At UIC, we were granted yearly religious retreats.
While teachers take a break off from their classes, we spend every day in summer supposed to go to work. So such retreats come as a good break from the daily grind in the office. Although the idea of retreats is not new to me — I spent five years in the university exposed to this kind of recollections — such announcements are often greeted with excitement. Not only we get a few day’s break from work with pay, we also get to travel all-expense paid for by our employer.
Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that non-teaching personnel behave like students when we’re out there. Everybody knows everyone, and for some reason, I felt attached to everybody maybe because once in a while I come to offices and fix computers or teach staff how to use Office applications. (We at the Computer Center are quasi-members of the non-teaching group since we are also given teaching loads during the school year.)
In my three years in UIC, I had the chance to join two of such memorable company retreats. First was in Cebu, where we stayed at Betania Retreat House in Lahug. There about forty of us stayed for a couple of days, listen to teachings, and had the opportunity to do a reflection, something that’s ironically hard to come by even in a religious environment (a congregation of nuns runs UIC) because daily work is often overwhelming.
The following year, just before I left UIC, I was privileged to join the group for a trip to Guimaras, an enchanting place famous for the renowned Philippine mango. Yes, the best Philippine mangoes can be found in the province. The local government is so serious that no outside mangoes are allowed into the province to prevent contamination of its prized export-quality product.
Guimaras sunshine: on top of the ubiquitous jeepney somewhere in Nueva Valencia, with Jerry Flores and Noel Laud, 1999.
For once a year, we are all given a chance to occupy a moment of silence during these retreats. Even if it’s sandwiched between moments of excitement as we explore places we’ve never been to before. Those sober moments also allowed me to ponder what are my immediate plans. I’ve been with UIC for almost eight years. Five years as a student and remainder as an employee of the same university.
I felt stable at work, comfortable with tasks, and earn a decent wage. But every time I see my college classmates arrive from work abroad and share their stories over pints of beer and expensive dishes they treat us, classmates, I get the urge to move on.
At the moment, we’ll have to enjoy this short break offered by the school. Our retreat house provided excellent facilities, but what impressed me, even more, is the seclusion of the place and the perfect landscape to meditate about life. After we concluded the retreat, the group headed from Guimaras to Iloilo, cutting through the interior of Panay island on our way to Malay, Aklan and Boracay. Joining us were faculty members of the Pharmacy department who may have come from another retreat. As we concluded our annual retreat, I wonder when can I revisit this place, as I always do as I leave an area that left me a great impression.
During the overland journey, I felt sick. Thankfully, Ma’am Jaranilla was kind enough to offer relief, so I was able to appreciate that brief visit to Boracay.