Inspired and Blessed by Bob Acebedo
Inspired & Blessed

Going home to my alma mater seminary

Part 1

Mar 8, 2023, 12:13 AM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo


Sometime early last year, I had the chance of visiting – with the intent of introducing my book – my alma mater, Sacred Heart Seminary, in Palo, Leyte where I spent eight solid years of my prime youth, high school and college.

Together with OpinYon publisher and fellow pais alumnus, Ray Junia, we were scheduled for a meeting with Fr. Manny Baybay, the youthful seminary rector.

As we entered the seminary campus, some 12 kilometers from Tacloban City, I felt at once a nostalgic surge, being transported back in time some four decades ago. The seminary buildings, though having been rehabilitated or refurbished after Typhoon Yolanda, still conspicuously exuded their hallow character.

In a short while after having some coffee with Fr. Manny, he toured us through the halls and corridors, the Chapel, classrooms and dormitories, and a rather sacrosanct silence enveloped the whole place as seminarians were not around and were yet spending their pandemic vacation.

As Fr. Manny showed us “this and that” or every nook and niche of the seminary, a crown of memories suddenly swarmed upon me, prompting me to quip, “Wow! I’m back to the ‘scene of the old crime!’ (to use the phrase of our former seminary rector and now Bishop Emeritus Filomeno Bactol).

At once, I felt I can’t resist recalling some unforgettable stories of “puerile infractions” back in our old seminary days that have not slipped from our memory until now.

There was, for example, which I can’t avoid having a good laugh every time it pops into my mind, the story of my contemporary, seminarian Rudy (not his real name).

Obviously, among other “thou shalt nots” in the seminary, alcoholic beverages were a no-no for us back then. But, out of puerile adventurism, seminarians would always find a way beating around this rule. During our time, we were allowed to fetch hot water from the kitchen on a thermos and bring it to our dormitory to make a cup of milk or chocolate drink before sleeping in the evening.

The story goes that Rudy, my senior contemporary, tried to sneak into his thermos tumbler, instead of hot water, some Rhum (alcoholic drink) and bring the same to the dormitory. However, on his way to the dorm, Rudy was approached by our Father Rector (apparently tipped off about Rudy’s illicit stuff) and was asked, “What is it in your thermos?”

“Hot water, Father, for my choco-milk,” Rudy answered. Father Rector further insisted, “Can I taste it” – and voila, Father Rector found out the real content of the thermos.

But Rudy quickly retorted, “Oh Father, It’s a miracle! A while ago it was hot water, now it’s wine!”

Hahaha, this delightful story, contrived or not, keeps reverberating even to this day.

Then, there’s also the undying legend of “turubakon” – the generic name given by seminarians for “eatables,” especially those that did not come from the seminary’s cookhouse.

According to the seminary rules, we were not allowed to store food – be it canned goods or cookies brought by loved ones – by ourselves, but we were bound to deposit them with the Father Prefect.

But, as the case during our time, the meals almost always seemed terribly lacking – e.g. a viand of three pieces of fish, or “three kings” as we called it, for 6 seminarians in a table; or paltry slices of mostly fatty meat that we dubbed “eraser.” For snacks, we each received just a little piece of bread, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, every day.

So, infraction as it was, most of us “smuggled” in our “turubakons” and kept them in our clothing cabinets to eat as we please, preferably in the evening after lights are off – otherwise, they get stolen first by the naughtier ones.

Indeed, there’s no dearth of delightful vignettes of “puerile infractions” from the hallowed walls of my alma mater seminary – the “scene of the old crime.”

Whilst, what happened more during my visit last year to my alma mater seminary? It will be tackled in Part 2 of this piece in my next column.

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