Remembering Christmas in IHMS

Most of our memories of Christmas in IHMS are always fun.

The class preparation, the caroling, the evening program, the party and, of course, the overflowing spirits, and the most anticipated of all, the Christmas break--all these make up our image of Christmas in this hallowed seed-box.

But behind the veneer of fun lies the other side that can only be described as lonely.

After the festivity, we when we turned off the music or when we travel back to our family for the holiday, we silently went on our way. It was a lonely path we took.

Looking back, we realize that life then was a sink or swim. We had to steel our feelings in order to survive. We always tried to hide our emotions. We enjoyed the compliments of the ladies, but we tried to feel aloof and detached. We thought emotion was a sign of weakness. We were acting our age, yet we had to go beyond our feelings.

We did not know if that was the best way to cope with life. But it certainly made us survive through all those years. And those who couldn’t manage, faltered along the pathway.

We were supervised by young priests who must have been going through their own emotional processes, too. So we trudged down the beaten path mostly on our own. No wonder people would always say that we were less equipped emotionally. After all, we were mostly on our own.

This is the other side of our memory of Christmas in IHMS. When the fun subsided and night settled down, we remember the lonely time we spent as we walked back to the dorm or as we head for home.

It was a lonely walk. But it strengthened us, helped us survive, and made us who we are now. (nox arcamo)


Class War

It was “customary” for the higher years to bully the seminarians in the lower years. But in 3rd High School, we had enough.

In the H.S. Dorm B, the juniors and seniors were together. The juniors were near the entrance, the seniors near the lavatory. My bed was by the window facing east, near the corner of the dorm, in between the beds occupied by Ramonito and Loel. I used to argue a lot with Loel about petty things like chain letters and others. In fact, we enjoyed arguing just before lights out.

A row of lockers was set against the wall near Ramonito’s bed. It was behind one of the lockers where he caught a gecko one afternoon. He preserved the poor animal in a bottle filled with formalin. It should still be in one of the biology collections together with the stuffed dogs.

I had heard that several of my classmates were smarting at the bullying of the seniors. Mga abusado kuno. I wasn’t particularly affected since I was one of the silent ones. The noisy and the tough were usually the ones being bullied.

It was sometime in December since we spent the rainy afternoon looking for trees in Taloto to use for our Christmas tree.

I noticed some classmates preparing pieces of wood and surreptitiously hiding them between the trees that we brought to the seminary. It was supposed to be for something special that night and that I should likewise find my own--just in case. I wasn’t really sure what they meant. But I felt that they were preparing for war.

We brought them together with the Christmas trees and spirited them up to the dorm, under the mattress or inside the locker.

The plan was simple. After lights off, we were to continue talking aloud. If the seniors would complain we will continue. If they bullied us, then we would take up arms and fight. Somebody who was near the switch would turn the lights on and we would attack.

That night there was a sense of excitement. But there was also apprehension. Nick was toying with his belt that had a huge, heavy metal. On the other hand, he was holding a key chain that also had a heavy metal attached to it.

Leodegario was making fun with his club. The others tried to conceal their anxiety. It was the anticipation of war that silenced many.

Then the lights were turned off. We conversed aloud. We laughed aloud. I heard somebody from the seniors’ side near the lavatory say, “Shhhhh… Hoy!” It was greeted with laughter instead.

Then somebody shouted, “Hoyyyy, lights off na!” There was more laughter. Another one said, “Hilum na mo diha bay.” More laughter.

Somebody seemed to stand up as the steel bed squeaked, “Unsa man mo diha!” This is it, I thought. Somebody moved towards the switch, but before the lights were turned on, I heard the sound of glass shattering as it hit the wall near the main door. Ferdie, a senior, was the one who threw the glass. Brydon followed, brandishing his CAT sword.

We were not prepared for the involvement of those who were not bullying the class. But the lines were drawn. Nick stood up with his weapon. My other classmates, seeing Nick, also stood up pulling out the sticks they brought that afternoon.

Then, suddenly, a loud crash (wood against wood) reverberated as the dorm entrance opened. The voice of Fr Eugene, the Prefect of Discipline, bellowed, “NGANONG SABA MAN ‘NI!”

All lights were turned on. We all froze. I can’t remember how it ended, but the war suddenly ended before it even began. There was an investigation. But I can’t remember what happened after that. I don’t even recall anybody getting punished. I can only recall that we became very close with this senior class, especially in College. (msa)


Pitogo on My Mind

The Parish Aid Campaign was a seminary program that sent seminarians to the different parishes to make an appeal for aid, both cash and in kind.

We were 4th year college seminarians then when Chris formerly called Chris and I volunteered for Pitogo (formerly named Lapinig and lately Pres Carlos P Garcia Island), a tiny island across the sea of Ubay.

Both of us were excited because it would be our first time to go to Pitogo. But our excitement did not come from the idea of getting aid for the seminary but rather for the sheer adventure of going to an unfamiliar island.

It was Friday after lunch when we were excused from community activities, as we prepared for the long trip to Ubay.

A little past 2:00PM, we boarded a St. Jude bus bound for Ubay, which was around 124 km from Tagbilaran City. As the road zigzagged along the eastern coastline, we relaxed and started to enjoy the trip. The skies were clear and quiet, in stark contrast to the blue seas that rushed towards the shore and broke into white froth. Our souls were not only enriched but also soothed.

The only distraction was the bus stopping every now and then to load and unload passengers. Sometimes the loading be prolonged depending on how fast or slow the conductor could help load and unload the cargo and baggage. No wonder buses plying that route were described as “kusog mo dagan pero dugay mo abot.

When we reached Ubay, it was already dark. So Chris and I decided to seek shelter for the night at the rectory and take a banca for Pitogo early morning of the following day. Fr. Boyles, the parish priest of Ubay, was so gracious enough to provide us accommodation. Before retiring to bed we were told that we could take the banca after breakfast.

The following day, Saturday, after breakfast, we went to the pier where we could catch a ride to Pitogo. The banca was of modest size, enough to accommodate about twenty passengers. Having grown up in the interior part of Bohol, traveling on sea was quite an experience for me. I was so thrilled every time the banca rode the crest and trough of the big waves.

It was noon time when we touched the shores of Pitogo. What caught our attention were the cases of San Miguel beer, piled up high on one side of the crude pier. We found out later that the people had the tendency to live like one-day millionaires. Whatever they earned from fishing (we were told that they would even reach as far as Palawan and Batanes fishing), they would spend them everything on beer, as if there was no tomorrow to look forward to. Thus, beer was good business on the island.

At the parish rectory, we were welcomed by Fr. Boy Paloso. He was very warm and accommodating. He showed to us our room and told us to proceed to the dining for lunch. Although we hadn’t warmed up yet, so to speak, we were served beer. It was a good appetizer, we realized, especially with seafood on the table . . . nga maoy kinaham ug ampay gyud kaayo namo.

The round of beer during lunch was not the last. In fact, it was just the beginning, for the whole afternoon till evening, we were served more beer and more seafood. Of course, we enjoyed every bit of it to our hearts delight. Young and energetic, we were like hungry “lions waiting for someone to devour”.

The following day we woke up early and got ready for the mass where we were supposed to make our parish aid appeal.

Before the mass, I told Chris, "Ikaw na lay sulti kay daut bitaw ka, mas daghan ang maluoy. Mohatag gyud dayon."

But Chris protested, saying: “Haa…binuang! Luoy bitaw pud ka’g dagway, tunga ‘ta. Ako, first mass. Ikaw, second mass.” We agreed.

We appealed for support for the seminary during the two morning masses. We were given ten minutes each mass to deliver our piece about the responsibility of the faithful to help the seminary as it was the heart of the diocese.

Fr. Paloso informed us after the second mass that we would have our lunch at the beach. “Ugma namo sa buntag sayo mouli kay dili na ‘mo kaabot sa biyahe para Tagbilaran kun karon ‘mo mo-gikan,” he told us. We were more than willing to oblige.

And so we enjoyed the whole afternoon . . . on the beach. An endless course of seafood and supply of beer were served. It was a timeless moment, as we exchanged stories and jokes, unmindful of the prospect of going back to our structured and protected life in the seminary.

Early Monday morning, Chris and I left the island of Pitogo and traced our way back to the seminary. This time the trip was uneventful as we slept most of the time, dead tired after the weekend of adventure, work and pleasure.

We arrived at the seminary late in the afternoon, tired yet satisfied for we had fulfilled our task. We were welcomed by our classmates who were happy to see us back as we narrated to them our experiences in the island. For Chris and me, we knew Pitogo would remain on our minds, distant and idyllic. (Soc)

The Grandfather’s Clock

The Morning Prayer at the chapel was always a difficult time for many of us who were in high school. Although it must have been our senior year, we hadn’t really outgrown our dread of waking up early and walking absentmindedly to the chapel.

While others would prefer to take the auditorium, I would sometimes venture to the college building where an old grandfather’s clock stood on the second floor landing. A huge pendulum swung in front of three metal cylinders that acted as weights.

I was fascinated by the clock and enjoyed listening to its chime when it struck the hour. I don’t remember a glass protecting the pendulum and the interior gears, it must have been broken years before. So it was easy to tinker with interior parts.

Well, it sort of became a habit of mine to tug at the weights when the pendulum stopped swinging. I would gently nudge the pendulum and it would continue to tick.

One time noticed that I could actually make it chime by tinkering with the gears. I can’t remember which gear it was, but it worked. And how I loved to hear that sound!

One day I overheard some college students talking about being spooked one morning. They exchanged stories of the grandfather’s clock that sounded its chime sometimes endlessly and most often at odd hours in the morning.

I never had the chance to tell them I was responsible.
(nox arcamo)


A Brand of Brotherhood

Few understand the different brand of brotherhood that exists in IHMS.

It is not formalized by a blood compact, but it runs in the blood of an alumnus. Mao nga mahinangup--when one meets one.

It is not celebrated with pageantry, for it was forged in the silent companionship, like during siesta time when we conspire to stealthily escape from the dorm to enjoy the freedom of the outdoors . . . didto sa kalibunan or in silent prayer during times of difficulty.

It is not proven by physically hurting someone, like what fraternities do; but it goes beyond the pains that we share for having left family and friends behind and having had no one but each other to lend support.

It did not happen overnight. Rather, it was nurtured like a plant over time. Thus, it also survives time. No wonder, we talked to each other during the reunion as if everything happened yesterday. But come to think about it--it was our silver anniversary in 2005!

It is based on a common love for music--no, not the dumb, repetitive and hypnotic music of the young but the elegant classical music that that woke us up in the morning and soothed our soul.

It is expressed in unbridled boisterous laughter and even in no-holds-barred jokes that are oft-repeated, where one’s failures and weaknesses are exposed, accepted and even loved. And thus one can really be one self without pretensions.

It is also marked by a love for the quiet solitude.

It even makes us communicate with one another without words. Ask Jeffrey and Ram who can laugh at a piece of stick at the slightest hint or remembrance of a person. Or, Soc, Chris and Manuel at the mention of a single word.

Yes, there is a link that binds us together, which other people may not fully comprehend.

It is a different brand of brotherhood forged in a sequestered life inside the seminary, as we went through the pains and joys of growing up to adulthood in IHMS. (nox arcamo)


Our Tour of Bohol

When we were in Second Year College, we decided to go on a tour to visit the home of each member of the class.

It was the start of semester break in 1981. There were nine of us including Ram, who was already a Manila boy having transferred to UST Central Seminary that year. The members of the class were Jeffrey, Soc, Nick, Chris, Junior, Gents, Mario, and me.

We planned our itinerary by identifying the host in each stop: Nick in Duero, Mario in San Miguel, Soc in Sevilla, Jun in Bilar, and Nox and Jeffrey in Tagbilaran.

But first, before the tour, we had a class requirement to hurdle.

The Stage Play. Both our Pilipino and English class required us to write a full length play and to stage the play in the auditorium as part of our first semester requirements.

In our English class, our teacher divided us into two groups for the staging of the play. In our Pilipino class, we suggested to your teacher that we divided ourselves into two. Writing and staging one play for English and another one for Pilipino, we thought, was too taxing. So we had better ideas.

It was one of those moments when I was inspired to write. I wrote the script for our group. The other group asked if I could make a slight variation of the script for their group. Well, I decided to write another one for them. We then collaborated to translate the script to Pilipino for our Pilipino class. And that was how we hit two birds with one stone.

I cannot recall the titles or the exact storylines of both plays. But both were love stories--something we were poor at and sorely missed. Too bad we never bothered to keep a copy of the script for posterity.

But, I remember, our teachers were very pleased with our scripts and presentations, even if our minds were somewhere else.


Night swimming in Duero. Our first stop was Duero. We stayed in Nick’s house. To make our stay a little more memorable, he organized a basketball game against the locals. We thought it was a simple friendly game in a private court. We were not prepared for what greeted us. The basketball court was jam-packed with people anxious to see their local bets compete against the seminarians from the City. The first thing we noticed as we were warming up was the board and the ring. The ring was higher than usual. And it was much smaller than usual. The board too was narrower than usual. We couldn’t even hit the basket even while we were warming up and nobody was guarding us. We were already terrified at the prospect of losing. But we couldn’t back out for we were right smack in the middle of the spot lights.

In our team, only Jeffrey, Mario and Gents could really play serious basketball. The rest of us, because of our height, were only good at intimidating the opponent before the start of the game. In actual play, we were good substitutes when nobody else could play. Ram was intimidating because of his height and massive extremities; Nick, Junior, and Soc because of their looks. Chris and I were the lean players that neither looked intimidating nor competent to play.

Before the start, the locals wanted a 30-30-minute game time. But we protested and asked for a 20-20 because, we said, we were extremely tired from the trip. Ahh . . . pasumangil!

We put up an extremely good fight in the first two minutes. But after that, it was disaster. As expected it was a lopsided game . . . in their favor, of course. We couldn’t even hit the ring from the free throw line. As the minutes ground so slowly in the first half, we silently agonized and prayed for the clock to tick faster and faster and get it over with. On the bench some of us must have been dreaming of time travel. But there was the second half to contend with. As the locals exhibited their master at our expense, the cheering gradually subsided. Probably, pity must have settled in its stead. I don’t remember how it ended, but I remember feeling humiliated.

So we vented our frustration on the food and beer and tuba served by Nick's family. And we drowned our humiliation in the cold rough sea that greeted us that night. We stayed on the beach for a couple of hours only since it was so cold even with the bonfire.

We slept soundly that night, dead tired after a long trip and an embarrassing game of basketball.

The Walk to Tumok. Our next stop was San Miguel, which in mid afternoon was a ghost town. The place was literally deserted. We disembarked and looked around. It was so quiet. “Are we there yet?” We didn’t even know we had arrived. “Is this the town proper? Is this the market place? Where is the crowd?”

Mario pointed towards the west where a balsahan was “parked”. Balsahan was a crude cart with wooden wheels drawn by a huge cow. He told us that the balsahan would take us to Tumok. He estimated that if we were to start walking immediately, we would reach their house before sundown. (In my own estimate, a good two and a half hours walk.) I immediately noticed the way they measured time not by the hands of the clock but by the movement of the sun. I knew then that I was in another world.

A huge white cattle pulled the balsahan with our bags on it. I never thought cows could pull such a heavy load. Sometimes we would even ride on the balsahan. But we pitied the cow. After all, it was sacred in other parts of the world. We should also respect it.

The scenery was so stunning. It was so peaceful. We enjoyed every minute of the walk. Since the cow was so slow, we would walk ahead of the balsahan and scout the area looking for a beautiful spot. There was a slight mound where we could see the blue waters of Talibon. Some of us spent a few minutes enjoying the view, as the cow inched its way towards us.

The breeze was soothing as the sun moved down the horizon. San Miguel rested on high elevation. The road we traveled was gravel and meandering. There were no houses on the road side. I didn’t even recall encountering a single soul on the road. The afternoon was undisturbed. Except for the creaking sound produced by the balsahan, I swear that the other sound we heard was the rustling of the tall cogon grass.

The road winded through rolling plains. Near one of those hills, hidden by the tall grasses, Ram left a souvenir of himself. And he was quick enough to reach the balsahan before it turned the next bend.

It was almost dark when we finally arrived in Mario's house. We were famished, too. Chicken was hastily cooked and served. It was full moon and the wind was cold. The hot kinutil after dinner was superb. It soothed the tired mind to a restful sleep.

The following day, we were again scheduled to play a game of basketball against the locals. Not again! This time, we were well rested and didn’t have an excuse. Well, we thought we were in a strange world that measured time through the movements of the sun. They probably didn’t know much about basketball, too.

The locals were warming up at around 10AM when we arrived at the court. They stopped playing, obviously intimidated by our height and bearing. They literally gawked at us as we scrutinized the battlefield and kicked some dusts.

It was getting hot. The cement floor was uneven. But the basketball ring and the board were of the right height and size.

Ram stood out for his height. When he came to our side of the court, he jumped high to reach the ring and it quivered hard when his fingers touched it. He hasn’t even touched the ball yet. And the locals watching, gasped and gaped. They couldn’t believe they would be playing against an obviously superior visiting team.

We warmed up the way professionals do. The locals couldn’t get their acts together; they fumbled, for they were watching us. They were even ashamed of touching the ball. They just wanted to ogle.

Ram played center. The other team could field no one even slightly above his chin. Naturally, when the game started, we took first possession of the ball. I think we even scored the first shot. Now we were playing serious basketball.

Unfortunately, if I remember it correctly, that was the only time we threatened them. We never thought that, in such a far away place, they would play a good game of basketball--and teach us a lesson or two.

The rest of the game was easy--for them! Again, it was lopsided--in their favor. First half we wanted to surrender, but pride prevented us. We blamed the home court advantage. Then we blamed the heat of the sun at a high altitude. We were not used to it. It affected our bearing. Half time, they served cold buco (coconut) with milk (which must have been a specialty). We realized it was not good when you’re exposed to the heat of the sun. Our stomach churned. Napasmo intawon! But we held on to our pride. We could blame the ice-cold buko on a hot summer day, but we couldn’t quit.

I do not know how we finished the game, but all throughout we were all praying for a swift conclusion.

We shook their hands after the game, like real sportsmen. But deep within we were nursing our wounded pride. We promised never to show our face in that place again. That was also the last time that our batch played basketball as a team.

I can’t remember the hour of the day when we started our walk back to the sawang or poblation for I literally lost track of time. But it was afternoon. The walk back to “civilization”, as we joked, was quick and uneventful, except for the conflagration that Nick may have caused. A bush fire was said to have occurred that afternoon and into the night, the origin of which has remained a mystery to the people of Tumok until today. Luckily it was contained to a limited area and didn't cause any damage.

The Busay of Sevilla. Our next stop was Sevilla, where according to common belief the only flat surface is a table. We discovered for our selves that it was true. Even the Mesiona residence that stood a few meters from the roadside was hidden from view. For it was on a slight elevation a few meters from the road. And to get there, you have to climb a winding footpath. The area was forested and shadowy. The huge trees seemed to muffle the sounds that we made.

Fortunately for us, there was no basketball game scheduled in Sevilla. No, it was not because of the terrain but because Soc probably thought that we have had enough of humiliation in court already.

We visited the home of Soc’s friends. I am not sure if it was during this particular trip when I recall visiting a house at the farthest barrio of Sevilla. It was almost 6PM when we reached the house. I can’t remember whose house it was. But I remember hearing the distant clang of the church bell signaling the Angelus. There was a distinctive character in its sound with each peal prolonged, accented by another before the previous one totally faded. It was calming. The most beautiful church bell sound I had ever heard.

The highlight of our stopover in Sevilla was our picnic in Busay. It was the same river that dissected Loboc and emptied into the beaches of Loay. There was a white water rapid. But the current was not that strong since it was not raining. I really didn’t want to swim in a river, since I always had the impression that a muddy carabao somewhere upstream was bathing. But it was fun seeing the entire group in the water. I wanted to have a piece of the fun. So who cares about bathing carabaos upstream? Well, we had lunch there, and really had a great time.

On the road to Bilar. We were excited to visit Bilar since Junior had always been a good host and would provide an unlimited supply of cold beer. In general, the visit was uneventful since by then we were already tired from our trip. What I recall from this trip to Bilar was the overcrowded bus that we took going there. It rained hard when the bus started to negotiate the dangerous winding road with a deep ravine on the right side. An old man with a sack of goods boarded and couldn’t sit. The good-hearted Ram offered the old man his seat. The old man thanked Ram, “Ang Dios lang ang magbayad sa imoha, doy!” Ram who was always quick with a repartee joked with the old man, “Ngano man diay, Nong? Utangan ba diay ang Diyos sa imo nga Sija man ang imong pabayron?” Junior heard the comments and the boisterous laughter was unstoppable, if not scandalous. The old man also laughed upon seeing them laugh.

Last stop in Tagbilaran. Our last stop was Tagbilaran. We didn’t plan to stay overnight. But it was there where we planned to split up and go on our separate ways. I am not sure if it was during this time when Ram, Soc, Jeffrey and I were at my house in the afternoon. If I remember if correctly, we were supposed to hear mass at the Cathedral. A nice, fitting activity to end the fun-filled tour. We changed to more decent clothes. Ram and Jeffrey borrowed leather shoes from me. We were walking towards the Cathedral when Jeffrey complained about the stones on the road. He moved away from the edge of the road. He felt the same way and when he looked at the pair of shoes he was wearing one was flat and black, the other light colored with high soles. We started laughing as we accompanied him back to the house to change shoes. We reached the Cathedral in time for the mass. We met the others there. I guess that was how we culminated our tour that semester break. (nox arcamo)

The Name of the Brotherhood

It was like any ordinary evening in the seminary, just after supper. The seminarians were leisurely relaxing. The studious ones spent their free time in the study hall. Others went to the chapel to visit the Blessed Sacrament. Still others preferred watching the PBA game on TV. But not for Nick, Rene and me who had something else in mind. We had earlier agreed to spend the evening somewhere else, on the roof garden, to do something else, an initiation rite.

I cannot recall how we came up with the idea. But the initiation was the first move towards solidifying the triumvirate. Call it a clique stemming from an adolescent craving for belongingness. We wanted to call it a fraternity. Ok, it was a fraternity but one thing was sure. We never planned to do anything illegal. Honestly. We just wanted to strengthen our bond of friendship.

So while everyone was busy doing his own thing that evening, we were also doing our own at the roof garden. And the timing was perfect because the place was quiet and dimly lit. Nobody was there, not even Gene who was a regular visitor. Only the stars, the moon, the fishermen’s lantern in a far off distance, and the electric lights from the city were sole witnesses.

Rene acted as the leader as he explained the mechanics of the initiation. There was no hazing of sort. Only some rituals of commitment to the so-called fraternity or brotherhood which I cannot recall now how it was done. The ritual did not take us long. Perhaps only about twenty minutes. We ended with a commitment to keep the fraternity a secret, even to our classmates. (In fact, we did, until right now as I write this.) As a sign of our new-found secret brotherhood we had a special handshake that we used whenever and wherever we meet.

That evening happened when we were in second year high school. I doubt if we were ever serious about what we did that evening. In fact, we never bothered to renew the ritual. But what would last after that quiet evening at the roof garden was the special handshake and of course the friendship that would continue even when we parted ways after graduating from high school.
By the way, we never even had a name for our group. (soc)

A Spiritual Camping in Bilar

Our tour in 2nd year college left an indelible mark in our hearts. So the following year, 1983, when we were in our 3rd year, we decided to go on an outing in the forest of Bilar.

The first time we asked permission, we used “camping” as a reason. But we were declined. So we brainstormed and thought hard to find a convincing reason. Days later, we approached our superior again and told him that we were going on a “spiritual camping” to discern our vocation. It was approved.

There were only seven of us in the batch, namely, Jeff, Junior, Gents, Chris, Mario, Soc and me.

So off we went to Bilar, specifically to Camp Magsaysay. There was an eerie feeling when we entered the narrow pathway leading to the camp. It was dark because of the foliage that covered the path. Dried leaves crackled under our feet. The air was moist and cold.

We carried a couple of air gun with us. I had my trusty tirador (slingshot) with me.

The place was so quiet; the birds nonchalant and unconcerned as we tried hard to shoot at them and missed.

We tried anything to entertain ourselves in the wilderness. We shouted as hard as we could. We explored the place. We made shooting targets out of beer cans. There were two Israeli tourists who visited the camp in the morning. We made friends with them, by inviting them to our makeshift shooting range. They were great shooters. We learned later that they both served in the military.

Later that day, Chris devised a lit-ag (trap) for the chicken that wondered in the vicinity. It was dusk when his trap caught a haw (iguana). Gents and Mario were our expert chefs. They cooked and served it for dinner. They said it tasted like chicken. For me, it looked like a giant lizard and must have tasted like lizard. So I didn’t partake of it.

We built a bonfire and gathered around it. We talked and drank beer. For coffee, Chris was again at his elements. He took an empty beer can, put rice inside, and placed it over the fire until the rice turned black. Then he poured water into it, heated it some more and--lo and behold--we had coffee for the night. The taste was wonderful even without sugar.

In Magsaysay camp, there was a Marcos-prefab building with chairs and tables. We settled in one of the rooms, using the tables for our bed. The night was bitterly cold. And we didn’t have blankets and mosquito nets to protect us from the cold and the insects. But we slept soundly nonetheless.

The following day we had to replenish our water jug. So we walked all the way to Tabel Store. But instead of filling it with water, we decided to fill it with beer. We stayed until afternoon until it was time to go home.

There was really nothing spiritual about the camping, except for the spirits we consumed. (nox arcamo)


An Examined Life

In our youth, we were always told that life was a journey. From and to where we were going--we always took that for granted with an easy, un-reflected answer.

And yet, this spiritual questioning cannot be more meaningful as our batch reaches middle age, puts on more weight, and becomes more conscious of blood pressure and cholesterol.

This becomes even more significant as we hear of Roland’s mild stroke, Jun’s arthritis, Soc’s high cholesterol, Arnold’s psoriasis, and several other illnesses revealed during the batch reunion last December.

Back then, in IHMS, we were more conscious of our earthly journey as the world seemed to open up to us with all its possibilities. A vocation--for others, a career,--forked ahead of us. It took a Jones, who was one batch ahead of us, to awaken us from stupor with a single-word question in the yearbook--“Why?”

We were amused and may even have taken it less seriously. But deep within we knew that it held the reason for our life decision on how we would live our lives.

Of course, not all of us went through the deliberate motion of deciding to become a priest or a professional or whatever. There were others who simply went with the flow, like seaweeds in the ocean, going to where the current would take them.

Now, at past 40 and facing the challenges of the other half of our life, we are confronted once more with the same life question that Jones asked decades ago. And we know that we have to continue searching for its meaning in our life, if only to make our life worth living and believe what the ancient Philosopher Socrates once said that “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

The batch reunion last December 2005 afforded us that chance to look back at your life--from the IHMS to the present--and wonder how our life took shape in the decisions we made or did not make.

This blog also affords us that same chance to look at our life stories inside the seed box and reflect with new perspectives. This is our way of examining our life.

We may not reach with scientific finality the conclusion in our quest to answer that question, contrary to what the physicist Stephen Hawking said to end his recent lecture that “We are getting closer to answering the age-old questions: Why are we here? Where did we come from?"

But our conduct during the life journey itself is what counts and our humble contemplation before His grandeur is what would make our life meaningful.

It is our constant hope that with this newsletter, we have helped you reflect on your life. (nox arcamo).


The Gang Leader

SY 1977-78. He was in first year, one year behind us. From the start, it was apparent that he didn’t fit in the seminary. His heart belonged outside. His classmates were not his friends. He had other friends--his gang mates outside. He was said to come from a rich family. He was aloof. Spoiled, I would say. He was the leader of a gang of bike riders.

On one occasion, there was an afternoon activity in the Cathedral. The seminarians, in neat white polo and black pants, participated. In the confusion that ensued there were high school students that strayed from the main group. Based on account, there was a first year high school student that was threatened by this gang of bike riders. The accounts were sketchy. Was it Katiw or someone else? We couldn’t be sure. But the emotions ran high. Everyone wanted to have a piece of those bike riders for threatening one of our kind.

A few days later, on a weekday, when the first morning class just started, the group wondered into the seminary compound, probably to pay their leader a visit. Bad move. We were in the class of Mr Al, a new teacher from San Carlos University, who came in the middle of the school year to replace Ms Joy. (And boy, did he impress us tremendously? He astounded us with his philosophical reflections on why a flower is a sign of femininity and a symbol of masculinity. The likes of Leodegario and Loel found comfort in those words.)

It was in the middle of this discussion when we spotted them enter the gates as a formidable army of bikers.

In less than a minute, we heard a commotion as we saw the individual bikers running for their lives, elbowing each other to get past the huge gate that a couple of seminarians were trying to close hoping to trap them inside. In the heat of the moment, Leodegario leapt from his seat, climbed the window and jumped. He was anxious to join the fray. The others were less “barbaric” and used the door. We were after all teenagers and acted our age, doing something that we would feel ashamed of in the future.

Everyone seemed to lust for blood, wanting to join the brawl. But there was no one left; the bikers had scuttled like dogs nursing their tail between their legs. Frustrated, we all went back to class. Professor Al was speechless. In a split second, a class that appeared to be tamed and refined suddenly turned warlike barbarians lusting for blood. He trained his sights on Leodegario who jumped out of the window. He castigated him, in straight English. We were impressed all the more.

As for the bikers, they never set foot on the seminary grounds again. I don’t know if their leader lasted the entire year. But he certainly didn’t return the following year. (nox arcamo)


The Lonely Road

Many a classmate and friend find the articles in Scriptum entertaining and insightful. According to them, the articles both make them laugh and cry at the same time. They are reminded of that period in their lives--of a time that holds so many memories of a place, of a separate peace.

Perhaps that is a common sway to all those who have trudged the hallowed grounds of our IHMS.

The articles are no mere chronicle of secular and trivial events, but rather of a sublime life journey with God.

We moved in the crowd. We made memories together. But alongside that road--the events chronicled in these pages--is a lonely path that only the individual can walk with God. Indeed our journey was a walk, not unlike the road to Emmaus. It was a journey we young hearts took while discerning the will of God for each one of us.

We laughed with each other; exchanged stories. We were always together, and sought each other. We set common activities together. But in the silence of our hearts we knew we were journeying alone with God. We had to make our own life choices. We had to set our own vision and future path.

It was something that had to be taken.

The stories we weaved were significant distractions in life. Behind each story is a story of awakening, of growing, of finding God in our life.

This is what makes our stories poignant. It speaks of the lonely path that we had to take. It tells of the truth. And it tells of the beauty of traveling down that path with our God.

The journey continues several years after IHMS. The individual sharing during our class reunion confirms that.

We only hope that we will discern His presence in our continuing journey and remain faithful to Him in the end . . . at least, until we meet again for the next reunion. (nox arcamo)

And So Quietly He Passed

Four years we lived with him under one roof. But we never really got to know him that deeply. He kept to himself and to the few intimate friends he felt comfortable with. Well, he must have uttered no more than a hundred words all throughout to those not close to him.

He was not aloof. He was simply low key, preferring to remain quiet and unrecognized in the group. In fact, he was kind and unpretentious--a person without guile.

He never got angry with anyone. Nobody bothered to tease him or call him names. He was that inconspicuous. He could enter and leave the room without catching any one’s attention.

He was not the type who caused trouble to the group. Neither was he uncooperative. Instead he always participated in the group, even if at times the group may have taken him for granted. Nonetheless, he remained faithful to the class.

He must have had simple needs and simple dreams. He became an engineer and found a decent job in Manila. A simple life for a simple person. And life came to a close at such a young age. God must have other plans for him.

So, in November of 2004--and in the same manner as he lived his life among us in High School--Samuel passed away… quietly. (nox arcamo)


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 mohatag 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, “Nangawat mig 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 of 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 First Mass

It was the summer of our first year in college in 1981. Fr Silex was the Kura of Taloto and he instituted an experimental way of managing a parish. He established the sobre system, wherein parishioners contributed using a sobre (letter envelop) and in exchange get all sacraments for “free”--that is, without the usually corresponding fee or “donation”. Thus, KBL or Kasal-Bunyag-Lubon libre.

It was my first pairing with Junior who would eventually become a perennial partner in several misadventures.

One of the tasks assigned to us was to gather the people of Peñaflor for an anticipated mass. It was one of the efforts of Fr Silex to bring the holy mass closer to the people. And there he would explain the mechanics of the system.

Junior and I spent the entire day visiting the houses near Peñaflor, telling them of the mass. We started our long walk at the intersection near the Taloto church. Like Mormons--except that we were in denims, T-shirt and rubber shooes--we braved the summer sun.

Jovil was supposed to be with us, but being several years older had other important things to do and couldn’t join us. We were expecting another one, a special class student, who was supposed to arrive that day.

In one of the homes we visited, there were three young ladies in the sala. They were kind enough to offer us water and invite us inside and listen to our invitation to the mass. We only realized they were non-Catholics when we were about to leave.

We continued on our way towards the main highway. People were receptive to our invitation. The holy mass was supposed to be held right in front of the Veloso residence. But it was transferred to a vacant space across the street, under the coconut trees, when we realized that there would be more people coming than expected.

We prepared the altar with the help of the people in the vicinity. They provided the table, white mantil and chairs. It was the bayanihan spirit in action. They were excited to have a mass right in their neighborhood.

The special class seminarian turned out to be Morj who came on board a tricycle. He was on his way to the seminary but decided to join when he saw us. The moment he arrived, and before he could utter any word, we asked him to help carry the chairs. Looking so clean and crisp and covered in sweet perfume, Morj must have felt revulsion looking at the two haggard-looking seminarians who were sweating and reeking of foul earth.  That must have shocked him. He carried a couple of chairs, and we did not know what happened to him after that. We just saw him fled aboard the first available tricycle that passed and never returned.

The anticipated mass started at 6:00pm. Our efforts seemed rewarded at the turnout. There were many people in attendance. All the available seats were taken. There was nothing unusual in the mass, except that for Junior and me, it was a solemn and memorable one.

NB: We haven’t gone back to the site for a mass. But we heard that there had been several masses after that one. A chapel was built right in front of the Veloso residence where masses were held. (nox arcamo)