A great adventure has begun at 9:45 pm, 11th of April, year 1988, at a hospital in Mandaluyong City. A 26-year-old woman gave birth to a baby girl-me. I was named Anna Karla after their own – Angeli and Carlos. I came in the Lorenzo-Capco family three years after my brother Karel, and six years after my sister Ivy Rose.
In adventures, there were levels from which one should go through. The latter the task, the harder it would be. However, there would be no need to worry since all the basic skills and attitudes I needed in these tasks and challenges were taught by my very own family – directly and indirectly.
My parents had a jolly attitude toward things. I learned the value of finishing everything in my plate through a “cleanest plate contest.” I also learned to love drinking milk “all the way down” through a race. All these were done together as a family.
Growing up, I was both exposed to the arts and sciences. In my maternal side, almost all were inclined into the arts (interior designers, architects, graphic artists, and painters). On the other hand, science dominates my paternal side (chemists, biologists, engineers and doctors). I grew up surrounded by people with high standards which eventually affected my own standards.
Even if I was most of the time timid, I was an achiever at school. In nursery at D’Paul Kiddie Center, I was “Most Behaved.” I finished kindergarten third in my batch of more than 300 pupils, first in my class. I maintained being in the pilot section all throughout my elementary years at Pateros Catholic School, although I stopped being a consistent merit card recipient since third grade. When I transferred to Sacred Heart Academy Pasig for secondary education, I managed to remain at the top of my batch for four years. At the end, I even received the best in deportment award and a number of other service awards.
WORLD TURNED AROUND
The bumpy ride in my adventure began in March of 1996 when one night, my sleep was disturbed and was asked to transfer from my bed to my uncle’s pick-up truck. Embracing my favorite pillow, my seven-year-old self settled in and returned to a sound sleep. The four of us left the house and our dad.
I did not ask why it happened, not even what happened. I was just glad that I was with my cousins my age, a consolation for me because it meant I would not be spending too much time in my grandmother’s place in Pateros where I had no one to play with. I thought that we were just having a vacation since it was the summer break. During those times, I grew closer to my aunts and uncles. This closeness in turn brought something more complicated, a more complex situation. A portion of this would be the one to be blamed in not being able to go up the stage every end of March for three years.
That June, I entered second grade. Again, I felt like nothing was seriously changed. On my third grade, my dad would even fetch me after class at noon and would stay at my grandmother’s place until my brother’s dismissal. We would then go home together to the apartment we rented in Pasig. My parents’ separation was not a big deal for me.
Since I had more contact with my maternal relatives, I was influenced by their beliefs. I was led to hate Catholicism-the religion I grew up with. In fact, I was studying in a Catholic school at that time. Because I got a grade of 86 in Christian Living, I did not receive a merit card for that quarter – I ceased to become an honor student. When my mom asked me what happened, I answered with a tone, “Eh hindi naman kasi ako Katoliko e!”
A year after that, I learned the reason why my parents separated – shabu. My dad was abusing the illegal substance. Right after my sister’s high school graduation (at the end of my fourth grade), he entered the rehabilitation center in Amadeo, Cavite. Two years later, I learned an ever disturbing fact. The abusive act started in the year 1986, two years before I was even born.
“Which is the truth? Mom’s side, or Dad’s?” I asked myself confusingly. I eventually chose the road where my maternal relatives were, mainly because I lived with them. They were visible and they were influential people. My naïve self believed everything they told about Catholics, such as the name Katoliko, from Kato-liko. Instead of leading the people to the right path – to God, they lead them in the wrong direction. A lot of other things were involved, but they were too complex and complicated to be cited.
During my travel in that road, I encountered several difficulties. I was unprepared that’s why I was easily tossed and turned by the strong winds and rain. At first, I was passive about it. Eventually, I was surrounded by confusion. I did not know what to believe in; I did not have a stronghold in my faith. I was broken, in pain, alone.
It was during this confusing stage that I was enlightened with the real situation of my family. Yes, I was an achiever in high school, member of several clubs including the glee club, with friends whom I laugh with, but I finally acknowledged that something was missing. I found out how broken I was.
People around me had difficulty reading me. I was such a mystery to majority. I rarely shared what’s really boiling inside me. Most of the time, I wore a mask covering what I truly felt.
In confusion, I questioned the God I never knew by heart. I asked why these things were happening to me, to my family. I doubted God’s wisdom regarding putting us in a situation we cannot handle. I couldn’t find the family in my family, the home in our house. Instead, I looked for substitutes and I succeeded – a couple who teaches in my school as my pretend-parents, and the school itself as my home. I was very lost, wandering silently in the dark wilderness.
What I did not verbalize, I put into writing. I wrote everything inside me through poems and personal narratives. However, I did not explicitly write them, but instead masked them through metaphors and imagery. After writing, I would not let other people read them immediately. On the other hand, I waited until the event had passed. I made sure I was feeling happy the day I would let anyone read what I have written.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians, but God used Moses to free His people. The most miraculous thing He did was the parting of the Red Sea. He made a way for the Israelites, who were escaping from the Egyptians in chariots. The sea did not prevent them from escaping, because God willed them to be free.
Just like the Israelites, God made a way for me to get out of the thick mud that began holding me back. In my third year in high school, an opportunity opened for me.
The conversion began when, finally, I opened myself to my “second mom” in school. I was still unsure of what to tell, or how to tell the hidden things inside. Thankfully, they all poured out like water in a jar. The most memorable part of that conversation was when I was asked this question:
“Karla, do you pray?”
“Do you believe that Jesus can bring you out of the dark?”
“Yes,” she answered.
In reality, praying was not part of my days, I did not know how to. I was confused, did not know what to believe in, but still answered yes because my insecurities got the better of me. I thought answering no would be embarrassing, even if it would be the truth. Aside from that, at that time, I was only ready to reveal my family wounds but not the faith wounds.
I was prompted to pray, to open and read the Bible, to ask help from God for wisdom to understand what He wants to tell me. Then, it struck me. The wounds in my soul could not be healed by just opening up to another human. I realized that I needed someone else in my life. I needed to open my doors to a higher being-the Almighty, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Eventually, my adventure turned into another direction. I slowly found my way out of the wilderness with the help of another person whom I met that school year – their new guidance counselor. As if God really wanted me to get out, He sent another guide for the new road. That was the school year CFC-Youth for Christ (YFC) became an official club in my school. There was an invisible magnet that drew me to join the group. Something, or someone, told me that I was going to find answers to my vague questions while in their company. YFC provided me with a support environment wherein my wounds could be slowly healed. With all the support I got from the YFC community, the real reason why I felt complete was because I let Someone enter my life. I started to have a personal relationship with Jesus. In doing so, I was able to see the blessings hidden beneath the hardships. I started to have a dream for myself, my family, and country.
I became an active member of YFC, or, rather, it became my lifestyle. I traveled that road, met new people, made lasting friends, and raised my self-esteem. I was able build my character through various trainings and activities, as well as in joys and challenges. I led the YFC in my school during fourth year, the whole High School based program of central b sector (Pasig, Pateros and Taguig) during my freshman and sophomore years in college, the Community Based program of the same sector the following year, and currently, as an Over-all Sector Youth Head of the sector, overseeing the different programs (there are seven).
Ever since I started, I was given unexpected awards such as Most Inspiring Delegate during the 4th High School Conference in 2003, Feel at Home award during her first Summer House Training in May 2004, YFC High School Member of the Year in December 2004, 3rd Most Outstanding High School Student during the 5th High School Conference in January 2005, and finally, one of the ten Timothy Awardees (a world-wide YFC search of “Timothy’s”) in April 2006.
One of my dreams was to travel. Because of YFC, I was able to go to different places every year. I reached Bongabong, Mindoro because of the Kalinga Luzon build in April 2005, then straight to Subic for the 12th YFC International Leaders’ Conference (ILC). The following year, I went to Davao City for the 13th ILC. I traveled by Super Ferry together with the hundreds of other delegates and had my 18th birthday on the sea several hours away from Iloilo port. That May, I was able to go on Mission together with the other nine Timothy Awardees to four Provinces – Pangasinan, La Union, Baguio and Ilocos Norte – in one week. The next year, in 2007, I celebrated my birthday in Goa, Camarines Sur, helping build houses with Gawad Kalinga. From Goa, we went to Naga for the 14th ILC. The 15th ILC last year was in Tagaytay City.
I loved what I was doing in YFC – talking to people, having households (similar to cell group discussions), and organizing events. When plainly stated, it’s just about taking care of people; loving them; loving God.
The University of the Philippines in Diliman, my first choice of campus, was where I would spend the rest of my college life. I attempted to take tests from other colleges and universities but I was only successful in applying at Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa. I failed to pass the application form in the University of Santo Tomas, I failed to get an application form in the De La Salle University in Taft. It was already late January when I worried that I did not have a sure university yet. So I applied in PUP and took my exam second week of February. Back then I would say firmly, “kung para sa UP ako, para sa UP ako.” True enough, I was accepted in UP Diliman in my first choice of degree program – BA Psychology.
I took up BA Psychology because I wanted to understand the behavior of the people around me, most especially the members of my own family. I wanted answers to my “why” questions. True enough, I was able to answer most of them.
Being an iskolar para sa bayan got hold of me during my freshman year and that caused me to do stupid things for the sake of science. Aside from that, I did not have a hard time adjusting to the UP life since I connected myself, on the very first day of classes, to the YFCs based in UP. They helped me cope up with the professors, subjects, and also lend me some books and readings for my GE subjects. I was not grade conscious (GC), unlike most of her batch mates. I made sure that I enjoyed my classes and really learned something, more than having a high grade.
Though, like any other road, my UP life was filled with bumps and humps. Besides, I was balancing YFC leadership, my academics, and my family life. Add more the organizations and others in the campus to the list. During my third year, I fell into the deepest pit, so far. I felt depressed – I felt unloved; a bad witness to Christ (because of a failed subject); or simply put, just plain failure. I failed myself, my parents, and most of all God. I felt unworthy. I incurred incompletes in some of my subjects because I broke down and could not do a thing. I was pressured by my parent’s expectations, which, by the way, was lower than my perceived expectation. This extended until the summer classes. Because of several stressful unexpected things during the summer enlistment, I eventually dropped my one and only subject for that summer – the first she enrolled at. There was a day when I did not leave my room for the whole day, not even for a drink of water. For a moment, I wanted escape and the only thing I thought it possible was by taking my own life. However, the thought of Jesus and the desire to spend eternity with Him dismissed the idea from my mind. The whole day was spent sleeping, crying, and exchanging SMS with a respected friend.
On the first semester of her senior year, I held to three principles – live one day at a time, do not dwell, and keep moving forward. The university taught me to think, to not dismiss or hide my questions but to air them out. In this line, it would be important to be guided by those three principles because if not, I would suffer from paralysis of analysis. I could again fall to that dark pit, maybe even deeper and darker than the last, if I did not guard myself. Because I learned these things, I had a greater likelihood to overanalyze things and then paralyzed, not being able to do or accomplish anything because I dwelled on it and failed to move forward.
One of the most prayed for was her family. I prayed for more love, for unity, for Jesus Christ to come and be the center of my family life. Many times I was frustrated because I thought it was fruitless. However, the Lord just kept His promise and slowly, but surely, my family life was improving. It may not have been what I had exactly imagined, but the Lord knew best.
Late 2006, I was nagging my sister of their movie date that was always postponed. I complained that whenever we would go out, she would meet up another friend and I would end up just tagging along. Finally, a dinner date materialized and there, the ice was broken. Things unspoken were brought up. That was the start of a better family life.
Little by little, I had a better relationship with my mom, my dad, and my brother as well. We would talk about things – essential and just for fun things. Though it had not reached the point of really cleaning out the past, I accept it as a gradual process. In times when these sensitive things were touched, or when the pain was again triggered by a fresh event, I could not help but really cry to myself. Besides, for a wound to be completely healed, cleaning was crucial, and that hurt a lot. My prayer at that time was described by the bridge of the song Hosanna:
“Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you and love me
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I have for your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity.”
LOVE AND FAITH FOR YEAR 2008
The Lord had been faithful for the year 2007 when He said that it would just be a great year for her. This time around, when year 2008 entered, the Lord told her that it would just be about love and faith. “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith; may you be rooted and founded in love,” Ephesians 3:17 – the main verse for which she anchored herself this year.
As a first sign of a growth in faith, I finally made the decision to what religion I will have to follow – Catholicism, or the other. On January 12th, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation. I exerted all my efforts in preparing for the big day. I was the one who asked for information, went to the parish where I was baptized and acquired another copy of my baptismal certificate, and pushed my parents to attend the seminar. I even decided and asked a couple personally to be my sponsors. They were Chris and Eden Fernandez, a couple without their own child, who were instrumental to my growth since I met in August 2007.
A whole year had passed and I would deviate from the norm by not classifying 2008 as a roller coaster ride. For a roller coaster go on huge spirals, oftentimes, these spirals are symmetrical top and bottom. Not my 2008. I realized what this year was when I saw an old schoolmate, someone two levels younger than me. One of the questions he asked me was “how’s your 2008, ate?”
I have one word to describe this year–difficult. Yes, it was a very, very difficult year, most of the time the bad times outweigh the good ones. But then, I almost immediately told him that what seems to be bad for us might not really be bad for Him. In fact, it might be (and most probably it is) His way of pruning us, me. This December, I was assured that one of God’s promises was to shake us. No temporary things will remain. Victory is waiting at the end of the shaking. Victory only comes after the shaking.
Indeed, all the downs were crucial in being more loving and being more faithful. I considered all things as a manifestation of God, “so that (I) may understand with all the holy ones the width, the length, the height and the depth – in a word, that (I) may know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, that (I) may be filled and reach the fullness of God,” (Ephesians 3:18-19). I just wanted to give “glory to God who shows his power in us and can do much more than we could ask or imagine,” (Ephesians 3:20, emphasis mine).
An example would be an opportunity to attend a party at Warehouse 135 in Makati. Spirit was the event, and it was a Christian event. The House music the DJ was playing were all Gospel music. The tag line was right-nothing but Gospel House. I never imagined I could party like that and worship God at the same time.
Even if 2008 have been very difficult for me, I am completely grateful for it. Several relationships have been formed, broken and restored this year, including my relationship with my Father. Though I did not get through this year with flying colors, I think I’d rather pass through a needle’s hole and pick up a lot of lessons instead of flying and just using stocked knowledge and gaining nothing.
The following was an excerpt from my journal on May 7, 2008:
Is there such a thing as our ultimate dream? Is it different or same as goal? Well, we have small dreams (or no dream is small?) like acting in theater, those things that it would be okay if not realized, or is it precisely that mentality that label the dream “small?” Is a dream different from the things that we want to do? The ultimate dream, could there be a real, concrete dream? Or well, clear dream, not vague, nor ambiguous. How about God’s will – God’s hand planting that desire, or that dream in our hearts? How about our own will? How about that limitation that we, humans, have – that we don’t and we won’t (ever) know, and understand, everything, including, maybe, our dream? In the long run, maybe we have our dreams, but in the end, the process of realizing that dream is still the most important of all, extinguishing every smoke, extracting every juice, relishing every moment because from these things, we learn.”
During these times, there was no concrete “I want to do after college” dream. I just wanted to be able to practice what I learned in Psychology, and also serve the youth sector. I wanted to make a difference, even small scale difference. I wanted to “build” people but did not know how, or where, or what exactly, most probably because I did not want to accept what I wanted to do at that time.
At first, I was deeply praying about entering full-time missionary work in YFC. It was part of her options even before I entered college. I wanted it because that was what I loved doing. I knew I could practice what I learned there, and I could make a difference through that ministry, even a small-scale impact. However, I also did not want it because of its impracticality. When asked if I would go full-time, I would always say, “It is part of my options, but I know that I would not apply right after college graduation. I want to work outside YFC, to have a feel of it, and lessen the likelihood of asking ‘what if?'” It was an answer that prevented further questioning. Practically speaking, working outside the ministry would earn me sufficient money to help out at home, and save for myself, for the future ministry work.
However, recent events gave me a clear vision, of what I really wanted, of what I would pursue. Right now, I want to be a Psychologist in a school, a school guidance counselor maybe. This way, I could still use my background in Psychology and serve the youth sector. At first, I thought wanted to teach, to earn her master’s degree in Educational Psychology, but after consulting with one of my professors, I was advised to take the counseling path, since what I wanted falls under that – program development and facilitating workshops (effective teaching styles in the classroom, team building activities within and between faculty and non-teaching staff, including the admin, etc). I was really excited about this and I could actually be of more help to the ministry being a professional, especially in terms of program development.
Just very recently, another dream came to me. I wanted to build a youth center, a place where young people could do a lot of things – study, play board games, talk to peers, play sports, enhance their different skills, etc. The youth center’s purpose was to provide the youth a place to stay after classes, or if they were not school-bound, an alternate place, a place where they could find support. It would be a place where the youth could go to anytime to find something to do, someone to talk to, people who could help. I imagined it to have different facilities. First in the line was a library where my collection of books could be read, and where students could study. If there were youths who were not school-bound, they could receive free tutorials here or study on their own. This way, the knowledge would be available for them as well. There would also be a recreational room with tables and chairs where they could borrow (for room use) various board games – chess boards, snakes and ladders, Settlers of Catan, monopoly, Cluedo, etc. – and build camaraderie among other youths. The books, magazines, and comics from the library could also be brought here if they prefer a not-so-quiet room. School projects could also be done in this room.
A sound-proof room would also be available where bands could enhance their talent in music. The technology to record music would also be desirable. A dance room with all the mirrors would be part of the list, so that people who wanted to learn could learn how to dance. This room could also be used for a dance-work out area. Computers would also be available for a minimal rental fee to do their projects and research. There would also be a viewing room where a home theater facility would be available. An auditorium would also be in place for big gatherings, or for staging of plays. Another not-so-big and not-so-small room would be available for small gatherings.
A dream knows no limits. That’s why I included a basketball court and a not-so-big field for outdoor sports. Provisions for table tennis would be non-negotiable as an indoor sport. To push the limits further, I wanted an indoor swimming pool as well, complete with shower and locker rooms for both men and women.
Of course, the whole lot would not be complete without a prayer room. I thought it would really be great if there could be seminars and workshops at least once a month regarding different topics, touching the different aspects of a person’s well-being. It would also be really great if there would be a priest available at least once a week for those who wanted to receive the Sacrament of Penance. An open Bible study would also be happening at least once a week.
Several people were needed for this dream to be realized, especially in the maintenance of the availability of services. Another thing would be the financial aspect of the dream. Karla knew that she could not realize this on her own and she needed other people who share the same dream.
THE QUEST CONTINOUS
The quest has just begun. A lot of things are yet to be discovered, so many of them yet to be learned. Another year is coming and I am looking forward for my 2009. I am looking forward for the changes this coming year will bring me. Yes, I am looking forward for the changes that will come to me, more for the changes that I will be initiating.
I pray that in whatever I would do, may I return all the glory to my Father above, to grow more in love with Him each day. J