2008/01/10

Bridging the Distance

We have always been fascinated with time. This has been a recurring theme in many of our previous issues.

In fact, our favorite Latin phrase must have been, “Tempus fugit” (time flies), as this has appeared many times in the messages we exchange in our eGroup.

This time, with this issue, we tackle our other fascination--distance. For in the past, we have always talked of “moving on” and of “going away to a distant place”. And in fact, most of us have followed our own path and have arrived in this place where we are now, so far away from the walls of IHMS. Yet, we know that no matter how far we have traveled, we are really not that far from our home, from our beloved Alma Mater.

The Internet has bridged distance substantially. It's amazing how it bridges both distance and time. We should therefore make use of this tool in bridging the divide that separates us from each other. This can even be a way of bringing back time--time when we were young and carefree in the IHMSeminary.

Thus, in this same spirit of bridging distance and time, we will be launching Scriptum on the Internet starting with this issue of Scriptum. From hereon, we will save the trees and use this medium to continue the "storytelling" that we always loved to exchange. We hope you will continue enjoying every issue of Scriptum. (msa)

2008/01/08

Waiting for Mass

Just across the St Joseph Cathedral, along J.A. Clarin St in Tagbilaran, stood an old quaint house owned by the Ceballos family.

There was a small patio with a garden set under the shade of a solitary kaimito tree.

In the late 70's I remember sitting on a steel chair, watching the children in the playground and the churchgoers just across the street. Traffic was very light then. Noise produced by tricycle was not as bad. Most families would prefer to walk to church in their Sunday’s best. I used to walk to church with my family from our house, which was around 700 meters away. My brother and I--in clean, well-pressed bush jackets--would walk ahead of my 3 sisters and my parents.

It was not unusual to see Jecebu sitting on the chair waiting for the next mass to start. A few times, I would join him there and we would talk as we waited for mass. Even after high school, when Jecebu decided to take up medicine in Cebu, I would still pass that house on my way to the church and I could imagine Jecebu sitting there, waiting for the mass.

Several years after I left Tagbilaran, I heard news that the house burned down. The house is no longer there. In its place stands an appliance store. But I can still picture the view of the Cathedral from there. (nox)

Always a Traveler

I always loved to travel. I used to travel with my mother to the far-flung barrios in the interior part of Bohol, when I was in grade school. I remember keeping tab of the kilometer posts on the road and wondering how those people ended up in those far and God-forsaken places.

What decision did their parents or forefathers make that brought them there. And I would put myself in their shoes and think of the decisions my forefathers made that brought me to where I was, in a tiny island of Bohol. Why Bohol, of all places!

On many occasions, I would see a nipa hut in the middle of a rice field and wondered how it was to live life in such a lonely place. A solitary figure would stare out from a window, watching us pass by, and I would wonder how life was to this person and how life would be in the future. My thoughts would bring me to that nipa house and I would wonder how things would be if I were the one sitting there, wondering how life would be for that little boy inside the vehicle watching out through the car's window. I would imagine where it came from and where it would be going.

As I grew older, traveled long distances, and sometimes lived for a while in distant places, I came to realize that distance is relative. A place you deem far away can be near to another place.

I have former colleagues who work and live in Quezon City that I haven't seen since I left that organization in 1993. On the other hand, I get to meet former classmates in high school when I visit Bohol almost every year.

When I left to enter the Jesuit novitiate in May 1985, my sisters, Virgie and Estela, saw me off at the Mactan International Airport. And since the novitiate was cloistered, communication with the outside world was going to be limited. I was bound for a distant place, we were all aware. That’s why it was difficult for me to turn my back and leave them outside the terminal. That image has remained in my mind. In fact, the place I was going to was so far away. I would only be seeing my sister Estela only 3 times after that, before she would die of leukemia in 2002 at the age of 42.

I have lived in different places since that time in 1985, places that I thought in college to be so far away. Even now that I have settled down with my own family, I still feel that I am a traveler. And I bring them with me wherever I go. I do not know where this wandering will eventually take me and my family. But I know that I will always be a traveler. (msa)

2008/01/07

Doing a Practical Thing

The subject was Practical Arts. It was one subject that we high schoolers never had serious thought of getting high grades. Nonetheless it was a subject we liked most for obvious reason. There were no long, boring lectures. There was nothing to memorize. And no grueling written exams to take. Above all there was no fear of failure as long as we are present. The only requirement was to do a practical thing . . . gardening.

Yes, our Practical Arts was gardening. It was done near the basketball court--a perfect location for those who liked basketball. And since playing basketball was a first-come-first-serve basis it was convenient when sports period came. Unlike some abusive seniors who had no qualms of bullying the younger ones in order to get a slot in the court, we who were first year high school had to earn it by being ahead of time. Thus, many were happy that the site for gardening was beside the basketball court.

Gardening time was one hour in the afternoon, three times a week. Though time was specified, some would love doing it almost every day, especially those who had no inclination in sports. It was a good avenue to creatively release one’s extra energy, which we had so much of as teenagers.

The person who would easily come to mind when I recall our Practical Arts class is Mr. Labis, our teacher. Who could forget him? Not me especially because I was almost hit by a flying eraser that he threw at me when I was caught talking with somebody in the middle of his lecture.

Neatly groomed, with his patented well-combed and shiny hair, Mr. Labis was always the prime mover for us to connect with Mother Earth. As a devoted teacher, he would always be seen standing in front of us, like a kapatas who would be ready to call our attention when we were caught engaging in idle talk. I remember him telling us early on to plant something which we could bring to the kitchen later. He suggested that we plant pechay, eggplant or tomato.

It was Leodegario--if my memory serves me right--who once interrupted him with this question, “Pwede’g monggos sir?” With a sarcastic smile and his trademark intonation that drops the first syllable and the last two syllables in his sentence, our teacher answered, “Ahh… tinapulan kana!” His remark generated a hearty laugher from all of us.

Gardening was also a good activity to release stress. Although I would say that the term stress was not part of our vocabulary then. In fact the atmosphere was very relaxed. By stress I mean the absence of strict rules. For in the field, there were no strict rules regarding silence. We were free to talk while working in our assigned area. It was a time each one could vie for airtime and share a piece of joke that would usually elicit jeers and laughter from everybody. Jokes that until now we keep repeating and never get tired of.

Thus, gardening was one of those times when we easily forgot about living in a much regimented life inside the four walls of the seminary.

But the most interesting part of gardening was when our plants were starting to grow. During that period many of us would visit our garden more often to water the plants and inspect for insects. Taking care of the growing plants was like caring a pet. We had to allot extra time in order to see to it that they were healthy and in good condition.

Interest and joy in gardening peaked during harvest time. It gave us a feeling of fulfillment in seeing the fruits of our labor. And when we brought our harvest to the kitchen, we knew that would also make Nang Feliza and Nong Tanciong happy.

For us Practical Arts was a past time and not a serious endeavor to get high grades. Perhaps the deeper reason why we did not consider Practical Arts as a serious subject then was the thought that can be summed up in the words of one classmate, “Ahh.. kinahanglan ba god diay ni aron ta ma pari?

Nonetheless, we enjoyed every moment of it. Though taken for granted in the beginning, I’m sure we realized later that doing a practical thing, like gardening, is an art that we need to master in order to survive and even succeed in whatever option in life we take -- including the priesthood! (soc)