Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dream : What If?

At some point in time, we make big decisions that affects the rest of our lives. When I was 12, I made one such decision. And so, I left Poveda to become a student of Philippine Science High School.

While I often wonder "what if?", I never did ask myself what if I never left Poveda. I don't really know why I never second-guessed that decision. I don't even think I thought much before making my choice. I figure that maybe the reason why I never thought of what my life would be had I not attended Pisay is the feeling that I was too young to have decided otherwise (although I did make the decision to move from St. Paul to Poveda much earlier).

So, why am I bringing this up now? A couple of nights ago, I had a dream about how my high school life could have turned out had I not left for Pisay. It was a very peculiar dream bringing back memories of people and things that had not crossed my mind in over ten years.

The setting is fourth or third year high school.

I had just gotten out of class. I was finished with IW and was headed for the cafeteria. Why I was doing IW in class, I have no idea. The IW card was, apparently, fairly easy for me. It was an English one and I think I wrote well in my dream. I was in a hurry because I had a somewhere important to get to. Someone caught up with me as I briskly walked down the hall. Rianna was a friend that I often hung out with, but was not particularly close to. We were classmates and often seat mates, and we worked well together in projects, but beyond that, we had absolutely nothing in common. I even had the feeling that she was simply tolerating my presence. She was asking me something about our Physics lab report. I was hurriedly explaining things to her, as well. In my dream, people made it very clear that I excelled in science. Rianna said something about our groupmate Aileen and I merely nodded.
As Rianna and I walked, several people wished me luck. A number of others told me that I was already late. I picked up the pace and began to run after Rianna parted ways with me. When I got to where I was going, I found myself in a gymnasium full of people. Someone handed me a tennis racket. It turns out, I was one of the top tennis players in the school. I was already wearing my PE uniform and Jill and a younger student named Michelle were already playing. They told me I was up next. I don't remember how the game went. I had a good feeling afterwards, so I assume that I won. The last part of the dream had me going to lunch alone.

So there. That's the dream. I hadn't thought about playing tennis in a long while. I haven't touched my racket in years. Rianna, Aileen, Jill, and Michelle are people I have not seen since my elementary school days. I wonder what triggered this very peculiar vision.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Muddy Pants and Rainy Days

I was answering another meme from Friendster when I remembered something someone from my past once said:

Everybody deserves a second chance, but a third chance? I don't think so.

I'm the type who would disagree. I don't believe in closing your heart to people. To those who know me best, it probably sounds hypocritical. I know that I tend to hide or run away from those that hurt me or scare me, but when they seek me out, I do my best to open up and learn acceptance. In short, I am always open to the possibility, even if I do make myself scarce.

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Choosing the company of friends is like putting on your favorite pair of jeans.


While shopping for pants, Ivan once mentioned that jeans become more comfortable as they get older because the denim becomes softer and the materials "memorizes" the shape of your body. I wonder how some people can easily throw away a worn out pair of jeans. Even if I have a lot of denim jeans in my closet, there is a pair that I really like to wear. They're comfortable and always seem to fit right, even on days when I feel like my body chose to absorb all the humidity in the country and bloat me like a drowned frog. Recently, however, I realized that even my favorite pair of pants can make me feel downright uncomfortable and irritate me to no end.

Typhoon Egay had just started pulling into the area the rainclouds carried by the southwestern monsoon. Rain drenched the entire Metro and the long road from the jeepney stop to the lab was no exception. Because I knew I was in for a long a difficult day, I chose to wear my favorite pants. Unfortunately, as I walked from the jeepney stop to the lab, the hem of the legs of my pants got splashed with mud and were all grainy and wet. The sensation of damp mud-caked denim rubbing against my ankles is one of the sensations that I hate with a vengeance. Needless to say, I was in a bad mood and was seriously regretting wearing my jeans by the time I got to the lab. I wondered why I didn't choose to wear something else. In the midst of my frustration with the wet jeans, it struck me that the problem was quite minor and could be solved quite easily. I simply had to fold the hem of my jeans so that the wet part wasn't touching my ankles. If I had worn a skirt, then I would have had trouble with the wind and if I had worn shorts, I would have been cold.

Pagbasbas ("Blessing")

Lyrics by Rene Javellana, SJ
Music by Jandi Arboleda and Manoling Fransisco, SJ

This is a very upbeat Recessional Hymn. I just like its sound. It's characteristic a characteristic song of supplication. I prefer "Humayo at Ipahayag" in terms of message, but this is good, too. I'll try to translate the lyrics, but I'm not very good at translating. ^^

The title means "Blessing" as in the verb, not the noun.

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Panginoong lumikha ng kalangitan at lupa,
Lord who created the sky and the earth,
Ang sansinukuban ay 'di sukat sa 'Yong kadakilaan
The universe does not measure up to Your greatness
Ano pa kaya itong abang tahanan?
What more this humble home?

Ngunit Ikaw ang Ama na sa ami'y nagkalinga
But, You are the Father that nourished us
Sa harap ng 'Yong dambana
In front of Your altar
Kaya't sa samo ng madla, magdalang habag Ka
So at the plea of Your people, bring mercy (yeah, this is painfully loose)

Pumanaog ka, Poon, sa tahanang laan sa 'Yong kaluwalhatian
Descend, Lord, into the home meant for Your glory
Puspusin Mo ng biyaya ang dumudulog sa 'Yong dambana
Shower with blessings those who come to Your altar

You Are Mine

by David Haas

This is a very beautiful song that I like hearing. It's sung during Communion. It's reminiscent of two other favorites of mine, "Here I am, Lord" and "As the Deer". It speaks of Christ's gifts to his people, like "Here I am, Lord" and of our unquestionable need for God as in "As the Deer". My favorite line here is "Stand up, now; walk; and live", words that I have yet to heed, but I want to follow one day.

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I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you all from your fear
You will hear My voice
I claim you as My choice
Be still and know I am here

I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see
In the shadows of the night
I will be your light
Come and rest in Me

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are Mine

I am strength for all the despairing
Healing for the ones who dwell in shame
All the blind will see
The lame will run free
And all will know My name

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me,
I will bring you home
I love you and you are Mine

I am the word that leads all to freedom
I am the peace the world cannot give
I will call your name
Embracing all your pain
Stand up, now; walk; and live

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me,
I will bring you home
I love you and you are Mine

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nostalgia (Part Two) : Behind Class Pictures

I hated class pictures.

I'm not photogenic. I stopped being photogenic the moment puberty set in and all the childish cuteness innate in all children mysteriously vanished underneath the acne and the awkwardness of an adolescent identity crisis. The moment I realized that my two front teeth were too big, that my face was too oily, that my nose was too fat, and that my hair comes to life to disarrange itself the moment I step away from the mirror (yes, that crucial moment I looked at my fifth grade Confirmation picture was a rather devastating one for my self-esteem) was the moment I started to refuse having my picture taken. Unfortunately, the excitement of my classmates whenever class picture day came was infectious and I often found myself very much present, disgustingly willing, and almost morbidly drawn to pose for the class picture. It's almost masochistic how I torture myself during the formal shots, agonizing ("agonized", such a fitting word to describe how I usually look during the formal shots) about how to pose for the "candid shot" (why the heck do they call it a "candid shot" when it's so obvious that our poses were over thought?).


Oh yes, I firmly believed that class pictures were hell spawn.

Keyword: believed.

I recently came across my high school class pictures. I still hate how I look, but now that I'm older, I realize that all my other classmates kinda look stupid, too. Caught up in my teenage angst, I never saw that everyone else was pretty much caught up in their own angsts to care about my angst. Oh, that's the most times I've used the word "angst" in one sentence.

Anyway, insecurities aside, I came to see details in the pictures that I would never have noticed before.

I never realized how obsessive-compulsive I was about taking note of details until I saw how I wrote the full names of all my classmates (row by row, from right to left) and the list of class officers at the back of each picture. Reading the roster of officers, I realize how we were maturing in our choices as shown by the people we elected.
As freshmen, our class elected those whom we recognized. Ian, Emerald 2001's (Eme '01) class president, was elected because people knew him from the batch council elections--rather, people knew his flashlight from the batch council elections ("This is our light, we are this flashlight", seriously, wtf?). Noelle, the VP, and Michelle, the Secretary were female heartthrobs. But, can you really blame us? We didn't know the people we were voting for.
As sophomores, we chose those whom we identified with. So, Jasmin 2001's class president, Jay-jay, was elected because she was nice. Our secretary and PRO Edmyr and Gerry were elected because their friends supported them. We already had impressions about these people. As accurate or inaccurate as these impressions may be, it was all we had so we relied on them.
When we were juniors and seniors, we began looking at the characteristics of those we voted for. Fides, was known to be very responsible so I wasn't surprised when she came to lead Strontium 2001. Papic was also very much qualified to become Charm 2001's president with her pragmatic and diplomatic nature. We stopped voting for who was popular and we began seeing who was suited. We already knew each other long enough to decide who would do well in what role.

Now, aside from people, I apparently also listed down some of the projects we did as whole classes. Class projects are awesome. I always enjoyed them because of the amount of interaction they involve. I always loved them because our teachers were easily wheedled into allowing us to "practice" during their class period.
Our first class activity was a presentation for the acquaintance party. Some of my classmates danced to Hansons' "MmmBop" (is that the actual title?) and Basil, Ferron, and I led the cheering squad.
Freshman year, we also had our English play. Our class did "Little Women". I remember how annoyed Ma-Anne and I were when we were assigned to write the script, but a small group of people suddenly declared that we were going to use the script they got out of a literary magazine. The lead characters were given to that group of girls and their crushes. I was part of the props committee, helped design the sets, and provided costumes (I was doing my best to cooperate!). I was also given the role of Marmee and Ma-Anne became an extra in a dance scene. For my role as the mother, my hair was covered with an entire container of baby powder which took me two days to wash off and made me look like "Jo"'s younger sister with premature lightening of hair. When our play tanked (as most high school plays do), Ma-Anne and I, being the biatches that we were, couldn't help but gloat.
Jade did a fantasy-adventure thing. I didn't get to see Opal's play, but I do remember that their smoke machine didn't work properly.
For Filipino, we did a "comic book" of Noli using photographs. I posed as Maria Clara. Reporting about Rizal's life gave me the role of Osei-san ("...she was a very obedient woman...") and Josephine Bracken ("...they were married in the eyes of God...") This was the heyday of the Fair Pair and, if I remember correctly, it was also a class effort that JM and Maya won second place at the Fair Pair. Basil said we should aim for second place because of the pedicab ride around the fair grounds was a prize exclusively offered to second place. (First place was the second year couple, half of which was Jacqui, a girl I would encounter again in college)

Sophomore year, we had these weird art exhibits from Sir Cipriano. We first had this wire-art exhibit where we used copper wire and soldering iron to create "sculptures". Sir Cipriano also had us cover the second floor windows with sparkly sequin designs. This involved sticking sequins one by one on the windows using oil (so it wouldn't be permanent). Stupid freshmen at that time used to run their fingers through our hardwork, thus destroying days of labor in seconds.
We also had our Val. Ed. movie, which caused major blow-ups between people for various reasons (Yay! for class "open forums" to air out our differences and Yay! for me playing the cliched bad girl in a denim jacket with a cigarette and without a bra). At about the same time, the math exhibit was being constructed. I think we made the Op Art exhibit. I'm not too sure because this was the year that I was far too busy with the student alliance.
For Fili, we did a half-class production.

Junior year was the infamous Ramayana year. Dan and I played the lead roles of Ravana and PresentSita while Marlon ("What an ugly demon!"), Dexter ("Surely is"), and Isabel played Rama, Lakshmana, and PastSita respectively. We were hanging out in KC's dorm room 9our favorite hangout next to the third floor front lobby girls' restroom) and I remember KC commenting that Vlad made one good looking Ravana and Ma-Anne complaining that Pocholo was too dark to become Ravana. Celine, on the other hand, was ranting about how "blood" was not pronounced as "blaad" and Donna, well, I don't think she liked her role as the golden deer.
This was also the year of the Literary Magazine, which Mia and I compiled and edited for Strontium. I wrote a Choose your own Adventure story about a secret lab under the Pisay campus for this. We crammed for the Literary Mag so bad that in the end, instead of a magazine, we had a bunch of paper stuffed into a plastic envelope and clamped with a, well, clamp.

Senior year was Iliad/Shakespeare year and also the year of the failed "Les Miserables" musical. I had multiple roles again. I was the scriptwriter and sets designer, which were roles I was used to. But, I also had the unenviable job of acting coach to Marlon ("Heeeeektooooor!") and Raffy ("Here's tesselation, son of Peleus, the vurst for you.") I also played another mother role. I played Andromakhe, Hektor's tragic wife.
This was also the year when batch 2001, for the first time, had finalists in the Paskorus. Burns, though he was from Muon, helped us out and played conductor. We changed our requisite OPM song from "Mr. Cupido" ("Minsan siya ay nakausap, ako ay parang nasa ulap, nang ako'y kanyang titigan, sa puso ko'y ano'ng sarap...") to "T.L. Ako Sa'yo" ("Di ka guwapo ang pangit mo!") last minute. We also sang "Diwa ng Pasko" ("Zoom-zoom zoom-zoom") as required by the mechanics, but a number of boys couldn't memorize the lyrics. Someone (Papic or Burns, tsk tsk) suggested that if they forgot the lyrics, they could simply say "Watermelon Bubblegum". Marlon and Gerom, who were both in the front row and who both forgot one too many lines, unfortunately caught the attention of the judges ("Yung ibang lalaki dito sa harap, hindi namin alam kung ano'ng kanta ang kinakanta"). Needless to say, we lost. But, we sang at the front lobby, quite satisfied with ourselves as the judges passed. We knew that our "TL ako Sayo" was much better than the winner's "Bangga ka 'Day". After that, we went to my place cause it was a day after my birthday.
Senior year was also the year of research projects and that darn Physics exhibit (Marlon in Wonderland) where Despi played a creepy looking doll and I played a sexy feline. It was an extremely stressful end of the year for me. Yearbook, Dalumat, Les Miserables (I was the managing director), and acads weighed heavily on me, but somehow, I finished.

Come to think of it, every year, people found themselves fighting over class productions. At the end of every year, the class was closer than ever. Without those projects, the relationships wouldn't have formed. And, if the people had been different, the projects wouldn't turn out the way they did. At the back of my class pictures, I didn't ask people to write me dedications, I took note of the facts and details. Somehow, these told me things that we didn't look into when we were still there.

On Prescription/Memorized Prayers


I'm not sure how accurate this post will be. I'm neither a religious nor socio-cultural expert. I am just stating and analyzing observations that I have made throughout the years.

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Before meals, I always pray. Depending on who I am with, I pray differently. Whenever I'm with my nephew, we sing the Prayer Before Meals song:
"God is Great and God is good,
Thank you, God, for our food."
Whenever I'm alone or with my parents, we pray the prayer before meals that I learned when I was young and they learned when they were young:
"Bless us, O Lord
And these, Your gifts,
Which we are about to receive
From Your bounty
Through Christ, our Lord
Amen."
When I am with my non-Catholic Christian friends, we don't use these prescribed prayers that Catholics commonly use. With my friends, our prayers are a bit more organic, more customized to our specific needs, so to speak. Although we follow the "ATS format" (Acclamation-Thanksgiving-Supplication, no Confession/Contrition, because the prayer leader cannot be contrite for the sins of his/her companions), the prayers we pray as friends are rarely the same.

Protestants [1] do not have "memorized prayers". Now, I don't believe that there is a right way and a wrong way of praying. I believe that a prayer, memorized or not, so long as it is spoken from the heart, is still the most effective way of communicating with God. But, when faced with the question why Catholics must pray memorized prayers, I found myself giving my own theory on the matter.

Catholics focus on the community. We are constantly reminded that we are part of the "Body of the Church with Christ as our Head". With our memorized prayers, Catholics can echo the prayers of other Catholics from other parts of the world. We "believe in the Holy Catholic Church" as much as we believe in "God, the Father Almighty", "Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord", and the Holy Spirit. On a less spiritual level, I attribute this focus to the age of our religion. Catholicism, being the oldest Christian religion, was born at a time when men focused on the community. On the other hand, religions formed during the Protestant Reformation [2] focus on the personal relationship of the individual with God. I am often asked if I have accepted Jesus Christ as "my personal Lord and savior". As we do not memorize litanies to repeat them in different conversations over and over again, so Protestant brothers and sisters do not memorize prayers.

I was in high school when we read Homer's Iliad and my English teacher said that "epics can no longer be written in this age of novels" (I think she was quoting someone). People are now more focused on their own philosophies and ideals. When writers write, it is of their personal thoughts. Once upon a time, man could not separate himself from his community. When a writer wrote, he wrote about the philosophies and ideals of his community or race. The differences in the literary styles of the eras show the differences in the mindset of the people. The differences in the mindset of the people who established the different religious institutions created the differences in prayer practices. This is, of course, only my humble opinion.

Please allow me to make it clear that we Catholics do not ignore our personal relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Similarly, though it is not their main focus, Baptists also believe in the church community (else, why would there be such a thing as Baptist religion?). There are just different focuses, and therefore, different practices and approaches towards the one goal of salvation.

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[1] I really hate that word. It's so medieval. Unfortunately, it is the only term I can think of at the moment.
[2] wiki said "The Protestant Reformation was a movement which emerged in the 16th century as a series of attempts to reform the Roman Catholic Church in Western Europe. The reformation ended in division and the establishment of new institutions, most importantly Lutheranism, Reformed churches, and Anabaptists. It also led to the Counter-Reformation within the Roman Catholic Church."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Oratio Imperata Ad Petendam Pluviam

I'm adding a new label : Reflections of Faith.

This is my sad attempt at trying to bring focus to my Christian life. Ivan sent me a "Read the Bible in a Year" program and I'm already four days behind schedule. So, maybe writing about it in my blog will make me take this a bit more seriously.

That said, here's my first entry under this category.

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The dry spell afflicting the Filipino people, particularly the Luzon region, threatened to bring about many bad things: shortages in rice supply, water shortages, power shortages, etc. However, this also brought about one good thing. The dry spell once again brought the Filipino people together in prayer. Catholic churches all over the country recited the "Oratio Imperata Ad Petendam Pluviam" (I guess it means "Intercessory Prayer for Rain"). I thought it would be interesting to put the prayer up so people could read it:

God our loving Father, creator of our earth and of the universe, and all the wondrous elements of nature that sustain your living creatures, we humbly ask you to send us the rain that our country needs so badly at this time, to irrigate our fields, to stave off a power shortage, to provide water for our bodily health, and to refresh our parched lands. At your command the wind and the seas obey, raise your hand Almighty God to commence the normal rainy season that has now been long delayed so that crisis may be averted.

Merciful and generous God, open our eyes to the richness and beauty of your creation and instill in us a deep love for this earth and all that is in and around it. Teach us to be wise stewards of your creation so that we may always use them responsibly and protect them from abuse and exploitation. At this time of crisis, dear Lord, move us to share more, to serve more and to love more.

Loving God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you entrusted the Filipino people to the special care of Mary our Mother, listen to the prayers that we bring up to her, our Blessed Mother, to intercede for us, for the protection of our land and our people, whom she loves.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you in the unty of the Holy Spirit, One God for ever and ever. Amen.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.
Saint Rose of Lima, pray for us.
Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, pray for us.



Just to make things clear, however, I am not attributing the miracle that was typhoon Chedeng to Catholics, only. If I'm not mistaken, other people prayed for rain, as well. The indigenous people did their rain dances and appeals to their gods, too. This shows how powerful the prayers of a people are. This also shows what can happen if a people stand together and aim for something.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Strange Coincidence or Answered Prayers

Only recently, I told Ivan that it was getting harder and harder for me to rely on faith above all else. I remember saying that, like Thomas, the Doubter, I needed more tangible evidence of God's presence than most people because the little things that were making me insecure and depressed were slowly making me embittered. I didn't need to be rebuked about not having faith, I needed a more delicate approach.

Yesterday, at church, I asked for God's help. I asked that whatever little faith I once had be salvaged. I asked for guidance and for peace of mind. During the homily yesterday, Father Nolan said that those with little peace of mind often slept fitfully. Right before the mass ended, we recited the Oratio Imperata, which was an intercessionary prayers for rain to help ease the effects of the dry spell in the country. That night, I wasn't really surprised that I tossed and turned in bed.

Ivan told me that some prayers took time to be answered. Apparently, some prayers didn't take long to answer.

God quickly answered both the Oration Imperata and my own prayer in the most amazing way. Before I left for school, I had an inkling to bring an extra shirt. I didn't know why, but I felt like I needed to bring one. So, I tossed an extra shirt into the car and made my way to school. It started out as a sunny morning. I visited my adviser in his office and as I walked to the building, the sky slowly darkened. By the time I got out of the building, it was drizzling. I decided to let myself get drizzled on, after all, what harm could a little bit of rain water do?

I was halfway between the building and my car, which was parked in a fairly distant parking lot, when thunder suddenly rumbled and rain just poured in buckets. Despite my making a break for my car, by the time I got there, I was soaked. I berated myself for being so careless and not bringing an umbrella. As I drove to the lab, which was a less than a five minute drive from my adviser's office, the rain suddenly tapered off to a drizzle. When I parked my car, I remembered my extra shirt and I suddenly found myself laughing.

If I had left my adviser's office a minute or two later, I wouldn't have gotten caught in the downpour. I wouldn't have gotten wet. I wouldn't have needed the extra shirt I had been compelled to bring. I found it amusing, as simple a miracle or a coincidence it might be.

God had answered the people's prayers and mine with one storm. Or, maybe, it was just one big coincidence. But, somehow, it still made my day.