5 Years in Consecrated Life

I almost forgot an important event in my life. It was May 15, 2012 when I, along with 10 companions, had our habit-taking and consecration to Mary. I don’t have a copy of my prayer when I consecrated myself to Mary. All I ask our Good Mother is to journey with me by “holding my hand”. I have to search my archived photos just to see what happened that day. I was offline for more than a year that year except the final Sunday of the month where we were given a chance to use the computer and internet for an hour. If you look at my blog post archives, I think I wrote about that too. Anyway, when I had the chance to log in to my Facebook, I changed my profile picture with me wearing my new soutane only to be received with shocked or/and amused friends with me wearing eyeglasses and smiling broadly. Yeah, that was the year when I started wearing spectacles.

2012 was such a memorable year to me and I think I need to write more about that time when I spent two years in the novitiate.

I am thinking of buying a basic phone to spend less time with my smartphone with battery problems. Besides, my Notebook PC is a basic laptop. This is for me to write more, read more, and spend more time in silence.

I am just happy I made it this far in my religious life. I almost quit that year. I’ve been thinking lately about that decision when I hesitated to start religious life.

Maybe people had prayed for me and my vocation. I am thankful for them.

And maybe Mama Mary is still holding my hand. And I still pray for her to hold my hand and let her lead me to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Wisdoms and Workshops

I’m supposed to go home now back to Cotabato but I stayed here in GenSan so just I can hitch a ride back with some new Brothers to be assigned in our community there. So I am here in Lagao community, without even booking beforehand, to connect to the internet, listen to radio, and update my Windows because of the Ransomware roaming around worldwide. So before wisdom heard is forgotten, let me type it down here:

  1. If you cannot clean a comfort room, you cannot clean the whole campus, said Br. Willy. This is the first statement I can remember from our one-week training in OND Mission Center on Marist Administrators Formation Program. This reminds me of the scripture passage which says, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones” (Luke 16:10, NAB).
  2. Saint Marcellin Champagnat is a gift to the Church. This is something I took for granted. His life inspired me to enter the Marist Brothers. He is not only our Founder or our patron saint; he belongs to the whole Church.
  3. Simplicity is being grounded. It boils down on how you make choices every day from the way you relate with people, your dress, or how you purchase things. Simplicity is synonymous to humility, a word which is slowly fading away from people’s vocabulary. Humility comes from the root word humus which means ground. The more simple we are, the more human we become.
  4. Challenges makes you stronger. While making a symbol for the value of simplicity, we chose a plant. And this plant has falling leaves called challenges. Though these falling leaves give us a hard time, as time goes by, we will realize how these falling leaves would make us stronger because it turns into fertilizers later. And like falling leaves, challenges can give us life lessons which brings me to my final lesson.
  5. Don’t be afraid to commit mistakes. There were workshops in the program where we either don’t know how to do but we’re trying or we thought we know already what to do. Either way, we just let ourselves trust the process and let ourselves err from time to time. That’s part of learning; it is sometimes painful. But if we are open, we might find gems of wisdom. Besides, we don’t know it all.

That’s all folks. I need to take a power nap.

And by the way, Happy Mothers’ Day to all you readers!

Vacation to vocation: An effect of a month-long break

Being a teacher has its perks. One of them is the long vacation in between the school year. Since I’m still on a vacation mood, I will continue musing here and this time it will be about schooling, education, career, vocation, heartbreaks, intimate celibacy, and dreams.

A career or calling?
To be honest, I never dreamed of becoming a high school teacher when I was still a child or even a teen. The closest would be my dream of becoming a professor in college. Now one of my college pals just finished his master’s in Clinical Psychology. I could not remember if I mentioned that being a Marist Brother was one of my dreams as a teenager but anyway I’m telling it now. And since I am already a Marist Brother, I still dream of becoming a professor. But if I would do that, would it make my religious vocation not as a vocation (i.e. “a calling”) but as a career? Well, I would not really pursue it and just make it happen when I am told to teach in college. That’s out of the equation at the moment since I don’t have yet a master’s degree. I had some post-graduate units taken last year but that’s all I have. So that’s just one of my many desires and I am just being honest by writing it out.

Schooling and education
Seven years ago, I don’t even have the financial means to enroll in a post-graduate school before I entered the Marist Brothers. That time, I thought of going back to school again right after graduating in college. I still wanted to study. I was still unprepared in the transition of working right after college graduation. Just like my long break now, right after my college graduation, I was so restless in having a break in studies, thinking on my bed, and playing computer games. I had lots of exercise though. I was tired in studies but I want to keep on going. Mark Twain said he would not let schooling interfere with his education. I too had to keep that in mind. I was too selective in accepting job offers. I had my options: study again and/or work. Out of the blue, I entertained the thought of joining the Marist Brothers. They invited me when I was in second year college; I am Marist-educated; I am single; I know the life of St. Marcellin Champagnat; I lived with the Brothers in Mindanao for a week when I was still in high school; and I dreamed of becoming one. So, why not become a Marist Brother?

And these thoughts occurred to me so I contacted the Marist Brothers and told them that I am interested to become one of them. And they gave me one year to decide if I am serious with my decision or not. That’s why I worked as a property consultant and as a technical support representative even though I was underemployed as long as I can save money for my future trip to Mindanao.

Heartbroken?
I don’t even know if my close friends know about this. Maybe they just thought I was heart-broken. And if their reason is true, I should have been out a long time already. Or maybe that’s part of my unconscious motivation of joining religious life.

I remember in a dream six year ago in the Aspirancy House that I was being chased by some hooligans and I was shot dead. I woke up in the middle of that night and even posted in my Facebook status that I was thankful to be alive. The only explanation I can come up with that dream was that I was eluding something that I can’t accept or I don’t like and that my death was a reminder of my spiritual death since I was not a practicing Catholic when I was in college. So maybe the heart-broken part is true based on that dream but I would deny that consciously of course. Or am I running away from something other than that?

Intimate celibacy
The problem now is that I learned in religious life how to love many without being exclusively in a relationship with a woman; that I can be intimate while being celibate. (I will tackle this in the future.)

A recurring dream
But my death in my dream? I cannot really make sense of it. That dream recurred a few days ago. Again, I was riding a vehicle and I was being chased by some hooligans. But on this second time, I am alive. What does that mean?

And that’s it for an episode of my free-writing. Thanks for reading.

Please pray for me and my companions for our tomorrow’s trip to General Santos City. I would be there for a two-week training.

And that means a hiatus.

Again, let us pray for one another.

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!