Today was the last day of our three-day-short national convention. It was sort of depressing to go through the whole day thinking it would be the last. I wanted the whole thing to last a little longer, but most of the other participants had obligations in the outside world to attend to. How can one pursue his/her search for truth when one doesn’t have the resources to go places? I would normally argue, “Come on, this just happens once-a-year,” but, then again, a day’s loss is a day’s loss. I can’t argue with that. I’m not one with the right things to say about how business could be treated in a lenient manner. Why am I even talking about business operations? I should be talking about my awesome experience.
Anyway, this final day was an absolute blast. Of course, we started with a meditation session. A normal person would consider an entire hour of “Auṃ Shanti” all the way such a boring experience, but not one who really knows its true significance. So many things go through one’s head upon getting off the road. It’s easier for some than others to forget about the heavy bumper-to-bumper Metro Manila traffic they had to endure or the depressing sight of poverty along the roadsides they passed by to get to 1 Iba Street. It’s a much-needed hour even for people who spent the night in the next block or for me who spent the night here.
At 9:00, we began loosely with the new national board elections, but that’s not interesting so I won’t delve into it. After which, we were asked to pick one of 12 social issues we could say something substantial about. To mention a few, there was education, peace-building, physical and psychological health, human rights, and religious “tolerance.” I chose the latter because it was something I had much to say about. In fact, I was the only one who chose it and since we were supposed to be grouped into teams with the same choice, I was merged with the peace-building people and we were also asked to pitch-in the topic of human rights since no one was picked it. I was adamant against using the term tolerance so I stressed on it at the outset. My rationalization is that tolerance is a character you develop towards something you don’t like. In a society so diverse, one would blow up if he/she simply tolerates other religions without any knowledge about them. I advocate religious understanding in place of simply tolerance.
I had a friend from the URI once. Her name was Lillian. She was a Roman Catholic religious sister who had been in the organization since its early years and she decided to leave it for a reason best described in how she stated it. She said, “I’m leaving because we are clearly only tolerating each other here.” That statement of hers meant that she did not truly grasp what the organization advocated. The URI’s aim is for grassroots to meet and understand each other’s beliefs and accept diversity. Even if you don’t accept things as your own, take the initiative to learn why other people do things differently and accept them for it. That’s the true meaning of religious understanding. I have been stressing these statements so many times already.
Of course, it isn’t the society’s fault—not even of the one who created that list. He/she was merely confused. Who knows? He probably thought that tolerance and understanding are essentially the same. Well, they aren’t. They are very different words. In fact, they are inverses of each other. That incident prompted me to suggest that the topic be discussed in next year’s convention by the right authority to talk about it. I’ll work on it when I get to the URI convention this Wednesday.
So let’s get back to the TS convention. I’ve strayed again. Of course, that divergence was necessary. After the group discussion, we presented a slideshow of our plenary steps towards achieving our collective goals related to the topic. The other groups presented, too. For the team who talked about education, the presenter was a teacher; for health, it was a doctor; and for our team, the presenter was a lawyer who advocated peace-building within the military. They were all authorities in their own right, but I was a little down that the topic on religious understanding wasn’t stressed on very much.
After everyone finished, Ate Cora, my fellow Bohol Lodge delegate had to leave. Her son had arranged for them to watch a ballet show that evening in Batangas so she left early to avoid traffic. The next seminar was to be conducted by Dr. Roselmo Doval-Santos about the convention’s main theme: Living the Spiritual Life as an Agent of Social Change. My first impression of this person was not quite good. He’s the type who aims to make everyone laugh with his antics. That type of behavior generally annoys me superficially so I didn’t vote for him to be elected into the board. That was a decision that later proved to be regretful since I was so inspired with his lecture. That served as a lesson for me to never judge people based on superficial observations. Of course, I was not worried whether or not he would win. I knew he would. I think I was the only one in the entire room who didn’t allow intuition to rule over logic. Thankfully, I was right the second time! He did win and I’m still rejoicing about it up to now.
Before the final part was the announcement of the new national board. When the woman who was tasked to announce the results took the microphone, I knew, somehow, that it wouldn’t be a boring couple of minutes despite the fact that there was nothing inherently lively about her stance or her task. It was all bureaucratic stuff at first until she cracked a joke by stressing the complete absence of fraudulence during ballot-counting. It’s something that we, Filipinos, always find humor in. The Theosophical Society is an institution where benevolence and spiritual development are priorities over bureaucracy. Thus, since each is aware of his/her connection to the other, fraudulence is virtually impossible.
There were more than a hundred attendees, but there were only 72 who voted. The rest were probably unqualified at the moment. I was astonished to learn that one of us did not vote for Dad Vic since he had only 71 votes. I felt nearly compelled at initiating an investigation. Later, however, I realized that it was he himself who did not write his own name. Earlier during the day, he appealed to all of us that he did not wish to be voted as National President anymore since he has served for more than a score. Of course, we still wanted him to hold the position but we respected his request. He was okay with being voted into the board, though. That was enough for all of us.
We ended the conference like all other years—with the induction of new brothers and sisters into the secret society (which, apparently, isn’t very much of a secret anymore). The shaking of hands is something I always look forward to. There were tears of joy shed, experiences of journeys shared, and every such expression of rejoice that they have been recognized as our brothers and sisters in the society.
Shortly after, it was time to say goodbye. A lot of photos were taken, hands shaken, and hugs exchanged. I was wondering where to go, though. I didn’t know who I was going to be eating dinner with. At that time, of course, that concern didn’t rule my mind. I only realized I had that dilemma when over half the people evaporated. I was fortunate that Dad Vic smiled at me and invited me to dinner with some of our brothers and sisters who chose to stay. He chose “Greens,” a vegan restaurant somewhere in Quezon City. It was a great opportunity for all of us to bond—especially with the new inductees. I had such an amazing conversation with people whom I wouldn’t have given regard were it not for the society. Obviously, that kind of outlook is wrong. Everyone is a brother/sister since we are all basically connected in oneness in the embrace of the hidden Love.
This conference has taught me so many things—some of which are revisited insights which I have come across in the past but never moved to adopt. It is said that everything has its time. Well, I believe now is the time. I can feel intuitively that now is the right time.
Tomorrow, I will be visiting the Golden Link College with Dad Vic and a few others. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about the place. It’s about time I get to see it.