On Silence and Discernment

There are times when you are asked to do something out of the blue and you just have to deliver.

This morning, we had our General Meeting of all the school personnel in our library. As usual, I was the one who lead the opening prayer and the blessing of the birthday celebrants for the month of May. I need to step up in making prayers for our meetings as our Campus Ministry Coordinator had just given birth to her fifth child and her first daughter. It was my first time to see her daughter in the flesh and of course I am delighted to see a cute baby like her. Anyway, our general meeting was for us to set a direction before we start the school year next month. We will have approximately three weeks before we start our classes on June 7, a day after our celebration of the feast day of our Founder, St. Marcellin Champagnat. We’ll have a week of making our course outlines, action plans, and plotting our schedules for the coming school year.

Introducing a Brother
In the middle of the meeting, I was asked to introduce our speaker, our fellow Brother in the community, Br. Ted. I was just approached by the emcees before our meeting started. I opted not to say about his education background, past ministries, and achievements. That’s one lesson I learned from reading The Little Prince regarding information and details with the author’s critic on the adult’s mindset. Instead, I shared an anecdote on how I met him for the first time. I remember it was year 2004 during the first quarter of the school year (probably around July until October) when I was walking on the corridor of our school on a Sunday morning. A night before, we had our high school dance in the elementary gymnasium of Marist School, Marikina on a Saturday night. So yeah, I was walking with just my sando, shorts, and slippers when I saw Br. Ted, our school president and he greeted me with a “how are you?” That experience left an impression on me as I encountered the personnel with the highest position in our school humbly greeting me with a good morning and kumusta (how are you?). So I ended my introduction by saying that Br. Ted is a walking definition of a gentleman.

The Talk on Silence
In the middle of the talk, he presented us a trailer of the movie Silence. It was a film with Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson as their protagonists and directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a story set on the 17th century about the journey of two priests who learned that their beloved mentor-priest had gone missing. To investigate, they went to a mission to Japan to search for their beloved teacher. Upon arriving, they learned of Christians worshipping in secret. If discovered by authorities, they would face persecution and be asked to denounce their faith or be tortured to death. The trailer is Br. Ted’s opening to his questions to ponder upon. Among his questions, the word “discernment” caught my attention. What is discernment? Does it play a role in my everyday choices from the most mundane ones like choosing what clothes to wear to the important decisions like relating to people whom I find it difficult to deal with? I remember during the open forum, one teacher asked the question, “How do we know if we are really doing the will of God?”. This one is a question that makes you pause for a while and be silent. Besides, discernment is fruitful if done in silence. God speaks in the silence of our hearts.

A new responsibility
I was asked to take the responsibility as the Working Students or Grant-In-Aid (GIA) Coordinator. Without hesitating, I just said yes. Last year, the position was held by a fellow Brother. But now that I am handling college students who are working as scholars so that they can finish their studies, I need to spend more time in prayer for strength and guidance from the Holy Spirit. I need to reach out to their coordinators and to each one of them, listening to their concerns and knowing how can I train them to be hard workers and responsible scholars.

I am tired. I need to sleep now.

And let us always remember to pray for one another.

Good night.

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.

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 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.

Will Saint Thomas Aquinas would approve my beer indulgence?

Dear friends,

Just before anything else, an update of my life.

Last Saturday is the birthday of a fellow brother here in the community. Happy Birthday! We celebrated with lots of buko salad (coconut salad), lechon (roasted pig), grilled bangus (milk fish), rice (of course), dinuguan (search it!), and some dishes I cannot recall. We invited the school administrators, novitiate community, and some friends for the dinner. I l lead the prayer (as usual) and our festive meal did not even last for two hours which is quite fast given it’s a Filipino birthday celebration.

I don’t usually drink alcohol but I joined the friends of my fellow brother because it’s his birthday. I saw them when I was going to the library where I was playing a computer game, an old modified map in Warcraft 3 with Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece characters in it. I think this year I am consuming lots of beer compared to the previous years of my life.  Even my fellow brother, who happens to be our community superior, said that I might share in our young brothers assembly that I learned to drink alcohol from him. That was said in jest of course. The typhoon Karen even made way to Cotabato City with all it’s gustiness and rain that our drinking session outside the veranda was transferred to the library. It’s convenient that it’s just adjacent. So they, the visitors whom I know because they work here in the school, saw all my books, unreturned student activities, school supplies, school record, in the big table because I slowly turned the library into my personal office. That was not planned if only I have organizational skills to remove clutters. So here it’s obvious that I don’t have a table inside the faculty room due to some space constraints there. I have a table in the campus ministry office which I rarely use. So that’s why all of the clutters was there in the library table in full display to the visitors.

Since the computer was in the library, we turned it into our television by just tuning in to YouTube. We had a marathon of the 80’s music because that’s the generation of the visitors. As a 90’s kid, I barely knew the songs except for some. I know some of them because the songs were the pop songs during their time and it just so happened I’m familiar with them thanks to MTV. The good times lasted until 2:00 AM.

Of all the alcohol, I think I won’t be consuming hard drinks anymore and settle with beer or wine because with beer I can still think clear and not really that uninhibited and can still walk straight. With a strong liquor, I don’t think that would be wise for me. Maybe St. Thomas Aquinas would approve this beer indulgence of mine. Or probably not because his quote on Sorrow was misattributed. We have a weird prayer on blessing beer even to the point of calling it as a “creature”. I just saw that prayer somewhere. I am thinking of connecting beer to the Wedding Feast at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. I lack the technical skills for explaining theological nuances so I’ll just leave this as it is. Besides, I don’t think there’s a need for it. Anyway, I just remembered them.

The next day, Sunday, I was originally planning to attend again a feast somewhere near here because the principal invited us during the personnel meeting last Wednesday. Hung over until 12 PM, I decided to scrap the plan since I just woke up before noon time. I attended the Sunday Mass at 11:15 AM because we have a meeting at 3 PM to vote for our representatives for the upcoming 22nd General Chapter. It was Game 4 of the PBA Finals and Ginebra won despite the uncalled travelling violation of Sol Mercado in the crucial last minutes.

Now, this week is the last week of the first semester before the break. I’m done with the students’ grades, lessons, lectures, and just waiting for the week to finish. This week, I gave my students a lantern making project with a Marian Theme because it’s the Rosary Month.

Next week will be our annual personnel retreat. I might again write some of my reflections during that time of prayer and rest.

Peace everyone! I’m out.

How it is to experience a hailstorm for the first time?

Today, I experienced two first times. While preparing for the class inside my living room, I noticed that it was raining hard. It was four o’clock in the afternoon when I was about to leave our fraternity (house) when I saw ice dropping from the sky. I thought it was just a heavy rain; it is a hailstorm! I was wearing my barong and about to go to school to teach but I waited, closed the windows in the kitchen, sala, dining area, and watched from inside the ice dropping to the ground. The sizes of the ices are about 1.5-2 centimeters. Since it’s just 15 minutes away from starting our class, I rushed out with an umbrella even though I might get wet or get hit by some ice (The house is just 200 meters away from the school). Thankfully, I’m just wet down from my shoes up to my belly. I told some teachers my experiences when I arrived in the faculty. That’s the first one.

I went to the classroom and the stairway, hallway, and the classroom floors are wet. By chance, the chairs and the green board aren’t that too wet so we can still start our class. Halfway the class, the principal entered our room to announce that they will suspend the classes at 5:00 PM and brought into attention some students who kicked the back door of the classroom while they were transferring rooms from the grade school building to the high school building (where our rooms were when we have our math classes). I didn’t notice the kicking since most of the students arrived ahead of me in class. Thankfully, our principal was there observing them enter their classrooms. Ecstatic on the announcement, I got their attention and just told them that they know who did the kicking, no need to point fingers or blame someone else, and just be more mindful next time. No need for me to reprimand them since they’re reprimanded earlier. I gave a five minute lecture and let them answer a seat work for 10 minutes. Again, in the middle of the activity, I saw my former teacher in Grade One standing outside the room. I don’t know how to describe that feeling when you realize your teaching the daughter of your former teacher. That’s the second one.

And that’s how I experienced two first times in a day.

How I got to teaching Geometry

There are Typhoon Egay in the country so no classes. To make my time productive aside from Facebook and NBA 2K14 (outdated gaming), here I am blogging.

I’m teaching Geometry now. It’s a shift in career from a Psychology major, to a Catholic religious Brother, to a secondary teacher, and now a math instructor. Yes, I love Math and it’s just funny how I got this teaching load.

Here’s the story:

First week of June, I was asked if I am interested to substitute a teacher in the Afternoon Shift, an outreach education program for the poor kids here near Marist School and Marikina City. On the second week, I went to school to be given the Learning Plan, a textbook, and the Course Outline for the whole school year. And the following day, I started teaching Geometry to Grade 9 students. That was quick.

Postscript: In case you’re wondering, we start our classes in June until March or April; some schools start their school year in August until May starting this year.