“Setting the record straight on ‘partners and marriage’ ” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Feb. 4-10, 2015; page A7)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of Feb. 4-10, 2015


With Valentine’s Day almost close at hand, please join me in rehashing an old love story – the story of how an urban legend of sorts came to be, and how we will finally put it to rest. You see, this story began nearly 18 years ago in the nooks and crannies of Metro Manila, back when the internet was not yet as sophisticated as it is now and when the rules are just beginning to be laid down.

“Partners and Marriage” was apparently an essay that was circulated via email around 1997. Its practical yet poetic content spoke to the hearts and minds of so many readers. If you use http://www.goodsearch.com and type in “partners and marriage and Calasanz,” click on the top result, lesturla.wordpress.com/2007/06/01/partners-and-marriage, and you will be taken to the introduction, the “background of the story,” the essay, and then the “rectification” by Mr. Calasanz. According to the blog owner, this essay is “for those in a relationship, wanting to be in a relationship, those who just got out of a relationship, or want to get out of one, even those who are in an “it’s complicated” status, you’ll definitely see more clearly by reading this.”

Before the blog proceeds with the essay, here’s the urban legend part. It states that Eduardo Calasanz was a student at the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines, a higher learning institution run by the Jesuits. He had a so-called Father Ferriols as a professor, who, apart from being the Philosophy department head at that time, was also known to be popular for his mind-opening classes yet notorious for the grades he gives. Despite Father Ferriols’ notoriety, students still took his classes for the learning and deep insight they take home with them every day, but they may grumble about not being able to do something about the grades he gives. Ateneo has a letter-grading system with A being the highest, D the lowest, and F for flunk. When grade-giving time came, Father Ferriols apparently had this long discussion with the Admissions and Records people because according to the legend, he wanted to give Calasanz an A+. Either that or he does not teach at all. Calasanz got his A+.

What follows in that blog is the essay itself which you can read in its entirety through the link I mentioned earlier. Here is how it starts: “I have never met a man who didn’t want to be loved. But I have seldom met a man who didn’t fear marriage. Something about the closure seems constricting, not enabling. Marriage seems easier to understand for what it cuts out of our lives than for what it makes possible within our lives.” The essay goes on to make several key points: the importance of choosing one’s partner well, being long-time friends first before realizing the attraction to each other, laughter as an indicator of how much two people would enjoy each other’s company in the long run, or the importance of looking for a partner who deals with the world in a way one respects. The way the writer crafted this essay, you’d find yourself nodding your head in agreement with most of his insightful statements.

But you know what the biggest clincher was? It was not even written by Mr. Eduardo Calasanz, to whom it is attributed. To be fair to Mr. Calasanz, who at the time of his rectification was himself already an assistant professor of Philosophy at the Ateneo, he did say that he was not the author of the essay, which he received sometime in 1997. He liked the article so much that he forwarded it to a lot of people. He noticed that it did not carry a byline but nobody claimed ownership. The forwarded essay assumed a life of its own until according to Calasanz, the “bio sketch” about Father Ferriols and his A+ grade was appended to the piece. According to Calasanz, this was pure urban legend! Then a friend of a former student of his informed him that the source of “Partners and Marriage” is a book called “Letters To My Son: A Father’s Wisdom on Manhood, Life, and Love” by Kent Nerburn. “Partners and Marriage” was actually Chapter 26 of this book, originally published in 1994 and then it went back in print two years ago.

I am here to confirm to you the truth of the preceding statements. As I write this, an actual copy of the book “Letters To My Son” by Kent Nerburn lies beside my work desk, borrowed from La Sierra University via that trusty interlibrary network Link+. If you Goodsearch Kent Nerburn, you will find that he has authored many nonfiction works of superior quality that have an accessible vein. His academic background is impressive and he was a renowned sculptor first before he was a prolific multi-awarded writer. As I read through chapter after chapter of “Letters To My Son,” I reflect upon the universal sentiments in Nerburn’s words. We can all learn from him through these epistles to a son he obviously loves so much that he wants to guide the child/man’s growth with his words of hard-won wisdom. The book, of course, is not just for “sons” – it could be a life manual for individuals and families looking for sound values to guide their choices in life.

So in this pre-Valentine column, honoring the Mercury retrograde inspiration to review, recount, and revise, we have just revisited several things that Mercury rules: communication, the written word, emails, and the Internet, among others. We have corrected an inaccurate perception in the interests of accuracy and proper attribution. I encourage you to read, if not the whole book, then at least the chapter on “Partners and Marriage.” We may be at different stages on the spectrum of commitment or relationships, but the commonality is that we are all in the midst of precious experiences that define our humanity. I pray for our collective growth in love.

Photo by Mary Gow-2015. Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

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