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Chapter Fourteen

 

A HERMIT’S JOURNAL

 

 

 

 

I was in Manila from January to March 1989.  I  lived with the Blessed Sacrament Fathers and went to the Emmaus center for counselling. I met Techa, my counsellor, once a week. This was part of my preparation for my sabbatical and study in Berkeley. Techa was very helpful in helping me go through the story of my life and discover the patterns of growth and stagnation in my psycho-sexual-spiritual  development.  

Since 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 Marathon in February. After the marathon, I met Cynthia and her family. As usual I cooked spaghetti for them. I noticed that her son A.G. was already  a teen-ager. Cynthia reminded me that my name was listed as A.G.’s sponsor when he received the sacrament of confirmation.   

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.

            While staying with the Blessed Sacrament, I received a visit from Carol Arguillas – the journalist from the Manila Chronicle who covered the anti-logging campaign in Bukidnon. After a long chat she said goodbye and told me that she was leaving for London and Nicaragua.

            My counselling session was finished by the second week of April. So I proceeded to Cebu.

This diary covers records my experience as  a hermit in Busay from the last week of April to the last week of June.

 

 

April 24, 1989

This 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 Cebu.  After the mass I heard confession.

Later in the morning I came up here in the mountain of Busay and started building the hermitage. I finished drawing up the plan of the house last week and bought the material. Since everything had been measured including the size and number of the coco-lumber and the bamboo walling, all I needed to do is to put these up and nail these. Even the size and the number of the nipa for the roof  had been set.  So, I won’t be using the saw very much. 

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.

 

April 26, 1989

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.

 

April 27, 1989

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.

I've been thinking a lot about Carol.  She's now in New York after attending the ecology conference in London.  I met her at the barricade during the anti-logging struggle in Bukidnon.  Karl introduced me to her and we'd become close friends since then.  I still remember our last meeting before she left for London.  We talked for many hours and I was surprised to find myself opening up to her and sharing with her my innermost feelings -- my fears, the nightmares, my hopes.  I was revealing myself to her.  It was made possible because she also revealed herself to me.  I thank God for the gift of friendship.  I hope we will be able to sustain this friendship through the years.

 

May 1, 1989

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:

 

4:30 am - Rise, meditation, lauds

5:30     - jogging

7:00     - breakfast

    cleaning/laundry

8:30     - writing


10:00     break

10:30    - language study (Spanish & Italian)

12:00    - cooking/lunchbreak

2:00 pm – manual labor

3:00      - spiritual reading

4:00      - reflection

5:30      - Karate kata exercises

6:15      - meditation/evening prayer

7:00      - cooking/supper

8:00      - violin practice

9:00      - poetry/journal writing

10:30     - sleep

 

May 5, 1989

The veranda is finally finished. I placed a rattan chair on it where I can sit and admire the panoramic view of the city of Cebu.  

Pat came up this afternoon bringing some postcards and letters from London and New York.  They're all from Carol.  I spent the rest of the afternoon, reading and re-reading them. Carol is very affectionate and open about what she feels for me.  I feel overwhelmed just being aware that there is someone who cares about me -- that I am lovable.  Let me savor this feeling while it lasts. 

 

May 9, 1989

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.

 

May 15, 1989

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.

 

May 21, 1989

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. 

 

May 22, 1989

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.

 

May 30, 1989

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.

 

 

 

 

June 5, 1989


I just heard a shocking news in China.  The Red Army has massacred thousands of unarmed students and workers who were demonstrating and demanding for freedom and democracy.  Over the last few weeks the democracy movement has sprouted in China and now they have  been brutally suppressed.  This for me is a sign of the bankcruptcy of  communism.  It is really tragic how it started as an ideology that inspired the liberation movement.  And now it has turned out to be oppressive and brutal.

 

Elegy for Tiananmen

 

 There is silence at the gates

 of the heavenly peace.

 The blood  has dried up

 washed away by the fire hoses

 and tears.

 

 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.

 

 

June 9, 1989

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.

 

June 10, 1989

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.

 

June 11, 1989

I 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 Nicaragua after her visit to New York.  I wonder if she's back. 


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.

 

Revelation

 

 "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

 between us,

 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.

 So far

 yet so close.

 It will always be like this

 my friend.

 

 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

 a glimpse

 of the divine.

         

 

June 17, 1989

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.

 

June 18, 1989

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.

 

Twilight

 

 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.

 

 No wife,

 No children,

 No grandchildren.

 

 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

 peacefully, restfully.

 

 

June 19, 1989

A 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, Busay, Kan-irag and Mount Apo.


            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.

It was on Mount Horeb that Moses encountered Yahweh.  In the silence and solitude of the mountain, he was able to  see reality through God's "eye-view."  Through this "eye-view" he was able to see the suffering of the people with compassion and commitment.  Through this  new perspective he saw very clearly that the situation was not only oppressive but also contrary to  God's will.  It was through this mountain experience that Moses understood Yahweh's ultimate concern.  He heard God's call to lead his people in their struggle for liberation.  Moses  did not stay forever on top of the mountain.  He had to come down. From time to time, he would  go back to the mountain to understand more deeply Yahweh's will and to look at the struggle of his people in a wider perspective.

Jesus 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 Mount of  Olives."(Mt 22:39)  Mark also alludes to this:"Very early the next morning, long before daylight,  Jesus left the house. He went out of town to a lonely place where he prayed."(Mk 1:35).  It was on Mt. Tabor during the transfiguration that Jesus understood more fully the nature of his mission which was that of the Suffering Servant.  In the Mount of Olives just a few hours before his arrest, Jesus  realized more clearly that the way of the cross was the only way to fulfill his mission.

The mountain also held a special place in the life of St. Alphonsus Liguori.  During his stay at the mountain of Scala, Alphonsus saw the world through God's eye-view.  He saw the world of the poor and the most abandoned.  From his mountain experience, he became more aware of his responsibility toward the poor and the need to form a religious community dedicated to preach the good news to people like them. Time and time again, Alphonsus went back to the cave in the mountain of Scala to pray and reflect. 


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.

The 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 Mt. Horeb to lead his people in their struggle for liberation and in their journey to the promised land.  Christ came down from Mt. Tabor and the Mount of Olives to fulfill his messianic mission.  Alphonsus came down from the mountain to found the Congregation and to preach the Good News to the poor and the most abandoned.

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.

 

June 24, 1989

The 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 US and later to Rome.  I will miss this mountain, this hermitage.  How I wish I could stay here  longer.

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.