May 30, 2005

Leaving home (Tobias Journal, no. 10)

{A brief note to start: I had intended to write a more regular account of my life in the Tobias Summer Household but somehow my experiences, which are recorded in a more conventional--read: pen and paper--journal are just too personal, even for this blog. Maybe someday, after I edit myself--which is a bloody process--I can post something. Don't mind the journal number, the numbers in between may someday see the light of print, so to speak.}

That was how I felt last Saturday as I cleaned, waxed and scrubbed the room I occupied for three weeks; as I packed my clothes and looked at my roommates do the same, I felt like I was leaving--and not returning--home.

The Tobias Brothers' Summer Household was an experience I was not prepared for. Going into it, I expected a very bloody adjustment because I am a creature of habit and my body, mind and soul do not take kindly to changes; yet, I am thankful that after my first night in Tobias (see previous post on this; journal no. 1), I found myself quite comfortable in that house (actually two adjoining houses but re-crafted as one). It was apparently a feeling that all the brothers shared.

During the first week, I could hear brothers referring to Tobias as "bahay" (house) and the act of going to Tobias as "uwi" (returning home); questions like, "bro, uwi ka ba ngayong gabi?", which ordinarily would mean the opposite slowly and surely took on the meaning, "are you sleeping at Tobias?"

I found myself referring to Tobias as home and started experiencing that excitement of returning home at the end of the working day, looking forward to quiet moments of being able to play the guitar in prayer time before chores (either cooking, setting the table or cleaning) or those moments of unforgettable bonding that only brothers living together can have--playing half-court basketball, table tennis, or just plain alaskahan and kumustahan. Apart from Morning and Night Prayers, Breakfast and Dinner were the times when the brothers were complete and these occasions would be the forge where the bonds of brotherhood of this household was tested; significantly, from the very first dinner, it was clear that this particular bunch of brothers had been handpicked by a power greater than any Branch Leader could divine--there was a chemistry, there was a bond that immediately formed. It was as if long-lost brothers had come home and picked up a conversation started but not ended and the times of breakfast and dinner were the moments when these strands were picked up again and woven into a tapestry of vignettes, anecdotes and life stories being shared.

I found myself adjusting not to sleeping on the floor (because I had spent two summers sleeping on stone floors and even soil during my activist days), but to distractions that arose at work because I was at work and would wonder what was going on at Tobias.

I found myself enjoying the simplicity of the life the brothers of the Servants of the Word led; I found myself inspired by the differences but also the similarities of the four brothers from SOW that we were with (Jobaqs, our household head; Byong, our household steward, Mark, our security steward, and John Yocum, our resident theologian and fanatical Pistons fan). These were brothers who were ordinary joes in all respects except that they had committed their whole lives--body, mind, heart, soul and spirit--to the God who had created them and called them; and that was the difference in these imperfect men because the perfect God whom they heeded was using their imperfections for His glory. And because of this, you saw their wisdom, their passion, their love, their service and even their imperfections in a very different light--that God uses ordinary men (and women) to bring His Kingdom here on earth and it is not a matter of our worthiness, it is a matter of God's worthiness.

The brothers I shared three weeks with was a rambunctious, loud, funny, fun group but they were also, to a man, passionately and deeply in love with the Lord and were each, to a man, figuring out what God had planned for us. And it was that process of discovery and discovering that each brother embarked on that made the household unforgettable; each brother entered Tobias with his own expectations and emerged with perhaps more questions than answers but definitely with a very different experience of God in their lives and that, I am sure, made an impact.

I personally felt the Lord speaking to me very clearly--not only through the sharings with the brothers in my Action Group but also through the talks and even the senses that the brothers and sisters would send me.

And so three weeks passed--just like that. To a man, each exclaimed that it was too short a period--such was the intensity of the experience that each of us felt that we would have wanted to continue living like this. Yet, it was now time to go into the real world--to be men in the world but not men of the world. To live out our calling to be men of God in a world where God's name is not proclaimed or, if at all, in embarrassed whispers or desperate screams of recrimination.

Yes, the three weeks of sheltered and protected existence had ended; it was now time to leave home and go out into the world. I can only pray that His grace be with me as I move on towards fulfilling His call for me. I also pray that the Lord will continue to protect and strengthen Tony, Dante, Polly, Ramil, Jason, Rice, Nandy, JC, Felix, Joseph, Red, Mike, Nick, Marlon, Luis, James, Mark, Byong, John and Jobaqs.

With joy in my heart, I left home last Saturday because I knew that home is where my heart is and, deep in my heart, I knew I could always go back home.

May 20, 2005

ROTS: Proven Wrong (well, not totally)

Star of "Return of the Sith" he is Posted by Hello

The best things about SW3:ROTS are Yoda, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDairmid and . . . Hayden Christensen (surprisingly). I was prepared to hate the movie after George Lucas described it as a galactic "Titanic" but somehow I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong although not totally--the scenes between Anakin (Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman) SUCK!!!!!-- but otherwise, the movie is quite good. I would even say its the best of the prequel trilogy (although nothing can be worse than SW: Chapter 2-"send in the clowns"); it's not in the same league (light years away) as SW5:The Empire Strikes Back or even SW6:Return of the Jedi (which was totally destroyed by those %#@*@> ewoks but was, otherwise, a very good movie) but certainly ROTS holds its own.

The atmosphere, as predicted and pitched, is dark. The tension, for once, is sustained all throughout--which makes the scenes between Padme and Anakin stand out even more for their inspidity--and this sets the tone for the betrayal by Anakin of the Jedi and the Jedi way. This is where Christensen more than holds his own. The combination of angst, idealism and confusion is essayed very convincingly by Christensen and it becomes utterly believable that he would be swayed by the dark side. Ian McDairmid is brilliant as Palpatine; using his voice as his greatest asset, he totally makes the dark side and the siths attractive (if you could imagine the voice of the serpent in the garden of eden, it would probably be McDairmid's).

The fight scenes do not disappoint. The first scene, reminiscent of an intergalactic "Saving Private Ryan", is a long whooooaaahhhh moment as Obi Wan and Anakin go after General Grievous. The last scene, set in a lake of lava, is awesome as Obi Wan and Anakin square off.

But what I totally liked about ROTS was the pace--it does not let up. I also liked the manner Lucas managed to seamlessly tie in events and answer FAQs from "Brave New Hope" (Ch. 4), "The Empire Strikes Back" (Ch. 5) and "Return of the Jedi" (Ch. 6) without managing to make them stick out. A personal FAQ that ran through Chs. 4, 5 and 6 was answered by Lucas in ROTS--if Obi Wan was killed by Darth Vader in Ch. 4, how come Luke hears him still and how come he, together with Anakin and Yoda, show up in Ch. 6; this was explained in a classic Yoda moment not to be missed--but its so subtle that you might miss it (look for it near the end of the film; if this is your personal FAQ, you'll go--'aaahhh ok'). Also,the early edition of the TIE fighter that Darth Vader favors is seen in the film. Not to be missed is the return of the Grand Moff Tarkin (played in Ch. 4 by Peter Cushing) although played by another actor who is Cushinge's spitting image (Trivia: Lucas manages to get together two actors who, in the same generation, played Dracula--Peter Cushing [Tarkin, Ch. 4] and Christopher Lee [Count Dooku, Chs. 2, 3]).

I enjoyed the film though I'm not raving about it; and I'm glad to have been proven wrong, even if not totally. I still maintain that Lucas can't write a decent script but he directs a mean yarn and, in the end, that's what Star Wars is--a 6 chapter (thus far) yarn that spans several generations.

May 09, 2005

Something more serious than a bath(Tobias Journal, no. 1)

I spent my first night at 27-B Scout Tobias last Saturday. It was the start of the 2005 Brothers Summer Household at Tobias (one of two households of the Servants of the Word) and I, together with 20 other brothers from different Lingkod branches had come together to participate in this experience.

We (the QC brothers: James, Marlon, Luis and Nick) went early to the house (7 am) for morning prayers and to drop off our things because there was a Way of Life course that morning. It was the first time for all of us to attend morning prayers at Tobias and, speaking for myself, it was a tremendous experience—coming from a veeerrry late night and a tiring week, it was a refreshing experience to start the Saturday chanting the psalms and worshipping with other brothers.

We then went our separate ways-James had classes, Luis had work, Marlon, Nick and I went to the WOL course.

After a loooong day, Marlon and I rushed back to Tobias for Lord’s Day and when we got there, Byong (our House Steward) was giving the other brothers the tour; since I had already taken the tour last year (during Rommel’s and Ryan’s household), I was listening with one ear while digesting what was going on around me. That’s when Byong told us about the rule from which the title of this post comes from.

Byong explained that since there will be 24 brothers and only a few bathrooms (4, I think), we would need to maximize the use of the bathrooms. So, rule # 1, according to Byong, when taking a bath, don’t lock the door so that the other brothers can use the sink or the urinal; rule # 2, it is only when you’re doing something more serious than a bath that you can lock the door. I couldn’t help myself, I just had to smile at that. At this, Felix (from Makati) whispered soto voce, “bro, what if you’re already taking a shower and another bro enters to do something more serious, is he allowed to lock the door—with you in it, taking a shower? Can’t you complain, bro, nauna ako.” At this, I just had to laugh.

I was no longer in Kansas, or BF Homes in my case.

Lord’s Day at Tobias is a big deal. They had this really quaint and beautiful gas lamp—not a candle—and wooden cups to drink from. Great atmosphere.

Afterwards, we had a sumptuous dinner—grilled porkchops, fresh vegetable salad, spaghetti with tomato and mushroom sauce, beer, softdrinks and fruits (peaches and almonds)—which led most of the brothers to ask, “will the food be like this everyday?” To which Jobaqs, the Household Head, smiled and said, “no, it’s only for tonight.” I suddenly had visions of the fattened calf and the condemned man and his last meal; when I voiced this out, Jobaqs laughed and said, “same result. You got the idea.” I don’t think the other brothers appreciated Jobaqs’ brand of humor; I did, and I laughed heartily.

After cleaning up, we lazed around on the comfortable sofas and swapped small talk. The QC brothers were waiting for night prayers—which we assumed was at 10—until John Yocum passed by and said, “have a good night brothers, magandang gabi.” No night prayers? When we asked Jobaqs, he smilingly replied, “yun ba inaantay nyo? Wala ngayong gabi.” At that, Marlon and I jumped up and headed for the showers to wash off the grime of the day and to prepare to sleep.

Feeling more human after a shower, I went to my assigned room (Jake Yap’s, as it turns out; I could see from all the pictures in the room featuring Oxford and Belfast and with Jake prominent in most of the pictures) and since I had no roommates yet, I had the pick of the room. Laying down my banig in the corner, with my electric fan at full, I said a short prayer to thank the Lord for what remained of the day; shortly after I said, “amen”, I know I dozed off.

May 03, 2005

Things they never taught me in law school

Someone handed me a copy of the Western Police District Investigator's Handbook, which purports to be their "bible" when it comes to crime investigation. Unintentionally (or I'd like to think so), there are a lot of "gems" in the handbook which may not directly contribute to speedy resolution of crime cases or even effective investigative work but are good examples of things they don't teach law students in law school.

From Chapter 20 entitled "Homicide (Generic) Investigation" come these gems:

"5. Terms encountered in Homicide (p. 57)

(h) Suicide-- Taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally to death. [My comment: I hope so because I cannot imagine taking one's own life and living to tell the tale.]


(n) Homocide-- Not the killing of a homosexual but a misspelling of homicide." [My comment: this is so funny by itself, I don't even have a comment to do justice to this.]

Also from chapter 20 (p. 59 this time), this particularly strange advise to an investigator:

"(a) If the suspect is at the crime scene, do not advise him of his constitutional rights unless he is to be questioned there immediately for evidence of his own guilt to be used against him in court." [My comment: Du-uh]

And this one (from chapter 20, p. 59) I found particularly hilarious:

"(x) Semen samples in rape or rape with homicide cases should be obtained medically not by hand." [My comment: this couldn't be any funnier if the author had deliberately written it to be funny. I almost died laughing when I read this.]

And, this from . . . you guessed it, Chapter 20, p. 59:

"(g) Have a psychiatrist." [My comment: Shades of Hannibal Lecter]