On Il y a, Finding Your Kahulugan, and Being an Atenean

I dread the thought of people leaving. Being a really shy person, once I get attached to a person there’s no turning back. But the thing is, it is inevitable for people to leave me, to start going separate ways because we all grow up. But even if I do deny it, it still takes a toll on me as a person, because it reduces me to being someone afraid to take the leap, afraid to step out of my comfort zone for others. I become complacent.

Pero sabi nga ni Fr. Ferriols, “lundagin mo beybeh.”

I entered the Ateneo hearing these words during my Orientation Seminar with the theme Lundag. It was quite mind-boggling at first, struggling to learn the culture of the Ateneo with a part of me also wanting to shift because I couldn’t really find a reason why I chose my course. What was it to be truly an Atenean? What is my kahulugan?

Maybe the turning point to this story is my second year in college, when I started opening myself to opportunities despite my fear of people leaving. I joined organizations, met new friends, even challenged myself to become part of the Junior Term Abroad (JTA) program. I joined Ateneo Gabay in my first year but only took my chances and became active in my second year. Being a deputy for a specific office and being part of a flagship project of the organization, the Gabay Erya Formation Program (GEFP), or Erya, was yet the biggest step I took into finding my kahulugan. I wanted to discover what it meant to be a person for and with others, and I may have not fully grasped it yet, but it’s going there. I was going out of the Il y a.

Levinas’ law of the personal Other brings me back to this experience of Erya where I taught grade 6 kids from public elementary schools Math and English. I remember one kid I taught, his name was Kyro. Kyro was a bright kid, naughty at times but quiet during our lessons. Despite him being quiet, he was eager to learn and asked questions about the discussion. Most of the time though, he already knew and understood the lesson even faster than his classmates. I last saw him on April 8, during our Erya Graduation, and asked him where he was going for high school. Never did I ever think that that would be the last time I would see him.

Kyro died last April 26, but my responsibility for the Other continues to live with my memory of him. As Dr. Garcia said, every face comes the command and the appeal to take care of the face, and Kyro is one of the faces I encounter everyday. Being responsible for the other, I learned, is not a one time big time task, but it is an endless choice and obligation.

Second year was the start of my paglundag. Maybe I have no crystal clear definition of what my kahulugan is for now, but I know that embodying the Atenean, embodying the I for the personal Other is what I ought to be. That I go out of myself for someone else, just like someone else went out of himself or herself for me. Ibig kong lumabas para sa iba, dahil may umibig na lumabas para sa akin.

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