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)