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Sunday, May 18, 2008

for the greater glory of god

{i came across this old article by my friend aims apolinario who is the academic principal of xavier school. my jesuit brothers and myself shared about life of st. ignatius and a little of our vocation for their st. ignatius celebration.}


Sunday, May 04, 2008

my retreat reflection

{last april 15-23, the jesuit regents had their annual 8 day retreat. it was really a time for us, especially me, to reflect my regency year. i would like to share my reflection through this paper, for the lack of a better title, entitled chili sauce.}

Chili Sauce*

*made of olive oil and lots of chili (that sometimes we pinoy mistaken it as bagoong)

I love chili sauce! I almost always garnish my food with chili sauce. Ice cream with chili sauce? Bad combination. Believe me, I tried it. When I arrived in Iloilo last year, our supportive minister heed to my request for a supply of chili sauce. To satisfy my need for hot flavor, he bought me different brands of chili sauce to try on. And they are plenty. But let me narrow them down with my personal categories. There is the overly hot, decently hot, sweety-hot and of course there is the whatever hot. And I would like to use these images of chili sauces to describe my first year regency in Iloilo.

Overly Hot
I am presently assigned in Ateneo de Iloilo – Santa Maria Catholic School. We are a small Jesuit school that offers basic education here in Iloilo City. Many of my friends asked me, what is my work in Iloilo? I simply answer, “marami. And most of the time they are persistent to really know the details. Fine. Here they are. I am the Campus Minster of the school. Take note, of the school. I am the 4th year computer teacher – 3 classes, 1 preparation. I am the class adviser of my lovable 4th year Integrity Spartans. I am the club moderator for Media Club 2 (Digital Workshop). I am a member of the Golden Jubilee Committee, PAASCU Team (CAT 3), Outreach Team, and Socials Committee. Not to mention the other small yet many tasks which are inserted by the school, parish, and the Jesuit community.

If I will tell all of these things to a teacher or to someone who is familiar with academic works, that person would probably say this is suicide. And I would agree on that. There are just too many things to do in this special school of ours. And knowing myself, I am a person who finds it hard to refuse any tasks or requests that is given to me. Moreover, who am I to complain when I see my fellow teachers, administrators, and Jesuits fathers and a brother working beyond their job description for the love of the school. These persons edified and reminded me to give my very heart into the things that I am called to do.

For someone who loves hot food to say that it is overly hot, then it must be really, really hot. But what a real chili enthusiast will do, he will try to take it in gradually until his taste buds can take the fiery flavor. And I think this has been who I am for the past school year. I have been giving myself to my work and accepting work that at a certain point it is really overly hot. But as I try to give myself, sometimes the overly hot is not hot at all.

Decently Hot
I don’t know if I should put these next entries in this reflection. It really brings me such deep gladness to hear stories of how people requested me as their regent. It may sound too boastful but it is true. (Hahaha, pagbigyan nyo na ako!) Really. Some Jesuits went out of their way to relay their intentions to Fr. Provincial whether by joke or serious conversations. I even know persons who offered prayers so that I may be assigned to their school. After hearing these stories I asked myself why? Who is Errol anyway for a regent? To content myself, I asked randomly three friends of mine. One said, “mabait ka kasi eh. Another, “masaya kang kasama. And still another, “kasalanan mo yan eh, ang dami mong pwedeng gawin. Are all of these true? I will leave it up to you. What is significant at this point is that even before my colorful stories in regency ever begun, God somehow blessed it with rightful reasons and meaning – that I am where I am suppose to be. Somehow in between the difficulties, even pains and sacrifices, everything in Iloilo somehow fits. Though the work is really burdensome yet doing my mission in Iloilo allowed me to grow more in loving and serving my personal God.

A good chili person can easily tell if the spiciness of the food is decently hot. By the way, decently hot simply means “just tastefully hot or sort.” If you asked them how they know this they can’t give you a straight answer. Basta. I know I am not any closer to the teaching prowess of Eddieboy Calasanz or the religious charms of Fr. Mon Bautista or the talented gifts of Pokwang. But in ADI, I feel decently hot. Basta.

Let us set my work aside for now. I think the next question is “do I still have time for fun?” Of course I have. Ano ako robot? (Hahaha) Despite the time constraints I still manage to insert some moments for myself. I usually love to walk around the city proper, going to Robinsons, SM Delgado, Atrium, and even to the far SM City at times. Honestly, I know how to get to these places by walking rather than riding a jeepney or trike. From these places I watch a movie, eat at Decos or Mang Inasal, do lots of window shopping especially admiring the new digital gadgets around, take pictures of scenery and structures, playing Time Crisis 2, eat the local chicken balls at the rotonda, and more. These are my simply joys in Iloilo.

But I think what really makes me happy (and sane) in Iloilo are the wonderful people. I think I have made many acquaintances this year. There are the complex and simple people of Iloilo, my drinking buddies, the videoke and dancing people, the serious and still serious people, and don’t forget the eating people (Ilonggos really know their food and they really love to eat!) All of them became part of my life because they share their lies with me which I can see God really dwells among them.

But among these friends, I would like to name few groups of persons that somehow made a significant mark in my first year of regency. First, the Golden Jubilee Batch, especially my 4th year class advisory, the Integrity Spartans. These 40 unique individuals who were under my care for a school year had become my friends. They are the persons that I mingle almost everyday. I try to be their big kuya (despite my physical physique) especially during the trying times of the class. They form me by sharing their brokenness with me that reminded me of the promise I made as a Jesuit – to help souls. Since their graduation, I have truly missed them. Another group is my batchmates of teachers and staff. They are my batchmates because we started together in ADI and we have been supporting each other since then. I think what made my work a little lighter is because I know I am not alone when I started. That is why we understand what each other is going through. Still, a significant group is a family actually – the Taleon Family – composed of a mother, two elder daughters and the youngest son. Miss D (as I fondly call her) has been so generous to the school and its cause. But what makes this family so dear to me is that they consider us Jesuits as part of the family. Many times, especially on their special occasions, we are the only ones invited. I only hope that the kids do not feel differently that they are always in the company of crazy religious people. They really took care of me that made me feel I really have a family in Iloilo (even in Bacolod J) For this I am eternally grateful. I always pray for them that our good Father will always make his presence felt to them especially during times of difficulties and confusion. And lastly, there is my secret group. (Ehem!) Don’t worry they are good and harmless folks. I call them secret because they are out of the usual ADI-SMCS circle. Actually they are long friends in Iloilo and I am actually the outsider. I have a very good friend in the group and I was welcomed since the day I arrived. We meet usually once in a while where they take me out to a place that I have never eaten and we just talk practically almost anything except work related stuff. Somehow with these secrete friends I can just be myself and I have found another home among them. God is so good to bless me with such persons, such friends here in Iloilo.

The sweety-hot chili sauce tastes sweeter rather than hot. I guess that’s why many people love its taste that sometimes they put plenty of it over the food. I think this is also true in my relationships with the people I serve. All of them inspire me to keep on going no matter what. There are many wonderful reasons to thank for rather to be worried upon.

Whatever Hot
You might not believe me the things I have done for the love of the ministry. I was the DJ of the dance during the HS acquaintance party. I sang the Psalm in a school-wide mass. I played basketball against the varsity team. I did cheer dancing and stunts with my students during the intramurals. I conducted a choral singing. I performed magic tricks in a program. I dressed in Korean costume to teach the famous Korean froggy dance in front of the GS assembly. I also dressed in Binukid costume during the Araw ng Wika. I surprised my class by wearing a HS uniform. And most of all, my all time favorite, I dressed in Sto. NiƱo costume (which I look like a small Black Nazarene) during the Dinagyang week and gave candies to grades 1 and 2 pupils. Until now I still wonder how I did all of these stuff. When I look back with my experiences I sometimes caught laughing at myself about how I look and my different gestures. Yet at the same time I was also cautious that others might get me wrong thinking that I am just playing around. But one concrete thing I was able to share with the school was the Golden Jubilee Launching video. With the help of professional video crew (who did the technical parts of the production and post-production), the whole school community plus a fire truck, I was able to produce the 5 minute video for the 50th anniversary of the school. I really poured my heart into this project that it gave me sleepless nights worrying on the many preparations at hand. It was truly a grace-filled sight when it was shown during the launching program and I saw some alumni shedding tears. I was really happy then.

A fool for Christ -- I think this captures my whole experience at this stage of formation. Regency for me is really a time to shine, a time to go an extra mile, to try new things, to make a difference. And to do these one must be a sort of a fool, going to the frontiers, all for God’s greater glory. And this is what I feel the Lord is calling me to do.

There are some chili sauces that you just can’t get its real taste. You just don’t know whether it is expired or not or somewhere in between. It’s such a mess. Actually, there are some ingredients that you can’t mix to create a better chili sauce. Basically you just need chili and oil. During this retreat my God reminded me to appreciate myself and what I have given as myself. When the school year was about to end, I was troubled if I did well or did I accomplish what I was suppose to do. And when I prayed over the document on “Regency as a Stage of Formation,” it uplifted my soul. It is said,

What has to be developed and put to the proof during regency is his capacity to give,
and to give himself, despite occasional encounters with difficulty and frustration.
Thus his ability to enter into his true identity as “minister”, as apostle, as a person
in the service of others, and thereby in the service of Christ, is put to the test. (1.4)

All the while, in the midst of my busy life, I didn’t seem to notice how the Lord has been trying to affirm all that I am doing, that I am doing just fine … just fine; such a great consolation.

Final Words on Chili Sauces

Perhaps these things I mentioned here don’t come across to some of you because I guess not many are actually fond with chili sauces. Well, for a batch of 9 for example, 5 of us like chili sauce that we always request from our beadle to buy a bottle during retreats and seminars. I use chili sauce in my reflection because at least I feel some part of your life you have encountered chili sauce especially eating dimsums like siomai or wanton. And perhaps also I am assigned in a Filipino-Chinese school so this practically apt rather than using siopao or pancit. (Hahaha) But kidding aside this has been my life experience as I have tried to describe it. During this retreat I tried to piece together how I ended up being a Jesuit and go back to the basics of my desires. And it started in simple tasting of serving and loving that eventually I wanted more. Same thing with the chili sauce, some taste it and turn away from it because they just couldn’t handle its spiciness. But for some who eventually liked it, craves for it, puts it even on different dishes. And at a certain point, even for a simple chili sauce, the chili person can distinguish it already to be overly hot, decently hot, sweety-hot, or whatever hot. But for many others, these are all just the same chili sauces.

The recently concluded school year was very memorable for me. It is the Golden Jubilee year of the school and it was really a good year to be assigned as a regent. Also this year I lost two love ones – my cousin Neneng and my adopted mother Fe. Neneng was the one who attended special moments in my early Jesuit life from my entrance days in Arvisu Prenovitiate and Sacred Heart Novitiate until my vow day in which my adopted family couldn’t attend to. And of course my very mother was always there for me at the very beginning at it all, quietly praying and supporting me. She has become my real mother and has always been my mother. How I wish that both of them could be there when I finally will be given the opportunity to serve God as a Jesuit Priest. This year also, two of my batchmates of ours left the Society and another one was diagnosed with stage 3 of skin cancer. These events really saddened our group. Yet, despite all of these, it was really a season of growth and grace for me, for all of us. And I thank the Lord for making me see all of these in the last few weeks of being here in Manila to rest with batchmates (rekindling our missionary spirit and desires), other Jesuits, and meeting great, great old friends (who believes and supports us). Now I am ready again to face my frontiers and taste a different kind chili sauce.

Arthur W. Nebrao, Jr., S.J.
15-23 April 2008
Regent’s 8 Day Retreat
Canossa Retreat House - Tagaytay

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