by Johnson Tan XS'75

The thought came out of a gathering of friends one evening in February 2014 over dessert at UCC Greenhills.  We were talking about organizing a Holy Land trip for our classmates as a way to top off the 40th anniversary of our graduation from Xavier School in 2015.  After much discussion, we realized that even though it might be a nice idea, not every one of us can afford to spend the time and money to go on such a trip, thus it wouldn’t be as much fun.

The bantering eventually led to the thought of putting together a retreat/recollection instead to start off our whole year of preparation for our Ruby Anniversary.  But how do we go about doing this?  The last memory of a retreat for most of us was the one we did in High School with Fr. Barbero.  That was oh so long ago.  Will we get our classmates to come?  We had lots of other questions.  Should we invite wives along too?  What if they are not married?  What about our divorced classmates? What if they are Buddhist or Christians? Should we provide time after talks to have sharing among us? Do we want an overnight? over 2 nights? Do we want a bonfire after all the session so we can have these Xavier boys “bonding time”?  Will the place be accessible for classmates with disabilities? There were lots of concerns.  We wanted very much to be able to cater to all their needs and expectations.  In the end we parted ways promising each other that we would pray about it and then regroup a few weeks later.

We now fast forward to the month of May. It so happened that two of our classmates went on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and they were lucky enough to go on the trip with Fr. Francisco Manoling of Bukas Palad fame and more importantly a wonderful priest.  Even though Fr. Manoling’s schedule was full, they still requested him to just see if August 2 and 3 were open.  As expected, these dates were already taken by another group.  Nevertheless, they asked Fr. Manoling to keep that in mind as things might change.  By something short of a miracle, the scheduled event for Fr. Manoling was cancelled so we were blessed to have him for our retreat master on those dates. Our Lord never fails!!!

Now that the date was set, a group of us started to pray even more for a successful retreat.  As we were all in different parts of the world, we set up a conference call to discuss and decide how we were going to put together the retreat.  We had people from Manila, Seattle, Taichung and Frankfurt call in for this session.  Aside from agreeing on the venue and that we were also going to extend the invitation for our wives to participate, we also settled on naming the event “Reconnect” so that it will not seem as scary as if we had called it a retreat or recollection.  Our goal was to bring our friends together in a welcoming environment and allow ourselves to be a little more vulnerable so that we can share a deeper part of ourselves so that we can become even better friends.  We wanted all of us to Reconnect with each other, Reconnect with ourselves and more importantly Reconnect with God.  We wanted to learn more about how we can all be better men for others.

In order to make this a success, each of us started to make personal phone calls to our classmates.  We got some quick YESes and some quick NOs too.  Mostly we got classmates who did not know what to think of the invitation as it was rather unheard of. We had to beg and cajole but all in good fun.

We set a highly improbable goal of having 40 to 50 people attend the retreat although we were secretly going to be extremely happy if we even had 20 or so friends attend.

Fast forward again to the week before Reconnect.  Because of the many phone calls and viber and text messages we had made, to our surprise we had more than 30 people committed to attend. We dedicated a last ditch effort to call again some of the ones that already said no hoping that they would reconsider.  Beyond our expectations, we almost got to the magic number of 50 people accepting the invitation.

We met again for one last time and started assigning detailed tasks like bringing pens and notebooks and nametags and extra toiletries for those that might forget to bring them on that day.  More importantly we continued to pray unceasingly for our friends.

Before we knew it, the day for our Reconnect came upon us.  Because we were concerned that some of our classmates would get cold feet and ditch us, we decided to have all of us meet at Magallanes and get on a convoy to go towards St. Scholastica’s Center of Spirituality in Tagaytay.  As expected some of our friends dropped out but some of the ones we did not think would come actually showed up.  We ended up with a total of 40 people showing up. Our Lord never fails!!!

Fr. Manoling was magnificent in his preaching and teaching. He was gentle and yet firm.  He was able to open our minds and our hearts to listening to God’s Word as we had never heard them before.  We shared with each other during the sessions and even after the sessions.  We seemed to have so many things to share that we simply did not have enough time to do so.  We were simply awestruck at learning some of the things that our friends had gone through during the past 40 years, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, and the ways that our Lord have ministered to all of us during those times.  Without understanding it fully, we were also ministering to each other as we shared our personal stories.

The wives who attended were able to bond wonderfully too.  We believe that the friendship they developed among themselves will take our friendship to an even deeper level.

Sooner than we expected, the Reconnect session was over. The overwhelming sense we got was that the sessions were too short and that we ought to have more of it.  We all left knowing that this will not be the last Reconnect for us.

As we look back at how this whole thing started and how it also ended, we invariably see the hands of God guiding us through all that we did.  After worrying so much and making so many provisions to resolve possible problems that might occur during the Reconnect weekend, we realized that the most important thing we did was to pray … and, to pray unceasingly.

He answers prayers!!! What a simple and profound revelation for all of us who were schooled for 12 years in this wonderful Xavier School.

Thank you to all our teachers and mentors without whom we would not be who we are today.


Luceat Lux!!!

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