Begin Again

My school ministry is like a basketball game.

I’m still in the same school but now I was told it’s my final year here.

Last year was the first half. Maybe I went down hard, got turnovers, missed some shots, and even had some highlight plays to be proud of. And this year, it’s my second half where I need to do a lot of catching up in terms of scoring points for my team. But I know I am not a star player nor a starter. I am a rookie; a role player to be quite honest.

I know what I can do and what I cannot do. I am happy to be benched if I know I did what I can do in the court. But now I am a sophomore, I have to step up my game when my time comes for me to enter the court.

Though I had my lapses in judgements, some hesitations in doing actions and making decisions, I think I had also done some daring and circus stunts which only a rookie like me can do.

But yeah, I think I know I could have done better last year and I know what it takes so I can contribute more.

Though being young have its disadvantages, I will count more its advantages.

Inexperience can be an opportunity for me to learn more; youthfulness means more energy.

But do I have what it takes to perform better? I believe I do. And if not? Then I guess I just have to admit my inexperience and ask for help from those whom I know can mentor me.

Knowing myself, I know it takes a lot for me to admit my own ignorance. But if it’s the way for me to learn, then I will shallow my pride and be humble to learn and be ignorant.

A thunderstorm-inspired rant, an emphatic tech support, and a cheap laptop

Hello everyone, Brother Allen here.

There’s a thunderstorm here so I turned off our desktop PC and switched to a laptop, powered by Windows 10 OS with an Intel Dual-Core Celeron processor and 2 GB of RAM. If you’ll look for ASUS X453S, you’ll see the specs. Last year, I asked my superiors to buy me the cheapest ASUS laptop. I saw X453S in Lazada worth 13,000 PhP (approx. $260). But when I asked the Brother responsible in buying my laptop 8 months after (because we only had the chance to talk about the laptop when I was using it during the retreat for my secretarial tasks during a meeting), I only learned that they paid 16,000 PhP (approx. $320). Maybe Windows 10 costs that much with all the pre-installed bloatware apps that I uninstalled. And speaking of Windows 10, I have a story which I don’t know if you have encountered already.

(Warning: A technical rant written below)
I don’t recommend Windows 10 anymore. That’s for you readers or any of my friends and family members who doesn’t want to stress themselves getting their OS fixed for days, weeks, or months. I experienced first hand how I had difficulty using Windows 10 when I installed the Creators Updat. The inconvenience lasted almost a month! I even barraged the @WindowsHelp in Twitter because of the inconvenience it caused to me. First, I had to contact one technician and let him do the job via remote access. Then it installed the update for more than 22 hours (I’m not kidding). I contacted again Support and they said I just had to “hard reset” my laptop. Though I was a former technical support for mobile phones, I forgot what on earth’s name “hard reset” was especially when it comes to computers. I just know hard reset means factory reset in phones. But on a laptop or PCs, it means hold the power button until it shuts down (for a laptop) or push the reset button. So I finished installing Creators Update after 3 days. The good thing is that I was finished with computer the students’ grades. The bad thing is that I don’t have a back up. And I have no idea how can I back up all my files when all I have are 3 pieces of USBs, one 16 GB and two 32 GB. Then I went to retreat to learn about that my laptop is freezing after 5 minutes. What’s funny was that when an application crashes (which does not happen before), the whole laptop freezes. I counted and it had frozen for 18 times in a week. I had to get back to Cotabato just to have a stable internet connection and contact Support. Then I now get an error message (which I can’t pull up as of the moment because Windows 10 doesn’t want me to talk bad about them). And they told me: “Hi, Allen. We suggest you perform a clean boot to eliminate software conflicts after an update”

End of rant.

A joke
I remember a joke about a fellow tech support whom I have overheard while I was on the floor waiting for calls. He said, “Thank you for the inconvenience.” It never fails to leave a smile on my face. Classic.

You know what? I did not plan to write a rant about my Windows 10 experience. It just came up when I mentioned my cheap laptop. When I mentioned to a priest that we are using the same make and model, he said that he bought it because it won’t give him so much stress when it gets lost or someone steals it. I just hope that he will not experience what I had experienced.

I initially planned about writing about Easter (my favorite liturgical season), my 28th birthday, and ending my staycation tomorrow. But this is enough. Post is too long now.

I will be out again for a two-week training. Please pray for me. I’ll be needing your prayers guys. I’ll be praying for you too so keep in touch.

Excuse my latest gravatar

Hello, Allen here.

To replace my three-year old photo in WordPress, I changed my gravatar today. While watching a film in my laptop (which freezes once in a while because of the latest Windows 10 Creators Update), I took a photo of myself (a selfie in today’s vocabulary) inside my room. It just so happened that my room is painted white so no need for the white background that I usually see on photo studios here in the country. I remember taking one last November (?) for the Athletic Meet in Kidapawan City which I am using in Instagram.

I don’t like to appear creepy but if ever I look creepy, please tell me. Hahaha! Please have the guts to. I don’t mind.

I haven’t changed my About Page photo though.

Lately, I have been reading a lot in my social media news feed about Thirteen Reasons Why series of Netflix. I haven’t watched it though. Some of my friends in college are against watching it. And, by the way, these are the same friends who are encouraging me to watch Game of Thrones which I haven’t seen yet. If ever I will watch 13 Reasons, I will be critiquing it a lot. Of course, it’s about sensitive issues: suicide, bullying, etc. I read somewhere (Wikipedia, I guess), the author (it was based on a book if I’m not mistaken), was contemplating suicide once when he (?) heard someone’s story of committing suicide and ending up not succeeding and in the process had to gone through a lot of pain and suffering. So maybe the author (don’t know if it was a male or female) was inspired by the story. Brother Allen is not good in fact checking.

And yesterday, I saw in my news feed the shock of my life. I saw Papa Kiko on TED! I won’t be spoiling what he said there but in my opinion, it was the best TED Talk I ever seen! I may be biased because I’m a Catholic and a consecrated brother too. But you have to see it even if you are not Catholic or even religious.

So it’s now late in the evening and I have to sleep now. I have to wake up at 5 AM. See you around.

A journey inward

Now, school year 2016-2017 is over. Wohoo!

Since I promised in my previous post that I will talk about my teaching experience, I will try to do it here without any specific topic in mind. That means free-writing.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading the writings of my students. I as their teacher asks my students in class to practice being reflective through writing. I, as their Values Education teacher, encourage my students to touch their introspective side. And for them to do this, they must learn how to be silent. In these times that these teenagers are in (and for us adults sometimes too), it is hard for them to let them sit for hours.

But I know my students are all capable of spending time in silence. I’ve witnessed it during their recollection where they were asked by our campus ministry directress, ma’am Che, to sit down in silence, close their eyes, and imagine themselves walking through nature and encounter people close to their hearts. On the part where they encounter their parents in their imaginative journey, when the students were asked to feel how their parents are struggling in earning a living just for them to study in a good school and be provided with their own needs, it made them weep. It may be pity or guilt that they felt whenever they get mad whenever they request something and their parents refuse to provide them; those times when they fail to appreciate the goodness of their parents towards them. That time, they were able to get in touch with their own experiences and relationship with their family especially their parents. They were able to do it because it was a recollection and they really spent time in silence.

Going back to my students’ reflective writing activities, I discovered that it is not easy for some to spend time for reflection when it comes to writing. But I am happy that at least they are trying. I even encourage students to write in Tagalog if they’re having a hard time writing in English. But there are some who won’t really bother and try to even write essays. Ah, your patience, Allen!

So in the same manner, I as their teacher must practice being reflective. And I will do it through web logging. And here, I did it by just writing about my students. Woo!

Whenever I talk in front of the class, I lecture through story telling. Usually, the subject is my own life experiences and stories of people whom I have known personally. Honestly speaking, I am a such a bore in retelling stories of others when I have just read or heard them somewhere in books, web, magazine articles, or even podcasts I am listening to. Even the jokes that seems funny to me, when I retell them, because too corny.

Now that I have stopped following any television shows or anime series, my watching habit of watching basketball games has gone up because of our access to cable in our convent. I consume more time in doing unproductive things such as watching games or highlights when I really want to do is to be creative like writing, composing poems and stories, polish my handwriting (which my student said was poor), capture more photographs, play basketball or chess, or learn how to draw better.

Maybe sometimes, I will consciously spend time to feel boredom and not seek constant stimulation. But I know it will either be productive or unproductive. I need to choose the former though.

Postscript: I will be spending a week in Malaybalay, Bukidnon for the Annual Lenten Retreat of Marist Brothers here in the Philippines. I am part of the Liturgy Committee and an assistant secretary during the Provincial’s time (meeting). Within the week, we Brothers will discover our Summer assignments and our next community and ministry assignment for the next school year. And during the Easter vigil, I will renew my vows. If you want to ask me to pray for me, just write a comment below or reach me out in the Contact Form. Please pray for me too.

The courage to cry

Hello.

I’m back!

Since my blogging pledge is one post a month, I just realized yesterday that I skipped two months. And to be officially back, I must post this entry with my original style of blogging: freewriting.

I just came back from facilitating a recollection and I am satisfied with what had transpired with the prayer, reflection, and sharing. We still used the Lenten Theme just like the previous batch last Saturday. In the sharing and reflection this morning, I listened to stories of frustrations, hang ups, and lessons in the midst of sufferings. Again, I shared. I disclosed to them that it’s as if I got to review my life while I was listening to them. I must admit that I lost focus in the midst of the sharing because their stories reminded me of my stories. Different experiences, same feelings. When it was my turn, I know that they were listening to my story because they were reacting and they are breaking the rules of being silent while someone is sharing! Anyway, we know each other since they too are teachers. I won’t be sharing their stories because it might appear as a gossip and that’s not really my style. Remember I got accused of being a gossiper? 

I shared to them that I am a bit frustrated with myself this school year in terms of reaching out to other teachers. I got enclosed with my table in the Campus Ministry and my personal office here in the convent (which is inside the school too). I was deprived of not having a table in the faculty room. Though there were hindrances, it shouldn’t be my excuse but my motivation to strive more to reach out. I shared to them that I got so used with being alone that I even learn news when it’s too late. One of the news I learned too late is when I was called out in Facebook. I was called names, boxed with labels, a gossiper, and a people pleaser (the only accusation which I somehow agree upon). I was able to face Agnus (not his real name) and had a confrontation where I was crying most of the time. I went to see him and talk to him because I got a problem with him. That’s only to find out that it was more beneficial to him than to me. And that’s a great thing. It was therapeutic for both of us. There was healing. That’s love in action as Jesus taught us to do: love our enemies. This is something unheard of outside Christianity. An absurd thing to do. But that’s what love really is; like the sun shining or the rain falling on the good and bad alike. 

While I was sharing these realizations (not all of this in exact verbatim but most of it are additional details), I was teary eyed and my voice cracking. So I said that instead of holding back tears, I need to cry more often. Cry when I got hurt; cry because of injustice​; cry because I need to do something so bad I will do everything whatever it takes; or, cry when someone is crying too. Though I’m a man, to paraphrase Frankl, I will cry because it is the courageous thing to do: to face my own suffering. 

I am tired now. It’s already midnight. I’ll continue this tomorrow.

Good mornight!

Finally, school year is almost over

Hello.

When was the last time I posted something here in WordPress?

Sometimes, I am more active in Facebook and Instagram. And when I say active, it doesn’t necessarily mean I post a lot. I usually just hang around and read. Possibly because I ain’t got time for contemplation. Speaking of contemplation, I will facilitate a recollection for the school’s Science Department teachers tomorrow somewhere in Pigcawayan. But that’s tomorrow so I don’t know yet what exactly would happen.

Last Saturday, I facilitated a recollection with a group sharing portion about Jesus raising up Lazarus from the dead (which was the Gospel last Sunday). Each one had to share. As the facilitator, I too had told some stories too. Together with the school canteen staff in the midst of the cool breeze from the sea, I teared up a bit when I disclosed how I missed my family.

And a random guy, who was not part of the group, suddenly caught me off guard when he sat in our cottage and boldly declared that, “There must be a reason why your family is living apart.” But instead of becoming defensive, I responded calmly that there’s actually no problem at allbetween us family members. Made it simpler when I said that instead of discussing there’s really no bad blood between us siblings or parents and it’s just my sister’s family having financial difficulty so she had to work in a foreign country. When he responded out of the blue, I sensed that the sharing mood changed a bit from being serious into uneasy. Maybe the random guy sensed it too so maybe that’s why he left afterwards. Sometimes, when a person shares a story, like the random guy I too tend to over analyze when all I need to do is to sit, listen, and read between the spoken words. That’s why when someone shares a problem with sensitive issue, I tend to ask how she or he feels and to help her/him think for herself/himself. From that experience, I see the wisdom why a facilitator of recollection must not mix their schedule with recreation. And somehow, I had practiced open vulnerability. Maybe non-Filipinos would have difused that question by replying, “It’s none of your business.” But I too am a Filipino who says hello by asking “Where are you going?” when I really have no intention of knowing the destination.

And since this coming Sunday in the start of the Holy Week, us Filipino Marist Brothers would spend a week in contemplation with Br. Michael Green, FMS as our facilitator/speaker. I don’t know him that much. I only know that he’s Australian. Actually, I prefer a silent retreat. But that’s another story.

Oh yeah, that reminds me to prepare a morning prayer and a Marian prayer for Maundy Thursday. Also, my renewal of vows is up next April 15. Just two days before my birthday.

I’ll share next time my toxic experiences during these past three months of teaching this schoolyear.

Encountering the poor can be disturbing

During the First Sunday of Advent Mass this noontime, I saw the crippled old man who goes to daily Mass. It was the blessing of senior citizens after the prayer after communion when I noticed him. Since the priest asked them to go near the altar for the blessing, he also went there though he struggled in standing up and walking. He went there unassisted. It got the thinking, was he born crippled or he got a stroke? Because of the way he walks, he can be mistaken as a beggar just like I did when I first saw him. I find his identity mysterious. He dresses simply with a white shirt, shorts, and slippers, and brings along a hand bag with him every time he enters the Cathedral. He even got a proper haircut than I (blame the Nazorite challenge this November where I suspend haircut and shave this month).  He is thin and dark. His face wrinkled. I heard stories about him sometimes not being able to ride the jeepney because of the way he looks. And whenever he rides the jeep and the driver refuses his payment, he will get angry and insist that his payment be taken. I heard that he is not that poor. He looks like he is not that taken care of. Or was it because he is just stubborn to be taken care of by his relatives? If he is single or got a family of his own, I am not sure. How does it feel to live like him? I want to know. After the blessing of the seniors, he did not anymore take his seat but he went back where he was from, stayed standing on the aisle instead of sitting on the pew, and went straight out of the Cathedral after the final blessing. Since I was seated near the aisle, I was able to look at him closely. It was my first time to do so. I looked at his eyes. Our eyes met. I saw not the eyes of someone who has lost hope. I can tell that look of someone who has lost hope because I saw them before in the eyes of beggars, abandoned, and old people in the home for the aged. It was not that look that I saw in him. I saw his fierce and piercing eyes that looked back at me. As I go out of the Cathedral, I saw him approach a mother and child who seem familiar to him. He blessed both of them. I was stirred. Encountering the poor can be disturbing, I thought to myself. He might be thinking to himself that his life is near to the end that he chooses to praise God every day by attending daily Mass. I don’t know. I might only be imagining this. It’s as if I saw Christ in him. It’s as if this old man is living a life of a mystic. Content with how he lived his life and spending the rest of it thanking the Lord for his life.