This Gathering’s Gift

In May 1976, we were so young. Some of us were 12 years old, others 13. Most of us have never been away from our family, from our home. We barely understood the meaning of vocation and commitment. For some it was a personal decision. For others, it was a parents’ decision. For whatever reason, our paths converged, even briefly for those who did not persevere in the period of painful adjustment.

On December 2005, five months shy of our 30th anniversary, we will gather once more, not only to recollect but also to confront the ghosts and come to terms with our past.

The wide chasm of time is incomprehensible. And many things happened in between.
Three of our classmates have returned to their Creator--Cecil, Leodegario, and Samuel. One has remained missing, Ramonito.

Three were ordained priests--Glenn, Socrates, and Jeff. One took the vows as a Jesuit novice but left, Manuel.

Three migrated to the US--Jess(a medical doctor), Dennis (an aeronautics graduate) and Raymund (a supervisor in a retail shop). One settled for Canada, Marc (an engineer in Alberta). And another opted for Japan, Ram (an economist based in Tokyo).

Three worked for the government--Roy (with the COMELEC), Al (with the Provincial office), Cris (with leagues); he was a year ahead in HS but joined the class in college.). One had worked against it, Prisco.

Three found employment in private companies--Arnold (an employee of SMC), Loel (an engineer), and Raul (an engineer). One found fulfillment tilling the soil, Hector (a farmer in Ubay).

Three ventured into the area of politics as Councilors--Mario (of San Miguel), Nick (of Duero), Jun (of Bilar). One made it to the topmost position of the province, Rene. While many tried to get by doing odd jobs, one succeeded in the business of sending talents to other countries, Rolando .

Life dealt different cards to each one, even though we started on the same footing. We never knew what was in store for us back then when we first entered IHMS. Now, from hindsight, we look back and wonder where the turning point in our lives was.

The gathering this Christmas season affords us the time to recall those times and revisit one last time those dreams that we have set aside. And perhaps learn to come to terms with ourselves and hopefully muster acceptance. That would be the best gift this gathering can offer. A fitting gesture this season. So don’t miss this occasion.

We hope to see you there. (nox arcamo)


Gratitude to a Classmate and Friend

God works in wondrous ways.

I remember one dark and gloomy morning sometime in January of 2000 when I attended the 7:15 morning mass at the St Joseph Cathedral. After the mass, I spent some quiet moments at the Perpetual Adoration Chapel. Excruciating problems brought me there. I was on my knees, literally begging. I had no job and I needed to support my family of six children and a wife.

Just when I thought God must have entertained my pleadings, I rose and headed for home. I stood outside the Cathedral, waiting for a tricycle. I counted the change in my pocket and impulsively spared one peso for a stick of Marlboro. I was hoping the burden inside me would drift like smoke. I crossed the street and found a vendor at the Plaza Rizal, right in front of the seat of the Provincial Government.

At about the same time, the provincial capitol employees were having their weekly flag raising ceremony and their Monday program. Just as I lit the cigarette to scorch my lungs, the program closed and the participants dispersed. The last man standing was somebody who probably talked last and whom nobody wanted to listen to--The Governor, Hon Rene, a classmate in high school.

Rene saw me and gestured that I come near him. I obliged, meekly. This was no BABOGA, I thought. I was no longer the recognized leader that I used to be. Rene was the Honorable Governor of my Province of Bohol, and I was the lowly subject.

I hesitated, naturally, since a phalanx of the burly, belligerent-looking bodyguards surrounded him. I groped for the old brand of fire within me but failed to find it. I found myself confronting the highest ruler in the province. And I stooped.

Rene was straightforward. He asked me bluntly: “Naa kay trabaho, Jujax?

Oh what a question! I was almost tempted to ask him if he had just conversed with God.

I replied almost inaudibly, “Mao jud na ang ahong problema.”

With Godfather-like confidence, he dispatched me saying, “Go now to the Chief of the Human Resource Management and Development Office. Tell her I sent you to find a job according to your qualifications.”

That was more than four years ago. And I am still on the job Rene gave me. The job, lowly it may be, afforded me the wherewithal in providing food on the table.

There were other good things that Rene extended to me. But the job offer was something special. For it showed how instantaneously God answered my prayer on that gloomy day of January. And Rene was His chosen instrument. (jun tabel)


Nag-ungaw Sa Kamatayo’ng Kasinatian

Semestral break niadtong 1982. Ika tulong ang-ang sa kolehiyo kami niadto. Ang miyembro sa klase mao sila si Nox, Mario, Jeffrey, Stephen, Chris ug ako. Nagkasabot kami nga mag retreat didto sa Josefina, Zamboanga del Sur. Mibalhin naman gud si Fr. Ites didto mao nga usa pag bisita pud sa iya ang among pagabuhaton.

Gubot ang Mindanao niadtong panahuna. Sagad kaayo nga madungog ang balita nga may gipatay, gi-salvage,o gi-ambush. Mao kadtong panahuna nga daghang abusong militar nga gihimo. Mao usab kadto ang panahon diin midaghan pag-ayo ang mga rebelde sa administrasyon ni Marcos. Apan wala kini maka diskurahi kanamo pag adto sa Josefina.

Misakay mig barko paingon sa Ozamis ug unya nag bus de pasahero na usab kami paingon sa Zamboanga del Sur. Sa dalan among nahinagbu-an ang mga bus nga may mga naka uniporme’ng sakay sa taplud. May army, PC ug CAFGU May mga military checkpoints usab kaming gi-agian.

Miadto mig una sa parokya ni Padre Ites sa Molave ug wala mi mo tungas dayon sa Josefina. Mainiton ang iyang pag dawat sa among pag-abot. Ug didto mi puyo mig pipila ka adlaw.

Dihay staff sa parokya ni Padre Ites nga ang pangalan Samson. Una namo siyang nakita didto sa kan-anan nga naglingkod. Dako ang iyang lawas ug bagsik kaayo ang porma. Way lihok-lihok. Apan dihang mi tindog ug milakaw nakurat kaayo mi kay Delilah man diay ang kasing-kasing, kiay kaayo ang lubot mo lakaw. Nangatawa mi pag-ayo!

Gidala mi ni Padre Ites sa usa ka pyista. Sa parokya sa Dumingag kadto, kun dili ako masayop. Si Padre Telmo Laput ang Kura Paroko. Ang unang impresyon namo kang Padre Telmo “bugoyon”. Human sa Misa may salu-salu nga gihimo sa kumbento. May inum usab. Bisan tinsyunado ang panahon naka himo gihapun ang mga tawo sa pag-saulog sa ilang pyista. Naabtan gani mig gabii sa kumbento. Ug medyo kargado na ang kasagaran.

Dihang medyo lawum na ang gabii mi ingon si Padre Telmo nga isuroy kuno mi niya. Misakay mi sa iyang jeep kauban si Padre Ites. Kusog siyang mipadagan. Sa among kakurat didto mi niya gidala sa gi diklara nga war zone. Nagkatawa lang si Padre Telmo samtang kami medyo gisudlan nag gamay’ng kahadlok.

Mi-agi mig usa ka military checkpoint. Gipahunong mi. Bisan sa kangit-ngit kita kaayo nga ang ilang mga pusil gipunting kanamo. “Maihap na lang sa tudlo ang panahon namo sa kalibutan,” maoy among huna-huna. Usa ka pag kablit sa gato segurado gyud nga tabas-tabason ang among mga lawas sa bala. “Asa man mo padulong?” singhag nga pangutana sa ilang lider. “Wala… suroy-suroy lang gud,” kalmang tubag ni Padre Telmo. “Kun mi tukar ang kabuang ining pari-a nganong i-apil-apil man mi?”, maoy mi santup sa akong huna-huna. “Ako bitaw tong pari!”, paila ni Padre Telmo. Medyo mi kalma’g gamay ang mga sundalo pagka dungog nga pari.

Apan mikalit lang pagpasutoy pagpadagan si Padre Telmo sa iyang sakyanan. Pareho ang among gihuna-huna: “Patay na gyud mi ini. Ulan sa mga bala na gyud ang mo sunod.” Posibleng i-salvage kami! Apan wala kami na dungog nga buto sa pusil. Unya mikalit lang siya pag hunong sa pagmaneho sa iyang sakyanan ug mitudlo sa atbang lugar. “Anang lugara kampo na pud sa NPA. Gusto ninyong mo adto ta?”, pangutana niya. Wala mi maka tubag. Mi hilum lang kami.

Mi padagan pag-usab si Padre Telmo sa iyang jeep ug mi simang palayo sa kampo sa military ug sa NPA. Nakaginhawa mi’g luag. “Ikaw jud Telmo, giapil-apil mi nimo’s imong kabuang!,” sukmat ni Padre Ites nga Binol-anon gihapon ang punto bisan dugay-dugay na sa Zamboanga del Sur.

Nanguli mi sa Molave ug mipahulay kami. Pagka sunod adlaw mi tungas mi sa Josefina aron mag retreat. Bugnaw ug nindot kaayo ang lugar, morag Baguio. Didto mi sa kombento sa FMM Sisters mo puyo. Si Padre Ites ang among retreat master.

Pagkahuman sa retreat nanguli mi sa Bohol. Kanunay namo ma estorya ang among hapit na sa kamatayo’ng kasinatian. Ug didto na namo batia ang kahadlok dihang amo nang gi estorya ang panghitabo. (soc mesiona)


Pining For Home

The moment my parents left me in IHMS for the first time, I knew I made a big mistake. It was my decision to enter the seminary. But I didn’t know it would be that difficult. The period of adjustment was hard. After all, I was still 12 years old when I left home to live in a place with other kids of my age.

At night, I slept with a heavy heart, thinking about home. In the morning, I woke up with a heavy heart, not wanting to go through the rigors of a routinary life.

On several occasions, I contemplated on leaving. But the alternatives didn’t look so appealing. Perhaps, I was pining for the status quo in grade school when life was not regulated and was so relaxed. But I didn’t have the nerve to say I quit.

So I tried to endure the terrible days, always looking forward to a Sunday afternoon outing and the monthly going home. I savored every second of my stay at home. I detest the 5 o’clock time when I had to carry my bag, take my mother’s hand to my forehead, take the walk from the door to the gate, look back at my mother who would be watching me from the door way, and then take the tricycle to the seminary. That was the routine every time I go home for a short break. It was painful. And it didn’t help me ease the burden of seminary life. In fact it made matters worse. I would try every effort not to cry, which I managed. But my heart was torn apart, I should admit.

I remember one incident sometime in 1978. It must have been in the early part of the school year since it was drizzling outside. I survived one year in the seminary; but the adjustment period extended to my second year. I had given my self one whole year and in fact managed to weather through it thinking that the following year it would be more enjoyable; but I realized I was wrong.

Sitting on the sofa at home with my mother, I realized that it wasn’t going to be that easy on my second year after all. I was still feeling lonely and sad. It must have been due to the rain, I thought, as we sat there. No words came to our lips. We just sat there. No TV or radio broke the stillness of the afternoon, except for the muffled pattering of the rain on the roof. We savored every second as we sat there for more probably more than 3 hours. I don’t recall doing anything productive that afternoon.

Deep within, I was trying to decide whether to go back to the seminary or quit. I reviewed the past year. It was generally a hell of an adjustment period. But there were quiet moments that made me happy. I remember the quiet place around the seminary during siesta time. I knew the adjustment period would continue to be difficult. But I also knew there would be happy and quiet moments in between.

I could have decided to leave right there and then. I knew my mother would be happy with whatever decision I made. But leaving would entail starting all over again in another place--another period of adjustment. I had staked one year in the seminary. I should finish what I started. With this thought in mind, I looked at the clock and saw that it was almost 5 o’clock. My mother understood. She gave me P5 for my pocket money that week. I grabbed my bag, after taking her hand to my forehead. Good thing it wasn’t raining anymore. I walked resolutely towards the gate, never daring to look back, knowing that my mother would still be in her usual place by the doorway. I hailed a tricycle and went back to the seminary.

Well, I survived six more years of stay in the seminary after that year and seven more years as a Jesuit. It was one decision that brought me ever farther from home, to various adventures and countless distant places. It was one decision I never regretted in my life. (nox arcamo)