WHAT A JOURNEY IT HAS BEEN!

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1: 14) Justice, Peace and Care for Creation. Yes, that was the three-in-one package or reason for our summer exposure in Bulacan. We have been taught about the concept of “justice” as philosophy students since our pre-novitiate days. In fact, it was the most evident thing in our work as factory workers for one month. We learned how a bar of soap and packages of cosmetics were made before consumers get the ultimate satisfaction of these. And thanks to the factory workers, they toil for it rain or shine and we had a taste of their everyday experience. That was how justice was within reach for me. That, to appreciate our sisters and brothers by showing them and making them feel that they really are in our prayers by being insolidarity with the poor and the needy.It must have been a journey for me though on finding the answers how were we able to bring “peace” and to “care for creation” as we were travelling back to Sto. Domingo, Quezon City.

It may sound big deal, or nevertheless a hard pill to swallow, on my part because on the contrary “peace” and “care for creation” seem so easy to be defined or to be understood by others. Well, not on my watch. Why I was there was more than definitions and concepts which I left to my academic courses. I felt that God was opening my eyes to the reality of people’s lives as a Dominican.

As we were packing our things for our departure last May 25, 2017, I loaded a tickler in my baggage because I know that there might come a time that I would desire writing few memorable moments while I was there in Guiguinto, Bulacan. I find it more effective to write journal entries (which were, sad to say, not written on a daily basis) because emotions are truly at its best. Maybe a few stories will not eat up much of everyone’s time reading these:

May 30, 2017 (Around 6:00 PM)

This must be one of the silent hours so far. Everybody else is resting and some are sticking to their hobbies – gadgets.

We just ended our second day at work. We are waiting for the dinner to be served that is why I am able to write here for a while. I don’t know if we’re already complete because [a brother] went out to use the internet at a nearby café.

So, how’s the day, my friends? If you’d ask me, all I can say is that people have stories to tell. Sometimes we just thought that just because they are working in the factory they become mechanical. No. Maybe that would be at an extreme and inhumane level. They’re not robots. The people inside the factory we are working with right now have their own tastes of laughter and tears (or if I may add…romance.) The bottom line is, in the midst of our achievements and accomplishments have we thought of the hours we had wasted for nonsense while majority of the world are working in the industry? Have we imagined ourselves receiving a minimum wage to support our own family’s needs? Have we thought of a mother working for days just to buy her son a new pair of socks?…

…I am learning from experience [and about experience] and I hope that I’d be able to have courage to become the voice of the voiceless.

Please do not get me wrong. That is just one side of the coin. The employees there at the factory, including those who are superiors or in the offices, are very much affectionate towards the workers. It was a marvelous site to gaze on because they treated one another as brothers and sisters. It must also be the fruit of their president’s prayers. Mike Plana, indeed, taught his employees the Dominican motto of “contemplare et contemplataaliistradere” (to contemplate and to share to them the fruits of contemplation) by setting the example himself. I asked myself that time, “Would I be able to do the same to the people of God?” As I was sharing stories with this joyful [ex-]friar, I learned more that generosity was one of the ways in which we can really achieve happiness in life. When we were aspirants, my batch mates and I were reminded that “Not all successful persons are happy persons, but all happy persons are successful persons.” No words can define what I am feeling right now as I reminisce the friends I made in that place. And speaking of friends, I think I can name a few who were also given a space in my journal entry:

June 7, 2017 (Around 8:30 PM)

Hello everyone! The smell of the Efficascent Oil surrounds the whole house. For your information [a brother] asked [another brother] to massage him to relieve himself from body pain due to factory works. I have plenty of experiences today especially in almost being caught as a seminarian which my brothers and I are trying to hide because of a protocol to hide our identity. The factory is filled with people who inspire me to be dedicated to my studies for priesthood. I am so speechless as of now but I really don’t want to forget the names of ate Calai, ate Jasmin, ate Luna, ate Cindy, ate Angie, ate Marie, ate Lanie, sir Jhombie, sir Ibyn, ma’am Mercy, nanay Rina (especially her laughter), nanay Rona, kuya Gerald, tatayFernan, kuya Elmer, ma’am Gina, ma’am Julie and many more. They are just a few workers of Biosoap whom I would like to give honor.

Some names were not written anymore but I thank Gwen, Charm, Krizelle, Jelay, Steph, Shai, Love, and Anton who are students of Central Philippine University, Iloilo who became close to us as well. At Refinette, I was able to acquaint myself with Bonbon, Ma’am Rona, Ma’am Lorie, ate Faith, kuya Russel, kuyaRovi, kuyaLovi, kuya Dave, kuya Patrick, kuya Rey, ate Grace, Charles, Sarven, Princess (OJT from La Consolacion) and Jayson (OJT from Bulacan State University).

It will be difficult for me to narrate what happened each day but the weekends are quite awesome too. I was able to pray at different churches. Whether that was in Guiguinto, Bocaue, Malolos or Plaridel, I think only death would stop us just to cherish peace as Masses were being said by Bulaceño priests whom I salute because they can touch the lives of the people in their homilies.

I would like to ask myself once more. Was I able to reach my goal as I journey on to understand “peace” and “care for creation”? Well, God has always been by my side to help me achieve that. I believe it was the verse in the Scriptures found in John 1: 14 that reverberated all throughout our stay in Bulacan. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” I know that I am not Jesus or the “Word made flesh”. I was just His instrument and I wholeheartedly accept it not with pride but [as much as I can and tried] with humility. It was not easy but He Himself opened avenues for us to preach to the people by making them realize that God’s servants are present. Maybe the identity as religious was hidden because we were not wearing our habits for a month but so far as I have observed in some of my brothers, they were carrying with them their profession especially when we had to say our prayers in secret (literally). At first I thought that we were the only ones who were bringing Christ to the people. I did not expect that they would also bring us closer to the Lord. Yes, I achieved peace as I was caring for God’s most perfect of all creation – man, regardless of origin or race or life’s achievements. God unfolded to me that philosophy subjects are nothing if I will not open my eyes (and my heart) to the reality that men are created equal. There may be plenty of things that I can do which they cannot do but there are also plenty of things that they can do which I cannot do. I was surprised how thin young men would carry drums loaded with raw materials and equipment as heavy as one-third sack of rice. They are simply amazing. It was a realization of limitations. I did not expect that we would re-enact David defeating Goliath.

I learned plenty of things in the factory like coding, stamping, filling, compounding, dispensing, packing and most importantly making friends. But as I listened to God’s voice at prayer, I was reminded that there was more to life than just that institution. I was working at and for the kingdom of our Creator. We just ended our final examinations for the year when we started our summer exposure. It was a great surprise for me that the bigger tests would come. We were left on our own and we had to live on our own. We had to manage our allowance and resources as brothers. We had to smoothen one another’s rough edges as each one of us revealed our “rough” personalities. We had to prove ourselves mature in making decisions. We had to remember that God must be seen in us whether we keep our identities as religious or not. We had to understand how our sisters and brothers make things meaningful in this quite chaotic world. We had to help bring justice, peace and care for creation. All those happened within one month and I thank the Lord [and my formators] for sending me there.

“What a journey it has been

And the end is not in sight

But the stars are out tonight

And they’re bound to guide my way.”

By Br. Vince Stanley B. Iñigo, OP

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