migs and the doorway jamb. The right side of his face hit the side of the door jamb in the process, creating a sound that seemed to reverberate in the lavatory. I laughed so loudly and uncontrollably. Gents not knowing what was happening tried to reprimand me for it was siesta time, “Hilum diha masakpan ka gain ni Fr Migs”. Chris, not knowing what hit him, was apologetic,”Ay, sorry”.

The eternally-stoic Fr Migs was trying to suppress a laughter as he turned away not bothering to wait for my reply. I was laughing out loud as I explained what had just happened. Chris saved the afternoon for us. We would have been reprimanded and punished had he not appeared at the right moment. I haven’t thanked Chris for that incident. Thanks for knocking your head on the doorway, Chris! Ha…ha…ha… (I couldn’t resist saying that.)

Room #1, which was directly in front of Dorm A’s main entrance, was occupied by Soc who, if I remember it correctly, served as the beadle. But my recollection of Soc’s room cannot take away the image of Jeffrey lying on the bed--laughing his heart out at a joke while rubbing the corner of his nose.

It was a wonderful time of my life. I didn’t know stress. There was no pressure from school.

That was how I recalled those days when I used to look out long and hard from my window and I would see the solitary mound of Elley Hill. It was so beautiful, so majestic, smooth and quiet. But I knew it was only from a distance. I was aware that it was steep, grassy, and full of rocks and crags. I should know for Jeffrey and I did scaled that hill in search of a hermit. (But that’s another story.)

Strangely though, that was how I perceived my future. It looked so exciting, so beautiful, and so full of possibilities. But deep inside, I was intimidated by imperial Manila. I knew then that it wouldn’t be an easy journey from thereon.

I spent much time brooding on those hills. I guess I made my decision there on the window sill to take the Jesuit entrance test in Banawa Retreat House. God knows how many times my resolve was strengthened when I quieted myself down and looked out through that window. That view had always reassured me that life is a continuum, that its final goal is not in this world, and that everything is ephemeral, including failure and sadness. I guess I still carry that window with me, long after I had left IHMS. (msa)