Is The End of Ang Huling El Bimbo: The Musical a Happy Ending Story?

1. “Pagkalipas ng maraming taon, di na tayo nagkita. Balita ko’y may anak ka na ngunit walang asawa. Taga-hugas ka lang ng pinggan sa may Ermita. At isang gabi nasagasaan sa isang madilim na eskinita.”

English Translation: “For many years, we didn’t see each other. I heard you have a child but still unmarried. I heard you were working as a dishwasher in Ermita (Manila). And one night, you got run over a car in a dimly alley.”
Ang Huling El Bimbo by Eraserheads

2. Hello WordPress! I’m back! This is a Review of Ang Huling El Bimbo: The Musical. Be warned that this contains spoilers.

3. The musical began with a woman who is a victim of a hit-and-run, with the police getting her phone from the crime scene. Prior the accident, the woman, named Joy, called three men: Anthony, Hector, and Emman (Ang Huling El…Bimbo? A quick google search will give you that bimbo means “an attractive but unintelligent or frivolous young woman”). The three were then “invited” to a police station and this became their college reunion.

4. A Parallel Story? There was a falling out between the four when they were in college, giving the Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruku Murakami vibes. In the book, Tsukuru was cut out of his high school friends circle. His friends were keeping a secret from him and they decided to cut him off because he seems to be capable of bouncing back from it, an echo of Anthony’s comment to Joy after what happened to her in an incident during their college days. Tsukuru was banished because they were keeping a secret from him. The three ran away from Joy because they also wanted to keep a secret which all of them knew. I will go back to this later.

5. We then go back to the 90s where the three guys were still young college students living in a dormitory. On the other hand, Joy was not as fortunate as they were. But like them, she wanted to enter college and “graduate”. But for the meantime, she is stuck with working in an eatery. This is where she got to know these three.

6. Joy became good friends with them. Anthony became her best friend; Emman as her kuya (elder brother); and Hector her lover.

7. Like the Ang Huling El Bimbo, this musical has two parts: the flashback (Act One) and the tragic story (Act Two).

8. The Eraserheads’ song is about a Paraluman-look-a-like girl who loves to dance and the boys attraction towards her. The musical’s first act was a story of the three guys’ struggles in identity (Anthony), involvement in social issues (Emman), and pursuit of arts (Hector) during their college days. And in the case of Joy, she has yet to enter college first as we audiences do not even know yet what she really wanted to do achieve in the future except to graduate in college. But she’s adorable and very positive in her outlook despite her being underprivileged.

9. Just as the audience are already emotionally invested with the protagonists, hooligans will then rock the friendship of these four when they crash into their out-of-town joyride, point guns on the guys inside Hector’s car, and rape the helpless Joy. (How it pains me to type this line.)

10. Instead of bringing her to the police station to file a blottter or have Joy treated in a hospital, they agreed to just bring her home and just forget everything about the incident. This I cannot really comprehend. What were these three guys thinking?

11. My limitations: Probably you have seen other reviews on this musical about the LGBT rights (regarding Anthony), toxic masculinity, degrading views of women, rape culture, etc. I will not quote or discuss them here. While reading them, I realize there’s no way for me to be as nuanced and precise as them with their choice of words. For the love of our country, they even conected the musical to what is happening now in the Philippines. As for me, my views and limited vocabulary will fall short. Besides, I am not versed in political and social discourse. Also, I know nothing about  the intricacies of acting, singing, technicalities of a musical. I leave it to the experts.

12. But one thing I know is being a friend. That’s what I will focus on later. Is the end of the musical a happy ending? Did “love” or friendship reigned in the end?

13. Male figures in Joy’s life: Notice that there are no male figures inside Joy’s family. She was adopted (is she? I might be wrong on this), we didn’t know anything about her father, and she doesn’t even know who is the father of her daughter. We saw the three guys’ parents. All of them alive! How about Joy? Where is her father? Uncles? Male cousins? Grandfather? Great grandfather?

To be continued…

P.S.: This is a draft but I’m publishing it so I can go back to it later. I have to go to sleep early. I have online classes later this morning.

Preparation Program for Perpetual Profession of Vows 2019

LOMERI, FIJI—We are now at the end of our 8-week long preparation for perpetual profession here in Marist Brothers Novitiate where we arrived last May 24. We, the 15 participants from six different countries, are the following

District of Melanesia
1. Dominic Nekebatu (Solomon Islands)
2. Jeremy Wabi (Bougainville)

Compostela Province
1. Fabio Oliveira (Portugal)

Marist District of Asia
1. Cong Nguyen (Vietnam)
2. Quy Nguyen (Vietnam)

East Asia Province
A. Philippine Sector
1. John Emil Alada (Philippines)
2. Rechie Dean Bagsican (Philippines)
3. Raymund Gallardo (Philippines)
4. Lloyd Gamboa (Philippines)
5. Deo Dudz Hizo (Philippines)
6. Philip Caesar Renacia (Philippines)
7. Cian Marco Tabuada (Philippines)
8. John Allen Timola (Philippines)
9. Aljon Yonder (Philippines)

B. Korea-Japan Sector
1. Moses Cho (South Korea)

Along with the Novitiate community, we were welcomed by the Preparation Team headed by Br. Bryan Davis (Australia), Br. Jacobo Song (South Korea), and Br. Ted Fernandez (Philippines).

Br. Bryan Davis led the first week with “Vocational Quest”, where we shared about our vocation stories, our questions on religious life, discernment, meaning of life for us, and our hopes and expectations.

Br. Graham Neist presented the topic on Listening and Responding Contemplatively, where contemplative practice and “turning up” (presence) appealed to us.

Br. Michael Green presented us Marcellin’s Spirituality according to the vows, wherein the “bon enfant” style of being a brother, a down-to-earth way of being a brother, struck us the most.

Br. Sean Sammon presented An Undivided Heart, a topic on celibate chaste living, and even gave out copies of his book.

Br. Barry Burns presented Living Simply, a connection of our vow of poverty with our pope’s call to care for our common home.

Br. Tony Leon presented Brothers Today as an epic love story, and he even prompted us to make our own artworks.

Br. Angel Medina presented New Expressions of Marist Life, particularly the La Valla 200 Program.

In the midst of the program, the brothers enjoyed going to the nearby beach in Loloma to swim and play volleyball. But what excited them most was drinking kava, a must-try local drink here. Each brother even bought Bula shirts and some even wore Fijian sulu.

Our final week of the program is dedicated to what we call as the Synthesis, wherein each brother will make a creative presentation of all their experiences of the program with songs, dance, music, artworks, poetry, crafts, video presentation, and even told their own life stories.

And now, our hope for the future is that we would bring all of these learning into our respective communities and our ministries.

Please pray for us. 🙏

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.

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.

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.

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