Days-A A +A
Wrapped in Grey
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
I REMEMBER it was pitch dark when our jeepney lurched and then came to a stop on that blind steep curve more than two decades ago. Then we were forced to disembark – young men first time away from home, in the company of strangers who were barking orders at us to fall in line, single file to jog through the darkness of nights.
We came prepared for any eventuality since we were primed for the weekend activity months before. We didn’t know that the trek we were forced to take to the site was unexpected till much later. The misadventure only added to the fear and anticipation we were feeling at that time. It was a long difficult climb with the taunting sound of the cicadas keeping their cadence with our tired and heavy steps. Then we were welcomed at the site by even more jeers and shouts. We could hear but not see for everything and everyone were just moving shadows in the candlelight.
More than two decades later, I came to visit the place in the harsh glare of daylight and hindsight, and a flood of memories and emotions came to me. It was like a visiting an old battlefield where one fought a bloody and gruesome war. But there were no casualties here, nor were there any shots fired. Just innocent souls awakening to maturity in a rite of passage that many young men of our generation in this city had the fortune of experiencing.
The area where the Pub was still stands. This time the whole chapel is an all concrete structure freshly painted in white. The Rollo Room were we slept is still there but the hard wood flooring has since been replaced by concrete. And the steps that led from the Chapel and the Rollo Room, to the mess hall we fondly called the Kulatatory, still evokes a deep journey of introspection for anyone who trudges through the path.
On the grounds, I removed my shoes and felt the grass. Curiously, it felt the same when I was awakened in the middle of the night to be executed in a manner of speaking many moons ago.
It was a different kind of death which was introduced in that cold night. Not physical death for we were still a long way from the deteriorating bodies and souls our generation seem to be afflicted with nowadays. But the death of mindless and uncaring innocence. And we were told to carry the cross as a signification of our rebirth. We were young men in the threshold of maturity ready to look at the world with new eyes.
There is none so blind as they who will not see. Twenty-two years after, it is only now that the full meaning of the adage is slowly unveiling itself before me. It is clear to me now that in those two heady days in Malasag, our first visions of human suffering – our own, were revealed.
Boys, at the tender age of 15, were given the opportunity, against their gendered upbringing and demands of social trappings, to travel deep within their young souls to account for the burden of growing up. It was a chance not just to rail at the failures of our parents’ generation but also to understand their all-too-human condition. That our suffering as young adults were perhaps equivalent to the pain and fear of their parenthood which many of us, given the cycle of life, now share.
It was also an occasion where a special moment of human solidarity was forged. Breaking down the strict social barriers of high school society, we discovered that the jock misses his mom who is working abroad while the nerd feels the same sense of being lost with his parents’ marital problems. In those two days, we found out that we were not alone in our suffering.
Twenty two years later, on a bright Sunday morning, there I was looking at the Pub, the Chapel, the Rollo Room, and the Kulalatory, and found them to be familiar places inside my heart. I realize that I have brought the memory of these places and their lessons with me wherever I have been in the past two decades. I now know that the challenge of seeing, of not being blind, is to live out the twin principles of solidarity, since we are all fellow sufferers, and its corresponding ethical demand – compassion.
Before I ended my visit, there was something I had to do to mark this revelation. On one of the posts of the covered steps, I scribbled my batch name. Underneath it, CCS DWTL #2.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 29, 2013.