The idea of entering the seminary did not sink in until it was about graduation time, when everybody was busy dreaming and fantasizing about college life in the city and all the (mis)fortunes awaiting small town boys like me. We would imagine the naughty colegialas and the kilometer-long stretch of girlie bars very close to the university downtown where we dreamed about enrolling in college. Just a thought of those fortunes tickled our bones and the muscles to the hilt. But those were just a dream. After all, the wholistic education that the Ignatian university offered was and is still beyond every aspiring probinsyano's dream. The best we could afford was a "hole-istic" kind of education offered beyond the confines of that walled haven. There, outside the walled haven the world is much, much larger, much stranger, more cruel and brutally real where sinners and saints don't make any difference and where hunger pangs make the rules.
Graduation time was painful especially for those who have built solid friendship only to be broken by virtue of forced separation for a better, some say higher, cause. But it was a new beginning for the clumsy high school boys who wanted to become fine young men and make the difference. Leaving the stage for the last time after receiving the diploma presaged already the act of bidding farewell to your loved ones who would be seeing you less often that it was before. But life is a motion, a perpetual movement from one point to the other, regardless of its order as long as it is moving. Some move upward, some moved south. No ifs, no buts.
By mid-June, I was already late two weeks late for reporting to The Hill as new recruits were required to report earlier. As usual, it was all about money. We didn't have yet the money to pay for the boat ride because somebody who owed us had not paid yet. (No plane ride back then as it was too expensive). Finally, with less than a thousand pesos coupled with a dose of hope and determination to become a brother first and father later, I left for the big city.
It was not a smooth ride. I was stranded in the Visayas for a week and had to subsist on DSWD-supplied packed meal consisting of rice and hotdog that was too hard and whose taste I could not even remember anymore. When the storm subsided, the boat sailed with a passenger load good for three (3) trips! Before reaching the big city, I had the one of the most memorable boat-ride memories of my life. Wait! This is not about hitching a colegiala aboard, or having a three-some or what-have-you. The boat had trouble maneuvering the gigantic waves in that shark-infested area famous for drowning ships especially on bad weather. Bad weather! That was it! I thought the boat I took being the largest in the country would not bother the waves but I was wrong, DARN WRONG. When it tilted to its left for about four long minutes, I felt it was already bound to the ocean floor. That set us into panic. Everybody was grabbing life jacket and I grabbed mine--two of them. I thought one jacket would not float me up so I grabbed two. But before anybody could jump overboard, we heard the captain's voice on the loudspeaker urging us panicked passengers to calm down. There was no order to abandon ship, okay?
On that memorable trip I met a marine graduate by the name of Albert, who I befriended while we were stranded in the Visayas. When we reached the big city, he offered me an extra room at their family home somewhere in Roxas District for the night. It was too late to travel to an aunt's place up north so I decided to stay. In the morning, the first thing I did after breakfast was to call the then beloved rector of The Hill, informing him that I made it to the big city, albeit late. No problemo, come iho mio to The Hill right away. I was touched. But of course, I was determined to come no matter what, remember?