REFLECTIONS FROM CHALLENGING CONTEXTS TO FILIPINO EDUCATORS (AND TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT ALSO)

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Some things, they say take time to process, and others say that it just needs for a generation to pass. I’m glad I’ve learned that wisdom in life through the academe and in the ground.  As much as this country’s not yet open to a lot of things and ideas, and some in power wanting to keep things the way as it is (as it would derail their self-seeking and self-serving interests), I would just hold stand to my ground, and hope for the best, while preparing for the worst.
bytheocean
However, my heart goes out though to the victims and the conquered by the wayside: those who were, are and will be considered collateral damage being offered in this war waged in our political and social arena which is both idiotic and selfish. And this is not just on one side, but on both.  Many will be victimized either by atrocious means or by the ignorance of their actions as they will be played by the side they choose to support in holding to the promises their idols or backers made which are really illusory and usurious.
What sickens me in all this is the fact that while many are ignorant, educated people are not kind to talk to them, and rather belittle them and label them. Rather than educate them, they are being judged and labeled as good-for-nothings, and this galvanizes the ignorant in their support for what is not right in this world as they are fooled to take the stand of the selfish and the powerful who charade as their heroes . On the other hand, it also annoys me that people on the other fence, will let themselves be used and be made as instruments of division and the furthering of the ignorance of people for money and for self-seeking interests. And they will go to great lengths to revise, twist and fabricate lies towards a history that happened in fact and principle, taking to blame those who fought for what is right and true in the first place because they are either paid to do so, or that their fanaticism has blinded them because it would be inconceivable for them that the person or party they support can be a dubious character. Rather than face disillusionment which leads to humility and wisdom to accept that they can also make a mistake in trusting the wrong persons (which was the pattern in the last 40 years), they rather be blind and turn away focusing instead to defend the illusory life thinking that this what they’re asking for even at the price of their own humanity. After all, this is what their “Golden Age” is, like horses with blindfolds. And those who criticize even rightly armed with their education has taught them are branded as elitists and traitors. Even the other side is not at fault because rather than use their education to enlighten and build bridges, they consolidate their own arrogance, and belittle the ignorant majority. We are sick because we have allowed ourselves to be deluded by such patterns whether ignorant or educated.
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We haven’t changed from 40 years ago, and even for that one shining moment that we had proven that we can rise from tyranny and oppression against a dictatorship, we let it all slip away and go to waste as we just traded one evil for another in the name of a political culture that makes leaders into self-serving lords instead of becoming public servants. And anyone who seeks to affect change is eliminated no matter what side of the fence that person is on. This culture has and continues to be one of impunity as it makes people afraid, complacent and lazy destroying their potential and will to grow and develop into the nation and the values which made us unite in the first place.
And after saying this, many will say to my face again, “So what? You’re one of those self-styled analysts this FB culture has produced. Leave us alone and rather be one with the crowd! Know your place and let this government make its place.”
And this is where it has come down to. A culture of fear, of conformance, of “shut up or we will shut you up”, a democracy turned mafia-style. And that results into oligarchy and mobocracy. And it has become a cycle for us Filipinos. What we are was described aptly by Paolo Freire in his book, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed where in the class struggle when the oppressed usurps the oppressors, the change sometimes drastic that it compromises the ideals they stood for to conform to the trappings of power making them the new oppressors. And this sad analogy is what our country is right now.
My stand? It is simply this: I’m an educator, and it is my responsibility to educate no matter what side of the fence I am on. It doesn’t matter whose wrong or right as long as I can contribute into adding conversation in ways that are non-violent, non-judgmental, non-labeling, uplifting, empowering, peaceful and hopeful. I don’t care who is the right side or the wrong side, but I would want them to reflect to embrace what is right and shun what is wrong without belittling both as the labels we made for ourselves are just illusions that pit one against the other while it makes a few powerful.
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And this is what makes me and others who embrace this way and method dangerous in the eyes of the status quo for we liberate, destroy and change the perceptions of people that keep them in power. And this thing that we continue to do, it scares the powers-that-be and the lords who sold their souls to selfishness because it destroys their designs. Most of the time, they find ways to silence us, thinking it will hold us in check. But in the long run, they fail because balance always finds a way to make this world and the universe right.
It is not an easy vocation. Many people ridicule us, praise us, use us and even quote us for whatever reasons they have because we keep the ideas, the knowledge, the creativity and the fire of life going. We are like Prometheus who in giving fire to human beings is punished by the gods. We too are criticized, punished and even killed literally and figuratively in many ways by those in power whether they are persons consumed by power, selfishness and self-entitlement or even by ourselves through the work that we do.
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It is in the last analogy that galvanizes my stand as an educator and my whole point of being and continually striving to be an authentic Christian through ministry: we are but like wax candles that once catching fire, consumes us to the very end. Or be consumed by darkness when the fire is put off. In the same way, we have the fire of the Divine Presence whose spark enabled us to be agents lit by this fire. We are not the fire because at times, it is extinguished from us for whatever reasons or events life throws at us. Now we remain darkened candles, deformed and useless until the spark lights us up again. But no matter what life or the society throws at us, we move on forward until we are no more.
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Now more than ever, this is my call. I stand on my ground and convictions because I am an educator. I haven’t been here at this point in time nor have reached this stage by just mere hearsay and opinion or that someone or some others paid me or coerced me to support a red, yellow or whatever colors of the rainbow that powerful lords and parties had shamelessly dichotomize to justify their twisted and selfish propaganda and ideology. What people don’t realize is that the rainbow can only be appreciated for what is, when they are together and not apart. And this is why when we have eyes like the prism (a multi-layered) the black-and-white world we view becomes multi-layered and rich in colorful diversity. And when this is recognized, respected, appreciated and acknowledged as one and the same, then no matter what color you find yourself donning, you are the same as those who don’t wear yours. Amd as this diversity flourishes and develops, illusions are shattered, and we realize deep down, we are all one and the same despite the differences. And this is my call as with many others before me, with me and who will be with me as educators no matter where they are and what they are: to shatter walls and illusions, to bring light rather than curse the darkness, to build bridges, and to pass on to others what wisdom and intelligence the ages have left as legacy for us, not only for our fellow Filipinos and human beings, but also to our Common Home and the universe where it thrives.
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So let’s be more open, reflective and look the world differently. I side with no one yet would wish to side with those who seek the truth and what is good, and seek to empower and guide those who seek for it in return. EDUCATE: this is the call, the mission; this is what I am called to do as I take this identity; and this is what I stand for as many others who do so whether in the academe or on the ground. FOR WE ARE EDUCATORS, and God help those who stand in our way!
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In the face of a Silent God…

[NB. This blog is dedicated to the following:
First to two selfless people I have known in the ministry: Fr. Charito Collendres, former Chancellor of the Prelature of Infanta who lost his life in trying to save the lives of others during the typhoons of December 2004, and Bro. Ely Buenavente, AM who also passed away a year after due to leukemia.
Second, this is for the countless victims of the terrorist attacks staged by Muslim extremists this past year…
Lastly, to my mentor who has passed on, Fr. Colm McKeating, SSC whose insights on Theological Anthropology (From Grace, Creation and Sin to Eschatology) has served to deepen my faith in a God who is silent yet Present.]

bytheocean

Nov. 13, 2015…

Paris, France…

It doesn’t make sense…

It doesn’t make sense at all…

In a country where the Father Founder of our college hails from, found his faith and took his commitment on sharing God’s mission with zeal in his heart, in the place where we as Lasallians find the origins of the context of that same faith, zeal for service and communion for mission…

As Lasallians, we pray for what we need, and sometimes we pray because we are appreciative of what we have…

We pray at times as it gets deeper because there is acknowledgment in the presence of the Divine in what we say or do…

“Let us remember that we are in the (holy) Presence of God/the Divine…”

When the prayer becomes a conversation, we develop a relationship, and so we pray, “Live Jesus in our hearts forever!” because the prayer is not only in the sense of asking for something, but that a loving relationship is forged, established, later on developed and deepened.

When our Lasallian prayer begins to be translated into the way we think, say and do things, our contemplation becomes activity and mission that reflects our unique relationship with the Divine…

Then as it happens that way, we pray, “I will continue, O my God, to do all my actions for the love of You.”

There it is, praying and living the Lasallian spirit…

I was with Sir Aido Sepeda, giving this retreat to group of faculty members, when news of death, chaos and violence in different areas of France broke out…

My initial reaction was that of shock…

Then silence…

It struck my very core…

Ever since the very first ISIS news hit last June 2014, many didn’t pay much attention to it. I felt this was the effect of the very meddling that First World countries have caused since the time of the Bush administration in 1989, resurrected again in the 9/11 tragedy, and finally of the reaction of the Arab Spring against what was going on in the Arab States. When Mosul was occupied in 2014, the unthinkable happened with the establishment of a caliphate, a hermit kingdom that was in the style of the early Arab states.  And the scary part of this is that some who ventured into it (whether Muslim or not) had never returned.  I’m sure many of you have heard of the news of kidnappings, beheadings and tortures that they have perpetrated in the name of an extreme interpretation of the Islamic faith which centers on the three deadly concepts: revolution, jihad and armed conflict and war. And its militia is prepared to give their lives for their “faith” in Allah whom they believe blesses their work of war against the “infidels” (which actually translates non-Muslims = us).  Many had been beheaded, tortured and even killed in the name of their faith, even using the channels of social media as means of professing their misguided interpretation of their religious zeal. And believe me, they will continue to kill more.

I have to admit that I had been a bit desensitized by this a few years ago because I have already heard of the news of the Al-Qaeda, and their dealings with their enemies. Even in the Philippines, we know of the Jamiah Islamiyah, which is the arm of the Al-Qaeda network in the country.  I have known of their tactics as it is all over the news.  Since the beginning of the millennium, they have claimed a lot of lives including two priests, Frs. Rhoel Gallardo, CMF and Benjie Innocencio, OMI (both are whom graduates of MST).  While their deaths struck a chord in my heart, it was assuaged by the fact that after those deaths, peace work in the Philippines continued to flourish.

Then, Paris was attacked on November 13, 2015…

129 dead…

Just now as of this writing, a police raid was staged at Saint-Denis, and there were two casualties, one of them a woman who detonated an explosive vest as she charged against them.  I never thought that what I would say which could only be watched as a scene on a TV show, or even action movies wherein a part of the plot deals with a treatment of terrorism that the protagonists encounter in the development of their adventures in each episode can actually happen miles away…

Since the attack, and until now, I have been coming into grips with this reality…

Yes it was real…

It cannot be denied…It did happen…The violence was real, the deaths are real, and the war, the clash of nations looms on the horizon…

My faith in humanity is shaken once more to the core…

While my faith in the Divine stands grounded, I have a lot of questions to ask…

Why do people refuse to listen and instead given in to their primal instincts to kill, to maim and to devastate others in the name of some “misguided” interpretation of their faith?

Is it because we, as Christians have again forgotten what it is to love, to be compassionate and to work for the building of a world that is just and humane?

Does it take 129 people to die just for us to realize that the threat is real, that the violence is imminent, and that we have to rise as one human community to stand against the reality of war, violence and killing which is fueled by hate, greed and intolerance?  Or will the number grow because we keep on ignoring what the real problem is, and the devastation and destruction it will wreak havoc upon?

Tonight, I am hearing helicopters buzzing above my home along the almost midnight sky.  And while I am somehow reassuring myself that may only be transports for the world leaders who are attending the APEC summit done in my country this year, I cannot help but be afraid that somehow armies are being mobilized right now attending to some emergency which may have happened (though nothing is really happening, I hope so…).  Or that bombs may drop at any moment, signaling my last moment on Earth. Yes, one can become paranoid if one gives in to the fear and trepidation borne by those events last Saturday.

Yet the one question I have come to ask is WHY?

Why evil, why suffering, why killing?

Why do we as humans give in to the violence that is fueled by rage and anger?  Why do we fall under its spell whenever we are hurt, wounded and devastated?

It is in these moments that even when we turn to the sources of our faith (be it scriptures, prayer or even silent meditation), God seemingly becomes silent if we grapple with Him/Her the these questions. I do not know if many of you experience the same thing, but sometimes even after the tragic has struck, when we try to raise questions in the hopes of finding solace, comfort and calm through the answers, it seems nothing is forthcoming. As if, in the moment when we want God to be with us, She/He seems to be absent, or even silent…

2004…

In another time, I was also grappling the same questions as tragedy struck the towns of northern Quezon, Real, Infanta and Gen. Nakar when the typhoons Winnie and Yoyong hit them. In a time when I was undergoing drastic changes in my life (I took a leave of absence from my religious community as the family was facing a difficult moment as we were taking care of my Mom who was debilitated with the stroke), it was painful, sad and enraging to see a lot of people dead not only because of the storms, but also because of seeing the logs that destroyed a lot in their towns and in the lives of many.  It hearkened back to the years where the advocacy of the Prelature of Infanta was to raise consciousness among the peoples of not only building a “human” Church, but also a “cosmic” Church that is inclusive even of the care for the environment. And to hear the local government downplaying not only the issue, but also of those people who sacrificed their lives to save others, swelled the rage in my heart. It was obvious that what triggered the flashfloods as well as the destruction of lives and property was  the rampant illegal logging operations that destroyed the virgin forests of northern Quezon just so for the profiteering of the few. Even the priest who sacrificed his life saving the people in the barangay in the nearby river was criticized by the mayor because he was a “pakialamero”. The insensitivity and downplaying of the issue really pissed me off.

It was in these moments when I asked the God of my faith the same questions I mentioned above. And in grappling with the questions I have for him including evil and suffering, I also met the same silence…

Does this mean that God does not want to listen to us? Does it mean that God simply wishes to “punish” us with whatever he can dish out because we have done nothing to take care of the things assigned to our responsibility? Does it mean that our sins are so unforgivable that we deserve what has happened to us?

Could we say the same thing also of Paris, Bagdad, Syria and all the other areas that had been destroyed by the violent ambitions of those who are in conflict?

A tricky question really, and one that has seemingly two difficult images: 1) the seeming triumph of evil and suffering often viewed as punishment, and even as a portent to the “end-times”; and 2) the seeming “silence” of God amidst the suffering of the victims and the oppression of those caught in the crossfire.   And as if it was not even bad enough, we all raise our eyes up to God in the heavens as if we are pleading for Him/Her to come down and do something about everything that is happening.

Yes, we do live in a time where even our faith in a Divine Being is tested beyond limits.  And many go for the free fall of not anymore believing in the Divine because their prayers, it seemed to them, were not answered.  Others though never waver in their belief, but when one looks at it, that is all there is to it: belief.  Let me put it simply, there are two simple responses: 1) those who abandon the Divine they believe in, because in their hearts their God whom they believed before could do anything was powerless in this event; and 2) those who hold on to their belief in the Divine, not because they trust Him, but because this is the God (including their knowledge of this God) they were raised to believe in. No questions asked because to do so would mean either, 1) the reality of their belief of this God would be disturbed and that would merit eternal damnation; or 2) this is all they have, and all that they know, and to challenge it is to challenge their faith in the Church.

By this, it seems that we are faced with a God who is distant from us, and can do anything that She/He wants according to His/Her whims and wishes. God is up there, and we are down here…

Or is it really that way?

1985…

This was another painful time. I remembered that I lost my brother due to miscarriage. When I asked my dad, “Why did he have to die?”, I remember the best reply he gave me, and I never forgot that. The reply was not in the form of words, but it was in His silent sad face.  My father had known a lot of loss in his time: he lost a normal childhood, the chance of a good education and a good life, the love of parents who would take care of their children, a job and even livelihood. But none was greater than when he lost people he loved: my ate Joan in 1976, my younger brother in 1985 (we were supposed to name him Charles), and my mom in 2005. And I must admit he shed more tears on them than on his parents because he truly loved them.

And seeing that sad face made me realize and understand years later that he has no answers to the questions I asked. All he knows is that no matter what happens, he will be there with me even when I am sad and doubtful of what life is.  My dad is not used to showing emotions with us most of the time, but he sure knows to be that silent presence whenever we need support and help in life. He may not have the answers nor tell us of sagely treasures whenever things like that happens. What he guarantees however, is that silent as he may be, he will always be there for us.

And maybe that’s how God is (somehow) when we face these events and situations, and may appear like She/He is not there. I remember my old mentor, Fr. Colm McKeating, SSC telling us in his class, and now in his posthumous book, Light Which Dims the Stars about this seeming silent God who is “not and absentee landlord, but is continuously interacting with creation. Nothing happens in the world without God’s active participation.”[1]  It means that no matter what happens good and evil, God is there. Does this mean God permits evil and suffering to happen in the world? Painfully, yes She/He does. Does evil and suffering come from Him? Adamantly, the Christian faith tells us no however because if they do then the world, and all that is within it including us would not have been.  All creation in the universe even the violence as they appear in natural phenomena has its origins from the goodness of which God is. Furthermore, evil cannot create as only goodness can do that. Yet in a way God permits the evil and suffering that is born from the chaos of His creation, but it is so not to punish us and the world, but to respect the process this created world has in maintaining the balance of its existence. If there will be no chaos, then order will not assert itself. Without evil, the good will not flourish in the lives of those who uphold it.  Without death and suffering, then life will go on unchecked, and negate the possibility of those who have the potential to uplift lives however short the existence of these people may be so as to inspire others to do the same in the same shortness of life we share.

And when evil and suffering do strike, it must reminds us that God is active in their process not to perpetuate them, but to let us realize that we are but creatures who are being formed from that brokenness so as to become stronger and better in the real sense of the word. And silent though the Divine is during the process, She/He is there guiding us, watching us not from afar or from some distant place up there, but near enough to be with us because She/He wants us to grow from this experience.  When we are happy, God is happy through the people who share your happiness. When we are sad, angry and even question Him/Her, She/He will meet us at where we are, but not to argue with us, only to let us feel that She/He is just there, listening to us, accompanying us and struggling with us that we may grow open ourselves in His goodness and love.

You may not believe me as you read this nor am I offering or intending to give answers to the questions we may seek when we experience the tragic. All we can do really is to truly believe as in not just knowing about the Divine and the teachings upheld about Him/Her, but believing in the sense of exhibiting trust and abandonment to His/Her Divine Will because we are beloved.  In fact, if you feel asking those questions, show your doubts and even fall in disbelief in the Divine, be my guest to do so as this is your journey. What I can only offer in writing this piece is to share what I truly believe (which in the old English, is synonymous to being be-loved), i.e., that while God permits evil and suffering to happen in the world as a consequence of His active participation in the universe, by no means is He the source of it, but rather uses them to bring out the goodness and love in which the created universe was designed in the first place. Don’t ask me how it happens as it is a mystery to us, a mystery of faith as it unfolds. But, just like that day in 1985 on why I never understood why my father was silent on the death of my brother so it is with us when we meet God as we grapple with doubts and questions.  And just like it was only years later that I understood why it happened, and why my father only had that sad face as his response, God meets us with a wizened resolve as She/He slowly and gradually reveals to us what She/He intends for us as we grow from our experience of doubt, adversity and conflict during our further travels in life’s journey.

“Many goods (virtues) would disappear were God to permit no evil.” – St. Thomas of Aquinas

Notes:

[1] Colm McKeating, Light Which Dims the Stars: A Christian Theology of Creation (Makati City: St. Pauls Philppines, 2015), 224.

Reflections on My Summer of Silence… [Part 2]

[Blogger’s Note: This is a blog which I will divide into parts since when I wrote and edited it initially composed of 13 pages.  Of course, a blog as I am now realizing not attractive to read unless you have some visuals on it.  So this is still a work in progress upon completion.  It had been over two months to the day I left my last community, Claret School of Quezon City, and a month of stay with my new community, the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, from teacher to campus ministry; from the youth apostolate, to the academe, and now to the campus ministry.  It has been one hell of a journey.  Here lies the latest reflection on the story of that journey, and where it has led me since…]

Last time:

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These different casts of characters in CSQC were the people I worked with, and rather than be bitter and ungrateful to them, I would like to thank them for even a person like me has to experience adversity, pain and struggle.  It is like a seed that has germinated in good soil being tried and tested in the most adverse of conditions.  For a tree to grow as durable and as strong as it is, it has to weather the hottest of days, the most terrible of storms, the coldest of atmospheres and even the gentlest of breezes in a normal day.  Without even the CSQC experience, I would not have grown to be the person that I am right now who had the courage to make decisions in life, even leaving the institution so as to grow elsewhere.  And while as Shakespeare puts it, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, I do this knowing that I believe God is calling me elsewhere to heal, grow and be life-giving again in ministry.

It had been a fruitful eight years for me…

“So why leave?”, you may ask

Prelude to the The Summer of Silence: TTY (TOXIC TWO YEARS!) and The Request Denied

How did I get here?  This is where the “summer of silence” came in this year…

Two years ago, there were a new set of administrators who came to the former workplace.  And while they brought the promise of doing their best of making Claret “great” again, much of what they had to do to achieve this was to give up what made the employee happy, in my opinion…

And I was one of them…

And I will not go into details anymore because that is past.  All I can say was that in the last two years while I still accomplished what the school asked me to do, it slowly turned me into an unhappy trooper.  Much of the sentiments I raised during this period had been valid (while there will be people who will disagree, this is just my opinion), but was not listened to.  Nobody even had developed the culture to seek out the state of the people who are working with them or even mentor them of the new trends that were happening.  Not being listened, being told to do what they are asking you to do even when you are left in the cold, and not checking whether you are happy or not, are recipes for an employee who will consider resignation and seek his fortunes elsewhere.  That much I realized when this previous school year is almost up.

Yet I didn’t want to leave either…

I had to be honest to myself: I was hurt, exhausted, burned-out and not happy as a teacher anymore.  But I did not want to go either, because to me, mission never ends.  To me, this was more than a job, but a ministry. But there was also the question: How can I give more when the “well is dry” (to borrow the words of one of the spiritual greats, Fr. Thomas Green, SJ)?  I saw myself not becoming effective to my pupils anymore. Everything I see in work is becoming burdensome to me, and I felt that if I continue to teach next year, it will be the “death” of me.  And since I am that wounded and hurt, I realized that I had to go back to the one thing that started everything for me in the first place: ministry.  I expressed this to FEED, my immediate community, and they have no problems with it.  Some were ambivalent, but most of them encouraged me to do it. And I really wanted to because for me, I wanted to do this for years.

I also had personal plans to stay with Claret at most for 10 years which means I wanted to prolong may stay for 2 more years.  I admit I wanted to stay for selfish reasons.  Sayang ang benefits eh.  Plus, I could get a lot of monetary benefits upon leaving.  And I can still establish something in ministry should I stay. I’ll be secure no matter what. And so in trying to stay in the institution while looking for ways not to be in teaching next year, I wrote to the Director expressing my wish for next school year. Alas, however as my letter was rejected telling me that the school needs teachers next year.  Somewhat a bit enraged because of making that decision without being called to talk about it (which I believed was the SOP for such requests), but willing to express my wish for the second time through dialogue and patience, I again wrote a longer letter a second time, this time explaining in mildly strong way why I wanted to be in ministry, and not seeing myself being a teacher next year.  As to be expected, I didn’t get an immediate answer.  And about this time, the institutional year was about to end. To add injury to insult (though not intentional), all the seminars I was asked to attend was pulled out from me.  Those that I had planned to attend, I decided not to attend as I had no way of asking funds from the school.  In my whole being, I just wanted everything to end, as I felt that I was so tired of being like this.  After the institutional year-end activity, I was dying to get out, go home, and stay away as much as possible knowing that I had enough after all of these grueling experiences during the year.

And that’s where the “summer of silence” began for me…

 

[To be continued]

Reflections on My Summer of Silence… [Part 1]

[Blogger’s Note: This is a blog which I will divide into parts since when I wrote and edited it initially composed of 13 pages.  Of course, a blog as I am now realizing not attractive to read unless you have some visuals on it.  So this is still a work in progress upon completion.  It had been over two months to the day I left my last community, Claret School of Quezon City, and a month of stay with my new community, the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, from teacher to campus ministry; from the youth apostolate, to the academe, and now to the campus ministry.  It has been one hell of a journey.  Here lies the latest reflection on the story of that journey, and where it has led me since…]

Prologue:

Saying good bye to a journey of 12 years…

I am going to say “farewell” to 12 years as an educator in the Basic Education setting…

It had been fun, challenging, exhausting, stressful, nip-and-tuck and yet at the same, a blessing-filled experience…

I am now entering a new phase as the door has been opened to where “home” is…

“Going home” to ministry in a new setting…challenging, scary yet EXCITING…

But before I get to this point, let me start where all things start: AT THE BEGINNING…

In the beginning was chaos…

When I started treading out the path of an educator 12 years ago, I had an inkling of a plan.  This means that while I believe that plans change, there must be at least a direction, a path so that I won’t get lost along the way.  It started not with becoming a full-fledged teacher with dreams of rising higher in the ranks. I didn’t even had in mind to study or even go back to graduate school for the purpose of advancing my status nor had ambitions to teach in college to get a chair, become a dean or being recognized as a name in the academic field of theology.  Mind you, I haven’t even attained those yet, though I do have plans to study, but not for the reasons or patterns I have mentioned above.

Believe it or not, when I started all of this, I only had in mind that I needed a job to support my family, and help my sister in covering the expenses in taking care of my bed-ridden mom.  Having applied in three schools, I was accepted in all of them.  It only came down to choosing which school I would to work with.  While the first two schools I got accepted into showed promise as both were good schools (STI Cubao and Dela Salle Araneta University during her transition from GAUF), my instincts were telling me that there was something lacking, and that I needed more if I am to work, and engage in the field of becoming an instructor or teacher.  That’s when the third school popped in as an old friend of mine, Sr. Ma. Erlinda Cruz, RVM needed a Christian Living Teacher for the High School level at St. Mary’s College of Quezon City.  And I accepted the job for various reasons, three of which are the most important: (1) I needed it to be accessible to home so that I can easily go home and help Papa in taking care of Mama (and this we endured for 2 years and 3 months); (2) I wanted a school where I can start at the bottom so that if ever and whenever I reached the top, I can appreciate the journey, and the people who were with me during those times; and finally (3) to be a religious educator is a passion I share as I am graduate the General Theology Program in MST.

While my journey in SMCQC as well as my leaving it is already documented in my blogs, my now former workplace Claret School of Quezon City I didn’t care to share much.  It’s not that I don’t like the institution in general or that it had given me a lot of heartaches.  Though much of the pain and struggle of being an educator as well as my lack of success I had experienced there in CSQC, I am not bitter about it, not anymore at least.  On the contrary, I am thankful that the adversity I faced in a lot of people and in the systems there made me grow as a person.  While SMCQC had been a home and a community, CSQC was more of an acid-test having to deal with a lot of struggles of dealing with people whose opinions and personalities differed from one another.  Not much of a good thing lasted in the institution because with different personalities came different priorities. And when there are different and diverse priorities, well the programs and ideas become transient and fleeting.  Adding to that the ups and downs the institution has faced in the years that I have stayed there because there was always a feeling of discontent (which I project too to be honest) and a sense of not meeting the expectations you had been trying to get across.

Unless this blog becomes a gripe of CSQC (which is not my intention), I will have to balance my perception of my former workplace with the blessings I have received in that place, and there are plenty too.  Among them, (1) I had been blessed to be part of the emergent Faith Education and Enrichment Division (FEED) who reminded me of the sense of mission through the many activities and immersion I had experienced, and through encountering the diverse people there who contributed to the way I had shaped my sense of mission; (2) the place is where I met the love of my life, Ella Jamoralin, who helped me in balancing my seemingly negative outlook in life while I stayed in CSQC, and taught me and reminded me that despite the many complaints I have, I had to do something about it, i.e., be more pro-active than re-active; (3) the ability to grow in skill especially in caring for the needs of the pupils whether there were mentors or not at my side; (4) the chance to settle my unfinished business of achieving my MA in MST (which I did not to advance my position and salary as many would think of people like me taking MA), and in effect grow in my passion which is theology and ministry; (5) the many benefits I am able to get there (my former Claretian colleagues know this, and I don’t want to enumerate them anymore); and lastly (6) the people outside of FEED whose actions and intentions they continue to do for the good of the school, for their colleagues, and who don’t share the illusions of statuses and divisions most of whom are not teachers, but those who sacrifice every day of their time to serve CSQC whether as ASSA, FIRC or even as teachers (and you know who you are as we have shared a lot of conversations).

Ang saya talaga! IMG_8020 IMG_8061a

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Virtue boys

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These different casts of characters in CSQC were the people I worked with, and rather than be bitter and ungrateful to them, I would like to thank them for even a person like me has to experience adversity, pain and struggle.  It is like a seed that has germinated in good soil being tried and tested in the most adverse of conditions.  For a tree to grow as durable and as strong as it is, it has to weather the hottest of days, the most terrible of storms, the coldest of atmospheres and even the gentlest of breezes in a normal day.  Without even the CSQC experience, I would not have grown to be the person that I am right now who had the courage to make decisions in life, even leaving the institution so as to grow elsewhere.  And while as Shakespeare puts it, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, I do this knowing that I believe God is calling me elsewhere to heal, grow and be life-giving again in ministry.

It had been a fruitful eight years for me…

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“So why leave?”, you may ask

This leads us to the next chapter…

[To be continued]

Christmas Reflections 2014

(Before you look and start making fun of [or even smile because of how cute] this picture of me looks, read my thoughts below, and then you may start looking at it, and share your thoughts…)

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This is me being Santa for a day…

The one-day Santa with the other little Santas…

To all my colleagues and friends, and especially those in the theological field (esp. to my friends who are now college professors, and my fellow ministers in the Lord):

I realize that while reading some of your posts, I sense some of you are not happy in this year’s Christmas, and with good cause.

Many things have been taken away from us, including the chance and the opportunity to teach, and be part of the ministry of proclaiming the Kingdom of God especially to students who are at that crucial time when the whole being is now both receptive and critical at the same time. Yes, contrary to what others believe especially to those who belong to the constructivist field (whose concern is only the mind and the academics), critical thinking only happens fully during the college and MA years. Nevertheless, what the CHED, the DepEd, and the whole Phil. government has bought into sounded good to some in paper, but has brought a negative progressive step that challenged our culture, spirituality, and even our jobs. Some of us will lose our teaching jobs in the future, while some are forced to adapt into a way of thinking that is too economic, commodified and extremely academic. And because they are in power, they always tell us to adapt or hit the road.

As some of my bosses said in these few lines:
“It’s this or the highway.”
“Well, this will be the way things are, and if you don’t like it, you better resign and leave.”

It is sad when the Catholic school gradually becomes centers of business and profit-making, and instead of the alternative and counter-establishment community in the wider Church that should seek to articulate the Gospel in the signs of the times (GS 4). Imposition and authoritative power have given way replacing dialogue, synergy and solidarity that should have been the spirit of the Catholic school. I remember being told that “generosity is not imposed” by one boss of mine. And it seems either that person either misinterpreted my point or that she/he and many others in power feel comfortable in their own understanding of outreach that they have forgotten that the whole community should have a program of its own (led by them) as all of us should ACT as ONE, and not just as individual sectors within the school. Doing outreach (and Doing Theology in general) is not a personal enterprise, but a communitarian one where ALL (and not just by some or by just one sector) act together as ONE (in this case, the Catholic school community). And this is not only initiated by one office, but by all who believe in the Catholic spirit. Sadly, the paradigm change has not happened as many are still in their comfort zones of power, authority and the sense of being or proving themselves blinding to the needs of the many…I can imagine some lack the proper spirit.)

Christmas 2014 is a sad one for me because everyone I look this is happening. I know some of you might think this is another one of my ramblings (a negative one, if you will), but if you care to look at every Catholic school right now, most have “bitten the bullet” so to speak in the name of economic progress and academic excellence. And most of us know that the K+12 program is not a thought-of program, and most of the teachers are suffering from it. Reality bites people because we are actually doing the work which the DepEd is supposed to be doing. The DepEd has really nothing on the K+12 program because they are asking us in the private sector to critique what they have made and “improve” on it (wow, talk about free service which only reflects incompetence and unreliability).

And with the CHED removing Filipino and the other Humanities subjects, it has basically removed and dismantled the values program which the past governments has sought to build for many years (to their credit ironically). Finally, they gave in to the demands of transnational organizations and multi-national entities for the demand of more-skilled workers and BPO people to do their dirty work, and all the while getting their services for cheap. What this has given our country as a result ironically is the stifling of creativity, local initiative, critical thinking and the blossoming of national initiative to make the nation GREAT again. Our government while believing it has done something has just limited our potential to discover things for ourselves especially the joy of learning new things because we bow to what these entities have dictated to most of our policy-makers who care for nothing but honor (pasikat), riches (kurakot at kick-back) and fame (pa-epal).

As some others would have said, “We have dug in a hole for this nation. We may not realize it now, but sooner or later we would have lost everything.”

I believe though that it is not yet TOO late because of people like you who still carry the spark within themselves despite the gloomy times we are experiencing.

Last week, I have played Santa to the kids at our Grade School department. There were three of us who were supposed to be present to play the part. As the hour approached for the parade our department was organizing, I felt like backing out at the last minute because deep within me, I might not achieve giving happiness due to the sadness I had in my heart (and even after that the events continue to pour, but that’s another story, and in a way you will see a bit of it during this reflection). But like any other similar experience that has happened in the past, I thought, Christmas ain’t mine, but for them. And when I played the part, I was surprised to see a lot of children happy from just seeing what I represent to the effect it gave them when I gave candies as Santa. And happiness is something within. YOU CAN’T TEACH THAT. You can only share it even if you are sad. And this is something even critical thinking or research can’t teach in the classroom. Sometimes, it’s not in what academic designs nor the mishaps nor even the impositions that make our teaching effective and timely. It is not the UbD and the OBE that will take us to the future. Even Singapore and other countries realize that academics without values (which K+12 and the CHED ruling have unceremoniously taken out) is incomplete education. IT WILL NEVER BE. And we all know this…

My friends, we may be struggling now, but all of this may be happening I believe as it may be meant to purify, strengthen and re-examine our commitment to be prophets (teachers), priests (servants) and kings (leaders) in the mold of that legendary and life-giving teacher from Nazareth (who was a great prophet in both Word and Deed) during these signs of the times. Let me be clear that I am not proposing to agree with this madness, but to come together, organize, dialogue and be one in facing this crises of faith that has gripped us these past few years. I think this is something that we know we have to address, re-examine and go toward to face, knowing that we have to come together as a community. I can only sound the call, but who will take it up in their communities? Let us not give in to despair, to indifference and to passiveness even if it is the most tempting thing to do. I am urging to the people in this circle who can inspire and organize to gather us together. I know because somehow I am close to falling to it.

And I refuse to give in even how tempting that free fall may be…

A blessed Christmas to you all, and feel free to share your ideas about this in your communities, even if not here…Let us keep the flame alive even if the times are disappointing for most of us…Let us discover the joy of this season despite the sadness some of us feel in our hearts…And even if we feel differently about Santa this season, just remember that I found joy in him as I became an agent of bringing to children the happiness of the season whose source is the God of the universe, the God of our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us give thanks to the Father who sent His Son in this opportune time (the Kairos), and brings the Spirit in their endless and unconditional love towards each other, and to all of creation…

(And now, you can look at the picture as well as the other pictures…hehehehehehehe…feel free also to share the post to those who might be feeling the same way…)

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With the original Santa for a day, Fr. Ronnie Banaria, CMF and an angel…

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The Santa for a day with his “angel” and two other little angels…

(And now, you can look at the picture…hehehehehehehe…feel free also to share the post to those who might be feeling the same way…)

The Paradox of Failure: Lessons and Sentiments from an Agonizing Week

Now it can be told since the “saga” ended today (hopefully):

Last week was the hardest week in my life. Hardest because even teachers have to face situation where principle is faced against compassion. Where justice and compassion must be the two considerations especially in looking at the evaluation of the pupil/student…

I have been known by people to be really not afraid to call a spade a spade especially in situations where assessing and evaluating pupils are concerned. In my 11 years as a teacher, there were those I had to pass when able, and fail those who don’t make the cut. Back then, some would say that it was easy to do it since most were of them were HS students. And while I ran to some conflicts with people whenever I gave a failing mark to the student, I always stood my ground because I knew deep in my heart that despite the conferences and the talks, the student failed to make the cut, and since I had proper documentation, no matter what some colleagues or even some parents say, they can never overturn the decision I made. And whenever administrators ask, “What as a teacher have you done for the student? Have you done the student?”, I would always balk (albeit silently), “Have you doubted what I did for 10 months?” To be honest, I always hated that question, not because of what it meant, but because back then, I felt that question was tactless, not considering the sacrifices and effort the teacher had given to give that failing student the chance to pass only to not take it by not working hard enough or even showing effort to do so…

This happened again to me last week (in fact 10 months in the making, and I’ve known it all along that it may be the worst-case scenario). The only difference: I am now in the Grade School. If it happened in a time when the student was HS, it would be easy since this was not new anymore. Should have been easy, right?

Nope, it never was easy honestly to begin with. I knew then as now, it is never easy to fail a pupil/student. And that is why I always never liked that question mentioned above, because even if you have done everything in your power to help the pupil/student, there are some who could never be helped despite the help given.  There are those who would choose the bitter pill to swallow rather than heed the warning and the assistance given.  I hated the damn question because I knew deep down inside, it’s questioning and challenging what I have done for that pupil/student, and despite everything, he “failed”.  I hate that question because deep inside the truth is we have failed each other (both the pupil/student and I).

So don’t fail the pupil/student. Magpikit-mata ka na lang…D ka pa mahihirapan…Think of what will happen to the pupil/student if you do that…I hope you feel how difficult it is for the parents to accept what happened…

Yeah, I hear you and I do understand.  That could be very easy. Just think of the long-term implications for the pupil if you don’t pass him/her. I will be destroying/depriving the pupil/student the very future we’re supposed to build for him, right?

Did I really think this through? Did I do the right thing?

My heart says, I might have to agree with them. After all, it is the failure of the educator when a pupil/student fails right?

This was what I had been subjected to last week when I saw all those pupils who had failing marks in my subject.  Believe me, it was agonizing, stressful, and nerve-wracking for me.

Yeah, sure, some of my past colleagues and friends may tell me that this sort of thing has not fazed me before. That I was not afraid to “fail” students in the past.

So why feel that way?

That’s where I would want to prove anyone wrong.  Every student who had failing marks in the past was always like a spot on the road that I had journeyed as an educator.  You think it was easy for me? I THINK NOT. How will it be easy for me when I know I HAVE DONE EVERYTHING IN MY POWER TO HELP THAT PUPIL/STUDENT TO PASS, AND YET FAIL IN THE END?  For every 30-40 minutes of activities, journals, and tests you have given (sometimes even extended), I have extended every reminder (both verbal and written) to study this, focus on that, and even guide them as to what to do.  I have even talked to some of them reminding that they should do their best in every activity, journal or test that is given.   And still some of them fail….

EASY? Think again…

It is never easy when situations like last week happen.  When you have done everything, even to communicate with the parent, what the child should do in order that she/he could pass the subject/ course.

What the child should do…

Now here are the words that sometimes some of my colleagues forget: what the child should do…

Nice to see the arguments, and I know you mean well…

But let us not forget these words: what the child should do…

Education is a two-way street, like a dance done by partners.  Yes, we have to do everything in our power to ensure that the pupil/student should not fail. But if the argument only ends there, then we miss the whole point of education, and the process of education: that the child has to perform, do, apply, exhibit and LIVE what she/he has learned in school.  Yes, every teacher must remind the pupil/student of his/her responsibilities to his/her academic formation as well as her holistic formation as a person, but it is the pupil/student himself/herself that must show how well she/he has learned everything in and out of the classroom by his/her actions through the work/output she/he produces.  One thing that I think most educators forget is that no matter what assistance/help we give to the pupil/student, it is the pupil/student who determines his/her future.  We, as educators, are only there to guide as well as evaluate/assess the pupil/student.

In saying these words, I recall how as a student, I almost didn’t graduate HS (having a very low grade in Physics, which is the Science course for 4th yr. HS).  And even with that, I remember my parents not even blaming the teacher for my failure.  My mom (that elementary educator who formed my sister and I into the persons that we are) would always ask my teachers how I was in school, what happened to me why I had such low grades in Physics (I got a 78, then a 75), and whenever my teachers tell me both my positives and negatives, and even the reasons why I did that in the subject, she was very thankful to them for doing the best that they could.  Later that year, I asked my parents why they would always take the side of the teachers and not my side, they would only say, “Anak, sino ba ang nag-aaral? Sino ba ang gumagawa ng kinabukasan nya sa pinag-aaralan nya?”  And I would take to heart that question during my 4th yr HS, in that it awakened that dormant spirit of the child who curious and wanting to learn.  It awakened what I had forgotten for so long a time, and how my carefree-ness led to negligence.  Sometimes, even in the throes of failures due to adversity (whether created by one’s self or others, and in this case mine), and especially when you’re backed into a corner, you realize no one person can determine your future.  IT IS I WHO WILL DETERMINE THAT FUTURE.  My parents and teachers can only give me so much, but it is I who will make the effort.  This is true for all pupils/students no matter what mental ability they have.

Last week, it was not easy to make that decision in standing in the decision to give those final marks to that pupil.  God knows I tried hard, and I understand that some decisions are never easy to make, especially if the situation was not tailor-made for you.  But I remembered that I did my best for that pupil, and hard as it is, I had to make that decision.  Even if we tried by making efforts in trying to locate the areas where the pupil may be saved, it was still not enough.  We may try to look for that one lost sheep to save, but in the end, it is God in the person of Jesus who saves, and not us.  I am not a Messiah who saves every person who fails.  I am not God.  I am just the hand God uses to whatever end She/He wants to use me in the lives of that pupil/student, and to the parent who forms that child.  It may not be the nicest feeling right now that I am not the subject he passed (ironic because it is CLE where the assumption of people always is that all pupils/students may pass, but of course, I think that is a misnomer), and to be honest, I feel not joyful about it.  But I also believe that in making that decision, I have done everything in my power to help him.

You win some, and then you lose some…

But I know that I had to do it because I know that it is last thing, the only yet RIGHT thing to do…I have done in my power to remind the child, and give him enough assistance to try convincing him to help himself…And yet, WE “failed”…

It is not the nicest feeling in the world, but deep down, and I am convinced, that as an educator, I had to do the only thing left: THE RIGHT THING

It may be the most bitter pill to swallow, but in my conscience I knew it was the only thing, THE RIGHT THING left to do, and even if I didn’t like it, I had to do it…

So help me God…

PS. The saga may have ended this morning.  As I wrote this piece, I knew a lot may judge me in what I wrote here, but know I wrote this to pour what I had been through the last week.

And the funny thing was, while it was tumultuous during and after the meeting, the peaceful ending came today when I talked to the parent today.  And to be honest, it was ironic: I knew that with what hell those criticisms were unleashed towards me, and what stress I had been dragged into those meetings while I repeatedly explained my side, the meeting with the actual parent of the pupil was the most serene and peaceful despite the bad news.  I admire the parent who took it upon himself to come and dialogue with us (he failed another subject besides mine) in the most calm, and peaceful way.  I admit I was pained to give him the news, but he was the most thankful and the more grateful parent who came in all my 11 yrs. as a teacher.  Shades of my parents came back in my memory, and despite that painful moment, God was there as if to comfort me after making that hardest decision in my 11-yr teaching career.

And that’s why I keep on striving to be an educator.

The moral of the lesson: Never be afraid to make the hardest of decisions as long as you know you have done and thought of everything even if it means you also have to suffer.  And in whatever you do, God through His/Her Creator Spirit accompanies you no matter what…in good times or bad, in comfortable and hard decisions…

I think the paradox of failure is this: I may have failed, and not been able to “save” the pupil, but I know that up to the end, I did it right (despite what others may think, as this was my journey with him)…And in that, it is the only victory I can speak of…

All praise and thanksgiving to Lord God, Creator of the Universe!!!

 

I GET IT…BUT I CHOOSE… (On the discrimination and oppression of Catholics against the LGBT community)

On those who are loud to oppose same-sex marriage and the LGBT community:

I GET IT…

I GET IT…that you are too faithful to the doctrines of the Catholic Church, and even if it means disrespecting their gender preferences…

I GET IT…that it is taught by the Holy Mother Church even if the ones whose interpretation you uphold are too archaic and often triumphalistic…

I GET IT…that the doctrines our Church teaches are divinely revealed even if we don’t really practice it wholly as we are more offended by sexual morality issues more, and ecological and social justice issues less…

I GET IT…that you think they will go to hell if they don’t repent and change their gender preference despite that scientific studies have evinced the contrary…

BUT DON’T EXPECT ME TO AGREE WITH YOU…NOR JOIN YOU…

WHY? It’s because…

I CHOOSE to be critical than being blindly obedient…I am not a slave to the doctrine for they are not supposed to be rules that gave sanctions should we not follow (like eternal damnation), but guides to better living (to be with GOD not only UP there, but DOWN here), and how we see and treat the LGBT as a Church right now is crap (Now let’s see who’s more Pharisaic and hypocritical…)

I CHOOSE to be compassionate and accepting…I realize I am no better than the people you condemn just because they are not STRAIGHT like me…BEING STRAIGHT DOES NOT GUARANTEE SALVATION, but how we stand before God as we are supposed to love our neighbor no matter who they are (and it even includes those who contracted same-sex marriage and those who are LGBT)…

I CHOOSE to re-assess my understanding of the doctrines because no matter how divinely revealed the doctrines are (Scripture included), they are after all written by human minds, and are subject even to the flawed interpretation of our limited imagination…And afterwards live them and practice them differently than you, as the signs of the times dictate, NOT to debate, but to DIALOGUE with others as this is needed more…

I CHOOSE to believe in a compassionate and merciful God “who hates the SIN, but LOVES THE SINNER”…A God who admonishes the sinner not because He wants to, but that He loves the sinner (all of us included)…Not to believe in a GOD who punishes because of the so-called SINS we accuse of others (much like the tone of the prayer the Reverend Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan invokes…I’d rather take the tone of the current Pope and the good Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Manila calls for…) because this image of God is not only dangerous but lethal…the kind of God determines the way we live, and (ironically) HOW WE ARE JUDGED…

And I’d rather CHOOSE to talk about social justice and ecology…because in the end it’s not the gender preference that determines the goodness or sinfulness of the person nor how are we to attain salvation but how we have treated “the least of these ones” (and this includes God’s creation)…And that the greater injustice is done more by people who lie, cheat and steal, not by those who love the people of the same sex and gender…Mas makasalanan ba ang bakla at tomboy kesa sa nagsisinungaling, nandadaya, nagnanakaw at sumisira ng kalikasan?…

“Anuman ang iyong ginagawa sa iyong kapatid ay siya ring ginagawa mo sa akin” – Mat. 25:40 as interpreted in the song “Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo” by YANO

“Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mat. 9:13 NAB)

PS. Bottomline: I choose to be compassionate and accepting rather than be judgmental and condemning…

It’s the STANCE AND ATTITUDE that we have brothers and sisters (and that I have something against you who judge the LGBT community), and not the faithfulness to the teaching that we all believe (called to BE-LOVE [Borg]) in…And ironic that this is how we will all be judged IN THE END…

Because at the END, there is only one: GOD…

PS2. I like to ask this question for all of us who belong to the Roman Catholic Church: When will we get it? When will we understand that defending the faith is useless if we don’t practice what we teach and preach? What is the use of defending the doctrines of the Church if we are not compassionate and loving as well as voice out what is inhuman as well as unjust in the treatment of God’s creation?