Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hocus Focus

corridorsOur class of Sacraments in FTG started with the wild ideas on how did the sacraments started and the weird things that we believe in since the very start. I remember Pepe discussing about hocus focus, about magic. Is there really magic in the sacraments or sacramentals when we receive them or do them?

I was reminded of these questions in the sacrament class because of some incidents that have occurred during these past three weeks of being here in the mission. The first incident was during the Wednesday mass with the Claret School students and teachers. One of the altar boys peeped on the tabernacle and upon seeing that  there are only few hosts being kept there, he innocently added a handful unconsecrated host to the consecrated ones. So as when Julius opened the ciborium when he came to the communion rite of the liturgy, lo and behold, a multiplication of bread had occurred.

Julius knew that there are already few hosts left so he was surprised. I started to laugh at the back of the church when I realized too what have had occurred. I was waiting on what he was planning to do. Perhaps he will just dip it into wine, or will not give the communion, or separate the consecrated ones. But how? Finally he just gave the mixed unconsecrated and unconsecrated hosts to the faithful since we do not know which of them are consecrated and those that are not.  The consecrated ones could just mix up with the rest then the rest are converted to consecrated ones. What’s that, a salad dressing? What a blooper we have just here. The following day, he just consecrated and re-consecrated the hosts. I do not know if there’s such term as that since I have never heard that in class.

Then just yesterday fourteen students from the school, four of them were catholics and the rest were muslims, and a muslim school teacher were inhabited by bad spirits. All of them fainted, talking in different languages than the ones they knew and talking about strange stories. All of them had convulsions. The four christian students were brought to the church and the rest were sent home to their families. Some of the non-christians asked for the chrism that were given to the four. But I started to wonder how would exorcism take effect on them if I would think of the theology behind the sacramental act. Will it really take effect on a non-christian? At once I remembered Pepe and that hocus focus day in class.

Is it really magic that drives away bad spirits or is it the faith of the one who is driving away the spirit or the faith of a possessed individual? I hope this blog entry would reach our professor in Sacraments in Spain so that he could  give some pastoral explanations. Meanwhile, I join the school teachers in their expressions “I used to just see this on TV or films, now I saw it by my own very eyes and felt by my very own flesh.” Oh my God! It’s the 21st century, and yet these events still happens…

Friday, September 16, 2011

Give Them the Best That They Could Have

computer claretWhen I arrived at the computer center of the school, I found out that there were only four out of 24 computers that functions. Each of them accommodates a group of 4 to 5 students at a time. And the rest awaits for their turn outside. And if they have had a good luck that day, the bell rungs and yet they have never had the chance to even touch the mouse. They have to wait for the following week.

I never hesitated to open one by one the rest of the CPUs and started to fix them. Almost all of the power supplies are malfunctioning, destroyed, all caused by the bad supply of electricity in the area. Current would just come and go without knowing when will it happen or when will it come back. The generator that we have in the school could only supply for four open computers at a time. While I was fixing the units, I requested to put the generator to the maximum power voltage that it could give. Then the rest of the computers run. Out of the 12 displayed units in the laboratory, ten are now functioning well. I upgraded them all to windows seven, installed the latest  softwares,  installed encarta for students in almost all of them so that students may truly make use the most out of it.

I was thinking, if they are already living in this kind of situation: there’s always the fear of war, they are poor, they travel far just to get to school, etc etc, then why don’t we give them all the best that they could have if we can? Why use windows XP when they can use the 7? Why teach them the least when we can give them all so that they too can share what they have had? Why limit them to the least rather than boost their knowledge for the sake of progress? It is not a reason that just because we are in the mountain, then we never dream of having the same level of education that we get from the lowlands. Everybody has the right to education, to equal education. I do not agree that only certain levels should be given to them or that they could get.

claret school of tumahubong

Due to the lack of units and to electrical problems, only the third and fourth year could use the computer lab. So while I was fixing the units, some of the lower years were peeping on the windows and some were just standing at the door. Finally I let them in and let them play and gave them the chance to discover new ideas regarding computers. Then I asked some of them to assist me in fixing the softwares by teaching them how to do it step by step. That very moment, I just wanted to let them feel that they are part of education, that they had been part in bringing back to life all those dead computers they have had in the lab, and that they can be proud to say too “Oh, I was the one who installed that!”

I want all the best for these students. And the technology education is just one part of that. Hay muchas cosas que hacer, muchas cosas que ellos deberian obtener tambien igual con los de mas. Sí que es posible. But that could never be realized without your generous help. Por favor, necesitamos vuestra ayuda para obtener nuevos libros de la sciencia, technologia, practica y lo mas importante un generador de corriente que pueda sustener los doce ordenadores sin tener que apagar las luces de las aulas y desenchufar cualquier aparato en el Colegio Claret para que los estudiantes podrian aprender por lo menos como escribir en un ordenador. Para que ellos podrian ser mas equipados igual con los de mas. Para que, por lo menos, ellos saben algo como los estudiantes ricos de tu ciudad.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Love at First Sight

tumahubongI have heard a lot of stories about Tumahubong from different Claretians who had been assigned here. I also heard stories from close friends who are from this place but working in Manila. Mariz would always tell me “maganda dun, magugustuhan mo dun.” When Julius was trying to convince me to come to this place the other day, he said that I would really love it here because of its weather and the cool temperature.

When I arrived here, indeed the weather is good and the temperature is cool. I feel like I am still in Spain on its autumn temperature. But it is not the temperature nor the ambiance nor the warm acceptance of the people around that makes me like the place. I guess it is something else that makes me feel so at ease and at peace in this so called dangerous place in this tiny island. Tengo la misma sentimiento cuando me enamoré a Emmy por primera vez. Creo que estoy enamorao del lugar y de la gente. Love at first sight as they would say. Me da mucho pena de que a partir de la semana que viene, la gente serían como carneros sin pastor. Me cuesta pensar que tenemos que dejarles aqui solos por algunos meses.  

De toda forma, prometo a mi mismo que de vez en cuando subiré aqui. Salvo que mi superior sería tan pesao de no dejarme subir. Me da igual si hay gran riesgo de perder la vida, si me muero, y si no ganaría nada si me quedaría aqui. Me da igual si solo llega el coriente cuando quiere. Me da igual si no hay internet y si pierdo los contactos con el mundo y con mis amigos. Que me importa lo que pueda perder, lo que me importa ahora es lo que Dios quiere en mi vida y en la vida de mi nueva familia. Lo que me importa es la gente, la paroquia y el colegio aunque dicen que estos no pertenecen cien por cien a los Claretianos sino a la prelatura de Isabela. 

Tumahubong, ¿que has hecho a mi cabeza? Tú has capturado mi corazón. Me estas volviendo me loco. Esto no puede ser. Mucha gente te dejan solo, se escapan de tu mirada y no quieren volver contigo nunca jamas. Pero a mi no sé porque quiero quedarme aquí. Quizas es tan pronto decir te quiero, pero mejor decirlo ya que nunca. No sabemos las circunstancias de mi estancia aquí. Así ya lo sepas que TE QUIERO hasta el fondo de mi corazón. Que Dios te bendiga y te protega mientras estoy contigo.

So As Others May Have Life

guardsLast night , I toured around the convent, and as I sat near the gate, one of the guards, without asking him a single question, started to share about his life as a soldier then he talked about his family. He shared about his longings amxieties to see his son and his wife. He had been desiring to retire already in the service but he was not yet granted of his request. He had served a lot already in the military service and had been part of major operations that captured some key leaders of the rebels. Then we talked about the bomb that exploded yesterday morning and many other stories of war.

I am glad that I knew him not only for being our life protector but also as a person, as another creation of God, a person who has his own stories in life, a person who also considers his own life as something precious not just for himself but also for others. I am amazed and I salute him for the fact that he knows that he is needed most by his family, and yet he is dedicating his life in protecting somebody else’s life, more than his own and of his family. I vow to his dedication and service. He expressed that he finds similarity between his service and of ours. We both dedicate ourselves for others, risking our own selves for the sake of life, love and duty he said. Indeed, we dedicate our selves to others, even if we die so as others may have life.

I am happy for the desires he has for his family. I pray for him blessings and peace of mind. I just hope and wish for this man, who had served, protected men of God, and who served his fellow countrymen that he may also find his true happiness with his family and finds that true joy of being with his son. And may he and his family also be protected from harm.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Be Not Afraid

gunsOn the second day of my stay in Basilan, Julius invited me to visit Tumahubong and to stay there for at least a week or more. So that I would be able to go to the place even if I am being transferred to another house. So I went with him together with two Claret School teachers, the Special Forces (SF) and the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

The road to Tipo-Tipo is concrete, built by the Americans when they were here during their military exercises sometime in the years 2001 and onwards. But after the central area of Tipo Tipo, the concrete road disappears and all that there is is a rough road that when it rains, surely you’ll get yourself dressed with mud if a fast automobile passes you by. Along the road, there are certain points wherein they call it as ambush site or critical areas. When we reached the rough road area, Julius invited us to pray the rosary. Then after a few minutes the military men behind us started to get their firearms loaded and ready to fire. The army on the other jeep, twenty meters ahead of us, also aimed their guns outside the jeepney window, ready to fight too. Chin Chin, asked me,"Brother, aren’t you afraid? Look, their guns are already aimed and ready to fire. We are now in the ambush areas.”  Then I told him “well, at this point in time I am not afraid, rather I am excited.” He doesn’t know that I am ready and willing to become a martyr at any time. And in fact, I even intended to take pictures of our guards while they were at firing position.

His question reminded me of what Paco Contreras told us once in one of his last masses with us students in Granada. He said that we should not be afraid of whatever it is that hinders us in life, of whatever it is that bothers us, that stirs us inside. If we feel fear or uncertain in life, remember that there are more than 365 passages that speaks of “be not afraid” in the Bible. Each day you could pick one to encourage yourself to be brave and be strong. Just hold on to God and you don’t have any reasons to be afraid of death and losing everything in your life.

That same question that he raised led me to ask one of the basic questions of man again: “What is it to fear about death?” I don’t have yet a personal concrete answer to that. Although sometimes I would guess that perhaps it is out of fear for the uncertainty that lies behind. We are uncertain of what we will become when we die. Or perhaps because of fear of silence, of eternal silence. Or perhaps it comes from the fear of losing the ones we love. I guess the last one is the most common reason. It is really difficult to detach and be detached. Love attaches and detaches everything. We all know that. But what we usually just cling on to is the attaching power of love and we hate the detaching power of love. Letting go indeed is a very hard and painful task in life.

How about you, what’s your reason why you are afraid to die that early in your life, let’s say an hour after reading this entry of mine? (I hope not). Be not afraid my friend! God is with you all the time. Just always remember that. Learn to let go of others but never of God.

God bless you!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A New Birth

Photo0242-1It’s early morning of September 8. I woke up early because we have had to take the first trip to Basilan. I was so excited since it would be my very first time to be there. I have had the chance to go there when I was a novice but in the end it had not been granted.

While we were in the fast craft, I was wondering why the dominant emotion was that of excitement rather than fear. I have heard a lot of stories of ambushes by the rebels, deaths, kidnappings, and yet here I am setting aside these known facts, very eager to see my brother who is to be ordained  that day. I was suppose to take a long vacation after my three long years of stay in Spain, but in the end, it ended up as the shortest vacation that I have ever had in my entire seminary life. I just realized that I should be saying right now “its unfair.” But I guess it was worth sacrificing for the sake of my brother and for the new mission being given in this island. And it was in deed!

At first I thought of it as death: of my personal desires, of my dreams, of glorious days, of security, of leisure, of privileges, death of the physical body. But I realized and thought of it again, I guess it would be better to start with a different perspective: A New Birth. The first time I stepped into this island brought me a new beginning, a new life, a birth of another stage in my life.

The first thing I found on the people is their simplicity, their joy in the face, their laughter and their simple stories in life. I guess I finally found the place where I really wanted to be. The first thing I found in the place is peace rather than chaos. I am pretty sure that I will cherish my stay here. I was assigned originally to Tumahubong. But for reasons of security and for the unprecedented changes in the community, the Provincial told me that I am being reassigned to another area: Maluso. But still, I belong to the same Basilan community.

To all of you who had been worried and have had prayed hard, be still for God is always with us. I have given my “Yes” to God when he called me the second time. And so before this mission was given, and before I have accepted it, I have already accepted all the consequences of the “Yes” that I have given Him long time ago. May His blessings be shared also to you through this simple and small witnessing of mine. God bless you all!