Naaalala mo ba yung kaibigan ko na ikinuwento ko dito sa blog?Kung hindi mo nabasa ang article kung saan ko siya ikinuwento, malamang hindi mo siya maalala. Ikinuwento ko siya sa blog post ko na may title na “Ang Aking Kaibigan at ang Aming Pananampalataya”. Nakilala ko siya sa itinayo niyang bookclub na ang pangalan ay Pinoy Reads Pinoy Books. Bilang pagtatapos ng taong 2013, ikinuwento niya kung paano kami naging magkaibigan at kung anu-ano ang naging impluwensya ko sa kanya bilang kaibigan. Pero dahil nga mahilig magbasa ng libro, idinaan niya sa book review ang pagkukwento ng tungkol sa akin. Eto na:
by Tony Kriz, Wm. Paul Young (Foreword)
Doni Olivero’s review
MY 2013 YEAREND REVIEW
This book, Neighbors and Wise Men: Sacred Encounters in a Portland Pub and Other Unexpected Places is the last book that I finished reading this year, 2013. This is my 221st. I surpassed my 2013 Reading Challenge of 220 books. This number of books read is my lowest in 3 years. In 2011, I had 277 books and in 2012, 302. Still, I feel accomplished because there is a good reason for this low number:
I had the chance to strengthen my faith and relationship with God.
Since I joined Goodreads in March 2009 until the middle of this year, all I read were mostly fiction belonging to Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, Bloomsbury’s 501 Must Read Books, Pulitzer’s, Booker’s, etc. Then since the later part of last year, 2012, I also increased my target for reading local books because I founded my own book club, Pinoy Reads Pinoy Books to help push books written by Filipino authors. Then this year, 2013, I started reading literature about religion and this book was one of them.
Tony Kriz was fresh from college when he volunteered to go to a Muslim village in Albania as a Christian missionary. Having been raised by a religious parents, he was a young boy and he thought that there were only two kinds of people: believers (like him and his family) and non-believers. So, armed with that thought he was excited to go to Albania to spread the Word of God not expecting what he was up to: a lot of life-changing or view-changing experiences. This was during his 20’s.
Then on his 30’s, he taught at Reed College in Portland, raised a family and lived his life based on his religious beliefs and convictions. Here are those stories when he met people in a Portland pub. People who he did not think to have strong spiritual lives since they were there in bars enjoying booze. Unexpected, right? Because we all think that booze and religion do not mix. Booze and bars are not really evil but discussing religion in this right context would probably be best done inside the premises of a house of worship like a church, a conference room or even at home with religious congregation, groups, laymen or your bible-study group in them. Right? Not, always. Here is my case:
A 26-y/o friend whose name is Robertson Poblete was instrumental to my being “closer” to God again.
I used to be a prayerful person when I was still single. In fact, when I was in my first year in college (in 1985), I contemplated on entering a Catholic seminary so I asked my father’s permission but he objected saying that priests when they become old and senile in seminaries are sorry sights. Despite not being able to fulfill my desire to be a priest, I maintained my religiosity. I used to pray the rosary everyday, went to confession at least once a year and rarely missed my Sunday obligations (going to Mass, resting, etc). Then when I got married two decades ago (yes, my wife and I will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this Saturday, January 4, 2014), since my wife rarely prays the rosary and she does not believe in the importance of going to confession if she misses attending a mass or committing any grave sin, I became like her. I stopped praying the rosary because I would not want her to see me as the more religious parent to our daughter. You see, I had (and sometimes still have) this stupid belief that religion is only for “weak” people. Then I also stopped going to confession, reads the Bible only occasionally and, to be honest, Sunday Mass just became an obligation for me. At times, I was there inside the church but my mind was elsewhere. In short, for almost 20 years, I had a shallow relationship with God.
Then I founded Pinoy Reads Books on September 24, 2012 and after a couple of weeks, Robertson or to us his close friends,Berto, joined. What made him interested was his Tagalog religious blog that you can access by clicking his name above. I thought that it was unique as most of religious blogs I’d seen were written in English. When we finally met for the first time 3 months after, December 1, 2012, he neither strike me as a religious nor a spiritual person. He was too young and his easygoing stance made me not to take him seriously. During that day and on the succeeding times I saw him, he did not say anything religious nor did I remember him saying anything serious except when he warned me to stop texting while walking because my phone might be snatched away by thief. Worst of all, he even suggested to us guys in the group if we could have a drinking session: “inum naman tayo minsan.” You see, I had been attending book club meetups and discussions for two years prior to that day but I’d never met someone who proposed to have a drinking session on the first meeting day. “This guy is an alcoholic,” I said to myself but I was surprised and did not totally shun the idea. After all, I just formed a book club and I was determined to be open for diversity in our membership.
Berto was active in the group especially on its initial months. It was not hard to trust him. Once I asked him to be the van marshall for our field trip and he happily agreed to lead that group. I even trusted him the cash to pay for the van and I thought he could have run off with it and not show up again but he did not and that sealed my trust on him.
He became my constant companion in the group for two reasons: (1) he lives near, just a 10-minute drive, from home; and (2) he is still single so he could accompany me most of the time I needed somebody to be with. He is really fond of drinking alcoholic drinks, smoking tobacco (he prefers pipe and shisha over cigarettes), he sometimes swears, but he abhors sex outside of marriage and he consistently refuses to come with me to girly bars. The first time I asked why, he reasoned out that he was a religious person and I automatically thought it was a joke. So I kept on repeating my invitation which was more of a test to his seriousness rather than me wanting to go actually. Each time he refused until he introduced me to his girlfriend (who is also a devout practicing Catholic) who attested to the fact that Berto was really a religious person and like Tony Kriz has strong religious conviction to live his life according the God’s plan on him.
Our friendship has been tested by intrigues mainly due to the stark difference on age: 23. He is like a son, a nephew and not just a friend. There were many times when I also doubted if it was worth spending time with him so I devised all possible ways to find out his true identity: met his parents and relatives, went to his home on his birthday, met his girlfriend’s family, met his friends and tried to talk anything under the sun with him. Each time, each test, he passed.
I became a regular beer drinker this year, 2013 but lately I have been trying to also slow down. I tried smoking tobacco and shisha but lately I also began to stop. I think those vices will not help to further our friendship and I would rather stick to healthy habits like going to the gym with him rather than staying late at night at the bars. However, those times spent in bars drinking beer were mostly the times when I knew the true Berto. When tipsy or drunk, he has the tendency to speak his mind freely rather than when he is sober and guarded.
Some of our friends very easily and loosely say that Berto is a negative influence to me since I started regularly drinking beer and they sometimes see me smoking tobacco with him. However, as I said, I have began to stop those and Berto does not object. I’d rather focus on the positive influences that he had on me since we became friends: (1) after 19 years since I got married, he made me go to a priest and confess all my sins; (2) he made me go back to the habit of praying rosary everyday and so my wife now hears me murmuring my prayers on the early mornings before I get up from our bed; (3) I began to appreciate hearing the traditional Latin mass; (4) I finished a 13-Saturday Basic Apologetics class early this month. In it, we were taught how to defend the Catholic faith and came with that teaching were the basic facts about our Church history, beliefs, traditions, sacraments, dogmas, etc. Now I appreciate attending the Sunday mass like no other stage in my life; and (5) began buying and reading religious books to further my understanding of my faith and our religion.
They say that God works on mysterious ways and like the experience of Tony Kriz in the book, you don’t know if the person next to you would change your heart and strengthen your faith towards God. Like Berto, the guy next to you in a bar could be a positive influence that would make you closer to God. You just have to look passed his weaknesses like those vices and chances are, you will find a ray of light that can illumine your path back to God’s fold.
Tony Kriz was 41 when he wrote this book and its last pages brilliantly summarize the story of his relationship with his creator. In his 20’s he found that it was not about being a believer (Christian) and non-believer (non-Christian) and he learned to respect other religions. In his 30’s his faith was tested and so he became doubtful of his life’s direction until he found the “wise men” in a Portland pub and other unexpected places. At 41, as he fondly recalled those days, he decided to share his experiences to us through this book.
So at 49, I now fondly recall the days of 2013 when I discovered a true friend in Berto and so I decided to grant his request of sharing the story of our friendship through this yearend review.
Taken during one of those 13 Saturdays when we attended our Basic Apologetics Class. I am the one at the left and Berto at the right side. Last night, when I told him that I would tell the story of our friendship in this yearend review, I would call him “young man with an old soul.” He asked why? I said because you are fond of befriending men a lot older than you (like me). He said that was right; he prefers older friends as he thought he would learn a lot from them. I am not sure if he already learned anything from me. I think it was the other way around.
Berto, thanks for the friendship. You have my permission to re-post this on your blog. Hehe.