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)