>Of Scythes and Bahaw

>I hate Saturdays. I hate it especially when the assigned task is to cut grasses under the scourging heat of the sun. Curse those grasses who have nothing to do except to grow taller and be trimmed by seminarians and to grow again a few weeks after.

The process is already a cycle – a part of formation of any seminarian enrolled under the banner of St. Francis de Sales Seminary. You will never be a “true blue Anakiko” if you have not experienced cutting grasses within the confines of the seminary. Well. I have learned in our discussion in Philosophy of Man that the perfection of these green creatures is to grow – so nothing can stop them from growing taller and taller and creating a menace for seminarians like me for as long as their roots are still intact and planted in our fertile soil. In this case, it is but necessary to use our scythes to trim those grasses – and somehow add beauty to our compound. With this, I can say that literally, the grass is always greener at our Institution.

Oh, those scythes. Perhaps, aside from our textbook History of Philosophy by Fr. Frederick Copleston, this is a must have paraphernalia in the institution. For a better performance and result in cutting grasses, the Seminary Fathers provided us a quality 200 peso-worth scythe – the “super scythe” as what we call it. Well, the price is worth the result. It gives us the precision and accuracy in cutting those grasses. The blade is sharper than my previous scythe.

They have made a good choice in choosing a sharper blade – except that some of them were already detached from their handle after a few swings.

But the performance of this scythe will still depend on me. This scythe – as a non-living being – will not move by itself. It has no self-operation. It will not cut grass by itself. Its action is transient – it needs an agent to act upon itself (the patient). It needs the voluntary movement of my arm and hand for it to cut the grass. It needs an excellent, if not perfect combination of the swing of my arms, the force of the action, and a precise aim to cut the grass thoroughly. This is the great peculiarity between living and non-living beings: living beings are capable of self-operation while non-living beings are not.

Ironically speaking, there are times that I am “degrading” myself into a non-living being. I need to be “moved” by another, by an agent, before I act. Pressures, authority, deadliest deadline, name it. My reasoning? It is not a matter of life and death anyway and I will not gain great profit from that thing. I do not have a sense of initiative. Pathetic.

But don’t get me wrong. Saturdays are not always a hell-on-earth experience for those seminarians who are not born to be inclined in manual work – like me.

I love Saturdays because of the so-called “heavy merienda.” Define heavy merienda in the seminary parlance. A bun with peanut butter and orange juice is enough to relieve our hunger brought by morning’s work. It is but a variation from our usual everyday snack like Happy House, Spanish bread, Wafer Time, Coco Ube and all their relatives to the farthest degree.

I love to eat – isn’t it obvious in my figure? But that love (or lust) for eating almost led me to a misconception in life – as a seminarian and as a growing young man.

It was January 23, 2002, a day before the feast of St. Francis de Sales, our patron. I was a freshman then in the minor seminary. We’ve just arrived from the college seminary after watching the Actus Academicus I entitled “Baril o Kaligtasan.” After our night prayers, I decided to pass by the refectory to drink water before retiring to bed.

It happened that there are a number of seminarians devouring the “presbyteral leftovers” – the leftover dinner of the priests. Without a second thought in my mind and without taking into consideration that it is one of the heinous crimes in the seminary, I joined them and feasted on the food. Well, the reason is obvious. We are hungry and their food is much better than our food (talk about hierarchy and disparity).

I was about to sleep when someone told me that I was called by Fr. Raul Martinez, the rector, in his room. I found out later that after I left the refectory, one of our partners in crime was caught by the kitchen staff and instead of suffering the consequences alone, he pinpointed all the seminarians involved in the “bahaw sessions.” The rector gave us a heart-piercing and ego-crushing admonition. Before leaving his room, he left us with these words that I can still remember up to this day – “Man eats to live but he does not live in order to eat.”

Some may judge that our snacks here in the seminary are not as good as those typical snacks of the college students outside. Well, they may have a point. But what gives the “real taste” for our heavy merienda, the stereotypical one-peso bread, and all our food here in the seminary (yes, including the dreaded rubber-turned-liver) is neither the ingredient nor the food preparation.

It is the experience of eating with your brother-seminarian over a good story or horsing around about a funny experience. Based on my experience, the food – no matter how good it is – would taste different if you eat it by yourself. After all, the purpose of rating is to celebrate life. It is but necessary to share what we have with others. If you are eating in order to fill up your hungriness and the empty spaces in you, then you are not different from an irrational animal.

I have my “super scythe.” I learned something from eating bahaw. I am a man endowed with intellect. I am not an irrational animal. I am thankful.

This article was written on July 31, 2007, 1:50 PM, as a requirement for the subject Philosophy of Man when I was still in the College Seminary.
I have decided to post and share this article, together with my other Philosophy papers in order for you to have a glimpse of the “practicality” of Philosophy and to share my insights when I was still inside the institution.
I believe that philosophy, despite of being called impractical and a “boring subject”, is the key on answering the timeless inquiry of man about life and a great tool for having a meaningful and reflected life.

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