Should I be scared to travel alone?

Dear Lord,

This fast few months, I’ve been preparing myself for my transfer to a new community and ministry. I am in the midst of processing my papers for travelling outside the country. Thus, I would be leaving my first apostolate (after MAPAC) which is teaching here in Notre Dame of Cotabato. I’ve been teaching now for three straight years and I don’t know how what to feel once I stop teaching and start learning a new language and be a student once again.

Though I was briefed what’s about to happen, of course I have my own what ifs and other reservations. Like what I said to a fellow brother, I don’t know what will I do there specifically so I’ll just stick to what I know: live as a brother in common life, pray, and even work while studying the language of that country. I know I will travel alone outside the Philippines but there are brothers anticipating my arrival there in my new community.

I admit there is a part in me that doesn’t want to leave asking, “What’s going to happen to me there?”. The prophet Jonah’s travel to Nineveh comes to mind. But unlike him, I feel no hate towards the people I will encounter. I don’t feel like turning back and take a ship going the opposite direction. It’s just that I don’t feel like going out of the Philippines for a long time. I am anxious but I’ll still go and follow what I am told to.

What I am experiencing now humbles me. To some extent, I can influence what I can do in this future apostolate but of course I don’t have the total control of what will happen to me and my future community. It’s a risk I’m willing to take and I entrust my future to my superiors who decided on this.

It’s a different kind of advent for me.

I don’t know where I am going to but in faith, I surrender.

Let Your will be done, not mine.

And let this be my prayer.

Amen.

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Choose life

The last post I had was an emotional one. I was feeling that way for a long time that I just want to let it out. I haven’t told anyone yet about my struggles this year. Knowing me well, I start to be in touch with those kinds of emotions when I am alone. At least I have the time to feel sorrow when I could have just feel numb by binge-watching on a television series.

As I have written before, this semester is a busy one. I’m just lucky that this Thursday morning, I have no classes to teach I might as well spend it in writing this post. Once I’m done with this, I’ll be back checking papers to clear out pending tasks. At least I have the time to even focus on checking them though I rush a bit at times.

I read somewhere that we experience certain kinds of “deaths” in life. There’s something in me that’s needs dying so probably that’s what I am experiencing right now. I am blessed to even take a pause in between the busyness. At least I have the time to experience different “deaths”.

I wanted to finish reading a book. I started reading The Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien and Sacred Fire by Ronald Rolheiser but I can’t get past Chapter 2. But at least I have time to write about wanting to finish reading them.

I bought those books when I travelled to Marikina twice last June and July. I have a home visit last June 20 to 25 and co-facilitated in the Coaching Module of MAPAC last July 8 to 15. It is good to just spend a while with your family; and, it is good to meet new people who shows passion for sports and education. I am blessed to have the time for family visit and co-facilitate in developing coaching skills every year.

Maybe, when I look back, I will just laugh at myself for acting the way I am reacting now. Like the song of Urbandub’s Soul Searching says, choose life. As for me, I choose to spend time thanking God for all the blessings I received despite the hardships.

Not-so-random thoughts and feelings

  • When I open the fridge out of compulsion looking for something, though I know there’s nothing inside, I think to myself “I’m just searching for God.”
  • Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder why I chose this kind of life; to live a consecrated life.
  • During a Lenten Retreat in Tagaytay last 2015, I told my spiritual director that it doesn’t matter where I am or what kind of life I am living; for as long as I know that God will still continue to be at my side, I’m okay. He replied that I am not far from the kingdom of God.
  • I’m just on my late 20s. I don’t know if I’m in crisis or depression but I just know I get too emotional about little things. Just like the lyrics of a song, I wonder why everything seems so heavy.
  • I feel so emotional but it’s not coming out; it’s trapped inside. It’s like keeping a straight face.
  • I was so active in Facebook when I finished my novitiate except this year. I was able to browse all my posts on my profile this year with a few scroll.
  • I wan’t to hide yet I post a lot in Twitter. Then, I want to be seen too?
  • I feel like Lazarus buried in a tomb but I rolled the stone myself to hide.
  • When I am weeping, does God really weep with me?
  • As I hit rock-bottom, will the floor cave in?
  • Writing this, I remember Nicodemus in the night time asking questions about faith and being “born again”.
  • Will I ever hear Jesus calling me to come out too?
  • I can’t think of anything to write about in essay form so I just used bullets.
  • I created a Spotify playlist entitled The Dark Night of the Soul
  • Thanks for reading.

 

A long, winding, but grace-filled weekend

I forego my plan to run 5 kilometers this night just to prepare for a week-long lesson plan. But here I am writing this post. So there.

This semester, I’m a busy person. These are my responsibilities:

  • Teacher to eight classes (six sections of Christian Values Education 8, one Christian Religious Education 11, and one World Religions and Beliefs 12)
  • Homeroom adviser to a Grade 12 section
  • Campus Ministry staff
  • Table Tennis coach
  • Grant-In-Aid coordinator

I miss my free time since I was just teaching part-time to five sections last school year. I got all of these because I agreed to take these responsibilities. So just bring it on! Also, I realize that this might be my last year of teaching to high school students. I will be sent out of the country next year for my next assignment. Getting my teaching license renewed would be harder whenever I get out of the country because of the recent law which says that I should get professional development modules/seminars/workshops sanctioned by Professional Regulatory Commission. I really hate that law because I actually get a lot of modules and workshops on administration here in Marist and teaching though they are uncredited because PRC is not involved there. Our Brother Provincial’s future plans for me would be working in foreign mission and/or teaching in college. I’ll save my worries later once the school year is almost finished.

Yesterday was a funny day because I did a lot and most of them are unplanned. I started the day by attending the daily Mass for spiritual strength. Next, I encountered a GIA who doesn’t have a Daily Time Record though it’s already mid-June so I gave away twelve copies to be used for the whole year because I am such a passive-aggressive type of coordinator and I never scold. Then the same person asked me the key to our office because they left the key inside. It’s just six o’clock so I just take my time before eating breakfast. I prepared for my almost two-hour class after the brekkie and got some Fudgie Bars to give away because I promised my Grade 8 students to give them some price. Until now, it still surprises me how I can sustain teaching for that long.

At 9:50 AM, I had to rush to the library because I got to meet all the working students since it’s our monthly meeting. After the meeting, I read the book Jesus of Nazareth by Gerhard Lohfink. I once bragged to my Grade 11 students that it is the best book I read on Christology. Possibly because of running 7 kilometers the previous night, waking up at 5 AM, percolating at a good book, proper ventilation of the aircon in my room, or because I just worked straight for three hours, I slept. I woke up around 12 PM and opened this laptop because I haven’t prepared for my next lesson with the Grade 11 students. I spent some good one hour on it and I went down to the dining hall to eat my lunch.

When the bell rings at 1:20 PM, that’s the time I will teach for another one hour and forty minutes. Again, I still wonder how I get to talk and tell stories I never told before in front of a crowd. If it is experience or reading books or both, I cannot tell. It also helps that there is a talkative student sitting in front that I get to engage with him and make my teaching dialectical or in a dialogue form. Then I had to go back to our homeroom afterwards to check the cleaning. The class president and the vice president collected the relief goods for the victims of war in Marawi City so they endorsed it to me and we delivered it to the Community Extension Services office but it was closed so I suggested we leave it in the convent.

Since I forgot to get the attendance sheet in the classroom, I had to go back and get it. On my way, I noticed the smoke from a fire somewhere near the Rio Grande. I heard firetrucks had a hard time entering there. Then I saw a student using a cellphone in the hallway so I had to approach him and confiscate it since they’re not allowed to bring it in school. While I was talking to him, there is someone calling my phone so we were talking while my phone is ringing. That was a bit awkward. He doesn’t want to hand it over to me and I do not want to argue so I got his I.D. and brought him to the Senior High School Coordinator. I slipped away afterwards to finally get the attendance sheet. I was actually in a hurry because it was almost 4 PM and I have to pack up my things for a trip later. Then I checked my phone only to find out it was Ms. Wilma, the aunt of a working student who got hospitalized due to acute ulcer. They needed the money I collected yesterday because I told her I “begged” some money from school personnel when I went around the school in between classes. I realized I had a talent in begging money. No, that was only a joke. Sorry if it was not funny. The amount? Sorry, it is confidential.

After packing my clothes and necessities, I went with our teachers/coaches to Belle’s Farm, Pigcawayan for planning and an overnight recreation. So there’s the usual drinking and singing either with the rented karaoke or with coaches playing the musical instruments brought by Mr. Dequiña in the venue. I skip singing ballads because I suck when I sing them and enthusiastic whenever we sing alternative rock songs especially if they are local songs. Filipino karaoke culture, represent! I only drank a bottle of San Miguel so I wonder why I got a recurring hiccup. Around past 1 AM, I sneaked to our booked resting house and was able to secure a resting place in a hard sofa-like furniture made of bamboo in the sala. I don’t know what it is called in English but I just know it gave me a hard time getting a good sleeping position because I don’t have a pillow and the sofa doesn’t have a cushion. Probably, it was already 2 AM when my body just got tired of searching for a good sleeping position. I then woke up at the usual 5 AM thinking of helping in cooking breakfast particularly the rice because that’s the only skill I know in cooking and I know how to cook rice for a lot of people because that’s what I learned from a fast food chain.

And I slept again around 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM today. Because of sleeping and waking up late, I feel a little bit of restless so here I am writing.

Today is Father’s Day. What’s my gift to my father? I’ll just present him with my own presence. Besides, I’ll be visiting home in Marikina this Tuesday to attend my youngest sister’s college graduation. I’ll be seeing my mother too whom I haven’t seen in almost two years because she went to Japan to work.

Thanks for reading and have a blessed weekend everyone.

I am not a Mama’s boy

If we are having a coffee right now, I would share to you how or why I do not consider myself as a Mama’s boy.

When I was in Grade One, I would complain to my mother why she would help my younger brother with his homework and wouldn’t help me. She said that at my age my brother would do his homework alone so I should do the same. So I asked my father to help me.

I don’t consider myself as a Mama’s boy maybe because I hated her a little when I was still small. Because my younger brother and I have a one-year gap in age, I was partly angry with her (and my brother) when I was still a small boy because I can’t get enough attention from her (and I still have three other siblings). Maybe that’s why I always go to my father. Sometimes, I would have “foster” parents whenever my uncles and aunties would “borrow” me as their child and go stroll somewhere like in the market or in our province. Having an extended family here in the Philippines do supply me with a lot of caretakers aside from my parents. Sorry for the digression. Reflecting in my relationship with my parents, I consider myself closer to my father and not so close to my mother as a young boy and would only catch up with my relationship with her when I enter high school.

During weekends during my high school and college days, if I am not playing sports or computer games outside, I spend most of my time with my mother in our house. For some reasons, I have my weekends free at home while my siblings are out in school or work. She is a non-practicing accountant and a stay home mom. And when she does have some freelancing tasks, she would ask me to type some documents in our computer (which I hate to do but I still obey). And speaking of computer, the only time I see my mother use out desktop is when she plays the Spider solitaire. Unlike my father whom I heckle a lot whenever he plays online chess, I can’t heckle my mom (not that much) because a solitaire is played solo and offline. In my free times spent talking about ordinary things, our neighbors, and my blatherings would help me catch up with my relationship with Mama.

Before I finish college, there was one time when I had a talk with Mama and I opened up a topic about the girl I am courting. I was surprised to hear her share her love story with Papa. And knowing that my mother is usually secretive, that was rare to hear stories like that from her.

When my classmates in college saw my parents during graduation, they told me that I look like my mother. Maybe that’s why it’s hard for me to integrate with my cousins from my father side because I look different from them (that applies to my other three siblings except our youngest).

And when I entered religious life, I remember the deep sadness I felt when I said goodbye that left me crying inside the tricycle.

Speaking of crying, the only time I saw her cry was in the airport when it was time for her to leave the country last February. Actually, I saw her about to cry then she turned her back on us. And I told my father that Mama was about to cry. Like Mama, I was holding back my tears as well. The details why she left is a bit complicated and a long story to write. Whenever there’s a death of a relative in our mother side, she would prefer to go to our province alone. I wonder why Mama always want to act tough. I want her to be more tender but that’s not Mama. But that’s Mama and I love her the way she is.

So maybe “I used to be not a Mama’s boy” will be a more appropriate title for this post.

An open letter to my Geometry students

Dear VBA,

Let me pour out my soul. I am deeply touched by you, my students in Geometry whom I spent a year almost ten months with. This is only possible because of the risks I took and as well as your responsiveness.

I am not a Geometry teacher but I tried being one and I finally became one. I am very vocal of that I am not a math major and you, the students, know it. Is it because you don’t have a choice? Maybe yes or no. You could have complained me with the admin but you didn’t do it or should I say you won’t dare do it. Or no because you don’t have any teacher available to share knowledge of measuring plane Geometry. Or are you afraid of the one teacher you once had? You don’t need to answer me.

At first, I am actually more than happy to take the opportunity since I want to use my license in teaching, practice mentoring, and because of my love for Mathematics. I know it’s a love-and-hate relationship when I was still a student. And now that I finished my duties as a teacher inside the class, I can say that my disposition remained the same. I am still happy that I was able to teach Math to the lovely and vibrant class of VBA, you guys, the section I handled.

It was a risk because I am not an expert in Geometry and not even a Math major in college. I was vulnerable to be called as someone who doesn’t even know what I was teaching. That never happened and I am thankful that it didn’t happen. I risked being wrong sometimes because that’s my challenge to the students: risk being wrong, to commit mistakes, bounce back and learn from these mistakes. Some overdid it actually. But I am proud that they were able to do it: err boldly.

Your class, though noisy most of the time, was easy to handle and ideal for a rookie teacher like me. You respected me as your teacher through your courteousness, listens when I want to say something important, and are open to share your frustrations, struggles, and even triumphs. I know that since I asked you to write journal entries during the second half of the school year. And even without those writings, you were still open to express those emotions inside our class. I proposed Remedial classes and you attended them. You could have opted to sleep more in the morning before P.E. time every Saturday but you are willing to sacrifice your free time. As mathematicians, not all of you are brilliant. However, you showed resilience and that’s the most important lesson you can take away from our class. To bounce back, to commit mistakes and learn from them, and the willingness to try again are important in learning as well as in living as human beings in terms of your relationships and reaching for your aspirations in life.

I am happy as your teacher VBA. I am happy to meet students like you. So in this final day of the school year, I have to let you go guys. I will always remember you in my prayers. You will always have a special place in my heart. You are the first class I ever handled and that makes it more memorable. As I said to one of your classmates, no one can ever replace you. That’s right, you are ever unique.

I pray for your bond as a section to be a lot stronger and closer. May you be away from all useless anxieties. And may you all grow well and be yourselves. Don’t ever pretend to be someone whom you are not.

Maraming salamat VBA.

See you again.

Br. Allen, FMS

Counting down the days

11 days to go and I’m flying back to Mindanao for my next assignment for a year. Two years is too fast and I just felt that I’m really leaving MAPAC now. Of course, I’ll be sad that I’ll be leaving the beautiful people whom I have met and lived with for the past years I’ve been here. Will take time to detach myself from people and the place as well.