My mother was quite a religious woman. She was raised up by her parents, especially my grandmother, to be a firm believer in the Catholic faith. Because of this, our family observed and practiced Catholicism. We would go to Mass every Sunday and on special occasions like birthdays and Christmas. Me and my sisters were all baptized when we were infants, and our Mom taught us early on to believe in God and His ways, and how to pray. We’d spend a lot of time as a family doing Catholic traditions such as Visita Iglesia and praying the Rosary.
I guess it was because of her religiousness that a significant event happened to me. One day when I was really young, about pre-school age, my mom happened to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Immediately, almost as if it was an instinct, I replied to her that I wanted to become an astronaut, or a superhero. They were those ideas of occupations that were conceived through endless stretches of daydreaming, inspired by television shows like Justice League or space expedition documentaries on National Geographic. I knew even then that they weren’t practical or logical because the chances of those actually happening to me were close to zero. They were just ideas for my young mind to play around with. I knew they weren’t “real” jobs, that I could land. Besides, I thought, I wouldn’t make any money in the superhero business.
One time, my mom expressed, implicitly, her desire for me to become a priest. I think it was after we went to mass, when we got home and were having dinner. She said something along the lines of, “It would be nice to have a priest for a son.” When I asked her how come, she replied something about plenary indulgence, holiness, and security, and a whole lot of other things I didn’t, and couldn’t understand at the time. Not only were they quite unusual things for me to hear, especially at the age of seven-ish, but from what I heard from her, I knew that a part of my mom wanted me to pursue priesthood. And so I thought that it would actually be all right with me if I did.
I actually kind of believed that I really wanted to become a priest for a while. I was a really obedient kid, and I thought that following my mom’s wish would make me a good son. I thought I was repaying her, in a way, for all the years that she spent taking care of and all the years to come that she would take care of me, by wanting to become a priest. It was my form of gratitude to her for her love. My mom said to me that she’d be happy as long as I was happy and secure with what I was doing with my life, whatever my job was, just as long as I made sure that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. But I still persisted at that time. I said that I wanted to become a priest, and I tried to stand by it.
But I knew that I really didn’t want to pursue a career path in priesthood. Priesthood was a calling, and I wasn’t being called, for whatever reason God had. I think I was meant for something else. The problem was, I didn’t really know what I wanted to become. Still, I continued upholding my “fake” desire to become a priest, mainly because I didn’t know what I wanted to be yet, and also because I still believed in fulfilling my mother’s wishes. I still wanted so badly to want to become a priest, even if I knew that it wasn’t really for me. I was thinking that my doubts for becoming a priest were just temporary, that it was just a phase that I went through and everything would straighten out eventually.
Eventually though, all this doubt was cleared. I soon discovered girls, and relationships, and all thought and “desire” to become a priest was thrown out the window. Eventually I talked to my mom and we cleared up that I didn’t really want to go into priesthood, and that I only said that I wanted to because I thought it was something she wanted. Fortunately, she was really happy for me, that I was following my heart instead of being dependent upon other people for my dreams. It was a huge relief for both me and her, but eventually it gave rise to a bigger problem. What did I want to become?
At that time after I confessed to my mom that I didn’t want to become a priest, when I was in grades four to six, I realized that I was a jack of all trades, but I was a master of none. I wasn’t exceptionally good at any of my subjects. I despised Math, which I didn’t get at all. I liked reading books but I was too lazy to write, so my output wasn’t that good. My performance in my Science subjects were average, and I was no good at my HELE classes. I was not athletic, and all the artistic prowess that I had when I was in preschool, drawing and painting, was lost once I got to Grade School. Around that time, my self-confidence was seemingly at an all time low. Like a bully once said to me in my fourth grade HELE class, I was a loser. I didn’t feel as if I’d amount to anything worthwhile at that time.
I felt like this for a long time, and at around the time that I was in Grade 6, I was getting desperate, seeing that a lot of my classmates and friends were all decided on what they were going to take in college. At that time, my sister graduated from Medical School, I figured I’d just become a doctor like my sister and hope for the best. It was a job that payed well, and I felt like I could survive the four years of Medical School. And just like before, I thought that I wanted to be something that I knew I didn’t want to become. I thought that I would actually enjoy being a doctor, but I knew that I wouldn’t. Medicine wasn’t really interesting to me, even if by that time I was becoming more adept in my Science classes, even enjoying them.
A big change came when I finally got to high school. It was then that I discovered my true passion: Writing. My laziness when it came to writing was lost when I first wrote about a topic that I was interested in. After that, I was hooked. I would write formal themes, essays and poems feverishly. I made friends who found writing as enjoyable as I did. I experienced that high that you get when you feel your hand hurt as you make your pen fly across the page, inking your thoughts, feelings, opinions, your identity into the words you write. I started becoming poetic, expressing my feelings in verses instead of just plain words. Writing also became my primary creative outlet, enabling me to regain that sense of artistry that I had when I was younger, painting my feelings with words.
I also discovered another passion of mine in high school. As a child, I would defend my occasional little wrongdoings. I always found a loophole or palusot as my mom called it, whenever I was accused of eating an extra cookie or accidentally breaking a vase. I didn’t realize then that I was actually using logical arguments for my case. But I did realize this once I got to Grade 8. It was in Geometry, specifically the logic and proving part, that I learned how to think outside of the box. Even outside the classroom, I started viewing every problem from different angles, considering the different solutions and their effectiveness. I brought this kind of thinking to my writing, as I loved writing essays about solving social problems. I wrote points that I learned to back up properly, and learned how to read between the lines when someone else was arguing against me. I learned how to think, and how to apply what I thought. I argued passionately, savoring victories and learning from defeats.
I knew then that I wasn’t for science. Science piqued my interest, but it didn’t satiate the thirst that I had for writing and arguing. Because of this, my friends said that I was perfect for law. Again, for the third time, I depended on other people for what I wanted to do. I knew that I liked writing and informal debate, but I didn’t know exactly what I felt about a career in law. That was at the time for college application forms, so I had to make a decision on what course I was going to take in college. Still thinking of pursuing a career in law, while fulfilling my passions for writing and arguing, I picked AB Philosophy, seeing as it was perfect for all these things that I wanted at the time.
When I got into college, I was already having doubts about law, mainly because I thought it wouldn’t be able to achieve some of my personal goals that I only recently established. My experience in UPIS, my high school, instilled in me a passionate sense of responsibility to and love for the nation. And I saw how broken the system was, how messed up our situation was. I saw how evident corruption was in our society, and how radically unequal the statuses of the different social classes were. It was like a cancer that was spreading, rotting the nation to its core, and I knew that it had to be destroyed. I was thinking of ways on how to change the way things were being run in the country.
I knew then that I wanted to spark a revolution, start a change in the way things were being run in our country. My gut told me that law was a noble path, but it wasn’t going to change a system that was already too corrupt. I needed to try a different approach to make a change.
I was having my doubts about Philosophy for the first month as well, thinking that I would be of no use when I graduated. I would only be fit for three professions, I thought, either a lawyer, priest or teacher. At the time, I thought that none of these professions would inspire any change among society. The impact would not be sufficient for a revolution. That was what I thought, that is, until I realized that I too, was inspired to be socially aware and start a change by my high school teachers. My sense of national pride and identity, my desire to make the system better, all of those had their inceptions in high school, because of my teachers. Even in college, in my Filipino 11 class, I was being taught to not be passive, to take a stand in our society and try to instigate a change. Being a professor would not be too bad, I thought. Teaching the generations after me about these values that I too was taught about would not only be noble, but it would spark that revolution that I wanted. I would set fire to the desires of the people who came after me to become “revolutionaries” themselves, just like what my teachers did to me.
Still, I wasn’t sure of this goal. Anything could happen, and becoming a teacher was only a possibility. I still wasn’t sure on how I was going to achieve my bigger goal of reforming the system. But then, I thought of what I would gain from studying Philosophy. The ability to think, I thought. The ability to adapt. The ability to be whatever I wanted to be. And I thought, I wanted a change to occur, a change for the better, but I didn’t know exactly how. Philosophy would enable me to know how. It would take me on a journey, both literal and metaphorical, to know how to achieve this change that I wanted. I would be able to explore, and I wouldn’t be boxing myself into a specific category, especially since I was taking an AB course. Philosophy would pave a way for me to achieving what I wanted to achieve. And this time I wasn’t fooling anybody, not even myself.
And now here I am, enjoying every bit of this journey that I’ve undertaken, however hellish it may be at times. I know that everything was, and will be worth it. All my indecisions, my doubts, my confusion, has amounted to something. I finally knew what I wanted to achieve, and stood up for what I believed in. I was no longer a confused little boy, leaving important decisions and desires to other people, ceasing to think for himself. I achieved independence, got inspired, and at the very least tried to inspire others as well. I was no longer the loser that got bullied in HELE class because I knew what I wanted to become: I wanted to become a winner. I knew I wasn’t a winner just yet, but I knew that I was giving it my best shot, and I was on my way to become one.