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Chapter Fifteen

LETTERS FROM BERKELEY

 

 

Aboard Cathay Pacific, August 10, 1989  

The journey has began. I'm on my way to the USA. This is the beginning of a new chapter  in my life. I'm not really that excited.  I am leaving so many things behind.  Over the past eight years I've been assigned in Iligan working with the mission team.  Most of my time was spent in the barrios working among the poor helping build Basic Ecclesial Communities.  In spite of the hardships, the  inconveniences, the dangers and harassments I have enjoyed every moment of it. Now I'll be moving into the First World ‑‑ a world of affluence, security and comfort. I hope I don't experience a culture shock.

      Over the years I have developed close relationships ‑‑ within the family, with some confreres (especially Karl), and with the lay members of the mission team.   I have also been able to maintain contact with my old friends (like Ann and Cynthia) and develop new ones.  Just recently I experienced a beautiful friendship with Carol.  I am going to miss all of them and I'll be entering a world of strangers.  

     I'm also going to miss my hermitage up in the hills of Busay. I built it with my own hands and was hoping I could spend my sabbatical there ‑‑ spending time in prayer, silence and solitude, writing theological reflections, writing poetry, playing the violin, painting, running the mountain trails, reading, planting corn and raising chickens. 

     Leaving these behind and launching into the unknown  is not easy.  But I have to respond to the needs of the vice‑province and the formation program. I am also hoping that doing higher studies in theology can provide me with the competence in doing grassroots theologizing and thus help the basic ecclesial communities and the pastoral workers systematize their reflection on their experiences and praxis.  I hope my two years in Berkeley will be enriching. 

 

2564 Virginia St.

Berkeley, California 94709

September 17,1989

   

Dearest Carol,   


       How is the "war correspondent"? I hope you are experiencing peace in your heart in the midst of the continuing spiral of violence.  If ever you feel drained and depressed don't forget to close your eyes, take a deep breathe and count down from ten to 0 ...  It's been a long time since I left, I wonder how's everything back there.  I miss the country, the people, the work and the friends I left behind ‑‑ especially you. Did you receive the postcard I sent you?

       I am still in a period of adjustment here in Berkeley.  I have to adjust to the weather, the culture, the pace of life, the diet, and myriad of things.  It's supposed to be summer but I am already wearing my winter clothes.  I have to learn how to operate the washing machine, ride the elevator, open a bank account, use the gadgets in the rest room, cross the street, etc. I think I am going to have a culture shock.  A change of environment from the barrios in Mindanao to a city in California is too much. It will take me a good while to get used to a first world lifestyle. 

       Adjusting to student life is not that easy.  It's been eight years since I left school.  So back to the classroom, the books, research paper.  Classes started three weeks ago and since then I've been very busy.  No time for sightseeing ‑‑ no time for love.  I am taking four courses this semester.  There's one course that's really interesting: Spirituality & Relationships. It covers a lot of stimulating topics like understanding oneself, human sexuality, personal growth and development, midlife crisis, friendship, community life, etc. We do a lot of reading, reflection, journal writing and discussion. It is helping me a lot in reflecting on my past experiences (especially our relationship). I'm really glad  to be a student once again. No heavy responsibility.

         I am living on a three‑room apartment with two other guys‑‑an Irish Columban priest assigned in Korea (Noel) and an American Xaverian brother (Bill). We take turns in cooking and we go out jogging together.  In spite of the company I do get lonely at times.  But I'm glad to be here.  It'such a beautiful and peaceful place. I hope I can meet someone like you here.

        Well, I'll have to sign off now. I still have a lot of reading to do.  Please give my regards to Edith. I constantly remember you in my prayers.  

         

September 25, 1989

 

Dear Ramon,

       Greetings from your old alma mater! Berkeley is as beautiful as ever with all the hills and trees around.  None of those sky-scrapers and ghettoes which I usually associate with America.  The people here are friendly, they greet you on the street even if you don't know them ‑‑ just like in the barrio.


       I'm living here in Corcoran house on a three‑room apartment with an Irish Columban who was working in Korea and an American Xaverian brother. There's a very good community spirit among those taking the Institute of Spirituality and Worship (ISW) program.  There are two other Redemptorists in the course ‑‑ Dom Carrigam (the Australian novicemaster) and Bernardl Steinwall (the Sri Lankan prefect of students).  We are in constant contact with the Redemptorists in Rose street and in fact, we attended a community celebration a couple of weeks ago. So I don't actually feel alone. 

       The ISW program began with the 8‑day retreat in Los Altos  from Aug. 17‑24. I think it was a good beginning because the retreat helped me reflect on my recent experience and prepared me to enter  this new environment. Classes started three weeks ago and I've had a tight schedule since then.  I'm taking three courses besides the ISW workshops/presentation. There's one course on "Formation Ministry", another on "Ministerial Spirituality" and a very good one on "Spirituality and Relationships".  I like these courses because they are not purely academic but rather experiential. We do a lot of reading, reflections, journal writing, group discussion.  The course on formation is helpful for those who have been and who will be involved in formation. The "Spirituality and Relationships" course covers a wide range of interesting topics like human sexuality, psychosexual development, intimacy, friendship, celibate loving, community life, etc.  Sandra Schneiders is teaching us "Ministerial Spirituality"  which seems to be more like "Feminist Spirituality" to me.  I haven't taken any heavy dogma subjects yet ‑‑ that will be for the next semester.  The deadline for application to the  licentiate program is October 15. One of the requirements is a suitable knowledge of the Latin  language so I'm reviewing my Latin which I learned 20 years ago. I'm also reviewing my Spanish because it is one of the language of proficiency required for graduate studies. Well, this is going to be a busy year.  I won't have much time to go gallivanting.

        Please give my regards to the confreres. I hope everything is going well  there.  I'd appreciate very much if I get news about developments in the congregation and the country.

 

October 21, 1989

 

Dearest Carol,

            Thanks for remembering me on my birthday.  I was out in Redwood City at that time for a faith‑sharing weekend.  As I enter my midlife I'm not too enthusiastic about celebrating birthdays.  They remind me that I'm not getting any younger. The receding hairline and the increasing waistline is forcing me to accept this grim reality.  Still I am thankful for the gift of life.


It's great to be alive.  That's what I can say after surviving an earthquake that claimed so many lives a few miles from here.  The freeway that connects Berkeley to Oakland collapsed and so also did the Bay bridge that connects us to San Francisco.  There is smoke and rubble all over the place.  Even the Oakland cathedral has cracks.  This has been a traumatic experience to many people.  The earthquake  shattered the false sense of security.  Now they know what it is to face death and devastation, what it means to be homeless and to live in fear and insecurity... oops, that was an aftershock a few seconds ago.

 Last night I attended a meeting of the Pax Christi, an international peace movement inspired by Christ, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Last month the American chapter of Pax Christi came out with a resolution asking the U.S. government to withdraw the US bases from the Philippines.  A few weeks ago I joined the group in celebrating the feast of St. Francis at the tracks of the Concord weapons station. (This was the place where Brian Wilson was ran over by a train a couple of years ago while barricading the trains that were carrying weapons for the Third World).

 My sympathies for your recent heartbreak. It seems that the mental screening is not working. "It's better to have love and lost than to have never love at all". What can I say except quote that cliche. You don't have to blame God for this.  Who knows that was a blessing in disguise. That guy would have given you endless heartaches and misery had he married you. You deserve someone who can really love you as much as you love him. I will continue to pray for you that you may encounter him.

            What is God up to?  That's the question that you are asking.  It's going to be difficult to answer that because we can never enter the mind of God.  But I believe that our experiences whether joyful or sorrowful have a message to convey to us. The message is about the ultimate meaning of our existence.  Perhaps you are asking why is it after four love affairs you have not found the man who can really love you that much to make you happy forever and ever. The truth is no man can ever love as perfectly as you would want him to.  Only God is capable of such love. I wonder if you are really aware of the extent of God's love for you.  I believe that beyond our longing for love is the yearning for God. 


            I've been reflecting a lot about my life. One of the patterns I have discovered is the passion and yearning for beauty, intimacy and love. The fantasy that occasionally enters my mind is that one of these days I am going to meet the most beautiful woman and develop the most perfect, loving relationship and commit my whole life to her.  What I have realized after all these years is that there can be no such woman and there can be no such relationship and that I can never commit myself totally to any human being. No woman can ever love me that much and I can never totally love any woman. I have realized that my passionate yearning for beauty and intimacy is actually the longing for intimacy with Divine Beauty.  It is God alone who can ultimately fulfill my need and longing for love and beauty. It is to God alone that I can totally commit my whole life.  Whatever love that I experience with my fellow human beings is a pale reflection of this  Love.  So don't expect me to leave the priesthood just because I have fallen in love with someone.  Falling in love is an experience that I will always treasure.  If ever I leave the priesthood it will be because I have lost faith in the reality of God's love and my whole existence has no meaning.

I  am very happy that you have finally freed yourself from the effects of the brainwashing by the RVM sisters.  As long as you called me padre it was difficult for me to relate to you as an equal and as a true friend.  When you refused to call me Picx and insisted on calling me by that "patriarchal" title I felt you were trying to put me on a pedestal or you were trying to box me in my role as a priest and confessor.  To tell you the truth I am always uncomfortable with being called "father" or "padre". Thanks for calling me by my name.  So I formally withdraw my threat to call you Sister Carolyn.

Well, I was surprised that you've been reading the life of St. Francis.  What have you eaten this time that you're reading the lives of the saints?  Are there no novels in Josefina?  Joking aside, Francis is one of my favorite saints.

The "Les Miserables" is in San Francisco for a 16‑week performance.  I'm going to see it on November 18 with my cousin. I've been listening to the tape over and over again.  I just love the music and the lyrics.  It also reminds me of you.

Karl will be coming to visit me on November 4 or 5. I'm looking forward to seeing him.  We have a one week vacation starting next weekend up to November 5.

So all the best.  Please give my regards to Edith.  Will be keeping you in my prayers.

 

December 7, 1989

 

Dear Ramon ,

            Season's greetings.  I hope that by now everything is all right and you'll have a peaceful and quiet Christmas. I was worried about the recent coup attempt. I would have become an exile had it succeeded. It's sad to know that the situation is getting worst.

            It's getting colder and colder. I hope I can survive  the winter. I'm fortunate there's no snow in this area. The fall semester will be over next week and I'm looking forward to our Christmas break and inter-session.


            The past four months have not been as quiet and relaxing as I expected.  A disastrous earthquake last October shattered our sense of security.  We've been shaken by numerous aftershocks and we are living in the shadow of fear that a bigger quake might hit us anytime (that means between now and the next 30 years). The war in El Salvador has also affected our school especially after the murder of the 6 Jesuits.  There is a growing climate of activism in this Jesuit institution as many are becoming conscienticized.  A few weeks ago classes were suspended and we participated in a huge mass action in the Federal building.  We had a prayer service and afterwards barricaded the building.  More than a  hundred demonstrators were arrested and held for a few hours.  I  avoided  arrest  since I didn't want to get into trouble with the Department of Immigration.  A week later we again participated in another mass action in the streets of San Francisco to protest U.S. support for a murderous regime in El Salvador.  Yesterday l7 demonstrators (many of them Jesuits) were arrested near the tracks of the Concord Weapons Station while carrying symbolic coffins of the 6 murdered Jesuits towards the military base where the arms for South America were being shipped from.

I've also attended a meeting of a Philippine support group and I was asked to share my experiences and reflections on the Philippines.  So I've been scheduled to read my poems this coming February and to be the keynote speaker of a local conference on the Philipines this March.  Well, I thought I could rest from activism while I'm here but it seems difficult to completely avoid these concerns. Theology and praxis cannot be divorced. Nevertheless I have promised myself to limit active involvement in any organization. 

         Please extend my Christmas greetings to the confreres.

 

January 9, 1990

 

Dear Karl,

 Carol called this morning from Davao and informed me about the tragic death of your father.  I would like to offer my condolence to you and your family.  I hope that you will get over the shock and grief and may you experience healing.  I also pray that those responsible will be brought to justice.


Over this past few months I have been trying to come to terms with tragedy that I experienced more than three years ago.  I just realized that I have not really gotten over the shock and grief over the brutal killing of my mother.  At that time I just felt numb, I couldn't feel anything, I couldn't even cry. All the  grief and anger were repressed inside. I have been carrying these feelings ever since.  My psycho-therapy in Manila and the ISW course here in Berkeley have helped me process my traumatic experience.  From time to time I still do a lot of crying that should have been done before.  Now I think the period of mourning is finally over.  A couple of weeks ago I finally dreamed that my mother has died.  I have finally let her go, there is something within that has ended and something that is coming to life.

I have realized that it was the "unfinished business" that prolonged the period of mourning.  I felt so much my mother's loss because it happened at a time when we were in the process of becoming more intimate and affectionate. We were not really that close when I was a child or when I was growing up.  My assignment in Iligan gave me the opportunity to develop a closer relationship with her. When she was killed I felt that she was snatched away from me.  It was difficult to accept the reality of her death.  It was even more difficult to let go of the "mother‑complex".  That's why every time I dreamed of her, it was as if she never died at all. I think it was the euphoria after the EDSA Revolution that drowned my grief.  When the euphoria wore off and I again faced the reality of suffering and death, grief and anger surfaced once more.  The recurring nightmares expressed the pain and terror I felt.

There is one thing that we can learn from our personal experience of suffering and tragedy.  It is compassion.  For us pain and death are no longer news reports or statistics.  We can easily identify with the victims, we know how it feels, we are in solidarity with the suffering humanity.

I'll offer a mass for your father.  I'll also keep you and your family in my prayers during this period of bereavement.     

 

 

January 28, 1990

 

Dear Karl,

I'm attending a despedida party tonight for a Mennonite leaving for the Philippines so I am taking this opportunity to write you a few lines.

I hope you are doing  O.K. as you go through the grieving process.  I know it will take some time.  No need to hold back or suppress your feelings‑‑ that will just prolong the grief.  I hope there is someone there with whom you can process what you are going through.  Numbness is the usual reaction to tragedy.  Tears can help wash away grief and soften the shock. The most cruel thing we can do to ourselves is to hold back the tears and live like zoombies.  The more we get in touch  with the depths of our pain and sorrow the better it will be for us.  I know how you feel and I grieve with you.  I am enclosing a wonderful book that has helped me a lot,  The Courage to Grieve.


            I'll be having a poetry-reading on February 8 here in Berkeley. The Church Network on the Philippines (CNOP) is sponsoring this event.  I'm very excited about it.  I just realized that most of my poems are based on my experiences of grief and suffering.  Writing poetry can be therapeutic.

            The CNOP is planning to organize a "sister‑community program".  It means that a church‑based group or community here will establish link with some BECs in the Philippines (e.g. San Fernando, Josefina, etc.). They are asking if  you can be the contact person and sell the idea to the BECs you think might be ready for this kind of relationship. As soon as a link has been established, they can open lines of communication, send people to the Philippines to visit the sister‑community, possibly provide financial support for community projects.  Rebecca will send you further details.  But we need your immediate response so that we can start talking to groups here.  A similar program has already been established with BECs in El Salvador.

Please extend my warms regards to the community and the team.

                       

 

February 14, 1990

 

Dearest Carol,

Happy Valentines!  I hope you finally found your Valentino.  I know how lonely it is to celebrate Valentine's day alone.  As usual I don't have any Valentina, but I'm not complaining.  This is something that I will have to get used to all my life. I'm in a period of my life that I feel so vulnerable and alone that I can easily fall in love.  I'm just fortunate that I haven't met the woman in my dreams, otherwise I'd be going through a crisis.  Anyway, I don't think I'll ever enter a relationship that has no future and will end with a broken heart.

I don't know whether to feel amused or to feel sorry for you after reading your last letter.  Imagine, falling in love with a military man who is planning to become a priest.  That would be a good story‑line for Regal Films.  It could either be a tragedy or a comedy.  Joking aside, I'd been wondering why you are easily attracted to men who are religious and unavailable. It is possible that you are attracted to the qualities they embody such as holiness, spirituality, dedication  and commitment.  I told you before that falling in love is a religious experience.  Beneath our passionate yearning is a longing for intimacy with the divine. The divine qualities are already within you waiting to be developed.  I think it is important to look within your heart and listen to what God is trying to tell you.  Through these experiences God may be trying to reach out to you. 


Thanks for sending me your photo, you look younger and prettier that I wondered whether it was a camera trick or a matter of retouching (ouch – joke only).  It will always remind me of you.  The only problem is it makes me miss you all the more.

            By the way, please stop imagining about your funeral, that's dangerous (esp. if you use the mental screen). Besides,  it would be too much for me to bear.

The spring semester started the other week and I'm buried in my books again.  I have to maintain the straight A's I got last semester.  My poetry reading last week turned out well.  I still have to prepare my keynote speech for next month's conference on the Philipines.  I have also began my training for the marathon and I'm trying to lose 20 pound so that I will be fit to run this May.

            All the best in your new job.  I hope you'll hear the wedding bells this year.  But please, try to pick someone who is not thinking about becoming a priest.  Competing with God can be frustrating.  I'm constantly praying for your safety and hapiness.

                                     

 

March 8, 1990

 

Dear Willy,

Thanks for the update and the ballot.  It is frustrating to know that the situation in the Philippines is getting worst.

I'm doing fine here.  The spring semester started last month and I'm again busy catching up with all the readings and paper work.  I got straight A's in all my subjects last semester and I hope I can maintain these grades this semester. The courses I'm taking this time are more difficult.  Besides the ISW course, I'm taking the following subjects: History of Theology in the 20th century, Foundational Questions in Theology,  and Liturgical/Sacramental Theology.  I'm also attending a weekly dream workshop.  A couple of weeks ago we did the Enneagram.  There are so many interesting courses I'd like to take but the maximum load allowed is only 12 units per semester.


            The spiritual direction program here is splendid.  I meet my spiritual director every other week.  We also have regular recollection and faith‑sharing with my ISW group. 

The poetry reading went very well last month and there's a group who is interested in publishing my poems.  Last week I was the keynote speaker in a Conference on the Philippines here in the Bay Area.  It was well attended and the response was very positive.  The participants belong to various Christian denominations (Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc.) who are concerned about the Philippine situation and U.S. foreign policy. They are organizing a "sister‑church relationship program" in which Christian churches in the bay area can establish a sister‑church relationship with the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Philippines especially those organized by the Iligan RMT.  We have asked Karl to help in setting up the program.

The spring semester will end on May 24.  I still don't know where to go this summer.  I'd like to do some parish/supply work. I wonder if Pat O’Connel can arrange something for me. I prefer a parish where I can practice my Spanish so that I can be ready for the language examination next semester.

Please extend my warmest regards to the confreres.  I hope things will get better. 

                                       

 

March 14, 1990

 

 Are you listening, God?

 Can you hear me?

 Are you here with me

 or am I talking to the wind?

 

 I feel so alone and helpless.

 I am an alien in this strange land.

 I have no friends

 just classmates and acquaintances.

 I miss the barrios,

 I miss the people I have lived and worked with.

 I'm homesick.

 I'm lonely.

 


 Can you fill the emptiness within?

 Can you fill this loneliness?

 It is your absence that I feel.

 How I long to feel your loving presence.

 I cannot see you.

 I cannot touch you.

 I cannot feel your embrace.

 

 Faceless One, let me see your face.

 Absolute Spirit, it is your warm body I need.

 

 God,

 are you really here?

 or are you the product of my imagination?

 Am I talking to you?

 or am I talking to myself?

 Reveal yourself to me

 O divine mystery.

 

 

 

March 27, 1990

 

Dear Karl,

We are having a one‑week spring break so this gives me time to catch up with my paper work and correspondence. I prefer to be out in the beach or the park to enjoy the new spring but I have to write a paper on "The role of  Liturgy in the Formation of the Basic Christian Community" and another paper on "The Theological Method of Leonardo Boff".


      My academic load is heavier this semester.  I have limited my extracurricular involvement.  In spite of this I find the subjects quite interesting.  Most of my classmates in the “History of Theology” course are doctoral students and the course covers the development of theology from the first world war up to the present (the theology of Barth, Bultman, Tillich, Niehbur, Rahner, Schillebeckx, Kung, Vatican II, radical theology, political theology, theologies of liberation). The course on “The Foundational Questions in Theology” is very fascinating. We are studying the various methods in doing theology, role of scriptures and hermeneutics, the role of human experience and social/ideological analysis, models of revelation, tradition and development of doctrine, and constructing local theology. We have been analyzing the methods used by liberal theologians, dialectical theology, radical theology, liberation theology, feminist theology, revisionist theology. These courses are giving me a solid foundation for future theologizing. Strange as it may sound, I'm enjoying my academic work. I'm also doing an interesting course on dreams.

            It seems that my refutation as a "faith healer" is spreading.  Last week, a Filipina doctor who has cancer came for healing.  She had been to three medical centers and was told that she has terminal cancer.  I don't know if I succeeded in healing her but she experienced pain‑relief and I taught her healing meditation. I intend to follow her up. Over the past months I have healed cases of migraine, backpain, stomach‑ache, sinusitis, elbow problem, allergy, colds, etc. The nuns in San Jose are asking me to give a seminar on healing.  I must thank you for encouraging me to take up healing.  I am more convinced that healing has to be an integral part of our ministry just as it was in the ministry of Jesus and the early Church. 

Three weeks ago, I was the keynote speaker in the conference on the Philippines.  There was a very good attendance and response.  Walden Bello and Ruth Cortez were part of the panelist. Rebecca facilitated the workshop on the sister‑church relationship.  There's a church in Alameda who is very interested.

I hope this letter reaches you before you begin your thirty‑days retreat. I'm looking forward to your final profession.  I wonder what will you be doing after that.  I hope you can come back to Berkeley one of these days.

Please give my regards to the community and the team.

 

 

April 11, 1990

 

Dear Ramon,

Happy Easter!  I'm still actually at the middle of the Holy Week but the spirit of Easter seems to be in the air.

Last weekend the ISW group went to the Yosemite National Park.  I really enjoyed that outing.  I was able to see and touch snow for the first time.  The valley itself and the numerous waterfalls is just beautiful.


            We barely have six weeks more before the end of the semester.  I can't believe how time flies so fast here.  I'm glad I still have another year.  A lot of my classmates in the ISW  are starting to feel depressed that all this is going to end soon and they will have to go back to reality. The question everyone is asking is: is there life after ISW?  Being a veteran of the ISW I think you are familiar with this feeling.

            So far I have found my experience here very worthwhile and therapeautic.  Last semester's course on Spirituality and Relationships was  very helpful.  I have an excellent spiritual director whom I meet every other week.  The dream course with Jeremy Taylor is just fascinating. I have come to terms with the tragic and traumatic experiences in my life.  The healing process is continuing.

            I'll be doing supply work at St. Basil's Parish in Los Angeles from June 16 to August 16. I hope I can earn enough to pay for my board and lodging next school year.

So all the best.  Please give my regards to the confreres.

     

 

May 15, 1990

 

Dear Karl,

            John Dear is leaving for the Philippines tomorrow and he hopes to see you so I'm rushing this letter.  John is a Jesuit who is a member of the national council of the Pax Christi and he will be visiting Bacolod and other areas in Luzon and Mindanao. He is arranging a possible speaking tour for Bishop Fortich in the U.S.  Tom Marti is taking care of John's itinerary.

How was the retreat?  I hope you are all set for the final profession.  Has the date for the big day been finalized? I wonder where will you be this next triennium.

Carol called me last month and told me she was coming to the U.S.  I was looking forward to her visit here.  Unfortunately when I called her sister last week I found out that the youth delegation left for the U.S. without her.  She was late. Sayang.


I attended the gala presentation of Nettie Wild's "Rustling of Leaves" in San Francisco.  It is a documentary on the Philippines, starring Frank Navarro, Ed de la Torre, Bernabe Buscayno and Jun Pala.  There was also some mention about the "Redempterrorists".  It was very well done.  Ed de la  Torre was supposed to come for the event but he wasn't issued a visa. 

This is the final week of our classes.  I still have one unfinished research paper.  We'll be having our closing parties this weekend.

            I'll be working in a parish in Los Angeles this summer. I hope I can earn enough for next school year's board and lodging.  I still don't know where I can live next semester.  I've been looking for an apartment but so far I have been unlucky.

            I'm thinking of writing a licentiate thesis on "Doing Theology from The Grassroots."  I'll begin doing some research this summer.  I'll try to correlate our experience with the Latin American experience of doing theology in the context of the Basic Ecclesial Communities.  I wonder if you can send me any material that you think might be helpful.  The primary sources that I will need will be documented liturgies, reflections, poems, psalms, songs, plays, study month proceedings and seminar materials that contain the emerging theology from the grassroots.  Your San Fernando journal would also be an excellent source. I'm glad that I have copies of  Pakiglambigit  and Pagpanaw.  If you also have anything about popular religiosity‑‑ that would be very helpful. If you can get hold of theological reflections written by other groups, theology of struggle, etc.  

            Please extend my warm regards to the community and the mission team.

 

 

2091 California St., Apartment 324

Berkeley, California 94703

tel (415) 549‑0907

 

June 14, 1990

 

Dear Ramon,


As you can see I have a new address. I just moved in to this studio‑apartment last May 31st.  I actually took over from a Columban who had just finished his masters at the  JSTB.  He left me a lot of things‑‑furnishings, table, percolator and even his bicycle.  It is located in an old building just in front of the St. Joseph's Church.  This would be convenient for me if I want to do some part time church work beginning the fall semester.

What I like most about the place is that it gives me a beautiful view of the Berkeley hills.  This will also give me the opportunity to experience living alone.  I remember you telling me before that it is possible to live an eremitical existence in an apartment.  So I'm considering  this place as my hermitage in Berkeley.  I'm renting this for $370/month. I'm cooking my own meals. Well, it's not Busay but it will suffice for the moment. 

     I went to Reno and Lake Tahoe with my aunt and cousins after the end of the semester.  On our way back we had an accident in the highway.  The rear wheel of the van came off and we swerved to the side of the road.  We were lucky that it happened after we had reached the level road and there was no car immediately behind us. Two cars hit the wheel that was lying in the middle of the road and they were damaged.  It was already dark when the police and tow car came.  It was a really a close call.

Last week I received your letter and communication you sent through John Dear.  I'm saddened by the news of  Berting's departure from the priesthood. Ben Ma told me on the phone that Gil is also on a leave of absence.  Well, it seems that confreres in my generation are going through the midlife crisis. I hope this won't demoralize the others.  Congratulations, by the way, on your re-election  as vice-provincial (or is condolence more appropriate?). I'm sure you'll need a sabbatical after the end of your term, considering the number of crises you had to handle and continue to face within the vice‑province.  At least your r-eelection has insured some stability and continuity.

            I'll be leaving for Los Angeles tomorrow.  I hope I'll be able to meet your parents and relatives.  When are you coming for a home visit?

 

 

St. Basil's Rectory

637 S. Kingsley

Los Angeles, Ca 90005

July 5, 1990

 

Dearest Carol,

Warm greetings from the city of Angels.  We're having a heat wave here with the temperature going up to 118 degrees.  They say you can fry an egg on the pavement.


I received your letter and  clippings the other day, finally. It was forwarded from Berkeley.  I commiserate with you. I was looking forward to your coming and I've been making plans on where to bring you.  Palpak na naman. It seems that fate has decreed that our paths should not cross this time. Ikaw naman, why did you have to come back for your bible‑diary?     

Classes ended on the last week of May and I transferred to my new apartment on May 31st. It's actually a bachelor's pad on the third floor of an old apartment building overlooking the Berkeley hills.  It's just beside the St. Joseph's church and twenty minutes walking distance to the campus. So, I'll be living alone like a hermit.

I arrived here in LA  on the 15th of June.  I'm working on a parish that is at the heart of the commercial district.  The church and the rectory are very modern and beautiful.  I have to get use to the opulent atmosphere.  I'm at present occupying a suite reserved for cardinals.  It's really a five‑star accommodation with its own sala, color TV, phone and fridge.  This is the room that the retired  archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal MacIntyre, stayed until he died.  I was transferred to this room after I healed the parish priest's mother who had an arthritis and a hearing problem. He was so happy that he gave me this VIP treatment.

Well most of my time is spent in celebrating daily mass, hearing confessions, preparing daily homilies, house blessings, and counseling. A good number of people come for healing.  Word has gotten around that the new priest can heal (the parish priest started the rumor). There are many Filipinos in the parish and I get many invitations for lunch and dinner.  On the whole, I'm enjoying my stay here although I don't think this is the kind of lifestyle and work I should be doing. I miss the barrio mission and the barricade

            I hope that by now you have fully recovered from your cough, colds, and depression. I'm glad to know that your "love affair with Philip Morris is over". I do hope that you'll find the time for a longer break.  A vacation and a retreat would do you good.

     So long for now.  I do miss you and you are remembered in my prayers.

 

 

Berkeley, CA

August 21, 1990

 

Dear Ramon, Willy & P,

I  just got back here the other week and I'm all set for the fall semester. It's great to be a student again without any pastoral responsibility.  I'm looking forward to a more relaxing year.


The summer work in St. Basil's turned out quite well.  My only regret is I wasn't able to go to Disneyland. I was just too busy. Most of my time was spent in celebrating daily mass, preparing  daily homily, hearing daily confessions, counseling, house‑blessing, prayer‑healing.  I also gave a retreat to a community of Filipino Augustinian Recollect sisters. The parish priest went to the Soviet Union for a vacation and I was left with the assistant pastor‑‑ a sixty‑four year old Filipino priest from Batangas.  Seventy percent of the churchgoers in the parish are Filipinos and most of the lay ministers and staff are also Filipinos. I felt I was in the Philippines.  I got a lot of invitation for house‑blessing and dinner.  The last week before I left there were despididas every night.  So naturally  I gained 10 pounds.  Financially I didn't do badly. I earned enough to pay for my housing and food for the rest of the school year. Actually I got $1600 from the parish as stipend and $2400 from others for house‑blessing, car blessing, gifts, stipend for retreat, and pabaon. This should be enough to pay for my apartment’s rent.

Classes will start next week. I will be taking the following subjects for the fall semester: Trinity, Ecclesiology, Christology, and History & Theology of the Eucharist. During the intersession I'll take "Issues in Third World Theologies". I won't have anymore classes during the spring semester. All I have to do is to write my thesis.  I'd like to write about doing theology from the grassroots base ecclesial communities. By the way, I got the final grades last school year and of the eight subjects I got seven A's and  one B+.  Nobody's perfect.

            So all the best for the new triennium.  Please extend my warm regards to the confreres.

 

 

November 27, 1990

 

Dear Ben,

I received your letter the other week but I've been too busy to respond immediately.  I still have three research papers to finish.  This has been a very tough semester.  I think I will need a sabbatical after this! 

Karl was here last month.  This wasn't really part of his itinerary but I asked him to come for a meeting with the Church Network on the Philippines (CNOP).  The Philippine Resource Center also sponsored two events for him. In one of the events he gave a talk on the Philippines and I read my poems.  We watched the musicale Les Miserables in San Francisco.


Noel Gartlan called from Davao a couple of weeks ago and asked me to teach a course on Ecclesiogy/Mariology/Missiology this summer (May 20‑June 28).  So I'm planning to go home by the first week of May  and perhaps leave for Rome by August. It all depends if there is a two‑month Italian course in Faruggia.  Otherwise I'll have to be in Rome by July.  Could you find out for me if there is a one‑month or two‑month course.  Also if you still have those Italian tapes (sybervi­sion) could you send it to me through Emy.

            The semester will end in three week's time.  I'm  run­ning the California Marathon this coming Sunday.  I'll be spending my Christmas here and New Year in Chicago.  I'll be staying with my relatives in Chicago from December 30‑January 6.  I hope I can meet Emy around that time. I will need his schedule, address and phone number. 

Next semester I won't have any classes anymore.  All I have to do is take my language examination (Spanish) and write my STL Thesis.  The tentative title for my thesis is: “The Basic Christian Communities in Mindanao: The Church at the Grassroots.”  I will be approaching it from the Ecclesiological perspective.

            I'm looking forward to joining you and Emy in Rome.  Can you send me information about the requirements for entry to the Doctoral Program (STD) in   Dogma at the Gregorian University?

So all the best.  I hope you a happy Christmas at the eternal city.  Extend my regards to Emy and Louie.

 

 

December 5, 1990

 

Dear Karl,

Warm greetings from Berkeley!  It's getting colder and colder here and the days are getting shorter.  I don't know if I'll ever get used to winter.

My body is still very sore and stiff after the marathon in Sacramento last Sunday.  I must have been crazy to run that race in a 40 degree weather.  Anyway I was able to finish in spite of the frostbite.  It took me four hours and seven minutes to cover the distance.

            I've been very busy this last few weeks trying to finish my research papers and preparing for class discussions. For my Christology class I'm writing a paper on "Christology from the Grassroots." It's about the image of Christ in popu­lar religiosity and in the BEC.  For my Trinity class I submitted a paper on "Trinity as Divine Community: the Para­digm for the Christian Community." For the Ecclesiology class I am concentrating on the "Ecclesiology of the Basic Ecclesial Community".  This has been an opportunity for me to reflect theologically on our experience in the missions and the BECs.

Thank you very much for the books and the MSPC materials. This is a great help for my research. I particularly like your book -- I read it twice already. It is beautifully written.


There is a growing opposition to the US intervention­ist policy  in the Persian gulf.  The Pax Christi has been organizing  prayer vigils.  I was invited to read some of my poems  during one these gatherings.  This coming Sunday the CNOP is organizing a special event to celebrate human rights day.  Walden Bello and myself are some of the featured speak­ers.  I have been asked to read my poems.  By the way I met Ernesto Cardenal (the Nicaraguan priest poet) a few weeks ago.  He came to Berkeley to read his poems.  I was able to talk to him for a few minutes.  I now have an autograph copy of his book  Zero Hour. He is really a very simple and amazing person.  In  spite of the recent setback of the Nicaraguan revolution he is still full of hope and fervor.

I'll be spending my Christmas here and possibly go to Chicago before the New Year. Hope you have a peaceful and joyful christmas.  Please extend my greetings to the community and the team. 

 

p.s.

I am enclosing a poem I wrote recently.  I wrote this for someone I recently met -- a Cuban-American girl doing her masters at UC Berkeley and who is also a member of Pax Christi.  Her name is Veronica. 

 

 

 ENCHANTMENT 

 

 On a cold and moonless night

 in an outdoor cafe in Berkeley

 I confided to you

 that I only write poetry

 when I feel the angst.

 

 You told me

 you only write poetry

 when you are in love.

 

 A few hours before

 you were only a stranger

 that I met while reading my poems

 in that cold and dimly lit church.

 Suddenly  it seemed

 I've always known you.


 I could feel your warmth and excitement

 as I sat beside you.

 

 It was like a dream 

 that I didn't want to wake up from. 

 I wished that night

 would never end

 but we parted ways

 in the dark.

 (and I didn't even get

 your last name

 or phone number)

 

 Since then

 I've been gazing at your alluring image,

 creating  scenarios

 in my mind.

 

 Questions continue to torment me:

 when will I see you again?   

 How close can we be?

 Am I at the threshold

 of danger? or of opportunity?

 

 Is it really you that I long for

 or the thou within and beyond me?

 Was it just a dream

 that I won't even remember

 the day after?

 

 Or is this only a fantasy

 of a lonely celibate

 in a strange and enchanting land?

 

 


December 19, 1990

 

Dear Ramon,

Greetings from Bezerkeley!  It's been raining here for the last few days and it's getting colder and colder.  But it's nothing compared to typhoon Rufing.

Everytime I get news about the Philippines I often feel  depressed.  It seems that the situation is becoming worst there‑‑the disasters, the coup attempts, the rising prices, the continuing war.  The latest disaster in Cebu was simply incredible.  I saw  pictures of the Presentation convent Pat O’Connel sent to Brigid.  Even Busay was not spared.  I wonder if the hermitage I built survived the typhoon.

The semester ended a few days ago.  It must have been the toughest semester so far with all the heavy reading re­quirements and voluminous paper work.  The extra‑curricular activities added to the burden.  I got involved in several Pax Christi activities‑‑ commemorating the death of the six Jes­uits in El Salvador and organizing opposition to the war in the Middle East.  I was one of the speakers of the human rights day celebration organized by the Church Network on the Philippines.  This week I'm  more re­laxed.  All  I  have to do is to attend Christmas parties almost every night.  Last night I attended the celebration of our Redemptorist confreres in Oakland.

            I'll be spending my Christmas  with my relatives in San Jose and Daly City. Then I leave for Chicago on the evening of the 25th and take the slow train (Amtrak).  I'll spend the New year with my relatives there. 

        I was able to finalize with Noel the class schedule in Davao.  So I will be teaching Ecclesiology/Missiology/Mariolo­gy from May 20 to June 28.  I should be in the Philippines by the first week of May and leave for Rome around July or Au­gust.  I'll try to get a visa for Italy here.  Can you send me a letter of introduction/authorization that I can present to Italian consul?   I'm also buying my plane fare in advance ‑‑San Francisco to Manila and Manila to Rome.

 

 

 

February 1, 1991

 

Dear Noel,

Belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Sorry I was  preoccupied with so many things that I couldn't answer your letter immediately.


I went to Chicago after Christmas to visit my relatives.  The confreres in St. Michael's were very hospitable. I was hoping to meet Emy but he had left for Canada a couple of weeks before.  But I still was able to talk to him over the phone.   He is not going back to Rome. He will continue his studies either in Canada or New York.

            Since the start of the war in the Persian gulf I've been involved in many protest demonstrations.  The biggest one was last week‑‑175,000 peace activists marched in San Francisco.  The university in Berkeley is also becoming restless. I'm at present working with the Pax Christi, a Catholic peace move­ment. The Pax Christi is also sponsoring Bishop Fortich's speaking tour in the US.  He will be coming to the Bay area a couple of weeks from now and talk about the "zones of peace" and other peace initiatives in the Philippines.

            The spring semester is just starting.  All I have to do this semester is write my thesis and take my Spanish language exams.  The title I have finally chosen is:  "The Basic Chris­tian Communities in Mindanao: the Church at the Grassroots".  I will focus on the emerging Ecclesiology of the BCC in Minda­nao and correlate it with the ecclesiology of Vatican II and of Latin America/liberation theology.   I should be able to finish it by April. 

      The May 20‑June 28 schedule you gave me is fine.  With regards to the preparation the students can make for the course, I suggest that they read beforehand the following:  Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), Ad Gentes (Decree on the church's missionary activity), Models of the Church (Avery Dulles).  These are basic materials that I expect them to read before the start of the class.  They may also read the following if they have time:  Church: Charism and Power (Boff), Ecclesiogenesis (Boff), Community Called Church (Segundo),  The Church (Kung),  The Church with a Human Face (Schillebeeckx), Foundations of Christian Faith (Rahner, pp. 323‑401), Ang Mahal na Birhen (CBCP pastoral letter on Marian devotion), proceedings of MSPC I‑V (Mindanao‑Sulu Pastoral Con­ference).

            The most important preparation that the students can  make is to reflect on their own experience of the Church and the BCC, and also Marian devotion.  The first day of class will be spent in finding out the basic theological questions and problems about the Church, the church's mission and Mary. We will formulate the theological agenda and determine what are the questions that the course will try to answer.  So I expect them to come with a written answer to this question:

 

     In your experience in working among the poor in the BCCs what are the theological questions/problems that have emerged about the Church, the mission of the Church, Mary?


 

The answers should include the questions coming from the people and church workers, and the theological questions and problems that the students themselves are personally grappling with.

I'll be leaving for the Philippines on the first of May. I'll be in Cebu for a few days and then go home to Iligan. Hope to see you in Davao on the 18th.

            So all the best.  Please give my regards to Abdon, the students and the community.

 

 

March 10, 1991

 

Dear Karl,

      Kumusta na?  I've been very busy joining peace demon­strations, preparing for my Spanish language exams, writing my thesis and preparing the Ecclesiology course that I forgot about answering your letters.  I finished the language exams the other week so that's one less problem to worry about. The war is over so it's all quiet on the streets now.

       Bishop Fortich was here the other week on a speaking tour about the Zones of Peace.  I was asked to read my poem "The Children of Candoni" as a "warm up" before his talk in San Francisco. There was a party for him at Tom Ambrogi's home the following night. Melba and Tonette was there and they were so excited to meet their "old boss".

            The thesis is shaping up now.  I have finished the data gathering stage and I'm now starting the writing phase. In ­spite of the hard work this is something I really enjoy doing.  It gives me the opportunity  reflect on our praxis and experi­ence in the missions and the BCCs. This is also the opportu­nity to study in depth the BECs in Latin America.  The com­puter is really a big help.  It makes research writing easier and faster. 

            I was originally planning to go with the Pax Christi group to the Nevada desert experience this weekend but I couldn't  afford to be out for three days.  Sayang, I would have met Jim Wallis, Dan Berrigan and Dom Helder Camara there. Anyway, Helder Camara will be coming over for a talk this coming Tuesday.  Bishop Gumbleton, the president of Pax Christi‑USA will also come next weekend for a recollection. I will be making the vow of nonviolence and peacemaking with other members of the Pax Christi.  We've had a series of regular reflections  over the last two months to prepare for this.  I know it is going to be very difficult to live out this "pacifist" option especially with my experience of vio­lence and the continuing violent situation in our country.  Yet I feel called to make this option and I believe that we have to search for a more creative, more human and peaceful means of transforming society.

            I will be going back home this May 1. I should be in Iligan by the second week of May. I'll probably be in Tubod by May 13.  I'm looking forward to seeing you in Davao.


 

 

March 24, 1991

 

Dear Ramon,

It's still Palm Sunday but it will be Easter week when you receive this letter.  So happy Easter! The rainy season is finally here.  That's good news for those who were worried about the drought.  That's bad news for us who want to have a good time. It can be depressing to be holed in inside this apartment facing the computer the whole day while it rains  outside. I haven't been able to jog lately.

I'm half way through my thesis and I think I should be able to finish it by the middle of April. Last month I did the Spanish language exams and got the result this week.  I've been classified as having primary proficiency in the language.  It was actually a very easy exams.  All we did was to translate a 400-word Spanish theological article.  I was lucky that it wasn't an oral exams.

We had a retreat last weekend with Bishop Gumbleton, the president of Pax Christi, USA. During the closing liturgy, I made the vow of active-nonviolence and peacemaking with six others. We've been preparing for this for the last two months.  It hasn't been an easy decision to make especially with my experience of violence and the continuing war in our country.  Yet I feel called to be a peacemaker in the midst of the spiral of violence.

I received a good news from Missio-Aachen.  They have just approved my scholarship for this year and is sending me 10,000 marks. I'm not sure where they are going to send the money, here or in Cebu? I think they will also grant me a scholarship for my studies in the Gregorianum.


Now for the bad news.  I just got swindled!  Last January I saw this travel agency in San Francisco that was offering cheap rates for the Philippines and Rome. I paid them $1295 ($325 for San Francisco-Manila, $970 Manila-Rome).  They promised to give me the ticket a week later. After two months I still don't have the ticket and the office has closed down. Last week I learned from another travel agency that it was a scam operation and that they have victimized many people.  So that leaves me with no ticket and a dwindling resources.  I think I will borrow from the Redemptorist in San Francisco for my Manila fare and pay them when I get my security deposit  of this apartment at the end of April.  So you'll have to take care of my ticket for Rome.

I plan to leave for Manila on April 30 and I should be there by May 2.  Will you please inform Baclaran that I will need accomodation from May 2-5.  Please get me a morning flight Manila-Cebu on May 5, Cebu-Iligan on May 7, a round trip ticket Cagayan-Davao (May 18) and Davao-Cagayan (open).  If you could also send your letter of recommendation to Baclaran and the papal nuncio's endorsement so that I can immediately apply for a visa when I get there.

Please extend my regards and Easter greetings to the  confreres.  See you soon.         

 

April 25, 1991

Yesterday I celebrated my 10th anniversary of ordination. I invited Veronica, Sabra, Art and Dennis to come over to my apartment for the celebration. They are all members of the Pax Christi.  We celebrated the Eucharist in the sala and then had dinner of spaghetti, fried chicken and salad.  I cooked the spaghetti and chicken myself while the gang prepared the salad.  I thanked everyone of them for the gift of friendship.  We have become close to each other during the last six months.  We've been together at  the rallies and demonstrations.  We were part of the group that met regularly to prepare ourselves for making the vow of non-violence.  We've gone outing together several times.  As I leave Berkeley a few days from now, I am going to miss them all, especially Veronica.  Yes, Veronica -- the one that I secretly admired and longed for. How  can I forget that night at the cafe after reading my poem in a church.  Or those late night dinners, talking about "post-traumatic stress disorder syndrom." Or that dinner at the Thai restaurant, helping me prepare for my Spanish  exams while waiting for our order.    Of course, I never got around to tell her what I felt about her.  But I think she must have guessed when I gave her that poem I wrote for her.  Why is it that when I become so close to a person it is  time to say goodbye?  Well, at least I have remained faithful to my vow of chastity.  I could have easily played around here  if I wanted to. But no, I have no intention of leaving the priesthood.  As I kept on reminding myself -- all I need are close friends, not a lover.

I have already completed the requirements for the licentiate.  My thesis has been approved by my adviser and two other readers.  So it is time to go -- time to move on.  Time to say goodbye.  I will surely miss this enchanting place and the people that have touched my life.