2006/02/10

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. (msa).

2006/02/07

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. (msa)