On a sunny July day in Los Angeles, California about a hundred alumni and eighteen teachers converged on the Aloha Adult Day Health Center. They came from the states of California, Washington, New Jersey, Hawaii, Arizona and New York and from the district of Wasthington D.C. One former teacher and several alumni came from as far as the Philippines to celebrate and mark the first grand reunion for LSQC alumni in the United States.
It is said that all great things start out small. It is true even for this event. The guest of honor was Father Rector Troy de los Santos who served as the rector of LSQC from 1971 to 1979. Father Troy is a member of the Capuchin Order, one of three Franciscan orders. The celebratory grand reunion event started thirty-four years ago when Father Troy was appointed as the first Filipino Rector of LSQC. Thirty odd years later, at the age of sixty-two, Father Troy looked very much as he did when he led LSQC in the 1970's.
As a child, I was in awe of "Father Troy" even though I did not know what "rector" meant. I remember, however, having to confess my sins to Father Troy during the last years of my elementary schooling. He had to listen to more than six classes of adolescent boys confess adolescent sins on a sunny morning. I remember his tired eyes, his monotone voice and his head bobbing as he listened to one embarassed adolescent after another. I still wonder... was that a slight smile when he told me to pray one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and one Glory Be to alleviate the weight of my sins?
Perhaps, because I myself am removed more than twenty years from LSQC, I can now see the humor, the humility, and the humanity of Father Troy. He began his homily with "Kung sino ang walang kasalanan, magtaas ng kamay." Of course, no one raised their hand. But the question had set the tone for the celebration. We are not in the grand reunion to simply reminisce and talk about the good old days. We are in the grand reunion to reflect on our life. Specifically, Father Troy expressed his desire for the celebrants to examine their life in the context of the story about the Dead Sea.
There are three seas in the areas of Ancient Israel. The Dead Sea is the largest of the lakes but contains such a high salinity that nothing lives in it. The seas of Galilee and Semechonitis send water to the Dead Sea. However, the seas of Galilee and Semechonitis have abundant life in the form of animals and plants. While the Galilee and Semechonitis gives, the Dead Sea only takes. In the giving, the sea of Galilee and Semechonitis are blessed. In only taking, the Dead Sea is mired in rut.
Father Troy said, "Biniyayaan kayo ng Diyos na makarating sa Amerika. Nakaangat kayo mula sa hirap. Ngayon, iangat ninyo ang hindi pa nakaka-angat." Father Troy closed his homily with "Don't tell me about your plans to help. Go out there and do it." To further emphasize his point, in the part of the Mass where the celebrants wish each other "Peace be with you," Father Troy instead asked us to say "Kaibigan, walang iwanan."
Later in the evening, Father Troy made a speech. He recounted a little history of the school and the story of how he became a rector. Father Troy admitted to making mistakes while rector of LSQC. But he also mentioned that he planted seeds in his nine years as rector. The seeds of thirty years ago have now matured into the alumni who now have a chance to help the poor and the needy. In nine short years, one man who made a difference became a hundred individuals who can affect change in the world.
"Sino ba naman ako? Ako ay nagtanim lamang."
Father Troy de los Santos