By Thelmo R. Iñigo
It was the peak of my life. I have a happy family of four children, an ideal wife, and a promising career. My position in a construction company was gaining momentum. My boss was at his best, brilliant and always raring to go.
Other companies dare not step on our way when we want a project. Our bidding estimates were quite magical; satisfactory to our clients but a pain in the neck for our competitors. We are absolutely unbeaten on our chosen field.
But accompanying those feats were shadows of vices that had been always identified with our profession. You see, an engineer had been branded a notorious drunkard, a vicious womanizer, and a masochist pig. A nightly binge of drinking, constant visits to the houses of whores, and other worldly vices had accompanied the day-to-day rhythms of my job. We must unwind, they would say. Our job is rigorous and we must wake up another day a renewed warrior.
My boss had also fallen prey to them. The raking of fortune did not always pay dividends, yet oftentimes result to further desire of obtaining more luxuries only money can buy. A simple desire became a minor greed, at length turning into voracious lust no man could ever understand. Alexander the Great once cried realizing he had very little time to conquer more lands, and history would not lie on what had become of him.
My boss obtained for himself another woman, and siphoned almost the company’s profit at the height of his philandering. Thus, began the onset of my gloomy days. A Wuthering Heights looms on the further side of the horizon that, at times, coming home to my family, I imagine my children to be helpless and devoid of luxuries my profession could offer.
Anyway, those nightmares and times of scarcity had given me the chance to reminisce, and the stupid box, a not-so-costly luxury is always at my side then. The numbers of our projects had dramatically dwindled that I was awakened one day to be on vacation along with my family.
My mother-in-law was the first in the household to discover Bro. Eli, the onset of her interest, I could not remember and she has already passed away. The TV channel featuring the preacher was on Channel 9 at 4:00 p.m. when busy workers are still rushing home from their day-to-day grind.
The program, at first glance, is mediocre, featuring a not-so-famous pastor belonging to other groups of Christ’s vicar pretending to be knowledgeable with the word of God, and the Bible which I thought was a book always maligned by persons who are supposed to defend its tenet and implement its norms.
When I was still a college student, I was a campus journalist and event attained the highest position of being the editor-in-chief. I was very popular then that almost all organizations seek my write ups to boost their place on campus. And that means all groups, whether legal or illegal.
Those were 70s and martial law still reared its ugly head, fascism threatened to roam the streets, and the armed communists huddled in the hills but cast their shadows on minds of ambitious students seeking radical changes. I was one of those ambitious ones. My friend architect once told me he had also became one and laughed matter-of-factly.
“I was an activist during my college days. You see, that was normal for my age. But after some time, you already have your own family and landed a good job and still act as one; that is weird stuff; an abnormality at its best.”
And how the communist did take an eye on me as a potential writer, it might have been my style of writing. I could not explain, but it had been my reference of writing critically even at the point of using satirical genres to satisfy my seemingly boyish delight. It is as if an unknown hatred is burning in my heart that every time my pen moves, it discloses struggle, strife, even ghastly deaths that my editor colleague then, left a tingling on their spine when they read my manuscripts.
It so happened that I was their best bet in essays, that they did not take it so seriously. Not until one lady editor approached me one day and proposed something: “Why not join our club? I am a member of the Born Again Movement. The Word of God might change your style of writing, and will take you on the lighter side of things.”
And so, one afternoon, I obliged to her request.
The venue was just an ordinary classroom. There were at least twenty students when I entered the door. My editor colleague introduced me to them as I heard “oohs” and “aahs” emanating from the air.
After exchanging pleasantries, the gathering began. They sang like mindless children. They also danced like mindless children. They are the Children of God, they say, and singing and dancing are what they intend to do here on earth, even on the afterlife. And they have Bibles with them, each one of them. I was sort of frightened seeing those books in one place as if the end of the world had come, and godly knowledge was needed for salvation.
As a 10- year old child, I served as an acolyte in the Aglipayan church. Those were the days when I first took sight of a Bible. The book then was placed in the dusty altar, the pages brown with age. At one time I turned the pages and accidentally read a verse teaching the faithful not to use repetitive words in praying. I was astounded. The priest was doing his prayers in opposite…
Anyway, my editor colleague stood up and spoke at a makeshift pulpit. The classroom formerly brewing with engineering mayhem, and puzzling technical formulas turned into a temple emanating with verses from the Bible. Awkwardly, I felt an eerie feeling when she read aloud some verses from the book. It’s a sort of unexplained repugnance that until today I cannot comprehend.
The name of Christ is uttered redundantly, monotonously, that in the end, I considered myself an atheist unable to grasp the sacrifices of the Christ. During my stint with the communists, I also read their manifestos, their tenets based on old forgotten lore of endless struggle at the cost of other lives.
“The power comes from the barrel of the gun.” Their norms were evil but satirically spoke of a Utopia that promises a good life for the oppressed just like the heaven evangelized by Christ.
I was puzzled. Am I some kind of moron who could not differentiate the teaching of evil from the word of God? Am I not His child? A mere sight of a Bible would kindle a sense of failure within me. The Word of God did not change my satirical writing style. It had further pushed me in an abyss I myself cannot fathom.
It took me a long time before Bro. Eli came. A total of twenty years I reckon. At first, I mistook him to be another trying hard minister copycat, but in the course of my listening, I began to grasp his messages, comprehend the Biblical verses he read, as if some kind of universe had opened before my eyes. I underwent indoctrination together with my wife when I was building the façade of a massive cathedral.
I was not able to complete the edifice. I don’t know, but an air of abhorrence between me and the Catholic honchos began to exist after I was baptized. I am gratified, however, about that. That was the first sign of me being a son of God.
I was terminated from my job. The work of erecting the altar, the catacombs underneath the floor, and the massive dome to team up with the artistic belfry I built, was relegated to another engineer. My profession literally died down. I am an engineer no more.
During the course of our indoctrination, the brethren in the Church usually talked of travelling in the universe and described the structure of heaven as if they had already have gone there. They were some sort, to me at first, a group of imbeciles talking of nonsense alien to men. But when Bro. Eli comes up with discussions tackling teaching and wisdom way beyond the universe, my insights changed.
I was convinced I found a group of unique people. In a way, their search for the truth had reached the spiritual level, from mortal to eternal.
My four children – my eldest is a girl, the remaining three are boys, are also members of the Church now. The elder two had already landed a job; the third does some menial ones while the youngest still studies. I was not able to work for the last three years now, but we, in the family, still manage to make both ends meet.
At times when my family and I attend Church activities – anyway my boys are all members of the division choir – I remember the years when I was at the peak of my career.
God’s work is truly puzzling. He had relegated me to a low category – in preparation for a more gratifying world in the future.
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