Something Unsettling

Remember life in the seminary at the start of the calendar year?

It was a period when the cool breeze gradually gave way to sultry air and we became excited of summer.

There was the excitement for vacation, without the structure of seminary life. We could be with our family again. We could meet old friends back home and new friends in the apostolate area. And boy, did we enjoy those times, during summer. We lived like real, ordinary teenagers. We even serenaded the beautiful girls in town, especially when the moon was full.
But for those who were graduating, a sense of anxiety hung in the air. Questions remain unanswered as we procrastinated with our decision: Where will I go after this? Am I really called to the priesthood? Should I proceed? Should I just take a year off? Should I take another course? Should I marry that wonderful girl I met the other summer? What will happen to me years from now? Where will I be?

These questions hung like tiny Damocles swords waiting to drop and change our lives. We knew we had to move on. With less guidance on the discernment of spirits, some of us procrastinated, waiting for events to decide for us: Kun madawat, modayon gud! Kun dili madawat, ah dili pud.

So for us then, the start of the calendar year also ironically ushered in an unsettling anxiety of the approaching close of the school year. It sought our attention even if we brushed it aside. Remember that feeling as you read through the articles in this issue. (msa)


A Surreal Island Escape

There is something surreal about my recollection of Mantatao Island, just off the coast of Calape, as the images in my mind appear to be dour and dreary.

It was a Saturday in January 1984 during a Monthly Going Home. Our senior class received an invitation from Yves to an island in Calape. We thought it was a great time for our class to be together during the few remaining months before our college graduation.

Before we left for Calape, we brought a Jesuit priest to the pier. He was in Bohol to screen and interview Nox for the Society of Jesus. After seeing hi off, we took a bus to Calape, minus Jeffrey who said that he would follow later.

Yves was a great host. He knew how to provide for our needs. And so while waiting for Jeffrey, we drank beer. There were no cell phones yet in 1984. Not even a telephone line in Calape. Thus there was no way of knowing if Jeffrey was coming or not. We waited till 4pm.

Outside, it was drizzling, the sky overcast. It was not a good time to travel. We would have opted to just stay put in the house and cuddle up. But we had plans and had to go. So we went to the quay, at the back to the Calape municipal building. There was Soc, Gents, Mario, Chris and I. Well, of course, Yves, our host, came with us and a couple of his friends.

We boarded a pumpboat and were on our way to the island, with Nong Avid at the steer. The waves were high and bumpy. The wind was cold. Visibility was only up to a few meters since it was drizzling. Water would splash the boat. We were wet, but we never bothered. Missionary life in the future would be more difficult than this, we thought.

The driver had difficulty pointing the prow towards the wave so as not to hit the boat sideways. The motor engine would sputter as it navigated the crest. We thought it would conk out and wouldn't start. But it would miraculously recover as it rode the waves.

We should have been worried for our safety. But I never entertained those thoughts. I felt that God was present and that we had a great future as workers in Christ’s vineyard. No warm would come our way.

Ingents the most hardy of the group said he was drunk and had stomach ache.

It was dusk when we touched shore. It took more than 45 minutes to get there due to the strong current. We thanked God for the safe journey. Though the water was cold, Ingents jumped and dipped himself waist-high even before we dropped anchor. He told a joke and laughed at himself. His stomach ache, according to him, disappeared.

Mantatao Island was so small, and it was sparsely dotted with coconut trees here and there. There were only around 10 huts and you could see the shores of both sides of the island. There was no electricity naturally. Lampara and petromax were the only sources of light. But the people seemed contented with life.

We stayed in the house of Nong Mamer. While waiting for dinner to be served, for there was nothing else to do, Chris and Arce (Yves' friend) went to out for a chat and some food.

It was dark and drizzling and the wind cool. Ingents decided to jog around the island which took him only around 10 minutes. He was panting, probably from a stomache that refused to disappear.

Just before 7pm, we went to Nong Mamer’s house for dinner. But Gents was still out. So Chris and I volunteered to look for him. We found him in Nong Avid's house eating and laughing and drinking. We thought he had a terrible stomachache. They seemed to be having a good time. They invited us to join, so we did.

After a few minutes, Soc and Mario arrived looking for us. We also invited them to join. After a few shots of beer, we walked back together. We were starving.

We had lunch of tinulang manok and a few sea foods. We ate on the bamboo floor. Then we had more beer to protect us from the cold wind. Gents was bothersome. He was probably intoxicated. Stayed up till the wee hours until only Yves, Mario, Nong Mamer, a couple of islanders including one who owned the guitar, and I were left awake. At 2am we slept. We woke up at 7am for breakfast and thought of taking a dip. But the water was cold and the sky still cloudy and dark. We left the island at around 9am and gave P100 to Nong Mamer.

The boat ride was uneventful, the waves not as turbulent as the day before. At the quay, we rode dump truck to the market where we waited for a bus bound for Tagbilaran. We were all wearing dirty shorts and shirts. But we didn’t mind.

The bus we took was so slow. So we decided to disembark in Loon. We surprised, Tess, our teacher whose house was located beside the Loon church. We had lunch there.

After lunch we took another bus and went to the seminary. From there I went home, took a bath, and then went to the cathedral to hear mass with Soc, Chris and Mario. We dropped by Rose Restaurant for a quick beer. Then I went back home alone.

It was almost 5:30PM when Papa brought me to the seminary. I disembarked at the gate where I met local girl and her friends. I proceeded to my room in Dorm A to deposit my things.

Dusk settled in as the bells signaled the Angelus.

It must have been the dark overcast clouds that painted a dreamlike, almost Kafkanian, shade in my recollection of Mantatao island. (nox)

Curly tops and Beer (An Afternoon in Baclayon)

It was one of the final Sunday outings on our final year in college, around a month after our Mantatao experience in 1984. We decided to spend some time together on a Sunday afternoon.

Unlike in the previous outings, Jeffrey and I, both Tagbilaran residents, were no longer keen on spending Sunday afternoons with our family. At the back of our minds, we knew that soon our class would be going on our separate ways and that our remaining days together were numbered.

So after lunch at the seminary, Jeffrey went home to get a vehicle. I went home to deliver my laundry. There were classmates who went with me and some went with Jeffrey. I cannot remember who went with Jeffrey and who went with me. I only recall waiting for Jeffrey at home.

If I recall it correctly, our class was complete that day. Other than Jeffrey and me, there were Mario, Soc, Chris, and Gents. Just enough to fit in the car that Jeffrey drove.

Along the way, we bought canned San Miguel beer and Curly Tops chocolate. Then we proceeded to Baclayon which is around 7 km from Tagbilaran.

In front of the famous church was a seawall. We parked the car near the pier that jutted out of the seawall, carving a pathway that led to the lighthouse. There were sprig pine trees that line the seawall. We looked for a nice shady spot at the back of the one storey structure, and there we sat on the concrete sea wall, dangling our legs over the side.

The shade of the sprig tree was cool in February, as an occasional spray of water touched our skin. The sun shone brightly that afternoon--a perfect day to enjoy the sea. And there were no people to disturb us. Not a soul stirred. Only an occasional hum of buses on their way to the eastern or interior part of the province would break the silence. It was a perfect day to waste time with close friends who would soon be parting ways.

The beer was no longer cold. But nobody noticed. We were more interested in the companionship, the conversation, and even the occasional silence that prompted us to watch the sky and listen to the rushing sea. We talked about our dreams and what we planned to do next after graduation--over promises to keep in touch.

We lost track of time, until the sun was nestled in the horizon. It was time to go back to the seminary for it was past 5:00PM. (nox)

Remembering Cecil A

Cecil A, to distinguish him from Cecile R who was also our classmate, was from Dipolog and was the first of three from our batch in the seminary to pass away. We have been told that he drowned on an Easter Sunday while trying to save his girlfriend when their boat capsized during an outing. His girlfriend survived. He did not. A true hero.

Cecil was an original classmate from first year high school. Thus, we were together with him during those growing years of our life.

I remember him to be a fine, friendly, good-looking and intelligent person. If I may recall he was a consistent honor student from first year to fourth year high school.

Cecil was not only good in academics. He was also into sports and music. He played ping pong and represented the school in the provincial meet. Likewise, he could play the guitar and was known for his plucking ability. His favorite singers were Simon and Garfunkel.

As the class monitor, I could easily remember him because his name was first in the list. As such he would always be first when it comes to assignments of study table, lockers or bed. He would also be first when we were asked to make a report in class.

Even if he came from a prominent family (his father was the provincial engineer who became the vice-governor of Zamboanga del Norte), he never used his status and political privilege to demand special treatment from us, his peers and classmates.

In the seminary community, Cecil was called “Walwal”. It was because he was fond of saying “Walwal sad ninyo oy!”. He did not like the name at first. But he became used to it and tolerated it.

When we were in third year high school, Cecil’s mother died. I know it was a very painful and devastating episode in his life, yet he handled it with grit and courage, a sign of his strong inner character.

In fourth year high school, Cecil was the first platoon leader of Alpha Company in our CAT class. (The other platoon leaders were Loel, myself, and another one.) Although lean in stature, he surely could demand respect from his fellow cadets.

After high school, Cecil, together with Rene, went off to San Jose Seminary in Ateneo de Manila. But after a year in San Jose he must have found out that priesthood was not his vocation. He left the seminary and took up engineering in Cebu. Since then we never heard much from him.

The last time I saw Cecil was in 1989 at the tarmac of Davao International Airport on my way for a holy retreat. He was working then as ground personnel of Philippine Airlines. We did not have much time to talk since he was on duty and I was only passing by.

The next time I heard of him was the news of his tragic death. He was supposed to return to Davao from a long holy week vacation in Dipolog when he met his untimely death.

Cecil is most remembered for the startling brevity of his life. He was just starting to build his career path when he died at a very young and tender age of 26. He could have been one of those from our batch who would climbed the ladder of success had he survived. But his destiny did not allow it. He had to die in order for his girlfriend to live.

Cecil literally lived up to the saying, “He died so that others may live.” Ironically, however, he did it on an Easter Sunday. (soc)


Da Jounce Code

When we were in junior high school, we almost fought a bloody battle with our seniors. (See Scriptum #12) In college, it was a different story. We were very close to the batch. In fact, we enjoyed common activities together and even shared common secrets. One of those was the dawn jogging.

It was entirely voluntary, of course, otherwise we would have detested every second of it like we used to do in ROTC.

Jogging was usually during the unholy hour of 3:00AM. We were adolescents then. We had the stamina to go with our enthusiasm.

Since we had regular members, we decided, from out of the blue, to form a club.

No, it was not a formal decision. It merely started as a joke during an after meal conversation. Somebody suggested calling our group the Jones Joggers. We all laughed at the suggestion. But the name stuck.

There was no particular reason for the choice of name, except perhaps that Jones was a member. (See Scriptum #9 for story on how Jones got his name Jones.)

Jones didn’t like the idea of using his name for the group, and he was insistent on us dropping it.

So, the group gave in. We decided to drop the name Jones from the name and called ourselves the Jounce Rocker instead of Jones Joggers.

We had difficulty convincing him that it didn’t refer to him in particular, even if it may sound the same. He capitulated after a while.

So that was how our jogging club became Jounce Rocker, without the “Jones” in it.

A good mix of juniors and seniors were the regulars: Soc, Mario, Jeffrey, Ping, Bobong, Gents, Chris, Pioux, Stephen, I, and, of course, JunTabs, for reasons you may already have known from an article written by Soc (See Scriptum #9). There were others who would join but were not as regular.

The route was constant. We would meet near the avocado tree between 3:00AM to 3:30AM.

Then, we would start jogging towards Taloto chapel. I always had a soccer ball with me while jogging. Sometimes I would pass ball with Ping.

We would take the road going to Penaflor. But we would make a detour, across a grassy pathway towards the airport runaway. There, JunTabs would rendezvous with a friend.

From the airport, we would proceed to the Cogon market. There was one carinderia owned by the Concepcion family that we frequented. The girls were particularly nice to us, too. We would wake them up and ask for hot chocolate. They would sleepily prepare the hot water and tabliya.

One time, we were asking ourselves why it had become usual to drink hot beverage in the morning. Who dictates that people should drink hot chocolate in the morning? We asked ourselves. Our dislike for authority (naturally since we were all in our adolescence), became apparent in the ensuing discussion.

There is more sugar in a cold halo-halo than in a hot cup of chocolate, one of us would say. Another would mention that sugar heats the body. Then, again, from out of the blue, one would suggest that we should eat cold halo-halo for a change instead of drink hot chocolate.

So that cold early morning, the Concepcion sisters got the shock of their lives when we ordered halo-halo.

At first, we observed if our body would reject the food. It didn’t. So that started the new tradition of eating halo-halo at 4:00AM.

That was one of the reasons why we frequented the Concepcion carinderia. It was the only one that served halo-halo that early. And, there was another reason why. Chris would be able to explain in greater detail when you remind him of these syllables: TO-SI-HA.

Do you want to know what it means? Well, on second thought I guess those cryptic syllables should remain a mystery and better left that way--a secret, a la Da Vinci Code, to be kept between us . . . the junior and senior class of school year 1982-83. (nox)