An open letter to Father Bu: The thank you I never got to give

Below is a letter I intended to give to Fr. Bu earlier this year. As part of the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation Music Ministry, the choir gets to sing for the Lolo Jesuits at the Jesuit Residences almost twice every month– the same place where Fr. Bu was being taken care of. Before I got to finishing this letter, however, Fr. Bu moved on to his next adventure on February 10, 2015.

In honor of a great person who gave me more than just a course in college, I decided to finish the letter and share it publicly. My only wish is that I got to finish this earlier.

Happy 8th Psychology Day in the United Nations, Father Bu. Thank you for everything.

Dear Father Bu,

You probably don’t remember me but my name is Serge. We met a very long time ago. I was still a freshman then back in 2009.

We met at the psychology department. During that time, it was probably just my second or third time there and I wanted to inquire about a couple of subjects for the following year. I was just standing in front of the pigeon holes waiting for my turn to talk to Ma’am Anette, the department secretary, and you were there by the door of your office sitting down. Nothing out of the ordinary except you were holding a staff with both your hands, treating it like a cane. And while I was looking at you (mostly because I was curious why you had a staff in the first place), you caught me staring and you just smiled at me– as if you already knew why I was staring at you in the first place.

I can’t remember who introduced me to you. Could it have been a teaching assistant of yours or someone assigned to take care of you and help you move around? Though I can’t remember who that person was, I do remember she was nice enough to ask me to come closer so I could meet you. She said you were Father Bu. And shortly after switching my glance from an up close view of your staff to you, I finally returned the smile you gave me and shook your hand. “Hi Father, my name is Serge,” as I introduced myself. 

We didn’t have much time to talk because you had to go somewhere but I hope you know that that moment in the psych dept. was the first of many warm memories I’d make in our home department. And coming from someone who had no proper OrSem because of the AH1N1 scare, it was nice to have a place in Ateneo feel safe– feel like home. Later on, I heard and learned from several coursemates and professors that you were the person I had to thank for having a home department in the first place. Isn’t that something?

But of the many things I have to thank you for, Father, I am writing to you today to thank you for one more thing. Not just that bright, and warm memory of the past but something that goes beyond it: a future.

Right out of graduation back in March 2013, I immediately started working for a Public Relations firm. It was an immense amount of pressure trying out reputation management for the first time. Writing press releases, scripts for CEOs and VPs, and executing plans with a small team of communications experts was a very far cry from the original plan that was supposed to be med school but I certainly don’t regret making that decision. It helped renew my love for writing and it always made a good story for several of my batchmates who went on to go med school, law school, guidance, HR, and teaching. They always had to ask twice when they kept checking where I landed after college. As I’d tell them: I was a professional storyteller; a PR practitioner. I was very proud and I spent a good one and a half years with that company before deciding to want to study again.

It’s actually this next chapter of my life that I decided to finally write to you, Father. I wanted to let you know that I recently qualified for the Masteral’s Program in Philosophy at the University of the Philippines, and one big factor in making the cut, according to the Chairperson of the department who interviewed me, was coming from a psychology background. In case you didn’t know, UP teaches analytical philosophy and touches on many topics like that of the ‘self’, the mind, and behavior. So, you might see why it’s a very different take from the continental philosophy I grew up with in college but it really helps to have a small slice of the familiar; most especially with all the papers. After almost 4 months of school, I just wanted to let you know that I’m adjusting well.

I’m hoping to teach philosophy in the future and help the CBCP out with a little PR.

In the end, Father, all I really wanted to tell you was that while I was growing up in college I always wondered if I was in the right course. People always told me that it wasn’t a popular pre-med course compared to the other degrees offered, and for the corporate side of it, I was always told I’d always just end up in HR. But, it’s really funny how everything worked out in the end. I never dreamt that I’d be a PR practitioner after college. I never dreamt that I’d be taking masters in philosophy while being a freelance writer. I always dreamt that I’d be a doctor someday but never one with a Ph.D. and yet, here I am now so very eager to try and turn these bright plans into something else: a future.

Where would I have been now if I didn’t even know where to start in college? I honestly don’t know. You probably hear and receive all sorts of thanks and gratitude in the form of plaques, medals, and kind words from your colleagues and students, but from one person you’ve seen less than probably 5 times, I just wanted to say thank you, Father.

From the deepest depths of my heart, I want to thank you for changing my life. Thank you for being one of the pioneers of Philippine psychology and giving me a course. Thank you for teaching the teachers who would later on become my educators. Thank you for giving me a future. And, most importantly, thank you for allowing your life to give me a one. I promise to make mine count for something also.

With much love and unending gratitude,

Serge Gabriel

Image c/o: Ateneo de Manila University

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