Sunday, March 15, 2015

Discernment


Barely a month ago, I left this crazy city for a while, off to a far, green, hilly area of Malaybalay City, Bukidnon and went straight to my self-imposed silent retreat at the Monastery of Transfiguration of Benedictine Monks. It was my first, part of this Never Before at 34 Agenda! Three days and two nights in a guest room, in an observed  silence except that of my mind and heart and some casual conversations (think about the Manangs and the Manongs) along the way. 

Earlier this year, as soon as I read the place on the website and what it offers, I booked a flight for an early airfare price and I did not know what to expect afterwards. I do not usually go a retreat where everybody tells their stories. I just needed a 'place'. If only I could have brought my laptop, I could have produced a novella. Back to the Monastery, it turned out to be almost perfect. No guided retreats, no special instructions. You are encouraged to attend five prayer sessions with the monks in the nearest chapel. I attended twice a day. There was a cute monk though.

The room is quaint. A laminated complete guidelines has all the details for you to read. They encourage visitors to observe 'deeper silence' after 7:00 pm. I hope they remind the kuligligs around. At night, the place is a full utopian blank space. The monastery is almost 50 hectares of coffee plantations, pinewood nursery, mini-falls, and hilly grasslands. Pretty big. 

'Why did you come to this place? You're far from here', said the good lady to me during lunchtime in the pantry. Technically, she is my only companion in the guest house.  She visits the Monastery four times a year to teach the Benedictine novices on personality development (that's what I could recall for now). She makes sure that the novices will have no problem why they want to be monks in the first place. 

Me: I need some place quiet. It is my birthday week. So this is a good treat to myself
Lady: Are you in a point of transition in your life? Do you entertain the idea of entering the monastery?
Me: No.
Lady: Why not?
Me: I am a sinner (with some few casual laughs)
Lady: Dom (that's how they called the full-fledged Benedictine) Martin was at his peak as a fashion designer in Manila when he decided to leave everything behind and went here. 
Me: Yeah, I read it online. 
Lady: So why are you here? 
Me: I am not exactly at a crossroad. But I need a kind of discernment. I need to do a lot of things and it can be so tiring. But I need to do it. 
Lady: Maybe the Lord wants you to just do it. 

The lady was cordial and she left me her contacts.

On a separate occasion, there was novice Brother Jerome, only six months in the Monastery.

Me: What do you do inside in the Monastery?
Bro. Jerome: After a day's work, we pray in silence and read.
Me: Will you have a chance to go outside?
Bro. Jerome: Pag kailangan. Last time, I asked permission because I needed to visit my mother.
Me: How many years before you become a monk?
Bro. Jerome: Six years.
Me: Good luck Bro. Jerome. Six year is short if you like what you do (hashtag counselor)

I have my full admiration on these people. I am never a stranger to any religious orders - the Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, and even Pink Sisters. Unfortunately, I never have a close friend from any religious order who can enlighten me further of what they do. For some strange reasons, I spent some nights 'you tubing' and 'googling'  what it is like to be Benedictine in the guest house. I felt I had a crash course on St. Benedict.

During my last night, I felt the serenity of the place. I got the 'discernment' and the 'resolve' that I needed to. It was rather inexplicable. All throughout my stay, to my mind and heart, I kept praising God and asking him to always take good care of me, my family, and friends. A fitting end before my birthday.


On my birthday, I was commuting for a five-hour ride to Davao City to visit my friends. The Bukidnon-Davao road is so scenic. The pines, the plains, the rough hills, and the Mt. Apo mountain ranges in the backdrop complete the Mindanao landscape. Plus some thoughts on Mamasapano (but it is far from the place)! Char. I just learned last week that on the same road, a bus was stopped over and burned down by the NPA! No one was hurt because they let the commuters out of the bus and are left to waiting on the next bus while seeing their supposed bus burning. Crap. Rule no. 1. Do not travel by night. Always in the bright light of the day. 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

New Yorker in Cainta

And so it begins again, I am officially living alone. Got the apartment all by myself. Yesterday, my sister gave me all the 'bilins'. Kasabay niyan I will be paying all the apartment in full. Magastos din ang mag solo, ano sa akala mo!

With all her stuff gone, I have all the space. I hurried to our nearest community mall to get a nice table. I was itching to get one. Practically for the writing. I do not know, some sort of a symbolic new paandar for me.  Parang new table, new you! So I bought this Malaysian dinner table. It lured me. As of this writing, it has been bliss. And so I am inspired to write on my first night with this table. Such joy I derive. Ang babaw ko, haha.

Setting the table aside, I feel like I am an inspired single New Yorker in Cainta. I can run naked in this apartment. Do some Carrie Bradshaw moments. I can have sex on this table. Or Bridget Jones with Mark Darcy on the bed just across.  Endless possibilities. But not yet. I do not intend to do it in the nearest future.

It has been awhile since I live all by myself. When my father passed away, I promised that I would accompany my sisters here in this big city until they have their own married lives. Last year, it was our youngest. Last month, our third sister went to our hometown and join her longtime boyfriend.

And me? I look forward to living solo in this apartment. I have been wired to do this. Ever since college, I have lived in this kind of set up. A close friend consulted how it is to be living like this? I always say there are both good and hard side. Good in a sense that it is priceless returning to the apartment all by yourself with all the calmness in the surroundings. You get to reflect. You get to listen to your own music. You get to have the Zen feel. You recharge, get to focus, without immediate noise. I must admit at my age, it may take time to adjust to an idea of living with someone in an apartment. I have been selfish on this category for most of my life. My only consideration is my siblings or a friend in need to stay for few sleepovers. Emphasis on the few. haha.

There is also the bad side of living alone. Say for example, there are inevitable household chores (replacing bulbs, buying freaking Gasul!) that require more than your body weight. You need helping hand. When you get bored, you really are bored. You get to be lonely. Yes. When you are living solo, loneliness can be in your face. But I realise there is this thin line that separates loneliness and just being in a quiet place. And yes, I get to mix loneliness with 'just being in a quiet place' most of the time. I do not really want to privilege all this distinction.

I am giving myself a year only in this place and I will hop to another place, smaller but hopefully with the same vibe. The only thing that I need to do now is enjoy and make the most out of this table!


Thank you 2017.

Few days left of 2017. Where have all the time gone? Since I have a forgetful memory, I look back at my Instagram and rekindle the fondest o...