Oh, captain, my captain! By Hyemin Chu (The Philippine Star) Updated March 11, 2012 12:00 AMComments (0)
Hyemin Chu, 17, is a Korean national studying at La Consolacion College Manila. Her favorite subjects are English and literature. “I have two younger sisters who are also studying here in the Philippines. And I have been staying here in Manila for almost three years with my mom and sisters. After graduating middle school in Korea, my father recommended for me to study in the Philippines. In fact, it was so hard for me to decide to go to abroad. I decided to think in positive ways instead of crying and thinking about friends and family in Korea. After I made my Filipino friends, they really helped me a lot and encouraged me to adjust here.”
Dead Poets Society, based on the screenplay by Tom Schulman, is one of my favorite books. The story of Dead Poets Society happens in Welton Academy, a school that provides strict rules for its students to enter Ivy League schools.
With a tense atmosphere, a new term has begun. Professors always gives lots of things to do and teach students quite severely. Freshman Todd Anderson is timid and doesn’t have confidence. However, he would change gradually with the help of Mr. Keating and his friends. Mr. Keating, a former student of Welton Academy, doesn’t like the style of Welton, so he becomes a different teacher from the others. He usually begins his lectures ardently and emphasizes “carpe diem,” telling his students that they need to seize the day to make their lives truly valuable, and he also tells them to call him “captain.”
He is an English teacher who not only uses books, theories and formulas but different and innovative ways. For example, Keating tells his boys to rip out some of the pages of books, which describe a mathematical way of determining poetry. He tells his students that this is garbage, because poetry cannot be measured with any mathematical formula. Moreover, he also asks his students to stand on their desks to see things in a different way. The teaching style of Keating is unconventional in Welton but students become gradually interested in Keating’s way of teaching and his ideas.
One day, Neil and his friends find the graduation album of Keating. They learn that he was one of the members of “Dead Poets Society.” They were so curious about what the Dead Poets Society is, so they immediately ask him. Keating explains it but he warned them to keep it a secret. Nevertheless, one day, the students try to sneak out of the campus to convene their own version of the Dead Poets Society. They read different kinds of poems and share opinion. In the club, they all feel real passion in themselves, becoming more mature through the club and the teachings of Keating.
At this time, for timid student Todd, he shares his poem in front of his classmates. It is a hard challenge for him, but he successfully does it. Then, also for Neil, who finds out what he really wants to be. In fact, he finds his interest in acting, so he challenges himself and auditions secretly for a play and is cast as the main character. However, there is a big problem. Neil’s father is against his love for acting. He wants his son to someday become a doctor. Neil is so disappointed that his father doesn’t allow him to do what he really wants to do, but because of his passion for acting, he does the play — and performs well.
However, after the play, his father takes him home and scolds Neil, telling him he would be transferred to a military school so he can someday become a doctor. Neil tragically kills himself with a gun.
News of this sad and shocking accident quickly spread. Everyone is surprised and depressed about Neil’s death. At this time, Cameron, who is also one of the members of Dead Poets Society, suddenly reveals their secret club. He tells others that one basic cause behind Neil’s death is Keating. Therefore, to cover this disgraceful situation of the school, Mr. Nolan, who is a principal of Welton, forces all the members of Dead Poets Society to sign a document stating that it was the fault of Keating. Literally, Keating becomes entrapped, but he courageously decides to take responsibility for the death of his beloved student. Other students try to defend their teacher but their efforts are useless.
Sadly, the last day of Keating in Welton comes too fast. He packs his belongings to leave Welton. At this moment, Todd starts to say “Oh captain, my captain.” Other students also stand on their desks one by one for their beloved teacher.
I especially like the last part of the book. The inspiring teacher changes his boys, giving them freedom to be passionate about something, to come out of their shell.. Keating is the kind of teacher that we really need for us to change our educational system.
Truly, when I read this book, it made me think of my own experience when I was studying in South Korea. For me, our educational system is similar to that of Welton Academy, because most of the schools and parents always force us to study only to enter well-known colleges and to get good jobs after. Almost all students spend their time in school from early morning until the evening. Of course all teachers and parents want their kids to have a good future. And, of course, as students, we have to study, but this is not effective and this style of education ignores the development of the individual personality.
Carpe diem, seize the day, life is so short and we live it only once. Thus, I believe that we must enjoy every moment and do something that we really want to do. Neil commits suicide because he could not do what he really wanted too. How sad it is! It really pained my heart when I read this part. Every person has different characteristics, abilities and interests. Therefore, we need to respect all and encourage their passions. Before, I didn’t know what to be and what should I do for my future. My parents wanted me to be a doctor, so I followed their decision. I was like Neil in this book. I always followed the decision of my parents in the past. But, I’m different from Neil in that I could explain my parents what I really want to be and what I like to do.
My middle school teacher in Korea recommended me to read this wonderful book. Instead of studying medicine to become a doctor, I’m now studying education to become a teacher someday. In the future, I will also teach my students with the creative mind of Mr. Keating and also teach them in a different way but as effective as him, the unforgettable captain of Welton Academy!
Becoming a mother By Gretchen Edelweiss Filart Dublin (The Philippine Star) Updated March 18, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0)
THIS WEEK’S WINNER
MANILA, Philippines - Gretchen Edelweiss Filart Dublin works as a writer and copywriter. She maintains a personal blog where she writes about personal travels, literature, recipes and life in general. Her active roles include being a wife, an infanticipating mother, a choco addict, and a surrogate mom to eight cats and dogs.
Caressing my impregnated belly as I wait for my turn in a clinic, I continue to the last few pages of Lualhati Bautista’s Bata, Bata, Pa’no Ka Ginawa?, the incredible story of Lea in the midst of the Marcos dictatorial regime, a mother of two, each endowed with a different father and colorful stories. I find my tears sitting on my cheeks. Because behind this book’s provocativeness, its intimidating feministic voice and unabashed approach to female sexuality and its multidimensional layers, is a soft spot for motherhood — a journey that I will be treading wholly months from now.
They say it’s only when you become a mother that you fully understand how your parents, particularly your mother, feel. And I couldn’t agree more. In my journey through pregnancy, I began to see my mother in a different light, and I’ve learned to appreciate her better, regardless of what has been said and done, or what silly squabbles we’ve had in the past.
But beyond that, pregnancy has allowed me an exclusive room for magnificent firsts, and contiguous doors that open to incomparable moments of awe and realizations.
In one routine ultrasound checkup, my doctor saw a girl with a kidney, a heart racing to 133 beats per minute, arms that swing, feet that kick, a complete set of nose, eyes and lips. But when I saw her face, a blur of blacks and whites boxed in the tiny sonogram screen, what I saw was a future. One that’s brimming with possibilities, woven into intricate details.
I saw the sleepless nights, nursing her and humming her lullabies as her fragile body tries to fit in a peculiar world. I saw how she would falter and get wounded during her first baby steps. I saw her marching on her graduation. I saw how she would have her heart broken a first time, her somber tears like daggers in my chest. I saw how one day I would, perhaps, walk her down the aisle and how sad it would be to lead her away from us, towards a life of her own.
But I also saw that despite how difficult or taxing all that might be, I couldn’t be more thrilled to finally meet my daughter, to allow her to experience life — raw and tortuous as it is — and help mold the person she will become. I saw how blessed I am to be carrying this tiny, live mass of colossal futures.
When I see a pregnant woman, I see past the dark circles that ring her neck, the long lines of stretch marks that adorn her arms, her enormous belly, her plump feet and hair in disarray. I see in her a life-enchanting aura, one that spells an ethereal sense of duty. A woman who bears nine months of an almost intolerable surge of hormones, a woman who gives up earthly pleasures to ensure the welfare of another. A woman who strives to bring breath to a life with no excuses, so she could love her child unconditionally despite of what he might become, despite the fact, that he soon, will have to detach himself from the life that bore him.
This is one of the many unforgettable lessons that Lea teaches us: that a mother’s greatest way of expressing love for her child is by giving him freedom. The freedom to err, to fall off a bike a first time, to know his rights as a citizen, as a person, and as a child. The freedom to discover who he is without meddling or intervention, the freedom to establish himself, no matter how fragile we mothers think he is.
“...Hanggang sa ang bata ay hindi na bata kundi ama, o ina. Ano ang ituuro niya ngayon sa kanyang mga anak? Lahat ng dapat niyang matutuhan ngayon pa lang, hindi pagkamasunurin at pagkakimi, kundi pagkibo pag may sasabihin at paglaban pag kailangan. Lahat ng panahon ay hindi panahon ng mga takot at pagtitmpi; lahat ng panahon ay panahon ng pagpapasiya.”
When a woman becomes a mother, she becomes, in all true sense of the word, a full-grown woman. In a lifetime, we women live many lives and walk through hundreds of journeys. Being a mother allows us to fulfill one of those many lives. We are privileged to have this magnificent journey and transformation be reserved and granted exclusively for us.
Pregnancy is not merely a celebration of an imminent life to spring. In mounds of soiled diapers and never-ending checklists lie the exquisite joy of sacrifice and motherhood, of knowing that inside one’s once-tiny belly are the contours of a future, its tip already drawn though still veiled, protected by her tensile membranes from the rest of the world. It is a celebration of being a woman. It is a baptism of fire.
Months from now, my responsibilities will transition from merely being a wife to being a wife and a full-time mother. Like Lea, I will be called to sculpt a life and stand fearless against the odds. But I am a woman, and I shan’t be wary.
“Hindi ako natatakot. Babae ako at malakas ako. Ako ang tagapagsilang ng sanggol, pambuhay ng sanggol ang dibdib ko.”
A father revisits Atticus By Laurence Arroyo (The Philippine Star) Updated March 25, 2012 12:00 AMComments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Laurence Arroyo, 44, is a partner in the law firm Flaminiano Arroyo & Duenas. He is a trial lawyer and has been practicing for 17 years. He teaches Evidence at Ateneo Law School. He considers his mentor Atty. Jose B. Flaminiano as a real-life Atticus Finch.
I am a lawyer and, yes, I was a child once, too. And it was as a child that I first set foot in Maycomb County and met Scout and Jem and their bugbear, Boo Radley.
Back then, I experienced the story through the eyes and voice of its young, sprightly narrator, Scout. I shared her and her brother’s sense of exhilaration, adventure, and sometimes terror as they persistently sought out their reclusive neighbor Boo.
I recently reread To Kill a Mockingbird, this time, though, as a father (and lawyer). Despite the passage of years, the characters have remained familiar to me. Scout and Jem and Dill and Boo Radley were as I remembered them to be.
As for Atticus Finch, I remembered him only as the father of Scout and Jem, and not much else. I paid little attention to Atticus Finch, the same way Scout and Jem, preoccupied with their games and caught up in their own world, paid little attention to him.
Yet, now that I am a father, I find that the book is as much about Atticus as it is about Scout and Jem and Boo Radley.
Atticus is no hands-on father. Calpurnia, their loyal and loving black housekeeper, takes care of the details of daily living. Atticus even seems too lax at times. Mrs. Dubose, a neighbor, faults him and rightly, perhaps for allowing his children to call him “Atticus.” He does not join them in their games, he is too old for that. He leaves his children much to themselves, but when principle or character or decency is an issue or at stake, he draws the line and holds them to a standard that he himself can meet. While he keeps largely to the background, Atticus, in fact, stands in the center of their lives.
Atticus never fails to respectfully greet Mrs. Dubose, their neighbor who has been rendered wrathful by age and pain, and he requires the same courtly conduct from his children. He compels Jem to go visit daily the embittered Mrs. Dubose to read to her. In a fit of anger, Jem destroys the camellias in her garden. Mrs. Dubose taunts them by saying, “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for,” and something in Jem snaps. He unleashes his anger on her flowers, the only thing in full bloom in a house and life that have withered with the passage of time. Reading to her is his penance. But more than punishment, the reading sessions are intended to make the children see and understand why an old lady such as Mrs. Dubose has grown bitter over the years. It is also intended to make them see the brave side of the broken woman. She does not have long to live and she spends her last few days fighting against the pain that has managed to deform her. Soon after the reading sessions end, so does Mrs. Dubose’s life. The miracle though is that as her body grows weaker, her will grows stronger. Her objective is to get off the morphine that she has become dependent on. She is on the verge of death but her spirit is coming to life. Death has put an end to her pain, but not before she herself conquered it. This act of courage unfolds before the eyes of the children. Putting up with her offensive words and ways was a small price to pay to witness real courage in action.
Atticus allows his children to attend Sunday service at Calpurnia’s Church over the objections of his sister. It does not do his children any harm to attend a church composed of black people. In fact, it would do Scout and Jem some good. They would be among people who did not mind their whiteness and who sang their hearts out, grateful, despite being treated as lesser beings, to a God who at least has given them a crack at life.
Atticus seldom contradicts his sister; it requires too much effort and energy on his part. Time can be better spent in his rocking chair, reading a newspaper. But this matter touched too deeply on the issue of character. His sister is welcome to teach Scout the ways of ladies (such as entertaining guests, serving tea, trading in the overalls for the frilly dress politeness and graciousness, after all, enhance personality but no amount of feminine trappings could turn Scout into a lady if she grows up believing that blacks were inferior people praying to an inferior God.
Atticus agrees to defend in court a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman in the Deep South back in those days when only white people were capable of speaking the truth and white trash was better than any black man. Tom Robinson is already found guilty the moment the accusation flies out of the mouth of the white woman, and no amount of argument and evidence can establish his innocence. Atticus the lawyer will give it his best shot anyway. Never mind that his decision will surely invite the opprobrium of the community or even expose his life to risk. Atticus the father owed it to his children to stand up for a man who has not done anyone any wrong. After all, he does tell his children not to kill the mockingbirds.
The story ends a few summers after it began. Bob Ewell, seeking revenge against Atticus for exposing him to be a liar at Tom Robinson’s trial, assaults the children. Boo, in defense of the children, sticks a kitchen knife into Bob’s chest, killing him.
Atticus and Sheriff Heck, both men of the law, uncharacteristically agree to look the other way. If Jem, in self-defense, has killed Bob, then Jem, with his father by his side, would have to face the consequences of his act. But not Boo: he is a stranger to the world and he needs to be protected from it. A public trial would have crushed his spirit, the same way it crushed the spirit of Tom Robinson. There was no point in killing a mockingbird, not even in the name of the law.
I am a father to four boys: Migoy, Zo, Luis, and Manu. I am not the perfect father, but I (together with my wife) try to raise my children the best way we can. When they have all grown up to be fine young men, I would like them to look back and best remember me as the father who, by his quiet example, taught them to leave alone the mockingbirds.
Puzzle sleuthing By John Patrick F. Solano (The Philippine Star) Updated May 27, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - John Patrick F. Solano, 20, is a BS Applied Mathematics student at Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He was associate editor for his high school paper. “Writing defines me. I have a penchant for mind-boggling games like chess, Scrabble and Sudoku. In fact, I was the three-time defending champion in chess in our school when I was in high school and the NCR champion in the Philippine Sudoku Super Challenge for two consecutive years now in college.”
Puzzle sleuthing” means learning to use clues (e.g. letters formed in an incomplete word for crossword puzzle) to fathom how to complete a puzzle with speed and accuracy. It is a term I coined in my make-believe lexicon which is very similar to word sleuthing (a technique used in figuring out the spelling of unfamiliar words). I love using this detective work for it has helped me a lot of times.
As I go on a trip down my memory lane, I can vividly remember how my curiosity in solving puzzles like crossword and Sudoku puzzles, to name a few, has grown into an uncontrollable addiction. I crave it, live with it, and even dream of it! Each puzzle and I have created an unusual but integral bond where we seem to throb the same heartbeat of emotions and breathe the same air of success in its completion. It is as if I could hear its melodious rhythm, murmuring to me what letters to place in every white squares of a crossword puzzle, whispering to me what numbers to fill in every grid of a Sudoku puzzle…
When some people are under stress, they seek comfort food; I, on the other hand, seek puzzles to solve, which I call my “comfort activity.” Simply put, solving puzzles is in my system.
As puzzling as these puzzles I solve is David Almond’s Skellig. Written in lyrical prose, this children’s book is an adventure, a mystery and a family story. The story revolves around Michael, whose family has just moved into a new house. He and his parents worry about his premature baby sister who has a dysfunctional heart and needs to be hospitalized. He steps into the dilapidated garage and finds an arthritic man (or a strange kind of beast?); never does he know that this encounter would change his life forever.
He brings him aspirin, his favorite Chinese foods (menu order numbers 27 and 53) and brown ale. He notices that the man has growths in his shoulder blades and recalls a story that shoulder blades are the vestiges of angel wings. He later confides in his new friend Mina, an adventurous, knowledgeable, high-spirited girl, about the man in the garage. Before the garage is demolished, the two move the man into an abandoned house Mina inherited. Here, Michael and Mina discover that the man is not old, as the author is trying to impose and inculcate in the readers’ imagination; rather, he is young and handsome. Also, he unbelievably has wings, which are what Michael has noticed in their first few encounters. The man finally introduces himself as “Skellig” to the two children.
Then a turning point comes in Michael’s life when his baby sister’s condition worsens and she needs to undergo heart surgery. His mother stays in the hospital and dream about (truth is, she sees) Skellig holding the baby up in the air. The baby then survives the operation. Skellig bids farewell to Michael and Mina, thanking them for giving his life back again. In the end, they name the baby “Joy.”
Adventure stories always have a place in my heart for they pique my excitement. Characters in this genre work hard to overcome obstacles in their way. This exhilarates readers and this is the one defining quality I saw in the book: Michael and Mina working hard to help Skellig get his life back and the baby surviving the surgery with Skellig’s magical help. But the most admirable quality Almond stresses in the story is Skellig’s life’s shift from hopeless — almost lifeless — to a vibrant, optimistic one. The view into his character at the beginning invites dislike; at the end, it focuses on his positive outlook in life, which he once hurled in the pitch-black pit of resentment.
A columnist once wrote that the only books that truly impact your life are those books that you read at the right time. At the time I was reading Skellig, I had a dear friend who died of cancer. When I learned of her tragic death, I remained stationary in stages of denial and what ifs. The book kept me company during those dark times and lifted me up, as if I were also flying in mid-air. Turning each page of the book was like interlocking pieces of me in a jigsaw puzzle of realization. Piece by piece, I was able to relate to the story and found myself with a myriad of reasons to move on. The story taught me how to cope with sadness and disbelief overwhelming my sentience, just as Michael’s family did, having discovered the baby’s condition. It dawned on me that we should relish all the moments we have with our loved ones before the Reaper’s scythe takes away their life in a slash.
One might now ask, who or (more appropriately) what is Skellig? Is he a man, a bird, or an angel? Like a moribund flower under the scorching heat of the sun, my hope in finding who Skellig really is withered when it is not clarified till the end of the story. I admit I was quite disappointed, but it stirred excitement as well. As some puzzles wouldn’t want to be solved, Skellig’s true identity just can’t be unraveled (maybe for now) and is left as a mystery, a missing puzzle piece. The search is now on so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll have to find that missing puzzle piece through puzzle sleuthing and make sure that I’ll be the first one to unveil the mask of this mysterious but interesting puzzle.
A love story By Aileen C. Ibañez (The Philippine Star) Updated June 03, 2012 12:00 AMComments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Aileen C. Ibañez is a high school teacher of Cagayan National High School Tuguegarao City, Cagayan. “I love reading and writing and I always aim for my students to see the significance of those skills in learning. Hence, I am very particular with the materials they read in class, and their reading and writing assignments.” In 2011, she was the first place winner in the Civil Service Commission Essay Writing Contest.
Calixto. That’s his name. We fondly call him “Third.” He is the third-generation of Calixtos in the clan. More than his name, his simplicity and candor struck me the first time I met him.
Our friends often wonder how we “click” when our personalities stand on opposite poles. Third is friendly, outgoing and fun-loving. I am shy, serious and silent. While Third is the life of the party, I am contented to sit back and watch along the sidelines. He loves sports. I am as athletic as a tree.
But surprisingly, we get along well. Our ability to appreciate simple things in life is our foundation. Third’s excellent sense of humor brightens even my darkest moods after a long, tiresome day in school. He showed me how to enjoy what I used to dismiss as “usual, unremarkable and unexciting.”
It was in Third’s company where I learned to go out strolling around the plaza, picking on fish balls sold on food carts that line up the street, or savoring our favorite pancit at a local panciteria. Lately, I understood the F1 Grand Prix under his tutelage. We began a “real, remarkable and rejuvenating” tradition.
We fell in love.
Our story reminded me of Oscar, a memorable character in Junot Diáz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Oscar is a sci-fi geek whose quest for love becomes his ultimate dream. Being an overweight nerd, he endures persecution from his peers. Reading and writing about science fiction heroes serve as his niche where he hides himself from the taunting eyes of the world. However, Oscar pins his hopes for happiness on the day he would finally find love.
Third and I found that kind of love Oscar was looking for.
Our relationship blossomed into something like Elizabeth Gilbert described in her book Committed: “Every couple in the world has the potential over time to become a small and isolated nation of two creating their own culture, their own language, and their own moral code.”
Our universe-in-the-making must start somewhere. So we planned a wedding to seal our fate together, and interlace our lives into one beautiful journey. We began making arrangements. We were ecstatic and excited like any other couple planning their future together.
Then, Third began feeling weak and getting sick. Our family physician referred him to a cardiologist at the Philippine Heart Center for a conclusive diagnosis.
I was in high spirits over our wedding plans that my mental radar failed to pick up the vital signs of a storm brewing over our horizon.
“No need to panic.” I comforted myself. Third will be all right, and this is just a routine check-up.
But was it?
What turned out was truly unexpected.
“He has an ascending growth of the aortic root of the heart. It is a congenital condition,” his doctor finally commented.
Third’s aorta is unusually large. Through the years, he developed aneurism the dilation of the aorta, which is the heart’s biggest artery. Only an expensive yet risky surgery can correct the malady. The moment the aorta reaches a critical measurement, he’s off to the operating table.
I was dumbfounded. I felt numb. I was devastated. My heart raged in anguish and disbelief. My mind was gripped with fear.
I tried to haggle for dear life. Denial led me to ask the doctor some futile questions. Sadly, the problem was irreversible. Surgery was inevitable. It was just a matter of time. The calm ticking of the clock churned my mind to race with a hundred and one thoughts all winding down to one question: What will I do?
I felt betrayed by fate. Oscar may have been in the same predicament every time his attempts at love ended in disaster; every time people laughed at him for being overweight; and every time heartbreak became his lot due to a curse called fukú. The curse haunted his whole family since their exodus to the United States to escape the clutches of the Trujillo dictatorship in their native Dominican Republic. The curse haunted Oscar for life.
Maybe, there’s a Filipino version of the fukú. Maybe it fell on me. Looking back at my track record of failed relationships, I was almost convinced that a curse was upon me. All my relationships began with the right foot only to end with me limping away heartbroken.
I saw two roads ahead of me. One led to a litany of sacrifices while the other toward freedom. If I took the first one, I knew that our marriage would be under a shadow of fear over an impending surgery. Was I prepared to put my heart on the line in case he loses this battle?
Meanwhile, the other road looked inviting. My road to freedom beckoned me to call it quits, and save myself from possible misery. I had to make a choice.
I prayed hard. I prayed like La Inca prayed for Beli’s safety. I prayed like La Inca begged the Holy Spirit to save Oscar from Ybón Pimentel the love of his life.
Oscar’s fatal love affair with Ybón spells his doom. Ybón is engaged to a military police captain; so, loving her is like jumping off a cliff. It means Oscar’s final destination. Yet, Oscar in his last writings claims that it is the start of his “real” life.
Though his sacrifice may seem insignificant and meaningless, or the product of a romantic mind gone wild, it is a defining moment for him. Oscar successfully assails and defies the fukú by finding love and persevering in it.
May 10, 2011. Just a year ago, Third and I ventured into “real” life together in a wedding ceremony witnessed by our relatives and friends.
I also found a way to circumvent and reverse my unhappy circumstance by casting my own zafa (counter spell). I said, “Attraversiamo,” an Italian word meaning, “Let’s cross over,” from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.
Crossing over means I approach our marriage with awareness and acceptance of the possible challenges of spending life with Third. But, for me, life is defined by the kind of choices we make, and the battles we choose to engage in.
I chose to hold on to the tinder box that sparks hope and happiness in me.
At present, Third’s aortic root remains miraculously unchanged which is surprising even to his doctors. Indeed, love and prayers prevail over adversities.
Reaching heaven on earth By Madelline Romero (The Philippine Star) Updated June 10, 2012 12:00 AMComments (1)
Manila, Philippines - Madelline Romero works for an NGO that “gives energy” through renewable energy sources to remote rural areas in the country.
The universe is one vast energy field. You as human, being part of the universe, are an energy field yourself. Conflict occurs when individuals struggle to steal energy from one another. You get the feeling of high when you are in love because you receive so much energy from the other person, but feeding off each other’s energy alone soon makes the relationship degenerate into the usual power struggle, because cut off from the energy in the universe you can never attain real, sustainable happiness. I will never be able to think of energy the same way again.
James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy, the book that spoke to me of energy in those terms, was given by a friend shortly after the beginning of the new year. I looked like someone who would appreciate the book, he said.
A week after I’d read the book, I went to a filmmaking workshop. The facilitator came in an hour late and started talking about how lucky our batch was – seven being an auspicious number – and about 2012 marking the change of age to Aquarius, and of a global shift to a different – higher – level of consciousness. For about half an hour – and many times more after that during the 4-weekend workshop – he talked about creative spaces and how an exchange of energy was happening right at that very moment between us and him and among ourselves, that each of us gave off energy out to the universe, and that we could receive energy from the universe, too, if we only opened ourselves up to it.
Was it mere coincidence that a friend gave the book to me, and a week later I met people who said exactly the same thing?
I would think not if I were to be convinced by Redfield. There are no coincidences, says the Celestine Prophecy. Chance encounters often have a deeper meaning, and what we call chance events often occur at just the right moment, and bring forth just the right individuals to suddenly send our lives in a new and important direction. Only thing is, more often than not, we are not aware. We are too busy to give seemingly trivial incidents a second thought and too preoccupied to look for meaning in what could be so quickly dismissed as coincidence.
Redfield gives an interesting historical interpretation of this preoccupation. Understanding our modern-day preoccupation brings us back to the Middle Ages when the Church and its uncontested direct line to God defined the purpose of our lives. But scientific discoveries later made us doubt our place in the center of God’s universe, thus, mankind’s purpose on the planet. While we were trying to regain that sense of certainty on the purpose and meaning of life on Earth, we focused on conquering the Earth and using its resources to better our situation, until “we totally lost ourselves in creating a secular security, an economic security to replace the spiritual one we had lost. Working to establish a more comfortable lifestyle of survival has grown to feel complete in and of itself as a reason to live, and we’ve gradually, methodically forgotten our original question...We’ve forgotten that we still don’t know what we’re surviving for.”
We’ve forgotten that we live to evolve our soul so that we can connect to that sense of endless wonder and mystery in this world, “find relationship to one higher source, to a perception of God within,” of which all religions speak.
In this world of super highways, automatons and living in the fast lane, how does one create and sustain one’s connection to the energy in the universe which actually creates that buoyant and uplifting feeling inside, which we commonly identify as love, happiness?
Redfield offers that the first step is to slow down and be aware. Notice your surroundings and allow yourself to be awed by the beauty of the Earth, for it is only through a heightened perception of and sensitivity to beauty can the feeling of love emanate. Be aware of the events in your life and of the people coming into your life, and stay alert for deeper meanings in what appear to be “coincidences.” And, more important, be aware of your own energy and recognize the power of this energy to impact all matters around you.
“Watch your PEE,” the film instructor had said in the filmmaking workshop. He was talking about one’s personal energy emission which affects everything around us. And that had got me thinking about my interaction with the people around me: Do I give other people more energy or do I drain their energy because of my thoughtless ways.
“The human world is a vast competition for energy and thus for power,” Redfield says. That we do not know how to tap into this bountiful universal source — and instead struggle against one another, hurting each other and destroying our environment in the process — for energy, is the source of conflict. This non-recognition of the universe’s energy is what has made us live not “in harmony with the energy dynamics of the Earth and within the natural energy systems of the planet.”
The Celestine Prophecy speaks of an adventure of one man who suddenly finds himself flying thousands of miles from his home in the United States into the depth of the Amazon jungles in Peru, and ensnared in and prosecuted by a web of political and religious conspiracy blocking the discovery of the last of the nine Insights of the Manuscript.
Eventually found in the location of the ancient Mayan civilization, in the ruins called the Celestine (Heavenly) Temples, the Ninth Insight foretells of a human world transformed by conscious evolution that makes humans engage the universal energy, making them vibrate at a higher level until their physical selves dissolve and they experience what can only be called transcendental — reaching heaven on Earth as it were.
The adventure ends with the protagonist’s discovery of the Ninth Insight, but he immediately gets seized by opposing authorities. During incarceration a conversation ensues between him and a kindred spirit: “Each person, once they hear the message and realize that the insights are real, must pass on the message to everyone who is ready for it...Each of us must do what we can to get this message out.”
It was no coincidence that out of a thousand possibilities for a gift, my friend chose to give me The Celestine Prophecy. It is no coincidence either that you are reading this article. This is my contribution to getting the message out.
Asking, seeking too much By Ma. Jezia P. Talavera (The Philippine Star) Updated June 17, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments
Ma. Jezia Parra Talavera, 18, is a sophomore at the University of the Philippines Diliman taking a BA Linguistics course. She is also taking a Japanese language course. She blogs at www.stormsoferrport.blogspot.com. “Back in high school I won a number of essay writing contests. Einstein’s quote perfectly suits me: ‘I have no special talent; I am just passionately curious.’”
I do not believe in God.
People in my community always said He is everywhere. Of course He’s everywhere, I thought 10 years ago: He was framed on our dining room wall, seated with a bunch of people eating bread and drinking wine; He was displayed on our bedroom window. He always had a special corner in the house where mom would light candles before a paper portrait of Him. He was always on TV every 3 p.m.; He was always in my pocket; Mom would hand me that beaded necklace before I’d go to school. He was always in my CLE books: still, unsmiling, strange.
For eight years I was educated by Catholic schools that tried to fill me with the significance of believing in God, but instead I felt they injected me with a rather strict culture: memorizing Bible passages, filling in the blanks with the Eight Beatitudes, reciting the Apostles’ Creed and the rosary every morning before the flag ceremony. I did not really complain about these “routines”; I was too innocent to care and too gullible to ask why I was supposed to learn the sign of the cross and to give P5 during the offertory at Sunday Mass.
Learning about the nature vs. nurture theory, I can say that I was nurtured to believe in God with a rich religious environment and society that worshipped Him in a unique way. With this I have come to draw a personal picture of Him, and have granted Him a mortal existence in my everyday life: I would thank Him for the new day every morning, talk to Him before I go to sleep and recognize His presence for every competition and elocution and dance performance and exam I had to overcome.
As time passed by though, I began to ask questions. Just like young Jesus in the book Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, and probably just like the author Anne Rice herself, my curiosity grew like wildfire as my environment gradually changed. Such change, however, I never considered to be a big deal or a revolutionary turn in my life as a Roman Catholic, as I began to look through a “new lens” of religion. I just became a little disturbed that as I explored this new world even with a descriptive perspective, my own picture of God, once a crystal clear view of Him as written in the Bible and of Jesus’ life as coherently described in the Four Gospels, seemed to blur a little, like clearly seeing yourself on a still pond then becoming distorted into a ripple.
The bright, detailed painting fading into a slightly indistinct work of art was gradual. Back in high school, after being pampered by two Catholic schools run by nuns, I learned of other ways of worshipping God with strange names like Iglesia ni Cristo and Born Again. I began to wonder why some of my classmates did not do the sign of the cross or did not attend our Mass at school. I once attended a seminar spearheaded by Born Again volunteers and they praised my God with religious songs that I had never heard in our own church. They sang with such passion and enthusiasm that they always closed their eyes, and I deeply wondered why my community was never like this and people didn’t sing very loud like they did.
At one point I feared this difference in religion would mark a sensitive border line, defining my social place and my friends at school. I felt compelled to box others according to religion when it should not have been. I later realized that such thoughts actually prevented me from discovering the uniqueness of people’s ways of living and their different cultures which have fascinated me ever since. But the questions surged like a landslide.
For one thing, growing up in a Roman Catholic-type environment, I was always made to conclude that good people are those who believe in God. But then as I tried on different lenses, I met people who were equally good and kind but didn’t actually believe in God. It was a strange and overwhelming discovery, yet it further blurred my view of God and more questions poured down like hail.
I struggled to keep my faith and tried to “see with eyes unclouded” by emotions when I took a class that dissected the existence of Jesus Christ born of a Virgin Mary. His unlikely existence, Jesus being a gay or an abnormal person in biological terms — it’s science bumping into religion, after all. Reading texts on the views of atheists and non-believers of Christ, watching the Da Vinci Code, all these new perspectives were overwhelming, yet confusing all together. Did Jesus really exist in the first place? How could he have been XY if he had no paternal origin?
But these questions were never rhetorical in any way. These were questions born out of curiosity, out of my itch to learn more about my belief and of others’. After all, my conscious acceptance of a God is an essential part of my life, and a very interesting part of one’s life holding a timeless controversy and conspiracy that has united and divided man throughout history.
These questions were also born out of the values I learned during high school and in my first college year: to keep asking questions, and treating every answer in a descriptive point of view. My mentor Josephine Bonsol keeps telling me to know the facts first before anything: before judging others’ religions, before starting to act like a hypocrite who memorizes every word in the Bible but gossips about his neighbor right after he steps out of the church; before starting to doubt the existence of my God.
I sometimes fear I ask too many questions and bother too many people. But Anne Rice taught me to keep asking questions, just as seven-year-old Jesus did.
I sometimes fear I seek too many answers and may not find or understand them all. But Jesus taught me, in his life as a young lad who cried and laughed and experienced nightmares just like the rest of us, to continue to find the answers and not to fear.
I continue to ask questions, and accept answers as they are, just as Jesus — kid as he was, once upon a time—did. Until then, I do not just believe in God; I follow His ways.