A HERMIT’S JOURNAL
my counselling session was only once a week, I had a lot of time to do other
things. I continued to train for the marathon and ran the Pilipinas Third World
I also attended a training workshop in pranic healing. I was at first skeptical about all these pranic energy and pranic healing but I took the course after my friend, Karl, strongly recommended it. The workshop was attended by 15 people – among whom were doctors, a nun, and several businessmen. I was surprised to discover that I had a strong energy level and that I could heal others.
During Holy Week, I did supply work in the parish of Fr. Charlie Jundis in Taguig. I had to brush up on my Tagalog in order to be able to administer the sacraments in that language.
staying with the Blessed Sacrament, I received a visit from Carol Arguillas –
the journalist from the
counselling session was finished by the second week of April. So I proceeded to
This diary covers records my experience as a hermit in Busay from the last week of April to the last week of June.
is a very special day for me. It is the
eight anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. Early this morning I celebrated the
Eucharist at the Redemptorist church in
in the morning I came up here in the
Rito, the gardener, offered to help me after seeing me put up the foundation and the posts by myself. I made a clearing in the midst of the woods way up from the Redemptorist rest-house. I was not able to find a flat ground so I'm building this hut on a slope. When this is finished the veranda will be overlooking the rest-house and the city.
For several years, I have been using the back of the old chapel as my occasional hermitage. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by a typhoon. So I have decided to build a new hermitage with my own hands. My only regret is that when this is finished I will be living here for only two months. I was planning to spend my sabbatical year here but I have been asked to go for further studies. So I will have to wait for another decade or so before I can live for a year in the hermitage.
As of the moment I am staying in the Redemptorist rest house. I will move out to the hermitage as soon as it is finished.
My hands and arms are sore and stiff. We have just finished the frame, the floor and the roof. I find it hard to believe how quickly we were able to do this. Rito has been very helpful. I originally planned to build the hermitage by myself. I realized that one cannot build a house alone especially if he has no experience in building anything. Well, I have to recognize my limitations and accept the help of others.
After supper I read Keith Clark's book, Being Sexual and Celibate. I was deeply moved by what he wrote especially on intimacy and the need to develop deep personal relationships. I know this is what has been lacking in my life and this is what I have been longing for. I am beginning to realize that being a celibate does not mean being asexual, cold, aloof, unloving and unlovable.
The hermitage is almost finished. My whole body is aching but I am satisfied by what I see -- the fruit of my labor. There is something contemplative about manual labor -- especially if one's mind is focused on what he is doing. I felt time ceased -- I was entering the state of the eternal present.
been thinking a lot about Carol. She's
I moved in to this hermitage yesterday. This will be my home for the next two months. It's practically finished except for the veranda. Today I finished the windows and the kitchen. It looks beautiful – a typical Filipino hut with nipa roofing, coco-lumber frame, and bamboo walling. The only furniture inside is a table and a chair. No bed -- I will be sleeping on the wooden floor.
What am I doing here? Why am I doing this? Well, I came here to spend time in solitude, silence, prayer, study, writing and rest. I need to be alone. I want to be in touch with my deeper self -- and with Someone whom I’ve been longing for. Busay is my sacred space, my sacred mountain. It is the place for a more intense encounter with myself and with God. Coming here regularly has become part of the rhythm of my life. There is a time for action and a time for contemplation. Ideally, action and contemplation should be integrated in my daily life -- like yin and yang -- but the dominant mode during the mission is action. I need an extended period of inaction -- of contemplation and rest. I can not be an apostle all the time -- I also have to be an occasional hermit.
Here is the daily schedule that I will be following starting tomorrow:
- Rise, meditation, lauds
- language study (Spanish & Italian)
– manual labor
- spiritual reading
- Karate kata exercises
- meditation/evening prayer
- violin practice
- poetry/journal writing
veranda is finally finished. I placed a rattan chair on it where I can sit and
admire the panoramic view of the city of
came up this afternoon bringing some postcards and letters from
Fr. Tommy Tancinco came up this morning. Being an expert electrician, he volunteered to make an electric connection between my hermitage and the rest-house below. It took him the whole afternoon to put up the post and the wiring. So tonight for the first time I am using a flourescent light instead of the kerosene lamp. The lamp is more romantic but I need a brighter light so that I can do some reading and writing at night.
I can hear the sound of the birds and the rustle of the trees and leaves outside. I feel alone but I am not lonely.
I am in the process of writing a booklet for the leaders and members of the Basic Ecclesial Communities. It is in Cebuano and the title is: Kristohanong Pagtoo ug Kinabuhi (Christian faith and life). It contains the basic content or message that we have been preaching and teaching in the mission: Faith, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, the Church, Sacraments, Eschatology, etc. I like doing it because it gives me the opportunity to reflect on the basic tenets of my faith. This will be the form that a theology from the grassroots will take.
I had a strange dream last night which I can recall vividly:
I go to the military camp to get my clearance since I am leaving for abroad. I get my clearance from a woman who seems to be the secretary. She gives me an envelope which is supposed to be my dossier. Inside are photocopied pictures dating back to my college days. There are pictures of me in my scout ranger uniform. There are also pictures of me as a student activist attending rallies and demonstrations. There is also a picture of a dark and mature woman whom I do not recognize. I walk into another room and meet one of the officers who used to interrogate and torture me. This time we seem to be getting along well with each other. I do not hate him. I leave my dossier on the table. Later when I pick it up and open it I find that my dossier has been replaced by another unknown woman's dossier. I can't find my dossier anymore. So I leave the camp feeling relieved.
This evening I meditated on the name and the image of Jesus. After several minutes I began to feel like the 12-year old boy kneeling before the altar in front of the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus after hearing that my sister, Nilda, was dead. Suddenly I felt an overwhelming sensation. My hair stood and it seemed like my entire body was filled with electric current. Tears streamed from my eyes and I felt very strongly the presence of Jesus – the risen Lord. While I was crying, I became aware of my sinfulness and my need for his forgiveness. I asked forgiveness for doubting the reality of his existence. I felt that Jesus had truly called me to follow him.
Last night while meditating on 1 John 4:7-21. I experienced an overwhelming feeling of being loved. I felt God's loving presence. Suddenly scenes from the past flashed in my mind -- my mother's loving care when I was sick and when I was in prison, the images and memories of the significant persons who have touched my life: Magno, Cynthia, Sceny, G., Karl, and Carol).
God is encountered in the experience of loving others and being loved by them -- for God is love and where there is love there is God. My name is Amado -- the Beloved. That is who I am and I can feel it.
just heard a shocking news in
Elegy for Tiananmen
There is silence at the gates
of the heavenly peace.
The blood has dried up
washed away by the fire hoses
No joss-sticks and flowers
are permitted at the square.
There are barbed wires
and uniformed guards
where once sprawled
the burnt and riddled bodies
and splattered brains
of students and workers
who were demanding freedom and democracy
from a regime that gave hope
to their grandparents.
No joss-sticks and flowers
are permitted at the gates
of the heavenly peace.
But throughout the middle kingdom
tears are silently shed
for a lost generation
and for a tottering ideal
that promised to fashion a paradise
without privilege and class
without hunger and terror
without barbed-wires and fascists.
Meanwhile the old mandarins
tremble within the forbidden city
waiting for the revolution
or their own passing away.
What's coming over me? I have this growing desire to become a saint. No, it's not really an ambition to be canonized or venerated. I wouldn't want people to call me San Amado, make a statue of me and celebrate fiestas in my honor so many years or centuries from now. It's simply a desire for holiness -- to live a life of sanctity, of loving God and others in a more heroic degree.
To be a saint does not mean being sinless. It means responding to God’s grace – to his loving presence – and being converted and freed from the domination of sin. It means being totally for others – loving and serving God in others. It is to be a person filled with compassion – especially for the poor and for those who suffer. It means allowing Christ to live in me. It is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Thus, to be a saint really means to live as a genuine Christian. That is probably why the early Christians were referred to as saints.
I have surprise visitors today. Four FMA sisters ( Srs. Auring, Flora, Letty and Remy), Bebeth (our former lay missionary) and Fr. Fred Malalis. I asked them to stay for lunch and I cooked my specialty -- spaghetti a la picx. I was surprised that there was enough space for all of us in my little hermitage. Since I do not have any table or chair, we all just ate on the floor like the people in the barrio.
After having been alone for quite some time, having visitors is always a source of joy. This experience in silence and solitude make me appreciate community and friendship.
dreamed of Carol last night. I don't
remember exactly the details. Maybe it's
because I miss her and I want to hear from her.
She proceeded to
No, I don't think I'm in love with her. I've just become very fond of her. Our relationship has become very close and intimate. There's always the risk of falling in love with her. Our limited time and the distance make it unlikely. Anyway, what I really need is a friend. Not a lover or a wife.
I've just finished writing this poem expressing what I feel about her.
"To love another person
is to see the face of God"
‑ Les Miserables – the musicale
You were simply a byline
reporting the horrors of war and depredation
in the land of promise
that had become a no man's land.
The angst in your pen
echoed in my heart
and my verses.
In the midst of this horrid setting
something beautiful radiated
from your articles and letters.
Your name was etched in my soul.
Our worlds were so far apart
I didn’t think we'd come face to face
in the picketline and the barricade
and share a dream.
Our paths were destined to converge
but not meant to merge.
The encounter has not changed
the course of our lives.
But we will never be
the same again
for we allowed each other
to go beyond our defenses
to see and touch each other's core.
As we go on living
in our separate worlds
with the ocean and my commitment
the bond within grows stronger.
The dialogue of life will go on
sustained by the tender memories
of intimate moments.
I won't say goodbye
because we will never part.
With us, time and distance
does not matter.
yet so close.
It will always be like this
I wish I could always be there
when you need me
to hold you in my arms
and wipe away your tears
and drive away your fears.
But let us not grieve
over what could have been.
Rather, let's celebrate
what we have.
Thanks for giving me
of the divine.
While writing the last chapter of my booklet which deals with the theme of everlasting life, I reflected on the reality of death and the hope of the resurrection. Then I remembered my mother. I just felt overwhelmed and the tears that I had been holding back just flowed. The time of mourning is over.
The thought of death and dying continues to cross my mind. I have become more aware that I, too, will someday die. I tried to picture how would it be when I grow old and death is near. The result is this poem.
It's getting darker and darker.
What's happening to my eyes?
I can hardly move this ancient frame.
Where are they now?
Everyone seems to be gone.
I am alone.
Strangers come to visit me.
They call me father.
I cannot remember
their names and faces
but they look familiar.
They take care of me.
they feed me
and wipe my ass.
Whatever time I have left
is spent on looking back.
I'm afraid to look forward.
There might be nothing there.
I wish my life were a video‑movie
then I can keep replaying it
when the end comes.
I have so many, many yesterdays
is there a tomorrow beyond this final night?
I hope there is.
Otherwise, my self‑oblation
would have been for nothing.
Time to say goodnight.
Time to sleep
mountain is not just for climbing. I
have been on top of this lonely mountain for almost two months to realize
this. Mountains have always attracted
me. I have climbed a lot of mountains in my life -- Agad-agad,
Looking back at those climbs now, I realize that we never stayed for long on top of the mountain. Oftentimes, after reaching the top we would pause for several hours to rest and maybe enjoy the view and then go down as fast as we could. What I enjoyed most was the process of going up and down the mountain with others. It was a challenge and an adventure.
My present mountain experience is different. I have climbed and stayed on top of this mountain alone and for a longer period of time. I have discovered that there is more to the mountain that just climbing it for fun and adventure. There is something sacred about the mountain. The silence, the feeling of being alone with nature -- the trees, the flowers, the wind, the elements. All these contribute to a sense of awe, a sense of awareness and closeness with the great Someone. I believe the mountain has a very important function in our life. It is the place of encounter with God and the self, the place to look at reality from a vantage point and to understand more fully the meaning and direction of our life.
also regularly went up the mountain to pray.
As the gospel of Matthew records:
"Jesus left the city and
went, as he usually did, to the
mountain also held a special place in the life of St. Alphonsus Liguori. During his stay at the
Thus, for Moses, Jesus and Alphonsus, the mountain was a very important part of their life. The mountain was the locus of close encounter with God, the place for looking at the world from a wider perspective. It was the place where they could understand more fully the meaning, direction and mission of their life. They did not go up the mountain to escape from the world. They went there in order to see and understand the world more clearly and to see it the way God sees it -- with greater awareness, sensitivity, compassion and commitment. They did not stay on top of the mountain forever, they came down to purse their mission and vocation. They went back to the mountain from time to time.
The mountain is the symbol of the contemplative dimension of life -- the life of solitude, silence, prayer, reflection and study. The mountain reminds us that contemplation is an important dimension of life. It is through contemplation that we become more intimate with God and with ourselves. This intimacy does not give us a beatific vision of God but it does give us a better vision of reality. Contemplation therefore gives us a wider and broader perspective of life. It helps us see clearly the reality of suffering, poverty, oppression, injustice and exploitation in society like Moses did. With the eyes of faith, we begin to recognize the face of Jesus in the face of the poor. In the atmosphere of silence and solitude, we can clarify our vocation and strengthen our commitment. Without this occasional view from the top, we can easily lose our way and get nowhere. Without this relaxing and quiet atmosphere, we can easily burn out.
mountain, however, reminds us that contemplation cannot be the whole of
life. We cannot stay on top of the
mountain forever, although we need to regularly go up to it. We have to come down and immerse ourselves in
the world with a renewed strength and commitment. Moses had to come down from
Contemplation is an essential dimension of life but it is not the whole of life. Christian life should not be one-dimensional. The spirituality of the mountain reminds us that human and Christian life are multi-dimensional. One does not spend his whole life on top of the mountain; he has to come down. One does not spend his whole life on the plain. He has to go up once in a while to find his bearing. Thus, prayer and contemplation should not be seen as the whole of life.
The View from the Mountain
In the silence and solitude of this mountain
I sit still surveying the scene.
I see no burning bush
nor do I hear a thundering voice.
From this vantage I look at the sight below.
I see the fire raging across the land.
I hear the ascending cry
of millions of anguished voices.
In the silence and solitude of this mountain
I gaze intently at your reality
no longer with a myopic vision
but with a higher, wider, deeper eye-view.
The purge goes on within.
I am emptying myself completely
to allow you to penetrate
the deepest part of me.
The more I become one with you
the more I fathom your liberating will,
the more I see with your eyes,
hear with your ears,
feel with your heart,
and walk with your strength.
In the silence and communion of this mountain
I see no beatific vision.
only the sight below:
our people enslaved and starving.
I feel no ecstasy.
only the agony of seeing them
exploited and dehumanized.
I cannot levitate.
I cannot go up another higher storey.
I have to go down and meet you on level ground
so that I may walk with you and our people
in their exodus from this no man's land
towards the promised land.
How I wish I could pitch my tent
or build my mansion on this beautiful mountain.
But my true home is somewhere down below
where the people are and where they are going.
this mountain can only be the place of rendezvous
with my deeper self and with the absolute you
so that I can sharpen my vision
and clarify my mission.
There will be other mountains to climb along the way.
time has come to move on again. I'm going down this
mountain. I am going home to Iligan to say good bye to my family, friends and
confreres. Soon I will be on a journey to distant lands -- to the
Someday, I will come back to this mountain and spend my sabbatical year here. I love this place. When I reach seventy-five years old, when I retire from active ministry, I would like to spend my remaining years here as a hermit. This will be my pre-departure area.