Divine (No) Mercy

 

Father,

I am now, as I was before, sincerely apologizing for the hurt and disgrace I have caused the institution and I humbly ask for your forgiveness.

Since I left the school, I have suffered the consequences of my actions. Life outside the institution has been a series of tribulations. Despite all of these, I am still thankful for the valuable lessons that made me a better person. It was, after all, a learning and humbling experience.

I do not wish for the institution to turn a blind eye to the offenses I have made, because it was worth every punishment ounce for ounce, but I appeal here and now for a second chance.

With my few remaining units, I am begging you to allow me one semester to finish and finally prove myself to be a worthy Divinian. My education is one of the most important keys I have for a better future and I hope that you would consider my plea.

Father, given the chance, I promise anonymity and isolation of myself from other students. I will be willing to undergo tutorial classes and should there be other conditions you have for me to be allowed to enroll again, I will respectfully accept them.

Please, Father, I am begging for your compassion and forgiveness.

Should my request be granted, I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and chance that will be given to me.

Thank you and Godspeed.

*****

The letter, dear karikna, was written by Daryl Velasco, a former student of Divine Word College of Laoag. One of Daryl’s articles in DWCL’s The Williamite, where he was an editor, sparked controversy which led to his expulsion from the institution led by “Father,” the Father President Reynaldo B. Jimenez, SVD.

Without going into the merits of the case, let me say at the onset, as Daryl and his lola did in their letters of appeal to “Father” that the institution had every right to impose punishments it deemed appropriate. But while I concede that DWCL had every right in the legal arena, I have doubts whether they stand well in the realm of Christian charity and compassion.

I first met Daryl when we were preparing for the Ilocos Norte Debate Cup in 2010. I was one of the organizers and at the same time coach of the MMSU Debate Team. I always tell my debate trainees that if they want to be good debaters, they should not only talk like a debater, but look, walk, and even smell like a debater should. And that was what I saw, heard, and smelled, pound by pound, in Daryl.

When I conducted practice debates among students from MMSU, DWCL, and Northwestern University, Daryl was always very receptive to advice, and always worked hard to level up his performance. I knew he really wanted to achieve something. In that competition sponsored by then Provincial Board Member Kris Ablan, MMSU and DWCL eventually fought in the championship round. And which team won? DWCL. And who was best debater? Daryl.

Officials of the school, among them Prof. Romana L. Bitancor, the vice president for academic affairs, were very proud of the team, and they had their pictures taken with the winners up the stage. Naturally, they basked in their students’ glory. (Also part of the winning team was Jaime Lao, now a distinguished alumnus who was also ‘banned’ by DWCL for another reason rational people consider flimsy.)

Sadly though, same officials were quickest to shoo away this sheep entrusted to them because of mistakes he allegedly committed as a student journalist.  And the punishment of expulsion was handed down to him when he only had a few units left and a semester or two short from obtaining a degree in legal management. Meanwhile, the guidance counselor who had a big hand in kicking out Daryl now denies knowledge of the process. I asked myself when I learned about this if such punishment was not too much. Would a one-year suspension not have been enough?

What the expelled student found even more difficult was how to relay the situation to his mama who has been working as a house help in Malaysia since he was one year old. This took a very heavy toll on Daryl’s health. His blood pressure often shot up, and he had bouts with depression. In some instances, immediate trips to the hospital were necessary.

Daryl, however, chose to suffer mostly in his lonesome while remaining jolly in the company of friends. No debates about it, he was a bubbly, fun-loving, and light-hearted person who was very easy to love. The chubby and diminutive lad was not at all scary off the podium. The smiles and poses in his Facebook photos belie the cruel fate he had to face.

Two years out of school, he easily landed in jobs even without a college degree, first in a call center, then at the Laoag City Library as clerk. Last March, he made an appeal to “Father” coursed through Mrs. Bitancor, hoping that the school would reconsider. Daryl’s Lola Taciana who took care of him since childhood also wrote a moving letter, in Iluko and handwritten, humbly begging for Father’s mercy and forgiveness.

“…Ni Daryl laeng ti pangnamnamaanmi ken ni mamangna a mangtarabay kanyami, ta kayat koma pay ni mamang na ti agawiden, ngem gapu ti daytoy a napasamak ket saanen a natuloy. Apo, kaasiannakami kadi ta tulonganna kami a mapagraduar ni Daryl. Iyun-unaymi kadi iti pammakawan ken asiyo… Ket no patganyo man daytoy a kiddawmi, dakkel a yaman ken utang a naimbag a nakemmi kadakayo.”

According to Daryl’s friends, quoting what Daryl himself told them after following up on his appeal, this is what  a top-ranking school official said, “Your letter was finely written, of course, because you are a writer, but we don’t think you are sincere.”

Our dearest Daryl died of heart attack last week, Aug. 15, at age 23. His finest comrades in debate and writing, from various schools, paid tribute to him last Sunday. I have never, dear karikna, seen public speakers and journalists so lost for words.

The family said they refused a wake service offered by DWCL, and for obvious reasons.

But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

(Psalm 86:15)