Why be a brother?

Hello WordPress,

Allen here.

It’s been a while since I last wrote here so let me freewrite. Well, every post here are fruits of freewriting.

Let’s begin.

Last January 9, I started attending Conversational Japanese II in YMCA Kobe. We lost two of our previous classmates but they were replaced by three more students: a Korean, Swedish-Japanese, and a Chinese. Now, there are nine of us in class.

All of our new classmates speak English as their second or third language so in between classes, we take a break in speaking Japanese and talk about anything under the sun or ask our Swedish-Japanese classmate to explain to us some of the grammar and usage.

In one of our classes, there was an exercise wherein we predict what will our life be ten years from now. One of my classmates tried to predict my life by that span in Japanese. For the sake of convenience, I’ll write it in English.

“Ten years from now, Allen will be married to a beautiful woman.”

Then two of my classmates, also religious brothers, said that I cannot marry. In that exercise, it just so happened that the first topic that was talked about my vocation as a consecrated brother is not being able to marry.

As much as I try to avoid these topics last year due to my lack of Japanese vocabulary, it was brought up in an exercise where I didn’t expected it to be. It was so personal and awkward to be honest. But that is true, I cannot marry because I am consecrated.

But there is more to consecrated life than not being able to marry.

I joined the Marist Brothers last May 2011 as an Aspirant. It’s not like I didn’t have a choice to find an exclusive relationship. Though I had a Psychology degree already, I went back college to take Education units. I even had a crush, considered having a girlfriend and leave. But I didn’t. I reconsidered and continued my vocation journey and entered religious life on May 2012.

In the novitiate, I consecrated myself to Our Good Mother Mary as I received my habit. In my consecration prayer, I told her to hold my hand as I journey on my life as a Marist Brother. As I am writing this, I remember Jesus on the cross telling his beloved disciple, “Behold, your Mother.” And that disciples name? He is John the Evangelist.

Chaste celibacy is one of the “crosses” I received upon entering consecrated religious life. This “cross” is actually a sweet yoke and a light burden. It is not like we celibate/consecrated religious hate marriage. But let me speak for myself.

Matrimony is one of the sacraments our Lord has given his Church. When a man and a woman deeply in love with each other decides to sustain that love and even “consecrate” their love, it is through matrimony and that keeps them together for the rest of their lives and even share their overflowing love through and with their children.

The Liturgy of Matrimony is one of the most beautiful and “lit” rites in the Church (sorry for the pun). I actually love attending marriages.

In my almost thirty years of existence, I must admit that I have only attended three Catholic weddings (so far). My younger brother married last year and a college friend married last year too so that’s two weddings attended in 2018 alone. I am usually away from my hometown and I do not have money to travel back so sometimes, with deep regret, I am not able to attend. Of course, I want to attend as much as possible.

As I promote vocation for priesthood and religious life, I promote marriage too though there is actually no need for me to promote marriage because it is already mainstream. Matrimony is the default call for the people of God.

So, Allen, why be a brother? A short answer would be for the sake of the kingdom. Cliché, I know. I gave up the good of the marriage for the sake of the kingdom not made of human hands. I find my life from the source of life itself. That is my answer to the question, “Sa paghahanap buhay mo, mahahanap mo ba ang buhay mo?” (Can you find your life in your livelihood?)

I hope in time I can tell stories out of my own experiences but for now I still feel inadequate to talk about Marist ministry, prayer life, and community living, since I am still a young brother. For the past three years I have been to a school ministry so maybe I will write about it in my future posts. Or maybe write too about my life now as a missionary in Japan and not being involved in school ministry.

If ever there is one thing I really treasure about my life as a Marist Brother, it would be my relationship with all my former students. I love them all no matter how tough it was for me in the past two years. It is really one of the most precious gifts I ever had as a brother. But if you ask me if I ever expected this before I entered the Marist Brothers, to be honest I did not. It is like finding a treasure on a field. Yes there are ups and downs and sometimes I feel like giving up on them but I didn’t because I love them so much I treat them like my little brothers and sisters. It was really unexpected but I am truly grateful for it. Glory to God!

I am always praying for all of you though I am far away now, my dear former students.

Right now, I am still one or two years away from taking my final and perpetual vows and I am already looking forward to it.

If ever in these years of preparation, through prayer and discernment that I feel I am not “worthy” to be a Marist Brother, then I will go out. God’s call to holiness is still there. Consecrated life is not for all but everyone is called to holiness. Then again, that is a small “what if”. I must be honest, it is very tempting to leave.

This year is a big preparation year for me. I will go back to the Philippines for a 30-day retreat this April then go to our novitiate in Lomeri, Fiji for a three-month preparation course on May to July 2019.

So please pray for me and for more vocations to consecrated religious life. 🙏

Thanks for reading and have a blessed and wonderful day.

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8 years with WordPress

8 years ago, I was just answering the daily prompts of Daily Post with Scott Berkun and reading the Freshly Pressed posts. A year later, I joined the Friday Flash Fictioneers. Then I turned it into a journal hence the blog tagline and it remains as it is until now.

If I feel like pouring out what’s in my heart, this is where I go to. Blame this ambivalent part of me that craves others’ sympathy but do not really want to attract much attention.

I must admit I have no more motivation of updating this but I still keep coming back here.

Will I continue blogging here?

Of course!

I am just happy WordPress is still hosting this for me.

Thanks WordPress.

On teenagers, my Grade 8 English teacher, and Nihongo classes

Hello WordPress,

Story time!

Since I entered my second year of being a Scholastic and passed the licensure for teachers last 2015, I started my teaching career and lived a busy life for the next three years. Since entering in the active ministry as a young Brother, I celebrate everytime we have holidays by just staying in the house of course except when Br. Ador would initiate us to go somewhere like going to Lebak which I also loved doing too. I think last year was the busiest year of my life where I handled a homeroom, table tennis boys team, and the Grant-in-Aid Scholars while teaching more than 23 hours a week! I don’t know if it’s just me but the preparation for Values Education 8 (Christology), Religious Education 11 (Faith and Revelation), and World Religions and Belief Systems 12 during the first two quarters made me anxious more than the actual teaching. Since I only took 18 units of Education subjects, I think that’s where the struggle was from. Don’t get me wrong though. I love teaching in high school. The paper works were dreadful though. I know some teachers dread not only the paper works but the dealing with high schoolers. Yeah, I admit I had those moments but I refuse to feed those feelings and keep on going instead. Puberty and teenage years can be an emotional rollercoaster ride which affects even for us teachers too. Those are the rebellious years of their youth and I have been there so I understand.

When I was in high school, I cannot understand myself why I get so emotional at times. I remember how my heart beats whenever I see my crush, my English teacher at Grade 8. I developed a friendship with her and I would be very at ease talking to her because I like her so much. Hehehe! I think my English improved much because of her inspiration and I would admit that my handwriting was patterned from her handwriting. Looking back, I think I was influenced by her in terms of my teaching style on the manner how she treated us her students and her honesty with us. As our school is an exclusive for boys, we too had given her a hard time in class at times but her command in class and composure would win our rebelliousness and boyish-ness. Maintaining a good relationship outside the classroom with students is something I learned from her too. She would then transfer in a university and become an instructor or professor. As a college student, I remember seeing her on the jeepney stop and we would again talk for a long time even on the train until she would stop on Legarda station and I would say goodbye. I would see her again on our ride to our respective schools and talk non-stop. After 2008, I never saw her after that. Since I remembered her, I thank God for her presence and influence to me. She taught me a lot not only about English but also about maintaining good relationships with students. Ma’am Ginnie, wherever you are, maraming salamat po!

Well, I didn’t intend this post to be a tribute to her and I just ended up writing about her because of her strong influence to me when it comes to being a teacher.

Now as a Nihongo student, I enjoy this moment of learning a new language everytime I step inside the classroom. I suck in pre-class preparations though. Our classes would be only for 2 hours but at times, it feels so long or very fast depending on the difficulty and my attention span.

Being a teacher for 3 years changed my perspective when it comes to learning. I now know how to anticipate questions in tests because I used to make test questions. I enjoy every moment as a student and will take my time and learn at my own pace. Besides, I still intend to teach in the future. Who knows? Maybe I can teach Nihongo too in the future.

God bless you all.

Peace! ✌️

My Nihongo Conversation classes

Hello WordPress,

I have a new name: アレン (Aren). That is the Katakana version of my name.

I have been here in Japan for more than a month now and I took up basic Nihongo conversation classes since September 11, 2018. Obviously, all of us students are non-Japanese speakers.

Half of the class are Christian missionaries including myself which gives us fifty percent discount in our tuition fee. I am the only Filipino in our class.

Initially, there are 7 of us in class but we were joined by a Chinese woman this Friday afternoon so that makes us 8 students. Though she enrolled late in class, she is actually advanced compared to us since she can read Chinese characters which Japanese calls as Kanji (漢字).

Our class are composed of 5 nationalities (excluding our Japanese teachers): 2 Americans, 3 Koreans, 1 Thai, 1 Chinese, and 1 Filipino.

We have 5 teachers (now reduced to 4) who take turns daily, just so happened they are all female, and all our teachers are Japanese and knows very little English (which is actually good for me personally as it will force us to learn fast). One teacher had to be substituted as she is fully booked with her schedules and we just met the 2 new teachers last Monday and Tuesday and one teacher had to take the Wednesday and Friday schedule.

Our Nihongo classes are from 1:20 PM~4:10 PM. It would take me approximately 40 minutes to go to our class via train and walking. So sometimes I would eat my lunch around 10:30 AM and prepare for more than an hour for my travel to school. I would go out of our house around 12:15 PM and walk to the train station which is just nearby. Sometimes, it feels like the wait for the pedestrian cross would take longer than my actual total walk to the train station. One time, I missed the rapid train just because I bought a milk tea in a vending machine and that stalled me some precious seconds. Well, you might be familiar with how punctual Japanese are so I won’t bother to explain that. Whenever I ride the train, it feels like I’m in a music video as the view of Kobe City is just picturesque. I am not usually fond of city landscape but Japanese architecture and urban planning is just something.

Aside from hearing Japanese in class, you would hear Korean, since they are the majority in class and they would translate by themselves what the teachers were saying, and English since I and the two American couples would seat together and just discuss and react whenever we don’t get what’s going on in class.

Most of the time, the teachers would talk too fast we couldn’t catch up but the teachers assured my American classmates that they’re doing just fine. At the beginning of our classes, the teachers would ask everyone some quick conversation prompts and skip me maybe because… I don’t know. Is it because I wear eyeglasses and look smart? Maybe. So to get the attention of the teacher, I would play the role of the class clown. This is exactly the opposite of me when I was in high school and college as I would be very shy and quiet in class and would still perform well anyway. But now that I am learning a new language, I would do all the means to learn inside the classroom. So far, being the class clown probably earned the ire of the teachers but I hope they understand that I am grabbing attention so as not to be left behind.

5 of us are Christian missionaries: I and the two Korean men are Catholic missionaries and the two American couples Baptist missionaries. It just so happened that the 2 Koreans are also fellow Catholic Brothers like me which is rare. Also, I learned that the community house I am in now were actually theirs and the land of their properties now used to belong to the Marist Brothers. How and why that happened is a long story to tell. To tell you honestly, I don’t even know the specific details how and when did that happened.

Anyway, since our class is on basic conversation, the teachers would ask us about our weekends. We Catholics would say that we go to church or Kyoukai (教会) during Sundays. Though Japan’s Catholic population is very small, there are a quite number of Catholic parishes here in Kobe City probably because this is an international city and many Catholic foreigners such as Vietnamese, Chinese, Koreans, and Filipinos live here. I also noticed that there’s quite a number of Catholic religious orders/congregation here in Kobe as I see sisters in Tarumi where I go to Sunday Mass. In Japanese, sundeimasu (住んでいます) means “I live in” so it is easy to remember whenever I try say in Japanese where our house is.

Our Thai classmate, who probably is a Buddhist, was baffled why the two American couples don’t attend the same Church as we Catholics do. With our limited Japanese vocabulary and non-English speaking classmates, it was hard to explain how come we Catholics and Baptists don’t attend the same Church though we are all Christians.

If ever we Catholics mention that we attend different parishes would bring more confusion not only to her but for us too who does the explaining. Another point worth mentioning is if ever we Catholic Brothers would explain what is a Brother would mean more headache not only for her but also to our fellow Baptist Christian missionary couple. I even haven’t brought up yet to them what is a Brother and what’s my missionary apostolate here.

Going back to school is hard and takes lot of humility. I keep on reminding myself to say yes to mistakes since that’s part of learning for as long as I keep on trying.

We just finished our first assessment this afternoon almost a month of Nihongo lessons. I aced the test despite being the class clown. I was actually frustrated because in the essay, I had to change my answer as I forgot how to write る (ru), ろ (ろ) and む (mu). For the record, I am typing with a smartphone so I can conveniently switch to a Japanese keyboard.

Reviewing last night was 50% worrying and 50% test drills and re-reading that I even woke up around 3AM and reviewed right away thanks to the energy drink I bought yesterday. Since I was up early, I was able to take pictures of the sunrise.

I took a nap around 10:30 AM, put my alarm to wake me up after 30 minutes, but I woke up and it’s already 12 noon!

I arrived in school just in time and bought my lunch in Japan Railway Sannomiya Station’s 7-11 and ate it during the class break.

Have a blessed weekend everyone!

Postscript: I initially wrote that all of us are non-Japanese but I might be wrong since our Thai classmate’s surname is Japanese and I even am a part Japanese as my mother’s grandfather is a Japanese. So there.

Carry my cross and follow Jesus

It has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions this past few days and I am keeping it to myself. Is it because of vocation crisis? Maybe.

I have to make a decision: consecrated life or married life.

A few days ago, I opened up to my father about my vocation story and how he had helped me to enter the Marist Brothers. It is on my Twitter feed (@allenjambalaya) and you can actually browse through it. It is through a borrowed book from him eight years ago that I was so inspired and inquired about entering the Marist Brothers. The book’s name is The Way by St. Jose María Escriva. I didn’t get to finish the book by the way but I recall reading the first part and the word I can describe when I read it is “emphatic”. That time, I was still unemployed and just a month removed from getting a college degree which from the beginning never intended to use in getting a job. Of course while studying, I used to entertain thoughts such as getting a master’s degree in Psychology and teach in the tertiary level.

Also, an untold story was that I drifted from the Catholic faith since I graduated in high school. In my last two years of secondary education, my Sunday Mass attendance was in a downslope as I was already questioning my faith and kind of missing the point of participating in the Holy Sacrifice and why I need to receive Jesus in the form of the Eucharistic bread. In short, the Catholic education and formation I received was lacking in solid foundation. I’ll write about this is detail later on.

Well, I wanted to go back to the Church so bad I entered right away in discerning to consecrated life. One counselor even told me I was rushing and that it’s a very tough life decision to make.

And so I did took my faith to the next level: I entered religious life.

Though at times I hesitated to continue on, I never regret this decision.

And now, this is my source of suffering now.

It. Is. Hard.

During the Mass this morning (which is in Japanese by the way), I was meditating on this and it reminded me of Jesus telling his disciples and all those who are weary and burdened to come to Him and He will give them rest.

I was very moved and teary-eyed during the receiving of the Eucharist. Maybe some Japanese seated near me saw me wipe my tears.

Though my heart is suffering, I know I am free and full of joy because that is the Good News—the Gospel. This is what the Triumph of the Cross and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows reminded me.

This passage was so alive in my heart as I was walking in the street.

His yoke is easy and burden light.

I know compared to others, my burden is very easy and light indeed. Mine is a unique kind of yoke. But I am thankful that I am with the Marist Brothers.

For now, I will carry this cross and follow Him.

May you have a joyful Sunday.

Are You Interested In Filipino Historical Films?

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is now showing in Philippine theatres. Sadly, I am in Japan and away from the country. I watched Heneral Luna by Jerrold Tarog last 2015 and was looking forward for more historical epic films and Goyo is one of them along with another film about Manuel L. Quezon.

Among the local genres of films in the country, this is one of the closest to my heart. In my childhood, I was always waiting for the show Bayani every morning along with Sineskwela in ABS-CBN before going to school. If you think about it, all of the films are actually heartbreaking because almost all of our national heroes were killed, most of the time brutally, while they were fighting for the country.

Back in high school, Philippine History is one of my favorite subjects to talk about and listen to inside the classroom. I am blessed to have amazing Araling Panlipunan (Social Science) and Filipino teachers in Marist School. I hope we produce more teachers and historians who are passionate about the story of Filipinos in the past. Nowadays, it’s easy to fabricate stories and distort history so we really need them to tell us about telling the truth and how to spot what’s not true.

A true story: One of my childhood friend is a descendant of Emilio Aguinaldo. We were batchmates for two years in Elementary but he transferred school after Grade 4 and since then I never heard of him since our family also transferred house.

When I entered the chess varsity in Grade 5, one of my teammates surname was Bonifacio, which is rare.

Speaking of, my great grandmother’s name was Bonifacia. Named after the great Manileño hero, it somehow gives me an insight how popular he was and how Filipinos back them regard him as the de facto national hero.

How about you? Have you encountered some of the relatives of any of the important historical figures in the Philippines?

Another open letter to a friend

Dear Friend,

Spending these past few months are the most humbling moments I ever had in my life. It reminds me that I am just a simple pilgrim travelling and searching here on earth. These moments of being all by myself gave me almost all the spectrum of feelings I felt with myself. Sometimes I pity myself; I got angry with myself with the choices I made; I felt sorry for how life events turned out for myself; and, I felt proud for what I have done these past few years particularly for all the graces and opportunities I got in joining the Marist Brothers.

I am sorry for sometimes disregarding and being indifferent to people I have met along the way especially to my family and friends. You know well that I always say sorry to you guys. If I have hurt you in ways I am not aware of, patawad po (I’m sorry).

Though people hurt me, stabbed me in the back, maligned me, called me names, used me in any manner, treated me indifferently, or though some of them keep hurting me, I forgave them all and will forgive them anyway. They might have almost broke me down but all of them made me stronger, tougher, and wiser. So thanks to you all.

It has been 29 years of existence for me and I am still keeping on dreaming. I don’t know what I really want exactly for myself to be quite honest and I am okay with that. But one thing I am sure of that no one can take away from me is hope. But yeah, hope is a good thing to paraphrase Andy Dufresne of Shawhank Redemption, my all-time favorite film.

I know myself well that I sometimes miss the point of how it is to live as a brother and I forget sometimes to do things with love. Love is also synonymous charity. Speaking of it, it reminds me that I might be speaking in tongues and be great in many things but without love, I am nothing. I know without it, I am nothing. Let it be for the sake of love and let it be with great love that I will be able to do great things.

If I feel proud, let it be not because of myself but because of all the great things God has done for me in my life. Let it be for God’s grace that people will call me blessed.

Your little brother,

Allen, FMS