Seminary Memoirs, 6

You got into the seminary in the late 70s in the middle of your trying hard to work for a degree in biology--of all things, holy cow!--under a government scholarship. 

Those years were the years of science and technology and with much money coming from some foreign loans, the Philippine government, awash with the public service announcement victory of the greatness of the New Society, had so much pesos to spare so that those who think they would be good in science and mathematics and technology could be given the opportunity to study under the government's intensified science and technology program that gave out those scholarships to every Tomas and Federico and Hilarion. 

You had the illusion you could become a biologist somewhere in Mars.

You thought you were doing good when this serendipitous event came in to distract you from your Martian illusion of settlement in that far, far away planet light years away, and you began to sing the song of Melchisedech: Tu est sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem, secumdum ordinem Melchisedech.

Other things stood in the way of your presumed scientific ambition--and you found yourself visiting The Center. 

And you kept the Melchisedech song in your heart all the days of your teenage life: You are are priest forever in the order of Melchisedech.  

Okey, let us call that The Center: no ifs, no buts, no claims, and no counterclaims. Just The Center to mean also The Seminary.  

By then, it seemed that was the fad: a center that forms and transforms and informs young people into becoming religious leaders and prophets and priests. 

The center thing hid the medievalism in the seminary thing--and it was more English than Italian or Spanish or Belgian or something else. 

You went through the motions: exams, exams, exams. 

You were asked to draw a house, a tree, and a person.

Of course, of course: you would put some cross on the house, some cross on the tree, and some cross on the person. 

Three crosses in a lifetime led you to kingdom come. 

You made it, with your crosses, and you began to plot your life as a future priest--or an ex-future priest.

You were asked: would you become a priest or a brother? The English of the one asking sounded like one from one of those The Godfather films. 

What the heck? 

What izdadiferenz bitwin a prizt en a bradar?

No can, you tell yourself. 

No can plain bradar. Priest ok. You repeated: priest, priest. You could have said again: secundum ordinem Melchisedech. But you did not have yet any pretensions to Latin in those days except those rote memorized pidgin your chattering neighbor of a sintudando cantora would say: uremusbobiskum etkum espirituu. 

As a priest, you would get the best sit in town, and if you were assigned in the Ilocos, people would call you 'Apo', the same form of address they use when they talk to The Dictator. 

In your small town mindset, only three people are worth that appellation, that form of address: the mayor, the priest, and The Dictator, the last one only addressed from afar except when he comes with the missus and the missus delivers a diskurso about the dreams of her husband The Great Apo but she is slashed with an imuko, the wounds of courage and dramatic concentration in those porcelana arms.

The Dictator would come to her rescue, on stage, like a knight in a shining armor, in the full view of the adoring public, and the missus would be rushed to a hospital somewhere, and The Dictator would not allow any plastic surgery because that would demolish the courage--on stage--of the missus.

So your choice: priest. 

You move to the royal and pontifical university, with the saints on rooftops, forlorn and lonely and sad and sexless in their frozen look, their concrete bodies stiff like mummies but their soutane billowing in the imagined wind of Europe or the Philippines, as these saints are the imported ones, presumably all of them having to do with human knowledge, that, because of the grace of God, this human knowledge would become species aeternitatis. 

You went through the motions: philosophy here and there, with the great Ariston Estrada for your introduction to Western thought. Western knowledge as opposed to the knowledge of your own people's knowledge. No apologies here. You were going to serve the Church, and the Church is rooted in the West, and the Church is imbued with Western knowledge. This logic is simple--and it is for the simpleton, but it did not bother you. You probably were a species aeternitatis of the simpleton.  

You grappled with definitions, with the conceptual roots of the ideas of the Western world that would dominate so many parts of the world.

And the the years of the bomba films came.

These films started first as a challenge--and response--to the ennui brought about by New Society and its illusions.

The first symptom was the males of the Republic of the Philippines were all getting agitated with the same idiocy of "Aawitan Kita" and "Student Canteen" and all those rahrahrah religious shows on one TV station nobody ever watches. 

The males of the republic wanted skin, wet skin, real skin. 

The males of the republic wanted some action, something akin to an active imagination with vast plausibilities for visual orgy and exploration into the cognitive of that which is repressed politically and erotically somewhere, in the human body as well as in the human spirit. 

The males of the republic wanted some dramatic and titillating excitements that would celebrate and inaugurate--or inaugurate the celebration--of the post CPP-NPA movement dominated by cadres who were now either in jail or looming large in another social state called The Boondocks.  

The artiste for a daughter of The Dictatorship came home and brought with her views on the redemptive capabilities of films, and the eros in the visual could be a principle for a renewed vigor on the male and sexualized notion of the patriarchal republic that was coming in parallel with the patriarchal church. Feminism had yet to sink in, what with The Revolution still in full swing, The Revolution that challenged the very fabric of The New Society. 

With the Manila International Film Festival came the experiments of the Experimental Cinema of The New Society. 

These events gave you two reasons to not ignore the possibilities of the flesh on screen, or the screen with the flesh. 

Never mind that the blood spurting was not made of sterner stuff. 

Never mind that the pulse throbbing and the excited heart that throbbed of delight and pleasure--of plain and simple dolce, that sweetness you could hardly ever imagine in the seminaries on a perpetual retreat, as a matter of tactic, from The Body and from The Flesh--did not meet head on another heart that throbbed of delight and pleasure a la Kama Sutra or its better version.

Oh, the billboards told all that could be told: white skin, white masks, brown skin, brown masks and all the colors in between. The imagination is terra firma--and it is not incognita: it a known known, if only you cared to know, not, never, a known unknown--or an unknown known. 

So one day, from the royal and pontifical university somewhere in Manila's heartland, some seminarians--The Clique--decided to call it quits with the Spaniards who were teaching them the metaphysics of beauty and truth minus the human flesh. Metaphysics, at least at that time, was devoid of matter, of body, of flesh. 

Them who fell in love with the billboards on Act Theatre on EDSA--the avenue of the saints--corner Aurora Boulevard decided to declare their youthful freedom and enjoyed that freedom to the hilt.

So they went--and enjoyed galore those lip-locking ceremonies with those ceremonies always often graduating into the sanctum of doors locking and linens thrown away and giggling going out the window and all the insinuations of what happened in those locked rooms. 

One priest happened to pass by that same route, on Aurora Boulevard, before that light rail transit line would destroy the blight of the urban metropolis and announce another metropolitan descent into another level of blight.

He saw all those seminarians coming out from the cinema house that had those skin flicks--ok, call them bomba--and saw their satiated smiles, their joy of remembering what happened on the big screen, and their contented laughter that originated from their bellies now dreaming of fire and passion, or the fire of passion, or the passion of fire. Or all of the preceding. 

The priest mentally listed the names of those he could recognize. From that herd, he chose one to cross-examine and interrogate, and would persuade to make a total confession, details and all. 

Which the priest did right away, about lunch time, when all seminarians from the royal and pontifical university had all come home to take their lunch, take their nap, and do the gardens, play in the grounds, or do other things to their fancy. These are some of the hours not exactly regimented in the sense that you could either choose to play in the ground or to play around until the bell was rung for them to take a quick bath, get dressed, recite the vespers, study their Latin and Greek and Hebrew and Italian and Spanish and English (but never their own mother languages), meditate about the glory and love of God in the prayer room, take the evening meal, go for a short break of laugher and watch some boob tube television show of another date with shallow and empty Philippine pop culture, study the Western philosophical ideas to the delight of the prefects roaming around and most of the time like sniffing dogs, pray the compline, and go through the ritual of lights out when only the mind has light, and dream of the pleasures of the body as a defense to this almost annihilistic way of living The Life that was also, somehow, a kind of The Lie. 

That one seminarian marked for the interrogation sang--and sang acappella: he admitted, he told all the names, and he said he was sorry and he asked for forgiveness.

On that day was the announcement of what happened, minus the names.

But the seminarians knew. And some said, my, my, why did we not do it ourselves?



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