Misteryosong Paagi sa Ginoo

Kasagaran sa mga tawo nagtuo gyud nga ang seminaryo maka buotan. Gani daghan mang mga ginikanan nga gipasulod nila ang ilang anak sa seminaryo dili aron ma pari kun dili aron lang ma buotan. Ilang ipasa ang responsibilidad sa pag umol sa ilang mga anak aron ma buotan ngadto sa mga formators sa seminaryo.

Dili ta makaingon nga sayop sila kay ang programa sa seminaryo para man sab gyud sa pag hulma sa usa ka kandidato aron siya mahimong pari sa umaabot ug ang atong imahen sa pari mao man ang usa ka tawo nga buotan.

Apan usahay ang mga maayong intensyon ug programa dili baya otomatikong mo hatag og maayong bunga!

Ang atong kasinatian sulod sa seminaryo maoy magmatuod niini. .Kun atong balikan ang atong kagahapon maka maingon gyud ta nga may uban kanato nga diha man gani nakakat-on sa paghimog mga salawayong buhat -- sama sa pag inom ( og alak) ug pag panigarilyo --sulod sa seminaryo. Daghan ang mahimong hinungdan – ang uban tungod sa barkada, uban gustong magpasikat ug may uban gusto lang gyud nga mo suway.

Kahinumdum mo sa mga gibuhat sa uban nato kaniadto? May mga nang ransack sa Father’s Refectory ug diha poy sa Faculty Room. Gani sikat ang mo ingon nga, “Nang-hunting mi'g manok ganiha.” Mga buhat nga dili mahunahuna sa mga taga gawas sa seminaryo nga atong mabuhat apan atong gibuhat..

Apan dili sayon ang paghukom sa mga binuhatan. Tingali apil to sa atong kabatan-on. O kaha, sa usa ka punto, basin adunay depekto usab ang programa ug mao nga wala kini makatubag sa atong aktwal nga panginahanglan? O kaha dili andam ug takus ang mga gitahasang mga tawo sa paghulma kanato mao nga wala sila sa tempo kun ang atong pormasyon na ang paga hisgutan.

Ug dinhi ko maka ingon nga dili diay sayon ang paghulma’g tawo, ilabina kun ang atong gihunahuna mao gayud ang ideyal nga tawo. May kinutuban ang mga programa ug may kahuyang ang mga gi tahasan sa pag implementar sa mga programa.

Apan bisan pa sa mga depekto maka ingon gihapon ta nga ang Diyos mo trabaho gyud sa misteryosong pamaagi. Mao kini ang nakapaanindot sa atong kinabuhi. Usahay gani, mo sugot Siya nga buhaton nato ang dautang butang aron lamang makita nato ang kaanindot sa maayo. Ug mao na ang nasinati sa uban nato. Nakakat-on sila sa lisud nga paagi.

Bisan pa sa mga sayop kaniadto, tinuyo man o dili, maka ingon lang gihapon kita nga nahimung parte sa atong kinabuhi ang seminaryo ug dili na gyud kini mapapas pa sa atong panumduman. Mao nga kinahanglan ato kining paga balikbalikan. Ang uban dili ganahan mo hinumdum tungod kay dili maayo ang ilang kasinatian sulod sa seminaryo. Apan nagatuo ako nga labaw gani nga kinahanglan natong balikan ang kagahapon kun kini dili maayo aron makig uli kita niini kay matud pa sa uban mao man kuno ni ang dalan aron kita makapadayon sa pag atubang sa umaabot nga luag ang dughan ug may gihambin nga paglaum. (soc mesiona)

Visiting the Blessed Sacrament

Our innate desire to relate with God was already evident even we were in our teen years. A case in point was our frequent visit to the seminary chapel. Many of us learned to visit the Blessed Sacrament way back when we were still in first year high school. Maybe because we were uprooted from our biological fathers and mothers at a very early age that we were looking for someone who could fill in the void. But one remarkable thing was that we were able to transform our emotional want into an opportunity to develop a personal and spiritual relationship with God.

I would say it was not a fad, for we were very consistent to the very end that we left the seminary. In fact it became a real habit. It was a practice neither sanctioned nor commonly heard being encouraged by the seminary fathers. The initiative was purely from our own. Usually we would do it after meals, either lunch or supper. Prominent among the devotees was Junior. Because of what he observed, Baloy made a prediction: “Ma pari jud ni si Junior kay sige’g ampo.

We had no background in the Ignatian prayer, lectio divina, or any other acknowledged form of prayer at that time. So our ritual was simple. We would kneel in front of the Blessed Sacrament, say a silent prayer and kiss the tabernacle before leaving. For us Jesus in the tabernacle was very real. We would also do the same to the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We did not mumble sophisticated prayers but conversed casually like talking to a close friend.

Of course we had the structured prayers that we did regularly as part of our daily routine schedule. But our personal visit to the Blessed Sacrament was something different. I am not saying that the structured spiritual exercises were not relevant at all. They had their own important and significant values insofar as spiritual formation was concerned. But the devotional and personal visit was something we considered different because it was done out of our own free will and desire.

Perhaps we did not recognize its full value during that time because it was so normal for us to do it. I’m sure our appreciation of its importance only came out when we left the seminary. For it was then that we had to rely on personal decision to sustain what we have learned in the seminary. For gone are the structures that we could rely on for guidance.

Now that I’m a priest I deeply appreciate that simple practice we learn in the seminary. There are ups and downs in the priestly ministry and renewal in priestly life always points to a return to prayer. Priests who no longer pray regularly are in great danger of losing their vocation, many would say. A friend-priest said to me: “Mahal kaayo ning renewal program para sa mga pari karon, unya ang katapusang isulti raba mao nga kinahanglan gayud mag-ampo kay mao kuno ni hinungdan ngano mag crisis ang pari. Aron dili na ta mo bayad og mahal mag-ampo lang gyud ta kanunay.” And he is right!

I would say we were lucky we learned to love to pray at an early stage of our seminary formation. I am sure that that innocent beginning made a difference in our lives today, whether we become priests or not. Maybe some of us have not sustained it because we have been preoccupied doing something else. But I notice that when we grow older we long again for something else this world cannot provide, that is, to have a personal relationship with the Lord.

One might wonder why Junior did not become a priest if indeed prayer is power. But let us not see prayer as something that which is endowed with magical power. For prayer, as we experienced it, is more of a means by which we can establish a deep and intimate relationship with the Lord. Besides, ordination to the priesthood is not also something that we can solely determine to happen. Priesthood is a divine gift. As such we can only ask for it, but the power and prerogative to graciously grant it belongs to the giver.

For sure it does not make Junior a lesser mortal just because he did not make it to the priesthood. For God has given Junior another gift – married life. In fact he is blessed with five beautiful daughters which I’m sure are the apples of his eyes. But whether we become priests or not it’s the same, we are all called to a life of holiness. And being prayerful is a means to achieving it. Perhaps Baloy can rephrase his observation, “Santoson gyud ni si Junior kay sige’g ampo.” (soc mesiona)


The Player

It was the provincial meet in 1977. Early in the morning, I excitedly left home to watch what I believed would an exciting game.

People started filling up the bleachers when I arrived at the Garcia Sports Complex. But I didn’t join the crowd. I had other plans. I managed to squeeze my skinny body through a breach and I found myself on the field near the basketball court.

I had to get a good view. A classmate of mine was going to play sepak takraw. It was going to be my first time to watch that game. And a classmate was going to show me how, at the expense of his opponents. I had to see him massacre and humiliate his opponents who I was certain came from the public school and didn’t even know the meaning of difficult Latin words like “rosa, rosae”.

The crowd gathered in front of the basketball court. It was going to be used for the sepak takraw event. A major event it must have been, I thought. Right in front of the biiiig crowd.

I anxiously stood on one end of the court, underneath the basketball board, waiting for the game to start. Then they came, confident as ever and rearing to fight. Zosimo, the coach, was at the lead. His fighters, Dennis, Jeff and Pere, followed. They saw me and we exchanged pleasantries. I didn’t mind serving as the self-appointed water boy. I was glad to have mingled with THE players to watch. I would soon learn from these professionals and by next year be a player myself.

The opponents followed and nervously whispered from the sideline. They were not intimidating at all. They were dark-skinned, probably from hours under the sun playing who-knows-what. They didn’t even have socks on. But their shoes had some leather contraption that made the sepak takraw ball bounce and flew faster.

I remembered the week before that when Zosimo entered the classroom where all the H.S. students were gathered. He asked for volunteers for the sepak takraw tournament. Nobody knew what it was. So, no one volunteered.

Then he mentioned a free T-shirt to be given to the players. I saw several hands raised. Zosimo now had a grand time looking at the faces and choosing his player, asking each one if he played takyang. He finally chose Dennis and Jeff. Pere was not with that group but was probably chosen way ahead of time. And so it was … the elimination period for the elite IHMS sepak takraw team.

“Last call for sepak takraw boys. IHMS versus ----(I can’t remember now from what school)“, the unseen announcer finally said. The introduction of the players was brief. My classmate was chosen to play first. Soon, the game started.

The opponent tossed the ball to my classmate. It dropped harmlessly to the ground. The referee gave the opponent the score. He also talked to my classmate saying that he was supposed to kick it back. Ahhh… a minor miscue, I thought. The opponent could lead by a wide margin and it wouldn’t make a difference. My classmate was good.

As the game continued, I sensed that something was wrong. The opponent made a running kick, a head-on dive, a behind the back kick and even a dangerous somersault kick--and the ball always found its mark. My classmate, on the other hand, couldn’t seem to hit a slow ball. It must have been his overconfidence, I thought. But the score kept ticking like the clock of a time bomb. It was unstoppable. It was loop-sided.

The crowd ooohed every time my classmate missed the ball and ahhhed in prayer for a return ball. The opponent finally made a mistake when he did some acrobatic stunt. The crowd ahhhed in thanksgiving … a sigh of relief. A score was conceded by the opponent! Haay salamat! But soon, it was back to the ticking time bomb clock.

Our coach was encouraging, “Pugong lang. Pugong lang.” But there was no stopping the carnage. Soon the crowd had turned sideways to a more exciting and less bloody game of volleyball.

By then, I had started to move away from their bench and tried to merge with the crowd of players and officials on the field. I hurriedly left, fearful of the final outcome. It was indeed a massacre. I went home dejected and in a state of shock. My dreams of joining the elite sepak takraw team of IHMS suddenly vanished. (nox arcamo)


A Day in the Life

Weekdays (High School in the late 70s)

  • 5:30am Wake up time. Handel’s classic the Messiah performed by The Oratorio Society of New York softly play on the centralized public address system. (Remember the classics like “For unto us a child is booorn”, and also the song, “And the glory of … glory of … the Lord …shall be revealed”, et al.) Then the electric buzzer sounds. The Beadle starts banging with arnis the edge of our steel beds.
  • 5:45am With towel around our neck, we start our zombie walk towards the lavabo on the ground floor outside the fathers’ refectory. The dorm lavatory faucets are not functioning except for one or two. Besides, the dorm lavatory is perennially flooded and unbearably smelly. Others prefer the faucet near the tennis court.
  • 6:00am Dressed in immaculate polo shirt, black pants and black leather shoes and with précis tucked inside the pocket, we sleepwalk towards the chapel for morning prayers. While the more religious lot peruse fervently over their précis in prayer, the others nod themselves to sleep.
  • 6:30am Holy Mass, as the mananggete starts climbing the coconut tree the top of which is eye level to us sitting at the Chapel. His movements are very slow and calculated. He steps on a frond; removes the sanggot or bamboo tube from his back and hangs it on another frond. He sits while working on this tree. (Ram must have seen him at work and thought of the fresh tuba inside the sanggot. He must have concocted the evil scheme right there and then that would get me involved. But that would a topic of another story in the future issue.)
  • 7:30am Breakfast of scrambled egg (that tasted like flour) and one piece of dried fish served on a plate. Eat all you can rice and drink all you can barako coffee.
  • 8:00am Classes start. Class monitor would begin roll call.
  • 10:00am Break. The starbread costing twenty-five cents is the all time favorite. Water (and plenty of stories) would suffice for those who cannot afford.
  • 10:15am Resume classes.
  • 11:45am Scripture reading and reflection; Spiritual talk; Time to reflect on the profound insights of seminarians like Manolo, who usually doesn’t listen to the reading.
  • 12:00nn Angelus, lunch
  • 12:30pm Siesta time. (A lot of mysterious things happen during this period. Some would execute a disappearing act, transporting themselves to the kalibunan in search of gagamba or botong or bugnay or mais or mongo. The more matured ones prefer listening to a radio drama,“Verboten”.)
  • 1:30pm Start of afternoon classes. Panahon na sa pag-de-debate ukol sa tamang paggamit ng “laruang kabayo” at “kabayong laruan”.
  • 4:30pm Gardening or P.E.
  • 5:30pm Wash up; Enough time to self-study James Taylor or Hotdog songs on guitar or piano.
  • 6:00pm Angelus, study period
  • 7:00pm Dinner of beef with string beans and tiny fried fish. Eat all you can rice, again. Usually pooled money with the 3 others to buy 1 small can of Holiday brand lechon paksiw. Those without money find contentment in sili drowned in tap water--i.e., lots of crushed sili mixed with water. (We can’t even buy vinegar for the sili, so tap water sufficed.) Still, everyone eats heartily.
  • 8:00pm Study period.
  • 9:00pm Evening prayers.
  • 9:20pm Prepare for bed. (Under cover of darkness, the huge rock near the tennis becomes a “comforting” retreat for Leodegario, Loel and others who love to use the faucet near the tennis court.)
  • 9:45pm Magnum silentium. Lights off.
  • 10:00pm The generator is switched off by Delfo. And if one were lucky enough, he can hear the scream of the white lady that according to legend killed herself during the War, right at the mouth of the cave.
  • 12:00 mn The creepy grating sound of the famous bagul terrorizes the insomniac. The sound would come from the ceiling near the entrance, then the middle of the dorm, then inside the lavatory. It has remained a mystery up to now.

Saturday/Sunday (College in the early 80’s)
  • 5:30am Wake up time. Nobody seems to move. At the last minute, Jones would trudge sleepily to the chapel; tucked in one pocket under his sotana is his toothbrush. We’re not sure if he used toothpaste. That has remained a mystery until now.
  • 6:00am Prayers and Holy Mass
  • 7:30am Breakfast in silence with the usual fare that we had been eating since High School--floured egg!
  • 8:00am Start of housework and then groundwork.
  • 10:00am Wash up then music practice at the auditorium
  • 12:00nn Angelus, prayer; lunch
  • 12:30pm Siesta/ Outing on a Sunday. Bring home the dirty clothes, stay at home with the family or drive to the seawall in front of Baclayon church, with cans of beer and boxes of curly tops. Free time for those who would remain inside the compound. A good opportunity to explore the kalibunan.
  • 5:30pm Wash up. Time in on a Sunday.
  • 6:00pm Angelus, study period. Story-telling of how the outing was spent.
  • 7:00pm Dinner; time to play pool or watch PBA on grainy TV.
  • 8:00pm Bible sharing
  • 9:00pm Study period. For some, continuation of the story telling.
  • 10:00pm Magnum silentium. Lights off. Lie down on the bed and watch the stars; listen to the distant occasional sound of vehicles. A good time to forge dreams and wonder what would loom up ahead in the future. Gent’s snore disturbs the reverie.

The Flagpole Fishers

It was a late afternoon ritual, before the Angelus. Leodegario and his sidekick, Samuel (or was it the other way around?) would quietly huddle at the flagpole, careful not to disturb the water that reflected their faces against a gradually darkening sky.

They would stretch their arms over the water, as if casting a spell over muffled incantations. A tiny white thread around 1 foot in length stretched from a hand to the water surface. Not a ripple as the tiny tilapia moved gently and effortlessly around a hook fashioned out of a staple wire, with a bait of rice.

Then in a split second, Leodegario would suddenly tug at the thread like a seasoned angler, together with a sudden outburst that would jolt Samuel from his own trance.

Bursts of elation and frustration were the same. From afar, you wouldn’t notice the difference. Samuel would laugh and make a comment. Then they would go back to work.

On the other side of the flagpole pond, somebody (I can’t recall now the person in particular) would melt candle wax on the turtle’s hard shell and attach a lighted candle. An eerie glow would be moving here and there around the flagpole as candlelight cast weird undulating shadows against the pond walls.

They must be fishing in the hereafter, as Samuel joined his Creator last November 30, 2004 and Leodegario, several years earlier. (Recall your memories of them with prayers on your lips after reading this article.)

May their souls find peace … (nox arcamo)