Tyron’s second bottle of beer was still half-filled when I told him if he wanted to stay at the bar, I’d see him at the seminary. I needed to get going. He grabbed the bottle of beer and downed it in one sweeping gulp he almost choked. I paid our bill and left the establishment as the neon sign got turned on and a rush of students came into the bar. I fled the place like Lot did Sodom and Gomorrah. There was no looking back or I’d turn into a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife. Every step away from it was a step into my redemption from being seen in a sinful establishment that should never ever become my hang out, I thought.
Tyron, who was walking a few feet behind me, got into a giggling fit like he was high on something. I walked as fast as I could without glancing back, not even to make sure that he was still following me and had not fallen to the ground. I believed he was inebriated. He only had two beers, but he was behaving ridiculously like a little boy. As we turned a corner, he pretended that he was shooting me with a gun. With three fingers closed, his right index finger pointing at me and his thumb on the trigger of his make-believe weapon, he made sounds resembling a gun being fired. After each fire he’d laugh. People on the street were looking at us like we’re some kind of a travelling show out to entertain anyone willing to witness such a ridiculous display of childish play. The walk to the closest jeepney depot was about twenty minutes. When we got there a jeepney was waiting for a couple more passengers and it was ready to leave. Among the passengers was a seminarian who came to town to collect the day’s mail. He spotted us right away and immediately told us Father Andrew had been looking for us. That was enough to send me in a tizzy fit. I knew going to town in the middle of afternoon was a bad idea, a very bad one that could get me, us, in trouble.
“Was he mad?” I asked the fellow.
“I don’t know. I just heard him talking to Father Amorsolo about spotting the two of you in front of the seminary,” he said.
“Was the rector mad?” I asked again.
“I don’t know. But he told me if I see you by chance in downtown to tell you that Father Andrew was looking for both of you.”
Father Andrew was the main prefect of discipline. He was the main guy who made sure that seminary house rules were followed. Violators often paraded to his office to be castigated. He also teaches courses that nobody else liked to tackle such as epistemology and Chinese philosophy. He didn’t know what he was teaching. He just read the book loudly in front of his classes and later asked his students to react to whatever it was that he so gallantly mouthed. You couldn’t argue with him because he would often tell you that you’re wrong and your opinion had no basis in reality. If he was a bad instructor in epistemology, he was worse in Chinese philosophy. His interpretation of Lau Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was out of this world and the way he read Confucius’ analects was equally confusing.
It wasn’t good news that Father Andrew was looking for both of us. In spite of that, Tyron was surprisingly calm. He wasn’t worried at all that we could potentially be given sanctions or worse be told to go home. I sat in the jeepney thinking what I was going to tell Father Andrew when he asked where we had been. I couldn’t tell him we went to the Carmelite monastery, although I frequent the place to pray. I couldn’t tell him we went for confession at the Redemptorist. It would be a terrible idea to admit that we went to a bar. What else would I say? I couldn’t lie. It would be wrong and I’m awfully bad at lying.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll tell Father Andrew I took you out. You needed to relax. C’mon it’s not a big deal,” said Tyron who seemed to have snapped out of being tipsy suddenly.
The twenty-minute jeepney ride went by pretty fast. It felt like we were on the vehicle for only two minutes and it was time to get off. Some seminarians were already outside the building, walking about the pathway and around the rotunda waiting for the six o’clock holy hour. Some were praying the rosary, while others were simply chatting. The juniors and seniors were in their white cassock while the sophomores and freshmen were in their white polo shirt and black dress pants. Brian was among those milling about the rotunda. As soon as he saw us coming, he walked towards us.
“Father Andrew was looking for you two. He told me that you should report to his office right away before the holy hour,” he said.
Oh crap, he’d definitely smell the beer from us, I thought. We didn’t have our stories straight. I didn’t know what Tyron was going to tell Father Andrew, aside from what he suggested that he took me out because I needed to relax. That wouldn’t pass the smell test. That would definitely suggest we were up to no good. Now, I really needed to relax more than ever.
“What did you two do now?” Brian asked.
We both didn’t answer his question. There was no time. Father Andrew had appeared akimbo in front of the seminary building in his white cassock.
We rushed to him like we’re being pulled by a giant white magnet and there was nothing that we could do, but to enjoy the ride.
“So what were you two up to?” Father Andrews asked in a loud voice enough to halt the seminarians praying and chatting around the rotunda.
Tyron was going to explain, but Father Andrew told us to proceed to his office. I have never been to his office before. We all avoided being called in because it was often bad news if he called you. Of the many priests at the seminary Father Andrew was the one born with money. I didn’t exactly know what was the source of his family’s affluence but he was the only one among the priests who drove a car. A car back then was still a status symbol of wealth. Every other priest who could afford to own a vehicle had an owner type jeep or a motorcycle. Most of them didn’t have their own ride. They used the seminary’s vehicle. Not Father Andrew. He had his own car, which according to stories were bought by his parents as a present when he was ordained. Father Andrew’s office also displayed such affluence. Everything in it seemed gold plated, such as the clock on his desk, the crucifix atop the door jam, the letter opener, the paper weights, among others. A set of what looked like a gold-plated pair of ciborium and chalice also sat on his own solid Narra desk. Narra is a type of wood often used for making expensive furniture. The rest of the priest had identical desks that were made from ordinary wood. He also had a large television set, bigger than the twenty-four-inch a community of more than a hundred shared. There was also a large stereo which was equipped with a Bose sound system.
“So what were you two up to?” he asked again.
Tyron and I attempted to answer both at the same time that. He told Tyron to go first, which relieved me.
“I was doing a research for my project in moral philosophy and I asked Renato to come with me,” he said.
“And where did you to go?” the priest asked.
“We went to a bar downtown and interviewed a single mother who works there,” he said.
“Is this true, Renato?” Father Andrew asked me.
“Ah, yes Father,” I said hesitantly.
“Research huh? If I find out that you two weren’t doing research, you know there would be consequences?” said the priest.
“Father you can ask Father Isid if you wanted confirmation,” said Tyron. Father Isid was the professor of philosophical anthropology.
Everything Tyron told Father Andrew was news to me, but the priest seemed to buy all of it.
We were dismissed with a stern warning to keep our noses clean or Father Andrew would see to it our days at Mount St. Charles over.
When we walked out of the priest’s office about half a dozen seminarians were praying their rosaries in the hall way. I was pretty sure they were trying to find out if two more seminarians would be going home that day.