Faith, a Love Story

BY MARLA CABANBAN
Apr 25, 2011

What it is. And where we find it. A young blogger shares her story with theasiamag.

My education at the Ateneo de Manila University is usually one of the last pieces of information I put forward when I meet people for the first time these days. My tenure at Loyola Heights feels like a distant memory now and like most of my batchmates in their mid-20s, work and the next chapters after the academe became the chief matters that saunter in my head. From “What’s your course?” and “What year are in you in?” I transitioned into, “What do you do?”

I have a boyfriend who’s still finishing up his final units at Ateneo. When he gets home after those three-hour philosophy and theology classes, he would unload everything he learned on me and we would talk. We could spend hours going over ideas about social justice, mores, and meaning. I miss being in Ateneo the most when I remember the sort of discussions that had my classmates and myself raising our hands and speaking with our hearts. I don’t miss the apocalyptic oral exams and the turmoil I’d suffer in the hands of my teachers, but I miss their minds.

After a lifetime of friction with the Catholic (and eventually the Opus Dei) education system, I got introduced to the Jesuits of Ateneo. I was astounded with how these priests enjoyed parrying with their students on matters of the Church, God and existence. They were never afraid of lifting rocks and examining what’s underneath and they embraced exhausting every reasoning capacity you had before you surrender your faculties to faith.

I think it was at my last theology class that I received a prayer card with this prayer by Fr. Arrupe. I remember looking at it for a long time. I was so moved by what it said that I brought it to my desk at home, and stuck it up on the wall beside my postcards and pictures.

 

Illustration by Marla Cabanban

 

At that time, I wasn’t thinking about God. I was and am an Agnostic (a Theist, to be exact) and when I brought home the prayer card, I thought about my art. It was a time when I was agonising about what I wanted to do after graduation and what I wanted to devote the rest of my life to. For some reason or another, I decided that my art will be my compass and my source of pride, joy, and strength. I was coming off from experiences with religion that have failed me and I was searching for something to orient me again.

I refused the notion of God because I had been hurt. I thought my choice was an excellent one because it would honour my gifts and what I can give to the world. I was giving myself pats on the back for not picking a person to fall in love with because I was proud of my awareness about people, places, and things being transient and finite. I thought the prayer fit nicely and I haven’t thought about it since then.

I was coming off from experiences with religion that have failed me.

Years later, I got around to thinking about God again. It took a heart-to-heart conversation with my boyfriend in his car when we got home after a party. I broke down crying when I described to him what made me pull away from the Catholic Church and organised religion entirely. I had always ranted and displayed my defiance, but never did I ever level with anyone about the alienation and confusion I was feeling.

That was the very first time that wall got knocked down and I slowly began letting people in. I was reading and dialoguing about faith, and from there, I remembered falling in love and what it really meant. My life in between tacking up that card and creating this poster was aimless. I chose to serve art, but really, I was serving myself.

I still don’t have any religious affiliation but I realised that I needed the infinite. I wanted the infinite in my life and I decided to throw myself into that instead, not art, not philosophy. I woke myself to that fact that it’s all about my own relationship with that vastness that nurtures the best in me, humbles me, keeps me in check, and moves me to love. I can even call it whatever I want, and to me, infinity was the notion that sat the best.

“Fall In Love” is one of my favorite prayers and laying it out in my own way allowed for me to probe it in a way that wasn’t there before. I think I’ll always be grateful to Ateneo for this prayer. I don’t know where I’m headed with falling in love in a quite absolute, final way, but my heart is open and my head is willing – and so is my art.

 

This post was originally published in New Slang in April 2011.