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.

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. (nox arcamo)