He was excited to drive me all the way to the main town. Normally, it is difficult to get him to put his work down and do other tasks. But that afternoon, I remember him getting dressed up early and was even checking on me to make sure I was prepared as well.
On the way to Ilagan, my father was talking to me about church and the bible, and how we as a family pray together every day. I nodded and tried to smile as I let him talk. I am not used to two-way talks with my father, so being in the car with him even then was an awkward experience, especially that he did most of the talking and I wasn’t sure how to respond or react. He was driving me to the main offices of the Diocese of Ilagan, where I was going to spend the night and the next day for a screening process for admission to the seminary, for priesthood. My parents always wanted one of their sons to become a priest. For some time in my life, I also thought I wanted to be one, and so I went and joined other young men from the province in this screening.
In what appears to be the best advice I have ever received, the priest who interviewed me the next day talked to me about choices in life and how small decisions such as what I was about to make would change the trajectory of my future. By this time, I was already admitted to attend the University of the Philippines as a freshman. I told him about it and his response was, “This university offer only comes once in a lifetime. You give it up now and you will never have another chance to attend the country’s top university. If priesthood is really for you, you can always become one even when you’re older. Go live life and find out who you want to be.”
I completed the rest of the screening process knowing what I wanted to do. There was an essay and written examination that allowed me to capture what I was thinking and feeling at the time. I told my parents that I didn’t need to be picked up. I decided to take the bus back home, looked out the window and reflected on the impact of my freshly-made decision. For the first time, I felt like a grown-up, empowered and independent ready to face the world.