A blogger hiding, for security reasons, behind the clerical cloak of 'Bukidnon', commented on my previous blog entry, Seminary Memoirs. Was that Bukidnon in reference to the Trappist monastery there, with its share of monks that sing of the love of the Lord in the early morning hours as in the late evening compline? But the Trappists are in Guimaras. Well, the Benedictines are in Malaybalay, with their coffee and cacao and their good conscience for getting away from the Mendiola crowd of San Beda, ha.
He tells me of the tales he knew and has kept for long. I told him earlier we could mount a seminary reunion of our own by flooding the young seminarians with the lessons of heeding the call of God or an assumed call from someone else.
He told me we could mount a coup of knowledge that no one has ever known before.
And if that other blogger, hanseman--also known as Ka Loren can join us--I am sure this is going to be the grandest of all the coups since the nailing of the theses by Luther the monk on some church heavy door somewhere in time in Medieval Europe when absolving the sins of others were the preserve of those who received power from the Most Powerful.
Of course, another motor that drove both of us--and I pray there is going to be a third one in this unholy trinity of hindsight and insight into what seminary history has to offer us--into this frenzy of recollection of those terrors and miracles we were--are--heir to, was the reunion of 'X-men' of a group of missionaries we call, for want of an appropriate term, the Promethean Healers.
I have heard of reunions like this one, but I had always been suspicious of what all reunions of former classmates are for, except to calculate who were able to make it big time and therefore, include them in the long list of future benefactors, and do another list of those who simply did not make it because that was not meant to be: to make it in life a la the yuppies of Makati, them who now live Starbucks-ized lives, American caffeine and consciousness in their bodies.
Pray tell, I always remind my suspicious self: what would reunions give except to make one feel lesser than the other when one comes with the Lexus from the missus, while one comes with the brumbrumbrum of yellowed tricycles that go to the walled enclaves of seminaries that look out to the best site for retreat from the world, with the chirping insects for company in the dark when thoughts get to be dark too?
Think of poverty as a virtue but I tell you I never learned this in the seminary, not in the everydayness that I had to contend with it, with the the kind of blighted lives that we live because of it whereas those with the vows seem not to know what it is.
We people of lesser faith negotiate with our own poverty, and we knew its evil face. We even fought it before joining the seminary, at least many of us. In my case, after letting go of my rotten and infantile priestly ambitions of becoming a permanent prefect one day, I had to to deal with it, and I have to keep on with this dealing with poverty that has been twin to us, lesser mortals that we are. I remember one priest saying--as in a curse--that those who will not heed the call of God to priestly life will not lead good, financially well-off life. That was a presumption straight from Wall Street, okey, okey, Ayala Avenue and the Philippine Stock Exchange, when what counts is how much is your worth in any currency that matters in the world.
But back to the fictitious group calling for the reunion, the Promethean Healers, those who do not understand the viciousness of Western medicine that is being imported by them as a model for healing those who are sick.
We understand, of course, the name Prometheus.
He was that bound guy, that great guy who finally found his calling in life and that was to steal the fire from the gods, and which he did, this act of stealing fire--The Fire--from the gods.
The script calls for his being caught, and, indeed, he was caught.
And he was was punished.
And the punishment was this: the gods tied him to a caucasus--ok, ok, this means a huge, white big, monstrous rock (remember the English word 'caucasian' to mean 'white'?) Ah, the rusty knowledge of kindergarten Latin comes to the rescue sometimes, even if I hated to the max my Latin maestro--a Spaniard with a penchant for San Miguel beer--who made me analyze so many chapters of Saint Matthew's Vulgate Edition (meaning, darn, the classical Latin that to me looked like barbed wires strewn on Mendiola so you could stage your war against the sitting president) because my seatmate, now a priest somewhere in Australia, could not understand my handwriting and he was copying my answer to an exam, and that guy talked to me and I answered back and in my answering back, the priest-teacher of Latin we called 'Balut'--he smelled those hot boiled balut eggs they vended in the late afternoons by P. Noval in my hot Manila--caught me opening my mouth.
And he said, aha, you will explain the evangelist for two days!
Thy kingdom come is thy kingdom come especially when the only trustworthy companion you could have in moments like those were the Concordance and a not-so-handy Latin dictionary which you were not allowed to use during recitation.
But back to Prometheus again.
So he was tied to the white rock--and this alludes to Western medicine with its penchant for the surgical table in white and all those other white things in clinics of doctors pretending to be healing us.
So the vultures come in Act 2 of the story: while tied to the white rock, they would come in droves, eat all they can eat of him, but they wanted more and more of his internal organs (think of organ donations here, and the famous 'bopis'--that culinary wonder of chopped heart, chopped liver, and chopped entrails with black pepper to add flavor to a hodgepodge of uric acid-rich entrails they sell in 'carinderias' by the scoop.
In the deep dark of the night, when the gods would be asleep and unknowing, the healing gods would come, repair the damage on Prometheus' liver and heart and other internal organs, and as soon as they mission was done, they would leave, leaving Prometheus remaining tied to the white rock. (Now think of medical procedures here, again and again, including surgery and other high tech abracadabra that justifies today's notion of medical centers, an abomination if I may be allowed to say, almost an immorality, when what we need in the Philippines is a system of preventive health care service, more aggressive that drug salesmen giving perks and pelf to doctors who are always on the prowl precisely for such perks and pelf: all-expenses trip to a medical conference abroad, commissions from drug sales, and incentives for prescribing a branded drug instead of a generic one or the competitor's.
The term 'X-men' is a tongue-in-cheek reference not to issues of 'transgenderism', which is a human rights issue, and which I have no competence to talk about, but to that popular culture notion of X-men going a la cyborg and wreaking havoc to the classical definition of man, whether following Plato's valorization of the 'he' and relegating to the sacred and macho corner the 'she' or holding on to the Thomistic definition of the quiddity of man: that he is a full essence man, essentially.
The last one, of course, would be rebuked by Marx and company when they talked about the new place, the Utopia where men will be equal and opportunities will be equitable. Include here Sarte and he would tell you, You are dreaming, you are dreaming.
In seminaries where there is much lack for alternative critical thinking because the thinking that is approved is the one that comes from approved philosophical attitudes such as Thomism, Marx is communism and communism is Marx and any good communist can never be a good priest or seminarian or nun. The Marcos military behead communist priests, remember?And the Church cannot afford to have beheaded priests. Think of the Ortega brothers and the great martyr of Bakun.
Anyways, this piece should start the tale that I promised the Bukidnon blogger who probably went to the reunion to do his field work, his participant observation of what gives in seminary reunions, an event I have a zero knowledge because I do not understand its logic, not yet.
With my rudimentary knowledge of stylistics as my tool, I think I know this Bukidnon blogger.
He turned in those essays decades ago when all the rest of them in his batch could not make heads or tails of an auxiliary verb in the English that was being pumped into the young minds of students from the provinces who were products of the aggressive recruitment tactic of that seminary we were a part of, yours truly as the first-ever lay formator, on an experimental basis, and instructor as well, and the Bukidnon man as a student imbued with the mission to colonize and evangelize the world. Young colonizer--er, evangelizer, here you come!
Of course, there were rebels in that group--in all other groups that I had the chance to instruct my own twisted version of truth, and they showed their rebellion to the hilt, until some of them could no longer stand the Gulagization of seminary life so they had no recourse but to either calculate their moves so that they would be kicked out to the ultimate joy of prefects whose ultimate duty is to see the seminarians they do not like kicked out and soon. Or their voluntary separation from the walled life, the walls almost like a Berlin, with no possibilities for tearing down.
Such was the life--and such is reunion to me, and this gives me the reason to come back and write the tall tales of seminary life in the hills where the sun rises. O there, on its steeps and inclines where the grasses grow taller than those in the foothills, they salvage people and burn them so no one would recognize them.