It is a difficult topic, indeed, and this piece may blaspheme.
Or may offend those still in the vowed life.
Those who left in a huff or were traumatized by the experience of the vowed life or its image or its semblance whether true or not might find this amusing.
Or for some, a vindication.
For me, it is a continuation of a long tale of joy and sorrow, of life and its absence, and of reflection and prayer on religion and its demands, and on faith and its challenges even as one, an ex-seminarian like me--or more technically, an ex-religious because I had a taste of what canon law's power had with my temporary vows that I tried to keep for two years until it expired--revisit the oddities of seminary life in those times that Marcos' New Society was in full swing, and at a time when everything was on experimental basis including finding out what was the best technique to make people kowtow to the dictates of power holders including their dictates on what is good on the big screen.
Late towards the 70's, Imelda Marcos the daughter had come from Princeton and brought with her ideas about 'experimental cinema' that bordered on the sensuous.
This gave birth to the national experiments on film and filmmaking and their tortured road to dictatorial truth that bordered on dishing out sex and more sex to potential saboteurs of the blessings of that society that had by this time morphed into a monster of a perpetrator of human rights violations, with untold atrocities of war and the equally atrocious practices of the military that either believed in "praise the Lord" or invoked the powers of anting-anting as was the case of the Tadtad and other despicable vigilantes and fundamentalist groups.
The experimental films really experimented in appealing to the baser instincts of men--and perhaps, perhaps, women.
How some seminarians in those times gone entangled with the images on billboards in Cubao and everywhere is one subject matter of this essay, and it will relate to how sex, as it is, has remained a closed topic in seminaries.
Perhaps we need a thousand more years before seminaries in the Philippines will have the courage to open to the revelations with a revelation of the sex talks of Dr. Margie Holmes on ABS-CBN's morning show's "Magandang Umaga," a show that reminds you, indeed, right after the morning ritual of greeting the Maker of Life, that we have an obligation to be earthy, to love the body, and not to flagellate it the way they do at the cloisters as in that tortured cleric in "The Da Vinci Code".
Sex and seminarians are issues that seem like confessional matters.
In that confession box that antedated any psychoanalytic and Freudian pretensions at something close to psychological and psychiatric healing--read: mental rejuvenation--there is that tradition of secrecy which no priest or cleric or anyone that resembles them is morally allowed to reveal to anyone, except in that triad: one, the priest who gives the absolution in the name of God; two, the God who listens to the confession; and three, the penitent and sinner, this last one the believer who (still) believes in the sacrament of confession as practiced in the Catholic Church.
This confession is different from the formulaic one that each church-goer is wont to recite mindlessly, with much rote memorization on days of obligation, the big days of Mass-going such as Sunday and the holy days.
Sometimes, it all bogs down to which side of the bed the priest woke up when the public formula for confession is called forth, in which case, when he is inspired by some spirit, he could initiate the recital of the public confession even during ordinary days, to the consternation of seminarians as a matter of course because this meant a longer Mass that they have to go through ritualistically everyday of their lives in the seminary. Invariably, they would respond to the Mass like parrots, with sleep still in their lips as well as in their minds.
To begin to look at the connections between sex and seminarians, we can go back to a sophomoric deconstruction of some of the key terms, an approach that could be familiar to seminarians when they begin their initiation into philosophical thinking by starting off with the definition of terms that they use when they argue, presumably.
Assuming, of course, that in first year of college, straight from the juvenile kind of secondary education that the Philippine Department of Education permits, with a lobotomized high school graduate that can not speak English nor Tagalog properly even if these two languages are the very reasons for the kind of systemic idiocy and total ignorance that have afflicted in whole-scale way the educational system of the country, our seminarian is ready to brush elbows with philosophy instructors.
The philosophy instructors, some of them trying hard, are wont to parade their knowledge of philosophical analysis that they got from memorizing what the priests have taught them from yellowed and yellowing notes that they have been using for decades.
So let us begin with the idea of seminary, a curious term for me, and which, in light of the fad of inculturation or enculturation in the Church in the 70s and in the 80s when the great Filipino guys from Louvain and some other royal and pontifical institutions of Europe and America came back to show off their white knowledge and tell us that some truths have evolved--and again!--from the West, and that we need to sit down and absorb these truths and live them.
That was the height of Martial Law and you could see the connection between the capacity of the human mind to kowtow to the police power of a dictatorship, the fear of the institutional church, and the fear of clerics who are not expected to be cowards.
Well, some clerics and frailes and priests and nuns and seminarians were brave, and truly so, and they were exceptional.
But many of them ended up either in the stockade; some in solitary confinement; some ended up dead, waylaid wherever death took over their mortal bodies; some disappeared voluntarily and not so; and some went on a hiding spree by joining the revolution and lived among the people.
The brave men of God are excused from these tall tales of seminary life.
So let us go on to the confession thing.
One point in the traitorous history of the Philippine Republic, one simpleton of a woman who heard her brother talking about the Katipunan's plan to wage a revolution to fight for the independence of the sorrowing land and people summoned her strength, decided she had more duty to the fraile, and confessed to him, and told him about all what she knew from what she heard and probably saw of the preparations and the clandestine operations going on.
There, the Katipunan was found out, its leaders rounded up, and Jose Rizal, then not-so-convinced of the plausibility of the revolution because he had the luxury of everything that Bonifacio and the other elite Katipuneros had including that son-of-a-mother Emilio Aguinaldo whose roots were from the Ilocos, was implicated.
Seminary, says the dictionary, has roots in the semen, the seed.
Originally, the plot where the seeds are allowed to grow is called the seminary, and since it was a lot, it was originally for both men and women, when seminary came be understood as the specialized institution where their trainers, whoever they are, trained them, presumably separately, for missionary and religious purposes.
But we understand the power of the patriarchy.
In that power, language is theirs as well, the language of power, and the power of language.
Put in the politics in those power and language combo a la an expensive MacDonald dinner, and you rule the world, the way the Church has ruled the world for all times, in the spirit of triumphalism as being invoked by priests and seminarians and their cabal of courtiers when they have nothing good to say to refute a powerful attack on the kind of masquerade they do to save and serve the poor and the oppressed and give joy to the downtrodden.
Back to those times, when Experimental Cinema of the Philippines and the Manila International Film Festival came in to condition the minds of the male machos of the Philippine Republic now transformed into a New Society, the conditioning one from the heat of the loins, from the challenges of the exuberant testicles, and from the revolutionary powers of testosterone going nowhere and everywhere.
The seminarians from The Hill were not yet from The Hill in those times.
They were somewhere else, in a posh enclave of the rich, their seminary tucked in two-story mansions overlooking vast fields of land awaiting the temptations of money and wealth and the rich who could afford to flaunt their riches.
An aside here: the seminary was sandwiched in between houses, and one house had a beautiful teenager who would love to swim in her pool when the seminarians would be home from some pontifical university in Manila's heartland.
The seminarians were testosterone rich, mind you.
They would feast on any flesh they could feast on--or at least many of them whose windows looked out into that swimming pool tucked in between the seminary building serving as a dormitory and her own sprawling lawn.
The seminary had jalousies for windows, with those screens that welcome both air and sun and clear vision, especially vision when you try harder so you could see all what you wish to see including those that are the figment of the imagination.
And among seminarians, the act of trying harder is a second skin, more like a habit, and certainly, with lots of practice, not something difficult to do. The trying hard was more of a mission and a goal to accomplish every afternoon when the rite of temptation would begin.
That went on for some time until one day, the rector, in a bombastic sermon, more like thunder and lightning combined that reminded you of the wrath of the Dear God, talked about the evils of looking out the window, and looking at young girls taking a bath, and feasting on some young ladies' skin.
That was a whole lot of a blah-blah, and the seminarians were all afraid that hell would break loose.
The seminarians looked at their hands: there was no stigmata, not yet, that cross-like blood oozing wound that would remind you of the sufferings of Christ who loved wine and laughter and party when people had a reason to do so, like the way He did with the miracle thing at Cana on that joyous wedding day when His mother was in panic mode and but rebuked on the dot by the famous Son, and the Holy Thursday breaking of the bread.
The seminarians touched their eyes: no warts yet, not yet. Not even those boils that would result from so much exposure to the carnal views or to fleshly imaginations, the boils reminding them of their eternal damnation for looking out the window for so long, as if aesthetics and its allusions to religious ecstasy were--are--one and the same.
And the rector, in accented English learned from a missionary school somewhere, said: I will have those windows closed.
And it was so.
In the afternoon, as soon as the seminarians came home from the pontifical university, they found their jalousies nailed. That was the beginning of airless and sunless days that would continue in the coming days.
What about the erotic--known in those days as 'bomba'--films?
And sex and seminarians?
That will come in next.