WAYWARD & FANCIFUL: All write now. By Gail Ilagan

Mia wants to save the world, one mind at a time. Posh will always have time for his future spouse and children, however busy he would be. Rosie would gladly suffer “sunggo ilong sa English ni Ma’m” again if that would be the medium to make her realize that indeed she has talents she ought to be rightfully proud of. She will take those talents and give back to the world.

Someone who was more comfortable not signing his name promised to be objective about his emotions, to give examples that are out of the box, and to make the effective transition from assembling the simple details to structure complex theories of human behavior. He’s probably going to be an educator, but he has to make it a habit to sign his name to his thoughts all the time.

Raissa will take the courage to break the mold when she finds that “different” works for her and for other people. Ella will exude positive energy to enlighten troubled lives. Queenie and Thea will remember to thank people for impinging upon their subjective experience of the world. Doreli would never take illness as an excuse not to deliver her best on something she had taken on. I hope her promise not to malinger would extend to meeting her deadlines.

Only Maki remembered the specific lessons we took up in class – social conformity, marginalization, insurgency, and peace psychology. Most of my students mentioned aspects of my character, social relations and information processing. If this is not an argument for educators as role models, I don’t know what is. It seems to be that my students learned more from the way they saw me live my life.

My students’ letters remind me of the elephant and the six blind men of Hindustan. Each one of them saw a different aspect of their teacher. If they were to argue about the definitive Prof. Ilagan, all of them would be right, yet all of them would be wrong.

I’m not Prof. Ilagan these days. She took a leave from the classroom.

I am on the other side of town doing full-time internship at New Day Recovery Center, a treatment facility for recovering addicts. My days are structured around the Center’s delivery of milieu therapy to the resident clients. We keep to a schedule that allows for various forms of therapy to be happening all the time. I work variations of psychotherapy on the individual, family, and group. When the opportunity presents itself, I sometimes provide psychoeducation.

My favorite activities happen in the morning. At 8:30, we sit in a circle and reflect on a topic from a page in the meditation guide. Today, for example, it was about the necessity for trust. Like the six blind men from Hindustan, our sharing reflected various aspects of the concept. Some focused on the conditions that would allow them to trust. Others explored the relationships where trust has to be a necessary element. Still others saw what trusting others and trusting God would bring.

At 9:15, we come back to the circle and each one reads his journal for the day. The journal entries allow the residents to reflect on their experiences. Writing it out allows us to impose structure to our thoughts, to capture our streams of perceptions and bring them up to the level of consciousness. Journaling is a very good exercise for those who need to learn how to think things through, especially those whose functioning had been rendered impaired by disorganized thinking.

I love listening to our residents’ journal entries. Beyond the fact that I enjoy trying to capture the world through other people’s eyes, this daily activity allows me to check my tentative diagnoses and to touch base with everyone. I come to know how they are feeling today and what personal issue they are trying to resolve in their recovery. At the Center, the family feeling is fostered such that everyone – the administrators, facilitators, residents, and alumni – tries to help everyone else.

You can’t be an intern in New Day and just focus on the clients assigned to you for case management. The residents are bonded to the core group and indivi
dual issues are opened up to the group. Residents help each other find resolution as they participate in various forms of group therapy, and the intern would just have to tag along. Then, too, in the weekly case review sessions, the counselors help each other out in analyzing each resident’s progress and refining individual treatment plans.

The journal entries are remarkable for the amazing journeys that our clients take. Sobriety would finally allow them to venture where they have never gone before – into the core of their being. But today, after the last few weeks when I had just about convinced myself that doing therapy is subverting my passion for writing, I got a jolt from the written word. The writer in me was awed by what Bob shared from his journal. I just had to ask his permission to share this delightful piece of writing with the rest of the world. Bob, a most gracious and generous gentleman, agreed.

This is Bob, a recovering addict, taking a sober look at the roots of his grandiosity:

“I remember way back when I was in grade school. I was Grade Five at that time. My father was a construction foreman and my mom was a telephone operator.

“I was very friendly then. Pagkatapos ng klase sa hapon, uuwi ako ng bahay para magbihis. Tapos, pupunta sa labasan. Malapit kasi sa gasolinahan ang bahay namin. Tatambay kami doon at mag-aabang ng gagaraheng jeep na pampasada. Then, kausapin namin ang driver na magpa-washing. Bawat jeep na nililinisan ko magbabayad ng singkuwenta sentimos. Makalimang jeep ako, I will have P2.50. Isang gabi lang yun. Napakalaking pera na yun dahil ang beer 3 for P1.00. Ang Coke, 20 centavos. Ang biskwit na bilog at napakalaki ay 5 centavos. Di kaya ubusin ng isang bata.

“Sa umaga naman, bago pumasok ng eskuwela, namamastol ako ng baka at binabayaran ako ng P3.00 kada araw. Malaki rin ang naitulong ko sa aking mga magulang pero nagagalit sila pag malaman nilang nagtrabaho ako ng ganun. Kasi, yun nga, bata pa raw ako.

“Ang kaibahan ko lang sa ibang mga bata noon, sila pag may pera ay nagsusugal. Ako, buti na lang, di ako natutong magsugal. Ang akin naman, materialistic ako. Bili ako laruan, damit, pagkain. Sa murang edad, natuto na akong magsuot ng damit na magarbo. Bata pa ako noon, grandiose na talaga ako kasi nga di pangkaraniwan ang baon ko noon. Akala ng mga classmates ko ay anak mayaman ako. Sa halagang P10.00 noon, nalilibre ko ng pagkain ang buong classroom namin. Sikat daw dahil sa aking kayabangan.

“Ang problema nga lang, nagbinata na ako, nagkapamilya at nagkaapo, yun pa rin ang di ko nabago. Kaya heto ako ngayon – nasa rehab because of my character defect.”

(Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to gail.ilagan@gmail.com. "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)