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Chapter Six

                                                                             

THE DIARY OF A THEOLOGY STUDENT

 

 

August 19, 1977

Three months ago, I arrived here in Davao to begin my theological studies. I'm staying in our monastery in Bajada with 11 other Redemptorist students. There are three of us in first year theology (Nelson, Claro and myself), two in second year, one third year, and six in fourth year. There is  a newly ordained priest – Fr. Joe Perez – who is still finishing his theological studies. He is taking a few subjects and at the same time working with the squatters in Buhangin. There are four Irish Redemptorist priests in the community. The prefect  of students is Fr. Ramon Fruto. We are seemed destined to follow one another. He was the director of the minor seminary when I entered in 1968. He was my novice master for a while in 1976. And now we meet again in Davao. This time, he doesn’t intimidate me anymore after all I am a professed Redemptorist. This means that we are confreres and I can call him by his first name – Ramon. 

The monastery is a large two-storey building with 20 rooms on the second floor. On the first floor are the parish office,  community prayer room,  refectory, common room and library. The monastery is perched on a small hill that overlooks the parish church. The Mother of Perpetual Help parish (also known as the Redemptorist parish) covers a very large area -- from the urban area in Bajada and Buhangin to the upper barrios that stretches 25 kilometers away.

We go to class at the St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary (SFX-REMASE) in Catalunan Grande, which is 14 kilometers away from the monastery. Every morning we drive along the winding and rolling highway towards the seminary. Last week we saw a naked corpse with a bullet hole on the head at the side of the road. This is the highway where those "salvaged" by the military are usually dumped. The dictatorial regime is becoming more brutal these days.

The REMASE , which is run by the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), is the only major seminary in Mindanao. Those who come to study here are seminarians from all the 21 dioceses in Mindanao and from two religious orders based in Davao (the Blessed Sacrament and the Redemptorists).

As a first year theology student, I am taking five subjects this semester: Methodology of Research, Introduction to Sacred Scriptures and Salvation History, Pentateuch, Fundamental Moral Theology, and Pastoral Skills.  I find these subjects very interesting. All our classes are in the morning from Monday to Friday. I spend an hour in the afternoon and two hours in the evening going over my notes or reading theology books but  I also find time to play basketball in the afternoon.

I'm assigned in our library to help arrange and classify the books. I also take time to practice  the electric organ. I sometimes play the organ during the weekday mass to accompany the people in the singing.

As for my apostolate, I have just been assigned to the center area of the parish to help in organizing the communities in the urban slums near our monastery. Originally I volunteered to work with the banana plantation workers in the upper barrios but I decided to work with the center team, since it needed someone with training and experience in community organizing.

            Some of the seminarians work with four Good Shepherd sisters and another community organizer in Buhangin. Buhangin is a pilot area for BCC-CO (Basic Christian Community-Community Organizing). This is a method of building up Basic Christian Communities using the community organizing approach. When there are mobilizations  by the Buhangin residents, those of us assigned in other areas come and  help out. Last month, I accompanied over two hundred squatters to the Sto. Niño shrine for a dialogue with Mayor Luis Santos. They were asking the Mayor to stop the demolition of their homes and to let them own the land they were occupying. The Mayor promised to put a halt to the demolition and consider their proposal.  Later, after the mobilization, I attended  their evaluation session. One of the facilitators was Sceny.  She is an attractive college student living in Buhangin, who is actively involved with the squatters’ organization. We have become friends. 

Tomorrow, five of my fellow seminarians will be moving out to the squatter area in Buhangin  to start an experimental community among the urban poor. I was hoping to join them but our superiors laid down  the policy of excluding the first year students. Maybe next year I will be allowed to join them if the experiment continues.

 

December 9, 1977

The first semester ended in the middle of  October. I  received an overall average of 1.2. I was very pleased to learn that I was at the top of the class. This is the first time that this happened. From my elementary to high school and college my academic performance was mediocre.

After two weeks of semestral break we started the second semester. These are the subjects I am taking: The Problem of God, Revelation, Christology, Mariology, and Liturgy.  The subjects are becoming more and more interesting.

Our Christmas vacation begins tomorrow. I was planning to leave for home immediately but I can't because I have to finish my term paper, which is due in January. Something urgent also came up in the squatters’ area where I am assigned. The residents have received a notice that their homes will be demolished by December 31. So I am helping organize the community and train the residents in non-violent resistance.  The land is claimed by Mr. Floirendo, a very wealthy and powerful crony of  President Marcos.  He already owns large tracts of lands and yet he wants to drive out these poor people who have been living on this land for more than three decades. They may not have a title to the land but they have the right to stay there. After all, there is no such thing as an absolute ownership of the land. The land, like the air and the sea, is God's gift for all of us so that we may live. It is unjust for a few to monopolize the ownership of the land and deprive others of their right to share in God’s blessing. 

 I'll  be going home on December 19  and spend Christmas with family. I’ll come back on December 28. I just hope that the demolition team does not come on December 31. It would be tragic for the people to welcome the New Year homeless.

 

March 25, 1978

            The second semester is over and we will be starting our summer vacation. I just received my grades and I am glad to see that I have been able to maintain my overall average of 1.2. My highest grade is 1.0 in Christology.  What I like most about our Christology class is the new approach,  which gives emphasis on the historical Jesus -- his ministry, his liberating praxis and his central message, which is the kingdom of God. We get to know more about Jesus as a person who was born among the poor and who proclaimed the good  news of liberation to the poor. This is what was lacking in traditional Christology, which focused on Christ’s incarnation and his death and resurrection. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He reveals to us a God who is a loving father. He also reveals to us the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life. He is not just a historical figure that lived two thousand years ago. We believe that the risen Lord continues to be present today in an invisible way through the church and the sacraments. Jesus sheds light on the  question about God’s existence and the Trinity. I  can still remember what Hugo told me in prison – that there is no material basis for God’s existence. If he could hear me now, I will tell him that there is – it is Jesus, the word made flesh.          

So far, the squatters are still occupying the land claimed by the dictator’s crony. Although the city hall had sent a notice of demolition last December, there has been no demolition so far.  I visit the squatters’ community on weekends. The people remain vigilant.  The demolition team might come like a thief in the night.

            Next month, three seminarians will be ordained: Ben Ma, Charlie Jundis and Berting Anfone. Two fourth year seminarians have finished their theological studies but they decided not to apply for ordination: Sam Javelosa and Fred Sabillo.

            Our superiors have decided not to continue  the experimental community in Buhangin next year. They say that it is very difficult for students to be immersed in the life of the poor and study theology at the same time.  This is something that only those who work full time in the ministry can do.

            I will be spending my summer vacation in the Redemptorist parish in Butuan. 

 

August 5, 1978

            The new school year began two months ago. I am now in the second year of my theological formation.

            We have a new prefect of students – Fr. Hugh O’Donoghue. He is an Irishman who has a perpetual scowl in his face and yet who is full of humor when you really get to know him. We all call him Hughie. He took over from Ramon Fruto who will be going on a sabbatical in Berkeley, California.

There are only 7 Redemptorist seminarians this year. There are two in the first year: Senen Javier and Edwin Bacaltos. There are three of us in the second year: Claro, Nelson and myself. There is only one third year student (Pasky) and one in the fourth year (Jack Jacela). Pasky’s classmate, Boy Reyes, decided not to come back. He finally realized that God is not calling him to this kind of life. Besides, he has fallen in love with a pretty college girl.

This semester, I am taking the following courses: Ecclesiology, Synoptic Gospels,  Kings & Prophets, Human Sexuality and Marriage, Basic Concepts in Pastoral Theology.

I am worried about my health. Last week, I had my blood pressure taken: 140/100. I think I have mild hypertension.  Well, I am not surprised. I am grossly overweight – 160 pounds!  I eat a lot. I smoke two to three packs a day and I drink 15 cups of coffee daily. I don’t do any regular exercise.  When I play basketball, I am out of breath after running back and forth the court twice.  It’s so difficult to give up cigarettes and coffee. I tried it several times. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

            We have received our assignments for the weekend apostolate.  I am assigned to Garcia Heights although I still visit the squatters’ area across the road. There are three student volunteers who are helping me in my apostolate: Sceny,  Susan and Boy. 

 

September 30, 1978

            The first semester will soon be over. As usual, I am trying to cope with the academic demands. I cannot complain. I am learning a lot from the subjects I am studying. My favorite subject is Ecclesiology – the theology of the Church.  This is taught by Fr. Jim Kroeger, an American Maryknoll missionary. We use the book of Avery Dulles, Models of the Church,  as one of our textbooks. This has opened my mind to the various ways of understanding the church:  institution, communion, herald, sacrament and servant.

 I can see that these models are fully integrated in the ecclesiology of Vatican II.  In Lumen Gentium (dogmatic constitution on the church), the Church is referred to as a communion of life, love and truth and as a community of faith, hope and love. It also speaks about the Church as the people of God – a prophetic, priestly and kingly people. As a prophetic people, the church is the herald that proclaims the Good News and denounces all forms of evil. As a priestly people, the Church is a sacrament that signifies and celebrates the presence of Christ. As a kingly people, the church is a servant of kingdom and of the world. By working for peace, justice and the transformation of society, the church becomes truly a servant church. The church is, therefore, a community that is evangelizing, worshipping and serving. All the members of the church are called to actively participate in the prophetic, priestly and kingly mission of Christ and the church. 

I find this understanding of the church as significant and revolutionary. It empowers the laity to be actively involved in the life and mission of the church. It encourages the formation of small Christian communities. It is also holistic. It goes beyond the liturgical and sacramental dimension of the church’s mission. It includes the Church’s task of  denouncing all forms of evil – injustice, oppression, violence- and of announcing a message of justice, peace and liberation. The involvement of the church in political and economic issues (like martial law and human rights abuses) becomes understandable in the light of the church’s royal/servant mission.

It is not surprising that with this understanding of the church, there is bound to be a conflict between the church (which is often accused by the Marcos and the military as subversive) and the state (which is viewed by the church as dictatorial and oppressive).

Recently, two leaders of the Gagmayng Kristohanong Katilingban (basic Christian communities) in Davao were murdered. Many are suspecting that this is the work of the military. Archbishop Mabutas came out with a pastoral letter condemning these killings.             

 

November 15, 1978

It’s been more than three weeks since we started the second semester. After our retreat in Butuan I attended a one-week seminar on mass media communication. There was really no time for me to relax because we started our classes two days after the end of the seminar. I was also busy in my pastoral area. Three weeks ago, the demolition team from the city engineers office finally came and attempted to demolish the homes of the squatters. The residents tried to resist the demolition team who were accompanied by the police and Mr. Floirendo’s goons. They set up a barricade with the women and children at the forefront. They were able to get the support  of other squatters’ organizations from other areas. They backed down after seeing so many people. The landowner  is offering to provide a relocation site for the squatters near the city.

The other week, the workers of the Davao Chewing Tobacco Factory went on strike. They were supported by urban poor communities, seminarians and religious. We took turns manning the picket lines. After a week the owners of the company gave in to the demands of the strikers.


At present, I'm back to my regular academic life. The work load is not very heavy. I have only three subjects until December. We'll have to work double time starting January. Despite the light load I'm still very busy as usual. I have to finish  a research paper within this month. One of the subjects I am taking is the Theology of Liberation. Our professor is a fellow Redemptorist named Fr. Manny Cabajar, who did his doctoral studies in Salamanca, Spain. He came home to gather material for his doctoral dissertation. He was recently assigned to our studendate in Davao. I jokingly address him as “Sir.”

The Christmas holiday will begin on December 13. We will be going to Iloilo to attend the ordination of  Santiago Odi. There will be an All-Filipino Redemptorist meeting after the ordination. All the Filipino Redemptorists from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will attend this meeting. After the meeting I will travel to Bacolod, Dumaguete, Cebu and finally Iligan where I will be spending Christmas with my family. On the 26th, I will again be travelling to Cebu and then to Carigara, Leyte to attend Jack Jacela’s ordination to the priesthood. I'll probably spend my New Year in Tacloban. I will be doing a lot of travelling during the Christmas vacation. It's not surprising why we have been called RedempTOURISTS.

 

February 10, 1979

            Two weeks ago, I attended a weekend seminar organized by the Partido Demokratiko-Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (Democratic Socialist Party of the Philippines). It was held in a retreat house. Among those who attended were five seminarians from the Regional Major Seminary,  a priest from Surigao, some college students and some professionals. Most of the participants had already previous contacts with the members of the party. There were lectures on the present situation, analysis of the Philippines society, Liberal Capitalism, Marxism and National Democracy, Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy.

             The Democratic Socialist Party is offering an ideological alternative to the Marxist/communist ideology espoused by the National Democratic Front , the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. The speakers asserted that there is a need to struggle against the Marcos dictatorial regime.  But we have to be careful that we do not replace it with another dictatorship -- the dictatorship of the proletariat or the party. The Democratic Socialist Party rejects both liberal capitalism and the Marxist socialism.  It espouses political democracy and a more humane socialist economy. Social democracy is regarded as an intermediate stage to socialism.  It allows for a mixed economy  that combines the best features of capitalism and socialism.

            The Democratic Socialist party is very small compared to the Communist Party. It is expanding its mass base in Luzon, Western Visayas and Southern Mindanao. It also building up its   armed wing – the Sandigan.

            I am excited about the development of the democratic socialist movement.  I prefer this to the Marxist-socialist ideology. However, I cannot allow myself to be a member of the party as long as I am a Redemptorist. I have to maintain my independence from any ideological group. I can be a sympathizer or a supporter. This is what I told the party cadres . They accepted my position. They gave the names of two contacts:  Arvin and Rolly. They asked me for my code name. After some thought  I gave them this name: Alfie Burgos.  Alfie is the diminutive of Alfonso – which the name of the founder of the Redemptorists. Burgos is my father’s middle name. It is also the family name of Fr. Jose Burgos – the priest-nationalist who was executed during the Spanish era.

            I was surprised to learn that some of the lay leaders in the parish are involved with the democratic socialist movement They are Dante, Ben and Rudy. They are very active conducting evangelization seminars in the barrios. 

           

 

March 6, 1979

The semester is almost over.  So far I am doing very well. I've lost weight and I have cut down on my smoking to less than 10 sticks a day (I might give it up for Lent). I had my head shaved so I now look like either an ex-convict or a Buddhist monk. When Hughie  O’Donoghue saw me, his eyes glowered and the scowl on his face deepened. “Why didn’t you ask my permission?”

“I know you would not give me permission if I asked” I replied with a smile. 

What added to his consternation was when he saw  Pasky, a fellow student, and a couple of our house staff  all with  shiny, bald pates. They were just following my example.

I have just submitted to our class in Liberation Theology my research paper on “Christianity and Democratic Socialism.” After analyzing the tenets of democratic socialism and correlating these with the Christian teachings and values, I can say that democratic socialism is more compatible to Christianity than liberal capitalism or Marxist socialism. The ideals of democratic socialism is similar to the community of goods that we find in the life of the early Christian community (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35). The democratic socialists’ emphasis on community, freedom, sharing, justice, and respect for the rights of the individual is akin to the church’s social teachings.

We have three weeks more to go before the end of the school year. This is why I'm very busy finishing my research papers and preparing for the final exams.  I also help the train facilitators for the Alay Kapwa program. Classes will end on March 31. I'll be staying here for the Holy Week. On Easter Monday, I'll be leaving for my summer mission exposure in Maigo (Lanao del Norte). After the mission I'll be in Cebu for our annual retreat and vacation, and then back to Davao for the opening of the new school year.

 

June 7, 1979

I just came back from summer mission exposure and vacation. The mission exposure in Maigo went very well. I was glad to join the Iligan Mission team: Frs. Manny Cabajar, Stas Daugdaug, Bro. James Villahermosa and the lay missioners – Popoy, Pablo, Lourdes and Malou.  I  was assigned to work with Bro. James in Liangan. We spent most of our time visiting the homes of the people and conducting bible-reflection. 

I went to Cebu after the mission exposure and joined the other seminarians for  the common retreat and vacation in Busay.  On May 22, at ten in the morning, we  attended the  profession of Magno at the Redemptorist church in Cebu.  My eyes became misty as I watched my friend make his commitment to the congregation and promised to live a life of chastity, poverty and obedience.  After the Mass, Magno’s family, relatives, friends and the Redemptorists  gathered at the Redemptorist monastery for a banquet. There were over a hundred guests. That evening, Magno invited the seminarians for supper in his home. After supper, we had a few drinks of San Miguel beer. When I was a bit tipsy, I wrapped around my head my red tubao (bandana). Looking like  a gypsy, I started reading the palms of the seminarians. There was great laughter as I told some that they would get married after several years in the priesthood. Finally, Magno offered  his hand and after scrutinizing it, I  told him, “You’d better be careful, you have a very short life.”

Everybody took my predictions in jest. After all, we were almost drunk.  

 I'm so happy that  Magno is finally here with us in Davao. We will have a great time together.

            I am now in the third year of my theological studies. There are only two left in our class – Claro and myself. Our classmate, Nelson left this summer. He fell in love with Olive, a Good Shepherd sister who had been working as a community organizer in Buhangin.

 

July 29, 1979


Last week I  organized an excursion for the choir at the beach and I invited Magno to come along with us. Everyone enjoyed his company. He was full of life and he made everybody laugh with his jokes. Late in the afternoon when it was time for us to go home he was missing. We started looking for him and to my shock we found his body floating in the sea. Somebody tried to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but it was all in vain. I broke down and wept. When they rushed his body to the hospital, I just sat on the shore staring at the sea for almost an hour. I tried to pray but I couldn't. I found it difficult to believe that my friend was dead. And it was I who invited him to come with us.

I had known Magno since the minor seminary. He left the seminary and studied engineering at the University of San Carlos. We became close friends when I joined the Lakasdiwa. We were both actively involved in the student movement and when martial law was declared we continued working secretly. He later joined the Democratic Socialist Party while continuing his studies in Manila. He had gone through a period of unbelief. He used to visit me in the novitiate and he often shared  his doubts and his search for meaning and direction in life. Then he experienced a sudden conversion. He decided to join the Redemptorists and was professed two months ago. He came to Davao last month to start his theological studies. I was so happy to be living in the same community with my friend, comrade and confrere  this last couple of months. And now he is dead.

I have tried to understand the meaning of his death. All I can say is that it is the end of his painful journey.  He has reached his destination. After a long and painful struggle he had come to terms with God, whose existence he doubted and denied. He had found meaning and direction in life. He had finally committed himself to God. And now he is in God's loving presence.

 

            The Sea

 

            Calm and beautiful

            yet turbulent and cruel.

 

            You sustain life

            yet you end life.

 

            Your beauty has often soothed

            my weary mind.


            Your bounty has often sated

            my appetite.

 

            Yet you have cast a gloom

            in my heart

            and the hearts of many

            for you have washed away

            the smile and laughter

            from the face of my friend and confrere.

 

            Why did you have to leave him breathless

            with your embrace?

            Why did you have to smother

            his hopes and dreams?

 

            There's no use in cursing you.

            For how can anyone truly  live without you.

 

            Yes, you may have taken his life

            but you have led him

            to the fullness of life.

 

October 19, 1979

I recently received  an oil painting set from Mama as a gift for my 25th birthday. I am using this to  paint the portrait of  Magno. 

I'm now taking a much needed rest after helping conduct a retreat to high school students in Toril during the semestral break. The second semester will begin this coming Monday.


I'm feeling much better now. My high blood pressure is under control. I have stopped smoking  and drinking coffee since the beginning of October. I'm also trying to control my voracious appetite. I have begun dieting. I have also started doing regular exercise. I wake up at four every morning and go jogging after meditating in the chapel.

There is a change that is taking place in me. I spend more time in prayer and meditation. I fast every Friday. I am more conscious of God’s presence in my life. Grief has a way of drawing me closer to God.

 

November 25, 1979

The second semester started a month ago. As usual I'm very busy with my studies and pastoral work.  We already started our class in homiletics. I’m so excited to be given the opportunity to preach in the church.

I still have to do 12 research and reflection papers for our different subjects. I also have to prepare for our exams in scriptures. I don't have much time for relaxation. I even have to abandon painting for a while until I can find enough time.

We'll be having our retreat this coming December 16-20 at the Carmelite hermitage in Tugbok. All of us students will be staying here in Davao during Christmas. So I won’t be able to celebrate Christmas with my family.

 

March 30, 1980

The semester has finally ended. I will be making a thirty-day retreat in Bacolod to help me decide whether I will apply for final profession and ordination. I made my first profession three years ago. Now I will have to decide whether to reaffirm that commitment for life.

These last few months, I have become more involved with the democratic socialist movement. Although I have avoided party membership,  I have been helping the party cadres in developing the Cebuano material for political education. I  have also been instrumental in recruiting some friends (like Sceny)  for the movement. I have also met  the Secretary General, Mar Canonigo  who used to be one of the leaders of the Lakasdiwa before martial law. He told me that the party has linked up with Ninoy Aquino and  Raul Daza.  It has also established an alliance with Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front and is now using its training camp in  Sandakan, Borneo. Some of the cadres in Davao will soon be going there for training, including my contact – Arvin.   I wish I can join them.

Should I become a revolutionary or a Redemptorist?  It is either - or. I cannot be both. I hope my retreat will help me decide what God wants me to be.

           

June 11, 1980

Here I am at the beginning of another school year. I am already in fourth year theology.  This is my last year in formation. Soon I will make my perpetual profession, then I will become a deacon and finally I will be ordained to the priesthood.


I have already spent considerable time in prayer and reflection over the big step I am about to take. The 30-days retreat in Bacolod was very helpful. I intend to continue this process of discernment. I have to be certain whether this is really where God is calling and leading me to. I  have to be sure whether this is really what I want of my life. I know I will be making a core decision -- one that is binding for life.

What has also spurred me to seriously think about this whole thing is the recent departure of priests whom I have known and admired. Fr. Fernando Yusingco has left the congregation and is getting married to a young nurse after  twenty years in the priesthood  Fr. Joe Perez is also leaving to marry Paz -- a former Good Shepherd sister who was working as a community organizer in Buhangin. Joe was ordained only three years ago.

Although I have no serious doubts about my vocation I should not leave any room for complacency. I  know that God loves me and that He is calling me to a closer union with him and to a more radical living out of the Gospel. But whether it is specifically to the Redemptorist life -- this is something that has to be discerned more deeply and seriously.

 

June 14, 1980

Sceny  dropped in after Mass this evening. She told me about her decision to resign from her job with NACIDA and do full time organizing work among the urban poor communities. We talked about the recent developments in the Democratic Socialist movement. She also shared with me her anxieties.  Time went so fast and  I wished we had more  time for conversation but I had to make my evening meditation and attend our community evening prayer.

I really admire her. We've become close friends over the past three years. I am aware that this relationship could lead to something deeper. I know what I feel about her. This is why I have always consciously maintained a certain distance. There is a line beyond which I wouldn't cross. Well, I have to be constantly vigilant and prudent since this is a leap year!

This experience has led me to think seriously about celibacy and chastity -- what it really means and how I can live it meaningfully. Celibacy does not mean avoiding  intimate relationships. It is a way of loving. To love God with all my mind, with all my heart, with all my soul and to love others without possessing them and without expressing my love in a sexual-genital way.

Relating with persons like Sceny helps me learn how to live my vow of chastity and celibacy in a more authentic way.

 

June 16, 1980

Several books for the library arrived today. One that immediately caught my attention was Henri Nouwen's Genesee Diary -- a diary he wrote during his seven-month stay in a Trappist monastery. I immediately devoured the book.

I feel a deep affinity with Nouwen because I also made a resolution a few months ago to do a retreat with the Trappists in Guimaras before my ordination and to spend my sabbatical year with them after ten years of priestly ministry.

I was deeply moved while reading the book, especially when Nouwen describes the kind of life the Trappists live -- a life of silence, solitude and community, prayer and work, and close intimacy with God. It is difficult to describe what I felt while reading the book. It is something similar to what I experienced during my retreat when I made that "contemplation to attain divine love." There was a profound movement in my heart. There were tears in my eyes. I felt a deep longing for that kind of life.

I don't exactly understand the meaning of this experience. I am inclined to believe that it was a movement of the Spirit filling me with consolation. Is God calling me to this kind of life? This was the question that possibly triggered this experience as I read the book. I don't know. I'm not prepared to face the full implication of this experience. Perhaps, later in life I may consider this possibility if the strong attraction persists. My own reservation at present is that it could be a form of escapism from the demands and challenges of the present situation.

 

June 19, 1980

Instead of commuting with my companions to the seminary this morning I just ran the distance (14 kilometers). I hope to do this once a week (every Thursday) aside from the daily jogging. It seems that I have become addicted to running. I always look forward to my early morning run. I'll try to make this a lifetime habit. This is the best way to keep myself physically fit. It is good for  my heart. I have to be fit for the missions and other strenuous work in the apostolate. I read somewhere that running is good for vitality and longevity. I hope to be giving missions even in my nineties and to celebrate the diamond jubilee of my priesthood.

 

June 20, 1980

Arvin, my contact with the democratic socialist movement, came this afternoon. We talked about recent developments in the party.


I am feeling the pressure. I would like very much to be actively involved in the movement but there are other conflicting demands and priorities. I have also made it a matter of personal policy to avoid deep involvement in partisan politics.  I am committed to the people,  to the poor and the oppressed, and to their struggle for liberation. But I have to go beyond party politics. This is the field proper to the laity.

It's really difficult for me -- my adrenaline rises every time I think about party politics. This is especially  true when I consider that democratic socialism is an  ideological alternative that is in consonance with the hopes and aspiration of our people.  I find it a more attractive alternative than the communist ideology.  Nevertheless, I have to avoid  membership in any movement or party.  My basic commitment is to the Church, the Congregation and the poor.  I could enter into dialogue with different movements but never will I compromise my fundamental commitment.

 

June 22, 1980

Last night I dreamt of Magno. He seemed to be very much alive -- as if he never died at all.  His smile and laughter dominated the whole scene.

I spent the whole afternoon trying to capture his infectious smile on the canvas. Fr. Manny Cabajar dropped by my room and he gave me pointers on how to use the brush and the paint. He also showed me how to mix the colors. Manny is an excellent painter. He did  a one-man exhibit of his paintings years ago.

 

July 2, 1980

Today is my "day in the desert" -- a day of silence, solitude, prayer and fasting.  I spent the whole day in Times Beach. I occupied an abandoned nipa hut overlooking the sea. The beach, the sand, the breeze, the sea -- all these give me a sense of God's nearness. I felt a deep sense of peace and tranquility in spite of the big waves and the "angry" sea.  The tide ebbed at noon and the sea became more peaceful.  I prayed with the scriptures, starting with Mark 6:30-34 where Jesus invites his disciples to "come apart with me and rest for a while."  In the afternoon I contemplated on God's love for me (Is 43:1-5,  Ps:1-24).


It was a beautiful day.  I hope to have a day like this at least once a month.  There is a growing hunger for a deeper communion with God in prayer and solitude.  I have to set aside space and time for this intimate encounter.

 

July 6, 1980

I went to Hilltop today for my weekend apostolate.  I'm happy to see that the core group of the Basic Christian Community can conduct the bible reflection and other community activities without depending on me.  For the last few months I have concentrated on building up the core group. The limitation of this approach is that my personal contacts with the ordinary members of the community have decreased.  My contacts have been limited to the leaders and those actively involved in the bible reflection.  I have not been able to meet all the members individually.  There are many whose faces are very familiar to me, whom I have met in community activities but whose names I don't remember or even know.

I think I have to concentrate this time on building personal contact with these people.  I know I have often been impersonal and task-oriented.  I have to get to know them more deeply, to really enter into a "dialogue of life" with them, know their deepest longings and aspirations, and to learn from them.  But the main problem is there is not enough time.  I spend the whole week studying theology and I have only the weekends. Besides I also need some recreation.

 

July 9, 1980

I a continuing to work on Magno's portrait.  It's really difficult to capture his personality on the canvas.  I'm beginning to think that this is an ambitious project.  This is only my first attempt at oil painting and I already expect good results.  I hope I'll be able to finish this in time for his death anniversary.

            I think painting his portrait is a way of dealing with my grief. I should not blame myself for having invited him to that beach party.  It brings back childhood memories of my sister Nilda when I invited her to the river and she also drowned.

 

July 16, 1980

This morning, I meditated on the "multiplication of the loaves" from John's gospel. It seems to me that this passage has an implication regarding what it means to be a priest: I should not only be concerned about the spiritual welfare of people but of their basic needs as well.  Easier said than done.  There are two extreme positions at work today: either to spiritualize priesthood (a priesthood that has nothing to do with the social, political and economic situation and issues) or to reduce it to political activism.  For me it is not a case of "either-or".

To be a priest means to preach the Word of God, to celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments, and to work for development, justice and peace.

I know that for many people, the role of the priest is to say mass and administer the sacraments. This is what I used to imagine. But Vatican II reminds us that it is more than that. The ordained ministry means sharing in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry. This means a liturgical-sacramental ministry, a prophetic-evangelizing ministry, and a ministry of service and social action.

           


July 22, 1980

Today is the first death-anniversary of Magno.  We had an early morning mass for him.  I still have not finished the portrait.

This evening, Fr. Dan Baragry shared with us his mission experience.  It seems that one of the issues affecting the mission methodology and content is the ideological/polit­ical question.  There are some confreres who have their own ideological sympathies. Although such options are personal, they inevitably affect our apostolic and community life.  For example, a Redemptorist who is sympathetic to an ideological group can use the mission as a means of  arousing, organizing and mobilizing the Basic Christian Community for the movement’s revolutionary struggle. If there are different ideological options, then their proponents would compete with each other for hegemony within the congregation. So there could be an ideological struggle within the religious communities.      I hope we won't have the same experience as other religious communities that have undergone crises and splits because of competing ideological options such as the Social Democracy-Democratic Socialism versus National Democracy-Marxism-Maoism.

             This is the reason why I cannot accept party membership. To do so would force me to use my ministry or apostolate to advance the agenda of the party. I do not want to be used by any party or group. Nor do I want any party to control the congregation.

 

August 14, 1980

I just got back from Manila early this morning after spending five days in the big city.  I represented the community at the ordination of Fr. Jinjo and Willy (they are Redemptorists belonging to the Manila Vice-Province). I was also hoping to have a counseling session with Fr. Champeaux but he was not available so I spent the remaining few days visiting relatives and friends.

I met my brothers, Dodong and Sammy.  They are both studying at the Mapua Institute of Technology. They have really grown. I felt a sense of sadness when I realized that in spite of being brothers we seem to have become strangers to one another.  Well, that's what I get for growing up away from home. 

I met my old friends, Sam Javelosa and Doy Jacinto.  Sam is studying at the Asian Institute of Management and is happily married to an American peace corps staff officer.  They are renting a very luxurious suite.  It is, indeed, a very comfortable life for someone who used to be an activist and a Redemptorist seminarian.

 I also met Ann who is now teaching at the University of the Philippine.  I was able to talk to Cynthia over the phone. The last time I heard from her was five years ago. I was worried that she would join the NPA. She is now working in the government’s housing project (BLISS).  She is married and has a son named A.G. When I asked her what the initial meant, she told me to guess. I answered, “Amado Guerrero.”  She laughed. Then I remembered the first time we met and she asked me what my real name was. I answered, “Amado Guerrero.”  I had told her that it was Amado without the Guerrero.

It has been more than five years since I met my old friends.  They have really progressed a lot and are doing very well in their respective careers.  But I wonder what happened to the vision and ideals we shared.  We wanted to change society.  Have they forgotten their commitment to the cause of the poor and the oppressed? Or was it just a passing stage which they have outgrown?   

 


 GROWING UP?

 

 rubber bands, toyguns,

   marbles, kites,

        tops and balloons.

 

 these i have outgrown.

 

 streamers, banners,

   placards, leaflets,

      megaphones and molotov cocktails

 

 these i have outgrown.

 

 slums, farms,

   factories, picketlines,

        hills and jails.

 

 these i have outgrown.

 

 how i have grown.

 

 golf clubs, tennis rackets,

    high-rise office, bank deposits

       mercedez benz and a  mansion.

 

 i have grown.

 

 and i look back and say:

 we were young and full of idealism.

 

 but deep within a nagging thought:

 the system i tried to change

                      changed me,

 i sold my soul

            and kissed myself.

 

 

September 7, 1980

Sceny  wanted to talk to me this afternoon regarding her problem. But I couldn't find time for her. I had to help out in the evening mass and later a troubled person, Nonoy, came to me for counseling. 


This evening I went to Hilltop to attend the bible reflection.  I was surprised to see the men outnumber the women for the first time.  They have become more active and enthusiastic in building the Basic Christian Community. The quality of their sharing has improved a lot. I was impressed by the depth of their reflection on the Word of God and its relation to their life.  Well, this is for me an oasis of consolation amidst the countless disappointments.  I have come to realize that the growth of the Basic Christian Community does not really depend on me. It depends on these people and on God's grace. "Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain will the builders labor."

 

October 5, 1980

Early this morning I ran in the 20 km Regional Milo Marathon.  I almost gave up after  I had a sprain and a muscle cramp but I was determined to reach the finish line.  I came 129th place out of 350 runners.  That's not too bad.  A year ago I wouldn't have even imagined running this distance. I was overweight, I had high blood pressure, I was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.  Well now I have finally lost 25 pounds, lowered my blood pressure and given up smoking.  I feel so much better.  I hope I will be able to maintain this. I would like very much to live up to a hundred and hopefully still be giving missions in my old age.

 

October 6, 1980

Today I celebrated my 26th birthday.  I woke up at four o'clock in the morning. I entered the chapel and prayed in the dark, gazing at the flickering candle in the sanctuary.  I became aware of God’s presence and thanked Him for the gift of life. I also thanked Him for his love and the blessing that He has showered on me.

After thirty minutes of meditation, I put on my running shorts and shoes and jogged to Magsaysay park.  I came back at 5:30 and started cooking breakfast for the community. For the past several months, we have been taking turns preparing breakfast. I cooked omelettes, recyling last night's leftovers and mixing these with cheese.

            During lunch, we had ice-cream in honor of the birthday celebrant – that’s me.

 

October 9, 1980

Danny came to get a party document that I translated into Cebuano. I really admire his dedication. He gave up his job to work full time in the movement.  I myself occasionally feel the urge to go underground and work full time.  But I can't abandon my religious vocation.   I have met some priests, like Archie and Florio, who are involved with the party. But I cannot fully commit myself to the movement.  I don't believe that it is appropriate to be both a religious and a full-time cadre at the same time. 

Danny invited me to join the martial arts training organized by the party.  He said that Arvin and Sceny will be there. I told him that I will be joining them.

 


October 10, 1980

Pearly and Flora invited me for supper.They prepared a  hearty meal for me  and we had a lively conversation.  They asked me to read their palms and tell their future.  Pearly asked me if she would find a husband -- since she is getting older (37) and overweight (160 lbs!). I told her not to worry, she would get married within two years. 

Well, I broke a promise I made to myself not to read other people's palms. I was actually scared after what I told Magno came true two months after reading his palm.  I don't really believe in palm reading. I just took it up after watching my Auntie Tanchiang do it. It's only a game for me and a chance to hold the palms of the ladies!  But surprisingly some have told me that what I read came true.

 

December 12, 1980

The last two months have been so hectic that I have not found time to make an entry in this journal.  I went to Manila during the last week of October for the All Filipino-Redemptorist meeting.  I thought I'd  have a light academic load for the second semester but Fr. Jim Kroeger gave me additional subjects. There is a lot of  research work to be done and I constantly have to beat the deadline. I thought I could spend more time now for prayer and reflection as I prepare myself for the big step I am about to make.  I am also spending a lot of time training for the 42 km Davao Marathon which will be held nine days from now.  I have been regularly running 15 kms a day.  Well, it seems that I have become a running addict.

Fr. O'Donoghue has informed me that everything has been set. My final profession will be on December 30. My ordination to the diaconate will either be at the end of January or the middle of February. My ordination to the priesthood will be on April 24, 1981. 

I feel calm and relax about the whole thing. No more doubts nor regrets.  So here I am in the Carmelite hermitage in Tugbok, making my retreat in preparation for my final profession.

 

December 13, 1980

 

RETREAT SCHEDULE

 

4:25 am       Rise

4:30 - 5:30   Meditation 1

5:45             Morning Praise

6:00             Eucharist


7:00             Breakfast

8:00 - 9:00   Meditation 2

9:00              Break

9:30 - 10:30  Con't meditation 2

11:00 - 12:00 Meditation 3

12:00             Lunch

1:00 - 2:00     Siesta

2:15 - 3:15     Spiritual Reading 

3:30 - 5:00     Jogging (15 km)

6:30 - 7:30     Meditation 4

7:30 -            Supper

9:00 -            Journal Writing

9:30              Retire

 

God's love is the starting point for any reflection on vocation or religious life and commitment. Unless I am aware and convinced of the reality of God's personal love, my religious life and commitment will rest on shaky ground.  My experience of God's love is what moves me to commit myself totally to God and his people as a Redemptorist.  God's love is personal, his call is personal. Both are gratuitous. The initiative always comes from God. My religious commitment is but  a loving response to God's love and call.

Meditating on Moses' and Jeremiah's call I was struck by something they share in common. Both expressed  their inadequacy for the mission God has called them and He assures both that he will always be with them.  I, too, am aware of my many inadequacies and weaknesses, but I am no longer bothered by them for I know that God is with me. He will provide with the graces that I need in living out my religious commitment. God is the source of my strength.

After so many years of exposure to the Redemptorist life and apostolate, I believe I have an adequate understanding what it really means.  I am aware of the joys and the sorrows that accompany this kind of life. I have seen it at its best and at its worst. And I can now say that I'm prepared to commit myself to this for life.

 

December 21, 1980


This morning I  ran in the 42 km Davao marathon and finished 32nd out of a field of 125 runners.  What an ordeal! I thought I wouldn't survive the heat and the distance. Many runners dropped out of the race due to exhaustion. As I passed our church I saw Senen and Edwin cheering me at the sidelines.  Edwin was holding a bottle of San Miguel beer and offered it to me. I gulped it down and continued running.  So I reached the finish line in spite of the pain and the constant temptation to give up.  It was no longer a matter of winning but rather of finishing and persevering. It was no longer a matter of competing with others but rather coming to grips with myself -- of not quitting even when the going gets rough. I had already committed myself to run and finish this marathon.

The marathon reminds me of my religious commitment. It needs thorough training, preparation, discipline and self-denial. It has its moments of joy, euphoria, boredom, pain, and discomfort. One has to learn how to cope with these things. Above all, the marathon like my religious commitment demands perseverance.  A passage from Paul's letter to Timothy comes to mind: "I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, I have kept the faith. And now the prize of victory is waiting for me, the crown of righteousness..."

 

December 29, 1980

Last week, I went home to Iligan to spend Christmas with my family.  I made it a point to be with them knowing that this could be the last Christmas we would spend together as a family for a long time.  When I am assigned to other Redemptorist communities I would not be able to spend Christmas with them. Besides many of my brothers and sisters have grown up and have graduated from college. Soon we will go our separate ways. 

Well, most of the members of the family are here in Davao for my final profession -- Papa, Mama, Dodong, Sammy, Mely, Cely and Tingting. Nonie and Inday could not  make it. We arrived here this afternoon from Iligan.  It took us more than two days to get here because we were stranded in Buenavista (Agusan del Norte) for 23 hours due to the flood that destroyed the bridge. We had to sleep in our family car and the makeshift hut we made beside it. We were lucky that Mama had brought lots of food for the journey. In spite the inconvenience we enjoyed it -- it was like a family picnic.

 

 

December 30, 1980

This is a very special day. At 9:00 this morning I made my definitive, final and perpetual commitment to Christ as a Redemptorist.  Today I said YES to Christ, to the people and to the Congregation forever.  I think Robert Frost expresses well what I feel:

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

 


There are  two of us who made the final profession -- Claro and myself.  We are the survivors of a class of  more than 30 seminarians who started in St. Alphonsus Minor Seminary  more than 12 years ago.

Lord, I just want to thank you for everything, especially for the gift of vocation to the religious life.  Grant that I may always be faithful to my religious vows.

 

February 22, 1981

Early this morning I ran from Davao to Tagum. It took me more than five hours to run the 52 kilometer distance.  I still find it difficult to believe how I managed to do it. It was actually an easy run.  It seemed to pass so quickly -- as if time stopped and it became an eternal now.  This experience of time seems to be similar to the 30-days retreat I made last summer.  The hours, the days and the month passed so quickly. Can this be an experience of eternity?

Much has been said about the loneliness of the long distance runner.  I think this does not apply to me.  Yes, I run alone but I don't feel lonely or bored. I love the solitude. For me running is not just a physical activity. It can be a contemplative, mystical experience.  It is an experience that I want to go through over and over again.  It is a very beautiful experience.

 

March 1, 1981

Today Clark and myself were ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Amantillo.  A good number  from the Basic Christian Community of Hilltop and the nearby areas came. They brought  lots of food for the festive celebration. In less than two months I will be ordained priest.  Well, there is no more turning back now. 

 

Iligan City, April 24, 1981

This morning I was finally ordained to the priesthood!  The Church was filled with my family, relatives, friends and confreres. Papa and Mama were all smiles and I could see the mist in their eyes.  My friends from Davao (including Sceny) made the long  journey to be with me today.

There were two bishops present -- Bishop Fernando Capalla, the ordaining bishop  and Bishop Ireneo Amantillo.  My Redemptorist confreres from all parts of Visayas and Mindanao came. Four Redemptoristine nuns from Legaspi were also present.

"Be not afraid ... Come follow me." As Bishop Capalla placed his hands on my head and said the prayer of ordination, I was filled with a sense of peace and calm, knowing that I have chosen the right path.

After the mass, many came and told me: "At last you have finally reached your goal, you have fulfilled your ambition."  Or "You have finally finished."  I like very much Cynthia's poetic telegram: "Today is the tomorrow you have longed for yesterday."


 I look at my ordination in a different way. It is not for me simply a matter of reaching a goal or finishing a course.  It is the beginning of my ministry of service.  It is not reaching the finish line but rather, leaving the starting line after years of hard training. 

In my address after communion I told everyone that it is easy to be ordained. What is difficult is remaining a faithful priest.  They laughed when I told them that I hope they will attend the celebration of my diamond jubilee of priesthood -- if they will still be around.

The hope to celebrate my jubilee in the future expresses my intention to persevere in my vocation as a priest.  Sixty years from now, if I'm still alive, I'd like to see myself still a priest.  I know this will not be easy.  But with God's grace, it can be done.

On my ordination card, I have printed the passage from Hebrews  which  sums up what I believe my priesthood is all about:

 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

 

Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weaknesses and so for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people ...

 

In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered. (Heb 4:15 - 5:1-3, 7-9).

 

I am aware the priesthood is not a position of privilege and power but rather of humble service. I am called to live it with the awareness of my own weaknesses, with compassion for those who are weak.  Priesthood is not simply a ritual role, it has to be lived in self-sacrifice, in suffering for the sake of others. 

Grant O Lord, that I may be a faithful and compassionate priest aware of my own weaknesses and being able to accept suffering.