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Monday, October 29, 2012

Chapter 7 - The Seminary


Chapter 7
The Seminary
           
          Fr. Driarco must have been really worned  out  that the blast from the past kept replaying  back from his subconscious. This time however, his spiritual formation in the seminary kept coming back alive from meditation.
              St. John Theological Seminary was once part of St. Matthew’s Regional Seminary in downtown Manila offering Secondary, College and later theology. It is an alma mater of Cardinal Ros and some other fortunate Cardinals, Bishops, Monsignores and thousands of priests now serving Catholic churches nationwide and overseas as missionaries. Others entered the military and hospitals earning secured and safe salaries as Chaplains. The rest in poor parishes thriving on the generosity of their parishioners. The late 1970’s saw the seminarians in theology packing up their cassocks, books and other personal belongings to newly established St. John Seminary in the interior of the city. Since then, those proceeding  taking up theology after Philosophy and other relevant college degrees spend their last four years there. The brave and able ones who survive the rigors and discipline of spiritual formation soon become part of the long roster of priests. It was said that the transfer of theology from St. Matthew to St. John stemmed from the protest of the theologians over issues of great importance. Unfortunately, it’s all what Driarco and Taklin heard from their  classmates. And as this did not personally affect them being  neophytes, they just momentarily shun themselves from the issues away.
              It is relatively new Seminary in the country but its perspectives – from façade, catwalks, rustic ceilings, unpainted walls, octagonal-shaped chapel and excellent library – looks like it has been a century old house of God’s fortunate children. But no, it’s not. Subsisting from kind-hearted living souls to help complete its facilities, it promises a brighter future. Suspended atop an altar is a life-size carving from molave of crucified Jesus. Exuding atmosphere of religiosity, the chapel is undoubtedly the most peaceful place providing the necessary lift to those who have troubled and restless heart. It must have been St. Augustine’s most wanted  and much-sought chapel to house his restless soul. It does to many seminarians. It helps shaping Driarco’s spirituality too.
Adjacent to the Seminary are St. Luke’s Cathedral, Good Shepherd College and Mary Immaculate Hospital. They are all spread within the perimeter of the Seminary compound. Seminarians and later priests are sons of God therefore they deserve all the best facilities available in town, he would learn later.
              “What for and what’s so special about them from the rest of creation? They’re badly needed to mold their minds and sustain their health,” he was told by his seniors. Down towards the south are poultry, piggery and other minor livelihood projects like rabbit raising and quail culture providing enough sustenance to productive seminarians.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .

              There was not much fanfare receiving the in-coming first year minor seminarians  to the Seminary by Bishop Lester, the assigned Rector of Regional seminary for secular priesthood later. Poking through bunch of documents spread on the table, the Bishop welcomes the young aspirants to the priesthood.
“Everything I think are in order – the transcript of records, your Bishop’s Endorsement and biodata -,” the scholarly Rector whose gray hair was very pronounced said.
              “I think so too your Excellency,” Driarco answered as Taklin nodded.
         “Just Fr. Rector please. Never mind ‘Your Excellency’. It’s too high sounding words,” the good Bishop interrupted.
              “And how you’ve been . . . I mean spiritually,” he further asked.
              “Just fine . . . I mean I derived enjoyment from religious observance of masses and other sacraments specially holy confession, choir, priesthood functions and other related religious activities back home,” Driarco volunteered recognizing the calculated  answer  stammering obviously confused more about the answer.
              “Why, tell me what is in holy confession that you find it enjoyable. . .” the Bishop probed.
        “Hmm. . . Sorry but I do mean tranquility, peace and religious contentment within keeping that spiritual communion with God alive . . . . “ Driarco puts back his answer in proper perspectives.   
          “Aha, see. That’s what I mean. You should not relate sacraments gentlemen to temporary or passing contentment. It doesn’t make sense otherwise your stay here would also be confusion. God is real. Don’t be like another doubting Thomases.”
              “I will greatly remember that while alive.”
           “While you’re still breathing I may add,” Driarco recapitulated recovering his composure and resolved to be careful with his choice of words next time to avoid confusion.
              “See, you’re really fine otherwise you should have not been into this place,” the good Bishop snapped back peering through thick spectacles solidly perching on his long aquiline nose.
              “Welcome aboard then gentlemen. Enjoy your Philosophy formation here. Hope you could continue until theology when you hurdle the first  test here.  It’s great to have you one with us. I’m personally honored to have a young man like you following Christ footsteps. So have a nice four years stay indeed with us and another four years stay later – should you qualify for theology,” the Rector repeated back giving premium on the immediacy of time.
              “We’re greatly honored too my dear Fr. Rector. Thanks a lot,” both guys  reciprocated  both hands clasped feeling assured as if a burden was lifted away from their shoulders.
              As advised, they went back downstairs for registration. Mood is festive because  it happens to be the first day of the class.
              Church history and eschatology have been their favorite subjects outside their regular subjects. So with homiletics both excelling in their delivery given their resonant voices. Of the two, Driarco  preferred however Eschatology because of its treatment of the beauty of death, that it’s actually the beginning of life contrary to common belief as an end. Specifically not because he received excellent mark on this subject but rather because of the didactic dimension it provides.
              “As a dreamer, as we’re all are, talks on death and its concomitant psychological impact enable him to come closer with reality face to face with the ultimate truth that man’s life doesn’t end when he’s six feet under the ground. On the contrary unless he dies, there’s no special growth taking place,” the familiar Eschatological concept overwhelmed him.
              Again that lyrics of the song “Unless the grain of wheat shall fall on the ground and dies. It shall remain a single wheat and not brings life,“ he recalls one of the songs composed by the Jesuits normally sang during Lent. German theologian Paul Tillich and eschatologist Kubler Ross Khan whose nationality he already forgot are two theologians he was crazy about in the Seminary. Ms. Khan used to remind him that whether he likes it or not he too just like any other animals in this planet of apes would also degenerate or simply vanish away like any dust in the thin air. As an offshoot, the sense of immediacy and urgency eschatology provides so overwhelmed him making his move exciting as if he’s boarding the last trip.
              “Time is our hope, time is our security, time is our destiny and time is the mirror in which we see eternity,” he refreshes with much gusto from one of his readings. Tillich’s association of death with the rest of creation on the other hand so enthralled him. Did the earth not moved, birds chirped, rocks split when Christ died and resurrected, he synthesized from Tillich’s work.
              Other than chapel, Driarco’s other favorite is the upper chamber of the sacristy. Abandoned but well ventilated, Driarco would use this as haven in exploiting his patience reading and writing. The seminary fathers in the adjacent Corregidor would call sometimes his unmerciful and unrelenting pounding of typewriter even during ungodly hours. What could he do his classmates transformed him overnight as their ghost writer organizing and writing their papers, letters and all that for snack. Same place transformed Driarco’s artistic bent on poetry having published several works in Seminary paper. For many years, this room became an extension of his sleeping quarter becoming his study room in fact. Occupying the fourth floor is still unopened library extension where Driarco would bury later himself to books, excellent ones on loan and possibly for safekeeping by Fr. Rector. It’s where Driarco graduated from paperbacks, biographies, history, literature, classics and other courses with flying colors yet he supposed.
. . . . . . . . . . .

              Unlike all other colleges and universities, the first four years was marked by intense preparation. Of the four years, the first year was the most decisive. It could either make or unmake an aspirant to the priesthood. Attendance was required in the library from 7:30-11:30 pm for study. The seminary faculty would just like to have an assurance that freshmen would be imbued with the love of books. Never mind if what they read digress from the assignments given. Latin was basic requirement.
          “Definitely, no exemption in taking Latin or there would be communication gap between you and God,” they would say.
              “Lousy, lacking,” Tines – one of the seniors – would later expressed when Driarco whined taking Latin. Just no way for college degree would be incomplete without courses on Latin. Seeing later however many professionals sitting-in the class taking Latin Driarco changed his mind. That’s when he finally took the subject at heart religiously. It pays off big dividends. He begins to realize that like Spanish, it links the bridge of the past history and culture to the present. Latin songs too awakened his love of this classic language what with excellent magic hearing songs sung in the mass and concert. The power and majesty of Gaudiamus Igitur, the solemnity and piety of Panis Angelicus and Adoremus Te , the beauty of Ave Maria and classic Nessum Dorma – all these songs earned  his respect and love of Latin music.
              “Simply beautiful, moving and amazing,” his reaction savoring the beauty of Latin music.
. . . . . . . . . .

              Weekends saw the seminarians doing pastoral work in different parishes helping their respective priest in whatever capacity they could deliver from distribution of sacred hosts during communion to officiating burial rites. Generally, depending on the charisma one has, each one is given the chance expressing  himself whatever things he could dish out. No limit. Thus far, whether it is in music, community organizing, dramatics and sports, no one is denied to show his worth let alone develop it. The work is oftentimes crippling to their tired bodies but it’s a valid excuse too of regaining and savoring what freedom is outside the seminary. Movies, visiting a friend and beer session and all that become good substitute. Sometimes, some would go back to the seminary under the influence of hard liquor caught sleeping instead of praying during evening vespers. One such unfortunate aspirant was Lito who one time fall into deep sleep incredibly snoring yet at will during the six ‘o’clock AM Mass. No wonder he was the only fellow left even after the celebration of the holy Eucharist.
              “Tell me why no administrative sanction would be charged against you?” the Prefect of discipline would confront him later.
              “We don’t like to have an apostle of Satan invading this sacred place,” he was told flatly by Fr. Resma, the Prefect of Discipline after the summon leaving the poor Lito dumbfounded. He never understands why he could singled out from among the seminarians given his sanity.
              “Know why?” the Prefect said giving Lito benefits of his doubt.
              “There’s this anecdote about God and Satan contesting who’s got the most number of members.  Both tacitly agreed that those wide awake are Gods’ and those falling asleep are his’. Soon they find themselves touring of duty in cockpit arena, lecture rooms, schools and other forums to which God see all are actively participating. “Gee look even they’re supposed to be your bailiwick; I have them still as members.”
              “Not yet. Let’s go inside your church,” Satan challenged.
              “Deal,” God replied confident that what He’s got inside would further bolster His claim.
              “Bingo, none. Save for one snoring yet at will. You Lito. Now don’t ask nor challenge my authority. God is omniscience. See I hope you got my point. Don’t make us believe that priesthood is a folly making us accountable to St. Peter for hypnotizing you to sleep forgetting God during sermons, a far cry to reckless bus drivers who helped their helpless passengers remember God every time they maneuver difficult curves and circuitous routes not giving damn to the safety and security of the people on board,” Fr. Resma dished out leaving the poor Lito died  laughing inside.
. . . . . . . . . .  

              Summer saw both Driarco and Taklin working in the province, doing pastoral work. Vacation is there but otherwise they always spend roughly one and a half months working again with the parish rekindling past memories with their respective family, friends and classmates. This made feel them good becoming all the more dear to the people. Not that bad. Other dimension from their summer pastoral work like immersion, hands-on experience in running the diocese’ cooperative learning bookkeeping, helping in community organizing and writing feasibility studies, the work they learned overtime and later made them quiet adept at simply making their day perking their adrenaline up working more beyond ordinary time.  In between, they would help form the choir as trainer and vocal coach. As breather from this non-stop work they would join Dante fishing when blue marlins are at their peak summertime and  the clouds dark. The glimpse alone of big tuna struggling from the line enthralled them. Sometimes they would like doing this by themselves but Dante doesn’t allowed.
One time out of the heck of it however, both  set Dante’s banca free sailing gliding to and from over big waves for fun towards where the blue marlins were  purportedly caught. Soon strong  angry winds began tossing the small banca to and fro. Not even ‘The Fisherman Prayer!’ invoking safety while in the middle of the sea vanished their fears.  Had Dante did not chased and lead them back home safely ashore in the thick of the night, they would have been gone to maybe Pacific Ocean. Since then, that become their lesson realizing that fishing is never at all fun but a thankless occupation beset with hazards.
              On some occasion when fate is on their side, the banca would be full to the brim with large tuna forty to ninety kilos a piece. Catching five to seven tuna is no big joke. They would sell these to the waiting middle men ashore and have their stomach whetted later with shoot-to-kill menu, a corrupt street English acronym for Visayan sinugba, kinilaw and tinola – all taken from the fish meat.
               For Driarco, fishing is such a refreshing venture participating in the beauty of nature.
              “See how good God is to man,” he would tell Taklin
              “He provides us big fishpond in the ocean and moon providing light to get those big tuna all for free,” he would sometimes tell Dante.
              The squids he brought home delighted his parents. Watching dolphins frolic from the sea imbue him with a better understanding of this creature actually of mammal’s lineage. He would know they’re around when he would hear breathing spree from afar like horses sneezing and gasping for last breath. Unfortunately, other fishermen have that bad habits of chasing them and with calculated bold strong stroke unleashed the spear hitting the innocent creature blood polluting the sea. Asking one time Nong Rene, a seasoned fisherman in the village, why they have to go that far, all he got was true they are considered endangered species but what could he do. He also eats rice like all the rest of the better-off and subsistent fishermen. The response practically caught Driarco off-guard specially learning that Nong Rene supposed to be the guardian of illegal fishing being deployed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the area.
              “Why do we allow illegal Japanese poachers for instance catching dolphins with impunity? Why go after us subsistent fishermen,” Nong Rene challenged Driarco.
              “There must be wrong somewhere Dan,” ask Driarco when they were back to fishing one time.
              “Having been a subsistent fisherman myself, I think so. Yes I do believe there should be a stringent laws protecting the small fishermen implementing them to the letter if need by putting those illegal poachers behind bars.”
              “How’s that  again?”
            “Of course by the government but I think the best still is by empowered citizenry,” Dante snapped. Driarco waited for further qualification.
              “By that I mean each one should take cognizance of protecting our natural resources. Look what happened to our vast, think and green forest. They are now barren, bald and totally destroyed. And after all the trees were cut down. Who cares? Not the illegal loggers. Yet see how they zealously campaign for ecological awareness, environmental protection, plant a tree movement and all that. It is hardly imagined in fact that they have to enact laws protecting our remaining forest and banning illegal cutting, total log ban and all that when great portion of our remaining forest covers have already been denuded. It’s an irony indeed pooling together their concern as if that could save the world with their last ditch measure. No way. Just no way.”
              Spell bounded, Driarco waited for more narration.
              “Sorry I talked on environmental protection instead of fishing but that’s the way it is.”
              “You’re right.”
              “As you probably realized, it’s quiet really tough. I forgot the exact term in law. But I think it implies casuistry. Making laws themselves and practicing  something else,” Dante recalls back from his meager reading on the subject.
              “And empowered citizenry?” Driarco snaps.
              “Yes. But how as you asked! Before a barrel of a gun. Power-broker against unpredictable people power. Quiet better term. But what do we have after all this display of our collective strength – barricade, strike, joining forces with media, non-government organization and the church – a cold murder of Fr. Julio Lefuve  in broad daylight yet. May he rest in peace. When would we ever learn?”
The mention of Fr. Julio Lefuve’s name pricked the sensitivity of Driarco. He  was  the missionary parish priest of Sta. Rita before Fr. Manny, the present parish priest, assumed. It was Fr. Lefuve who took him and Taklin in as sacristans nurturing them the love of God, fellowmen and nature. Most importantly, it was him who exerted strong influence prodding him in taking up priesthood. And here he is now on the way to priesthood. But what a twist of event learning the bitter end of the beloved priest. .
              “What’s a message his meeting with Dante is driving across? Must be indicating I have to take his place where he left off,” Driarco thought his mouth agape in disbelief. Undoubtedly, he remains undaunted of the possibility but somehow disturbed by the series of events of death going on gripping him in fear and trembling. But recalling the dictum that there’s nothing to fear in this world but fear itself provided him renewed strength awakening him of the greater challenge there is in his chosen field.
              “I just cross the bridge when I’m already there,” he cleared  with Dante’s reconstruction of the incident narrated in the perspective.
. . . . . .  . . . . . . .

              The story told  was almost like a sick joke,. Fr. Lefuve was then on his tour of duty to celebrate mass in one village. He did but it was cut short after an albino guy set his motorcycle on fire right after he gave his final blessing. Going out to check whatever happened, a lone gunshot bullet on his head dropped him instantly to the ground dead while the albino guy just speed off  faster after pumping the bullet leaving no trace leaving the horrified faithful and onlookers.
              “What’s the status now of his case if I may ask?”
              “As usual nothing happens to the perpetrators of the crime.”
              “Excuse me but I read it in one of the national daily lately that it was Col. Tapalla who masterminded the killing.”
              “I read that too. But that’s only in paper. The parishioners have yet to see the inclusion of the big fish. He only represents a negligible fry from the military who provided the protection of illegal loggers. How about other parties, the big guns. Do you get me?” he addressed Driarco straight to the eyes.
              “Are you referring Torres and cohorts?”
              “Exactly. You’re right. The Mayor and coterie of accomplices?”
              “You see you should stretch further your imagination. It’s hard to pinpoint who the real culprits are. There are too many possibilities behind the scene
              “Thanks, many thanks indeed for the information. I think ours has been very productive brainstorming on the subject. . .”
              “Cracking our brains.”
              “Not much. Let’s just take this in stride.”
              “Why?”
              “Too many things will happen. Just watch out and always be on guard.”
              By now the casserole was full with squids as they both caught one after the other.
              “Seems we’re lucky tonight Dan,” said Driarco while taking a glimpse of the prize catch.
              “Yap. Fr. Lefuve’s spirit  I suppose is all over us guiding  us through while our banca is floating on this ocean. See how he helps us get all those prize catch?”
              “I hope we could catch a dozen tuna more this time. Man does not live by bread alone you know but more so bread and butter. Know maybe what I mean. I just don’t want my kids would be like their father when they’re grown-ups . . . mere construction worker, a fisherman and a farmer rolled into one.”
              “Great. Never mind. I promise I’ll just go swimming back to the shore if I could not catch eight or more tuna this time. You can have four as your target catch. Is that a deal!”
              “Okay  deal,” Dan accepted the challenge.
. . . . . . . . . . . .

              Driarco wonders Dante’s seemingly abhorrence on the dignity of labor. Maybe what he protested against, like all other Filipino laborers, is not the labor they delivered per se, but the low wages they get from their services rendered.
The amags, are fishes as small an index finger. So called because they radiate light under water and favorite foods for big tuna fish down under reason why they are normally used as baits by fishermen. They came rushing to the motor boat gliding through waves reeling from squids  laced with powder from an extract of poisonous native tree Lanit. Reaching for the braided fishing net, Dan scooped them in and after suspending two pieces still alive four to five inches long hastily dipped the nylon line fifty  to Dante  of getting more blue marlins  earlier.
              “Who do you think would follow next,” disturbs Dante.
              “You mean after Fr. Lefuve ?”
              “Yap.”
              “Not sure buddy. We’re all mortals.”
              “Have you any plan whatsoever.”
              “No I don’t. Don’t get me wrong either. I’m a man of peace just like you.”
              “What if you’re charged against the wall and nowhere to go? That’s different scenario already and might take another defensive measure!”
              “That I have to subject myself to forces or influence of ‘No Exit’ just like those guys who went to the hills and rise up arms against the government they vow earlier to serve and protect. But very unlikely though. Why do we have to go this far by the way?”
              “Well, I’m just thinking aloud considering the number of priests, laymen and other church workers dead one after the other. It seems an invisible force is subtly taking them one by one. Just consider the number. Statistics do not lie you know. Does it not lead us to shattering trend?”
              Dan simply agreed.
              “And that’s the problem we have with the so-called hyphenated-priests.”
              “Do tell me how you could not be one.”
              “By just dispensing the sacraments keeping mum on issues happening outside the church premises. I’m just kidding Driarco. I agree with you. It’s hard priests are caught in the web of contradiction.”
              “Mind you I would be very happy if I could be called one. It’s the prize  serving them, the marginalized poor ones most specially. Where would they go anyway when injustice happens to them - threat, rape, extortion, killing and all that?”
              “Don’t tell me they would go to the police, Mayor and or the governor. Definitely, no. Where else if not to the church. To the priest in the confession box sometimes. Remember the Beatitudes. That bias to the poor.”
              “What do you expect for instance if you’re a priest in this municipality? Just dishing out homily, concocting liberation in sermons only? Supposing the mayor and his men are right there sitting occupying the front pew pretending to listen to your sermon. Would you not be disturbed? I believe you would suffer indigestion if you couldn’t.”
              “Ergo, I don’t think we could get rid of hyphenated priest. I really don’t think so. Christ himself was one. He was where his people were, a pro-poor exercise for priesthood. How much more today when people have practically no food to eat, house to sleep and land to cultivate. It’s not that easy I think unless we are engaging ourselves in punning.”
              “But do we really have to go that far. If I may, killing people to stop the killing as an academician would say?”
              “Not far-fetched idea. Offense is the best defense sometimes they would say. But I would rather put it this way. Peace is never given in a silver platter. Each should work for it. And definitely, it does not come from the barrel of a gun. That’s the tragedy we have. People builds wall faster than bridges, manufactures bullets than bread, sows division than unity so what we’ve got after that as you aptly puts killing everywhere.  Think of Fr. Libwag, Dorente, Villares brothers both priest of course and then Fr. Alegor.”
              “Oh, the list is long and still badly progressing at very alarming rate yet.  Leaving priesthood was never their intention. Think of the time they invested in such noble endeavor, the rigors of training and studies most importantly, the personal sacrifice of the heat embracing the vow of chastity just to serve Christ. Not peanuts indeed. But again why they have to go that far as you queried. I think it’s the people themselves whom they served hold the key answering that question. We couldn’t just condemn Fr. Alegor for instance for having stood up against Philofil, multi-million dollar project in Mountain Province, whose presence in the area has been a  threat to the lives and safety of the highlanders; or of Fr. Libwag for having taken the cudgel for and in behalf of his parishioners abused by the Chief Executive raping there and looting the produce of their labors; or of the Villares brothers-priests who helped San Agnes laborers pressed their demand of back wages, insurances and other remuneration rightfully belonging to them. We have our own Fr. Restor of course adding the list. And who knows good heavens if Msgr. Manny de los Reyes, the current parish priest and Dante Limano could be next target? Who knows? Man sometimes has that penchant of making himself a demigod. One he tested power it’s hard going back to the earth where he rightfully belongs.”
              Driarco’s defense of hyphenated priests draws giggles from Dante, glued at the rear of the pump boat. His good friend’s words though wrapped with bitterness were soothing almost a balm to his troubled hearts. They answered to his own predicament as a village leader intimidated a number of times by the henchmen of Mayor Torres. If only his children were grown-ups and could manage running their own lives, he probably  would have been driven too by violence.”
              “There’s just no use working in constructions operated by the men of the Mayor.” To avoid trouble, he would rather just remain silent over the abuses of the system.
              “Who else to blame over the payroll mess he and his co-workers?”
               You see, the minimum wage is one hundred twenty pesos as stipulated in the contract. True that the amount printed in the payroll was correct but not when he received the cash. Forty pesos is slashed for unknown reason from the daily wage making his wife Lorna very disgusted. As expected he didn’t stay long in the work like all the rest. There’s just no moral basis proceeding the work. He did encourage his co-workers for possible collective action. But his effort fall on deaf ears. All he received was ‘never mind we’ll just try to manage; we have many mouths to feed than yours.’ There were others who sympathize with him but they remained silent as the vice mayor and some of the municipal officers supervising the work are all his compadres. Not to rock the boat in other words. Tomas, another worker who earlier signified his commitment to Dante’s cause, withdraw and instead just left everything to God and would like to make it even comes the time of election. Like John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord, Dante nurtured in his heart the will to serve no matter what would be the cost. Ironically, no one listened. Thus, he left and tried fishing instead. It’s only a transformation though as he doesn’t intend to leave the struggle.
              How could one abandon anyway learning the anatomy of graft and corruption in the municipality. It’s right there happening right under one’s nose. No one probably in his right mind could pretend not seeing things around unless he’s part of the whole system out to make monkey business while in office. Mayor Torres’ example provides how to become one. Look how he has outgrown himself from a mere sidekick of an ex-mayor then leapfrogged as Chief Executive of the Municipality. It’s just a question of practicing what one preaches by hook or by crook. For others, he’s considered as an epitome of a public servant. There was one time when he challenged media men to brainstorming session. The issue revolves around his present assets by millions. The media wanting to roast  the Mayor to death required him to present facts and figures qualifying how he has successfully piled his wealth one after the other while he is in office to which the good mayor beg the question instead. Why not condemn the poor who remains poor instead of a poor becoming rich, the challenged the media men drawing laughter from the curious journalists. Unless you intend to surrender your sanity, it’s futile squeezing exact and convincing answer from the Mayor himself. Show any proof and I’ll see you in court, he continue challenging those who are questioning his assets capping his invincibility now that  he was in power..
              His modus operandi is simple. They are all undertaken with semblance of legitimacy. Despite his low credentials in schooling, he knows how to make clean money in various transactions. Those in the bureaucracy would call this standard operating procedure. Deduction of ten percent plus additional ten percent from the contractor, payroll padding, banning of relatives in joining the bidding of projects then surreptitiously subverting it himself, illegal logging and similar juicy projects is where the good mayor draws his huge resources in building his empire. These are not peanuts resources by the way. These are big projects that profits could afford to finance his plan of running next election. How he makes himself virtually a landowner overnight is another factor. But who would question his generosity in accommodating his needy voters whose inability of paying back the borrowed money would easily volunteer of disposing their parcel of land for very minimal amount yet. Think of the numbers of subsistent farmers who fall prey to such anomalous scheme. But who cares? Definitely not the mayor or the victims. Gripping as usual would only come later when stomach is finally giving up from severe poverty.
              Driarco doesn’t only hurled his blame to the mayor and his  gullible willing victims. No one could not just condemned overnight both party. The people don’t bear the cost of the problem. If they did not allowed themselves to be cowed last election with empty promises and money, they would have been under better set of leaders. But what could he do, the voting population are sometimes among the unpredictable lot changing their choices according to the deal offered by the highest bidder. “When would we ever learn again?”was his question.
. . . . . . . . . . .
              Paddling the banca with Dante back ashore, Driarco feels that he has enough crash program on social justice finishing it with flying colors right from his own municipality. It strengthened his desire to finish priesthood. The only hitch is that the more he thinks about it the many sleepless nights he suffers drawing him closer to incredible reality namely, that man after all while still catching his last breath has to outdo others singly or in cahoots with others to show his superiority, a fact validated by history. Mayor Torres and Marcos are perfect examples showing their shrewdness and adroitness at work here, he thought.
. . . . . . . . . . . .

              Back in the seminary, he once more engrossed himself to work practicing to the letter his “Ora Et Labora” work ethics. Mostly, he goes even beyond limit.
              “While I could still stretched further my time productively, I’ll have to do it,” he would say to classmates who are concerned his sobriety over books, study and vocation.
              Even the seminary fathers noticed how he burns midnight oil over there in the sacristy pounding mercilessly  the typewriter keys till wee hours. He would meet some of his classmates starting to study along the corridor while he is leading towards his dorm to take his evening nap for few minutes. When he found it wanting, he would also sneak inside the unopened library extension after tacit clearance from the librarian has been made. There he would bury himself to books of all sorts. It’s there where he earned his course on advanced theology with background reading on such subject as Church history, epistemology, eschatology, homiletics and religious classics from such writers as St. Theresa of Avila, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the rest. He would also read on the works of famous contemporary theologians like Paul Tillich, Leonardo Boff, Hans Kung, Thomas Merton and many others whose words didn’t escape his penchant for reading. In the afternoon he would jogged from the seminary to San Rafael, the parish he works during weekend. It’s twelve kilometers away from the Seminary. He would run back to the Seminary chapel after few minutes rest in time for the evening prayer. Writing is reserved in the evening at the sacristy.
              Doing pastoral work either in hospital, provincial jail and other institution has also been part of the seminary curricula  providing them different perspective. This work has been carried on in theology to sustain the necessary balance between study and praxis. “You have to do it or there will be vacuum  in your pastoral formation,” the Rector said explaining the importance of doing the work. But you can’t just question the reservation of the young theologians given the excesses of civil strife. It simply made them sick.
              One such was very glaring sight of dictatorship was seeing all those casualties dumped one after the other in the emergency section in the hospital. Like  dead insects,  bodies completely disfigured were beyond recognition as an offshoot of an ambush. The reason, the ambush conducted was unconsummated when the second convoy of military overran the young combatants.  But not until the hammer of the first convoy turned turtle hitting landmines before the reds finished them off burning their dead bodies with gasoline beyond recognition. The casualties from the military were all rushed up to hospital in the camp and the rebels in public hospital.
              Not far from animals burned after butchering, the dead bodies remnants of their own selves their feet only remaining immaculately clean  and white after taking off their combat shoes. The bodies from thighs to torso up to the head completely burned beyond recognition speaks for itself the horror that is civil strife.
              Such has been his experience doing pastoral work in the seminary. Somehow, he abhorred the experience recurring back showing it’s not easy being mute witness of  the savagery of this monster that is dictatorship.
              Completing his four years theology with honors on top of similar feat in his Philosophy course was such  beautiful  and fascinating memory blurred only  by dirty experience what with the excesses of civil strife striking  him with dread and trembling.
              “What if the real thing happens with me?” the question nagging him  as he savored the sweetness of hard labor spent in Seminary.
“Never mind for my accomplishment, it is still very modest contribution by Christian standard. A lot of things still need catching up and participation. That’s where the real battle lies,” he declares his thoughts slowly coming to terms with reality when in one pastoral work he had in Palawan, he was one among those held  under attack.
              That time while the offertory song “Lord Here I Am” was sang was abruptly stopped as  parishioners scampering  for cover and many running scared towards the altar congregating wondering  whatever happened that even the house of God is not even spared from  hand grenade blast of terrorists. Three of them were thrown in the aisle.
               Of the three thrown inside the church, one exploded while the two didn’t  barely sighed a whimper injuring those sitting in the pews fronting the main door.  Reports further noted that the incident was a  handiwork of twelve years old boy who was seen by several faithful throwing the said grenades earlier and slipped away on a standby motorcycle.  That boy of course was merely  exploited as he was not real party to the incident except for few pesos probably as premium doing the job. The motive ruled by authorities could be obvious sending strong message to the Church to keep their mouth shut. But who knows, it is the handiwork of generals playing the game  of sowing confusion among the people. More than a sick joke, the occurrence was obviously an affront to the sensibility of the church goers attending that regular first mass. Why can’t they not respect authorities settling down the issue dragging instead to gullible parishioners. It’s part of their culture. Defending on their dear life when provoked but definitely not at all making it even against innocent civilians. By now many  probably who were in attendance in that fateful Holy Eucharist are either traumatized and or are thinking aloud of attending and hearing masses afraid that  similar incident might happen again.
As  practicing Catholics, such unpleasant incident is definitely  the least  we would expect let alone allowed to happen.
              “But as terrorism knows no boundaries and creed, everything is possible under the sun. Thus let’s accept it and as supported by statistics   it’s a fact that  even the church or its premises like those that happened few months past in other cities in the country  have become the laboratory of their aberrations. How is this that even  men of God are taken as hostages and even some decapitated as in the past. How  many more blood would be  shed to restore peace in this troubled island of Filipinos?”Dante  asked.
              Lately another foreign missionary was added to faceless statistics among church personalities whose life was offered to altar of terrorism. He was gunned down in broad daylight while on his way to attend meetings with Non-Government Organization. His anti-mining stance among insiders precipitated his murder.
              It’s been such unpredictable situation in the diocese lately and the human cost was high. There’s still sporadic encounter between perceived enemies and military everywhere.  The other day three unidentified rebels were killed  adding tension to the already peace crisis. So far, the  heat is on and it appears that peace is elusive as ever, Driarco thought caught off guard on these political disturbances
. . . . . . . . . .

              “What was the bottom line of  Fr. Lefuve’s death” Driarco snapped not to be left out of the incident.”
              “He’d been in order of battle,”
              “On what ground?”
              “He’s not only supporter of the rebels but most importantly coddler and protector.”
              “What do you mean?”
              “Making his convent haven of rebels ?” Dante cleared figuring up a house from his two hands.
              “And his convent and all those sacristans there and their visitors are also marked ‘OB’.”
                “Order of Battle, you mean?”
              Dante nodded.
              “It is hoped  that this hostilities would end and would fired up the imagination of all stakeholders that peace is precondition of all development. Among others,  Church officials and authorities should come to the rescue  of her flock securing their  safety and security caught in a balance and under fire.
             “We did have Crusaders in the past who did an excellent job  protecting the pilgrims securing their safety of their travel on the road all the way to Jerusalem. How can we not afford extending the same services given hostility among different people. “ It  is just hoped that Bishop Valdez and other stakeholders would travel extra mile building peace among people in the Diocese,” Driarco thought and prayed.
. . .. . . . . . .

              That was way back then and time never allowed him keeping up development as he spent first seven years in missionary work in Taiwan before he went back maybe for good as he vowed serving his own people this time suffering persecution. That he himself party to the victim,  wished that he would serve them rest of his life without reservation.
              Weighing the best option to secure the safety of the parishioners  and  avert  similar untoward occurrence in the future imbue him greater sense of understanding of the new challenge facing his life even before he was still student of theology. How is this challenge coming to him this early left him dumbfounded. For all he knows opportunities and challenges comes only once and they are mostly spirit inspired. This the thought that finally brought him back to reality where he has been serving as missionary and herded back to his home province after the death of his father.
              “What opportunity indeed going back to your roots to be with God’s people some threatened for extinction,”  an idea engrossing him to take action. This as he prepared celebrating  regular  mass that morning.
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