“Customer is king!” proclaimed Auntie Fely, the operations manager of the SM Supermarket, Makati, as she was giving us a talk on being an SM employee. “The customer may not always be right, but he is certainly always king!” she said. We, Xaverian students, were certainly no strangers to this sort of treatment. We have people to cook our food, wash our clothes, and drive us to school. We are the gentry of the modern age, and so, naturally, when we were starting our SM Immersion, we were stepping foot into uncharted territory. While before, we were the ones most often at the receiving end of the “customer is king” ethos, now we were at the giving end. When we crossed the threshold into the employee quarters of SM, we were no longer students of Xavier School; we were employees, workers, laborers. We shed the image of the privileged school boy to take on the role of the wage earner, and for four days, we did just that: we bagged goods, deboned fish, packed vegetables, and cut meat. As a result, we got to make friends, learned a few tricks, and experienced the value of hard work and service.
For the senior batch, the SM Immersion was unlike any other program that preceded it. The SM Immersion was not engaged in the trappings of being identified as a Xaverian student, rather like what we experienced in the Saturday Outreach Program (SOP) and other activities. We were not wearing the yellow shirt that was so indicative of our privileged background. Instead, we wore the blue SM apron, a symbol that we were just like the rest of the employees, and not just passive observers. We were undergoing the SM Immersion as true SM employees. We ate the same food as they did, took the same breaks as they did, and went to the bathroom as they did. It was through this that we experienced true immersion and interaction; we became them.
In becoming true and real SM employees, we also developed our moral character in the spirit of Christian service. Our time with the workers taught us more than could be ever taught in an ordinary CLE class. We gained valuable insights, as well as memorable experiences in our stay at SM. This was only reinforced as we were able to reflect in our retreat in the newly-built Xavier Nuvali. The size and scope of the school astounded students and teachers alike. The spacious surroundings and quiet atmosphere provided us with the necessary conditions to be able to contemplate and meditate on the SM Immersion. There, we spent two days of relative peace of mind that helped us recover from the grueling four days of being in the labor force. We grew as young adults to become ready to face whatever we will face as we leave Xavier.
As a class, we grew closer and bonded together through all the activities prepared for us by our mentors and guidance counselor. In that moment, there was a feeling of inseparability, that we were not whole without our classmates and friends. The word “class” took on a whole new meaning during that retreat. The actions of each and every one of us contributed to the happiness and joy of our stay in Nuvali. The retreat was enjoyable on both accounts; there was time for prayer, and there was time for playing. The retreat, however, was not without its surprises, as our night was plagued with rather “devilish” visitations in one of the events of the night, which will definitely be a great surprise for the future batches. Overall, the retreat was a wrapping-up of sorts; it served as an introspective conclusion to the roller-coaster ride that was the SM Immersion.
In the end, the SM Immersion and Nuvali Retreat were more than just the sum of its parts; it was the culmination of years of Jesuit formation that served as a fitting end to our spiritual journey here in Xavier. But by no means does that signify the end to our development; if anything, this experience only pushes us to be more, to do more. It is not an end-all to things, but rather, a signal to new beginnings. The SM Immersion and Nuvali Retreat are a call to begin anew; they are a call for us to become men for others, endowed with a passion for justice, and the skills for development.