When a high school classmate sent me a text message a while ago addressing himself as pastor, I knew it was he. It reminded me of my atrophied spirituality, which is a totally different story.
He was already evangelist-like and pious even when we were in high school, so it did not anymore surprise me that he went on and becomes a full-fledged gatherer of the flock.
I remember him to be the only student in campus then who had enough guts to challenge me for the post of president of our high school student government. Many thought I would run and win uncontested. I won albeit narrowly; I got 20 votes more. That election was one of the stiffest in my school’s history. He got the majority of the votes from second, third, and fourth year students. But my stronghold was the solid votes from the most numerous (and gullible) freshmen who gave their confidence on me because I was more popular and a consistent head of my class academically.
He was more responsible, more dependable, and in my opinion, more able in performing the duties plus he has the character fit for the post. That time I was already the corps commander of our CAT and the editor in chief of the student publication; I did not need additional responsibilities. The responsibilities of being the president of the student body organization did not help to make me a better leader; I was more of a stressed and burned out leader.
Reden Casinillo, I knew then, was better suited for the job, but I was too proud to admit this then. Resignation was unheard of during my time.
We were not close. We belonged to a different circle of friends. The people he went with are those whom I silently branded as too morally clean to be my friends. Not that I was morally contaminated.
When you are young, the world is simpler, and simplifying things using a rudimentary scheme is more convenient. Save for some congenial smiles and compulsory interactions because we were classmates, we graduated from high school as strangers to each other.
He took his baccalaureate in evangelical studies from a Baptist seminary in Jaro, Iloilo City. I only learned about this when I was already in my second year in UP Visayas Miagao, roughly 40 kilometers away from Iloilo City. During that time, whenever I had free time during the weekends, I go to Iloilo City to stay with my relatives in Sambag then I would take my bike from the place I was staying to his school to pay him a visit. We exchanged stories about our individual struggles as students.
He has this natural lightness in the way he speaks that is infectious. I didn’t expect him to understand my academic concerns but his simplicity of words and thoughts allowed me to dislodge, although not in a dramatic way, my teenage angst. He was older than I by around two or three years, so I look up to him as my older brother.
One time, he asked me to listen to a short talk with their senior pastor. He said 20 minutes was all it would take. Trying to sound hesitant but not wanting to refuse his sincere offer, I gave in not because of the words from his pastor which I already heard countless of times but because of Reden’s too serious-in-a-funny-way of pleading is more convincing than an admonishing from Jed Mabilog to stay away from drugs. I realized he was always like that even during high school.
So I sat there acting as if I was listening attentively. As anticipated, the pastor capped his interpretation of the gospel with the staple “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and savior?” I was at the height of my rebellion against organized religion that time, and I regretted having said yes to Reden’s prodding only to insult his senior pastor in front of him. I replied, “This is a very important decision, so please let me think about it. I have no definite response as of the moment”. The pastor was dumbfounded having not prepared himself for such a response.
I said I was sorry for what happened after that. He gave me a smile and said it was okay, and quipped “God can wait.”
I am happy hearing news about former classmates, who like mules with steady strides, slowly but confidently go after what they’ve really been wanting to do ever since we started having talks of when-I-grow-up-I-want-to-be. I, on the other hand, seemed to be caught in a standstill.
And this surprise text message from Reden who mysteriously got my number from an undisclosed source simply means I have not totally cut my connection with my high school classmates.
He added that he’s gatting married. I asked if it’s with Melanie, another classmate of ours who also took up evangelical studies from the same school. He said “No, not with Nene Melanie”. His use of “nene”, a patronizing Illonggo name of endearment was funny for me. “With Jerusalem, you remember her?”
How could I forget; she was his shy girlfriend that time.The only one he had all this time.