I entered Antioch with no expectations whatsoever except for the fact that I was scared to death at the thought they were going to beat or haze us (in my defense I’ve heard things about Days with The Lord so, yeah). For the very first time, when people talked about God and their strong beliefs towards their religion I decided to listen with an open mind and an open heart. As I was telling the friends I’ve made in Antioch, the experience for me in a single word would be: AMAZING.
I have never experienced anything as real as I did in that weekend. Going into Antioch, I was confused and I had a lot of doubts with things I’ve been dealing with in my life recently. Things at home and at school were on a downward spiral for me which wasn’t something I was really used to growing up. As I told those who attended the mass, it was when my roommate and my sister listened to me and both of them told me to pray to God for guidance and strength. It frustrated me because I didn’t understand what that meant because I never really felt a “connection” with God growing up and I never really prayed unless I needed or wanted something. The next day, my friend, Kat Aldaba asked if I wanted to sign up for Antioch. I immediately said no because spiritual retreats weren’t something I was into. But then I remembered my roommate and my sister telling me about praying to God and decided to give the whole Antioch thing a shot. What did I have to lose anyway, right? I was lucky enough that the head that Kat talked to allowed me to enter just a few hours before closing the slots – I got the last slot, woohoo! Lucky me!
There are a lot of wonderful things that happened during the weekend but I’ll only talk about three since I’d need a whole book to write everything. The biggest dilemma I had going into Antioch was whether or not Theater was the right course for me. Medicine has always been something I loved and also grew to hate. I was raised in a family of doctors who all studied in UST so you can put together the struggle when I say the course I took was Theater Arts in Ateneo de Manila University. I’ve always been very passionate about Medicine but the pressures my dad gave me became too much for me to handle so I decided to choose the course I wouldn’t feel suffocated in. Bad move though because I didn’t feel 100% happy. So going back to Antioch, the first talk was given by Radito Banzon, who may I add could have talked about a million other things but no – he talked about his future: Medicine. At first I was thinking it was a sign. Then I thought “No. That’s creepy. You’re over thinking.”
The second incident was the night of recon. In one of the stations I stayed at was the one involving forgiveness. The notebook with bible passages said Jesus forgave those who betrayed him and died for their sins. Now, I’ve lost friends through time because of different reasons and one being due to trust issues. One particular friend of mine, who was very close to my heart, broke our friendship because she went behind my back and did things with the guy I was dating at the time. It may seem like such a silly predicament and such a “babaw” problem but for me, betrayal is betrayal. It hurt me more than I expected, I felt like I had been slapped and laughed at by my then best friend. I didn’t understand why people did bad things to hurt me when I for one am someone who loves and loves with my whole heart. I hadn’t spoken to her for months since and there was always a sadness whenever I saw her or heard her name. So during my recon, I asked God to tell me what to do. I kept asking for a sign because I didn’t know whether or not I should forgive her for doing something so hurtful or to just remove her from my life completely. I finished confession and the entire process, still no sign.
When I went home with my sleep group, I felt exhausted and began to come to the conclusion that sometimes God doesn’t answer everything and it’s okay because he has more important things to deal with. So as I’m about to pass out, Issa Barte tells us candidates she has something to tell us. It seemed pretty serious so I was afraid but at the same time it annoyed me because I really wanted to sleep. She told us she had to give us something and we checked under our pillows and I found an envelop with my name on it. I didn’t understand what it was and as I opened it, I pulled out one of the many different colored pieces of papers and there I read my very first palanca. I literally started crying because I was in complete shock (also because I didn’t know what a palanca was). It was from HER, the friend. I also didn’t expect to receive anything from her since she was in Europe for JTA. The very first thing she said in her letter was: “I’m sorry. I know what I did was unforgivable and even if you decide to forgive me I know it is impossible to ever forget.” Now you may think it’s purely coincidence and it may be, but that is some crazy luck. And the thing is, it didn’t feel like coincidence. It really did feel like an answer.