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I Learn Library

A human library inspired by the stories in the film

The Pilgrim’s Progress to Modernity

By Richard Jordan V.  |   From : Upper Marlboro, MD  |   School : International High School at LArgo

Note: Most of the characters are based on real individuals whose name should not be here; instead, some names are replaced with aliases. 

  In the year of 2013, the whole village, Lalapac, were enraged from the presidency of Noy-noy Aquino as well as the entire Philippines.

People on the streets shout and protest saying, “He shouldn’t be president!” “He’ll bring ruin to this country!”

That was a time when Richard’s home country face corruption; however, naivety and ignorance blinded him. A week later, Richard experienced loss if his younger brother who was still-born. However, when he is about to ask, Benny, Richard’s father, proposed a question to Paul, his older brother, and himself in their old 2000 white Toyota Corolla.

“Your mother and I have been thinking a lot,” he said, “what do you think of visiting America for vacation? We can you move you two to another school.”

When thoughts about the Dilawans surged, Jay-jay’s simple mind wiped it and jumped for joy. America? Richard has spent time speaking English from birth. He always saw America as any typical person would correlate it to: guns and burgers. However, he got chastised when Richard mentioned the word ‘guns.’ He just couldn’t hold his excitement. Going to the United States was like visiting Disney World for him; cool rides to find and finally taste that authentic American burger. Before he knew it, Richard would face the biggest challenge in his life: finding purpose in a modern society.

       Born in Metro Manila, Richard lived by being criticized for being fat in a society with scrawny and thin individuals (though able and skillful). As such, Richard has taken a cynical perspective within the five years he lived in this country. On the way to school, Richard and his caretaker take the motor-tricycle (equivalent to a taxi). As a son of farmer, Benny had started to access the greatest bitter and was heading towards the high life through Metrobank (one of the most popular and ambitious banks at the time). That is until he went bankrupt. At this point in time, Richard was being kept by Dina as she feared that my existence is a detriment to the psyche of his own husband. However, Benny wanted me and his wife gave birth to him. At first, did not breathe and had to be returned into the incubator; he survived with only a small amount of snot blocking his breathing pattern. When weeks turned into years, Richard began school at Tarlac Living Faith Academy. Benny always guided Richard even when he was sick when his mother was at work. He was close to his younger son. One time, Richard had almost been ran over by a motorcycle after buying some kilayin. 

Today Richard had experienced the disillusionment of reality. As usual, Richard spent his recess playing with the children who would let him play (mostly girls). The boys never really liked Richard not due to his physical appearance, but his entire personality. Richard has often manipulate people around him using his supposed ‘weakness’ as a weapon. Richard uses victimization and some narcissistic tendencies to get what he wants. He was only caught by one of the boys and fought. This resulted in being sent to the principal for such manipulative behavior. Richard learned that such behavior would lead to destruction as later he will know that as totalitarianism or authoritarian that almost led him the New People’s group (an existing terrorist group that wants to implement communist ideals). This ruined Richard’s day and was sent home. Sitting in front of the television after being dropped off by his father, he is left alone with his caretaker. Watching Blue’s Clues he thought, Is this how evil people think? If so, forgive me for such behavior. This was the year Richard thought of his actions and gain a conscience.

Years have passed and all his classmates grew up. Some still retained their beauty and stature while some have grew several inches taller.  But for Richard, he remained stagnant in his bodily form that the only thing that the only visible change is looking like Dough Boy. Aside from that, Richard started the year fresh and new when, on the flipside, nothing has changed. However, difficulty was awaiting him as he continues in the academy. Richard was considered problem child; though his connections in the school help him cover his actions reputation wise. He was someone who gives people a hard time especially to his teachers. One day in his Chinese class, Richard finally lost his composure against Jennifer, her Chinese classmates. Richard never really liked that class especially. She was quite tall and skinny:  perfect model at the time. She could even pass the beauty pageant if she would have, but Richard doesn’t like the way she ‘disciplined’ him. Whenever he gets into trouble, he gets his bottom spanked in front of class while hands are raised. She made it seem as if we were taken to death row.  A minority of the boys liked it when they spanked them. In contrast, the majority of the class would baul and cry over the hellish pain. For Richard, he keeps it in and resenting her. The anger and humiliation mixed in together formed a kind of malice that grew in him. That day, Jennifer was made a watchman in class. Usually, the watchman is the foreman of the class with the same attributes of the class president: evaluating class performance. This also means that the individuals areis the teacher’s class pet. That day, Jennifer was playful creating a tyrannical power that ensued the class. There was a game being played within the classroom between boys and girls. In essence, this game is the hierarchical acceptance of the watchmen to help them ‘guide’ the class in hopes of sharing the prize: a praise from the teacher. Richard never cared about the watchman as he always followed the game. However, there was a certain line that was crossed with him.

Jennifer had to mark the individuals that were so called “disturbing the class.”

There was always a certain people who plays with the watchmen and frame an individual for it. That individual picked Richard. Richard did not know who it was, but it angered him. Since he could not blame anyone else for it, he blamed Jennifer.

In a loud squeaky voice, Richard shout, “Jennifer, I hope you die and never live.”

After saying that in a flurry of insults Richard could ever say, Jennifer cries. As if it were a movie, the teacher comes in time to hear Richard’s word and moves to the disciplinary Chinese class.

The week after Richard moved classes, Benny planned to go on a vacation to the United States. Before heading to the airport, Richard was reported to have fought a sixth grader. Richard was disciplined by his parents and was taught how to be proper. That same day they head out and took a long trip to the USA.

 Upon first arrival to China after a long flight, Richard and his family took a rest before catching the next flight to their true destination. While waiting in line after being checked by the TSA,

Richard said excitedly, “Yay! We’re in America!” In the process of checking each of their passports, the instructor commented jokingly, “Sorry, kiddo. You’re actually in China.”

Richard hid behind his father as he was embarrassed for even saying such a thing.

A few months later, Richard and his family stayed over his aunt’s place. The whole family and Richard’s aunt spent their time together. They visited different states such as the Mississippi River and a Louisiana restaurant. After many months, they have been travelling back and forth. Now, they drive back to his aunt’s mother-in-laws home to stay for a few weeks. While heading back,

Richard’s aunt asked, “Could you stay with us and take care of our children? We couldn’t find any caretakers we could trust and since you’re family, would you like to stay with us for the meantime?”

Richard and his family had to discuss about it when they arrived. Both Richard and Paul were happy to stay in the United States.

Benny asked Richard, “Would you like to stay?”

Richard happily answered, “Yes!”

After the celebration that night, Richard had instantly regretted it. 

Over the past six years of Richard’s life, he had suffered events in his life and many sacrifices he had to make. One of them was his father leaving to go to Richard’s maternal grandfather, and stay to study whilst he and his brother stay with their mother, Dina, and with their cousins. Over the span of Richard’s life, he didn’t know how to make conversation much more write a proper sentence on a piece of paper. With the limited resources given, Dina gave time for both Richard and Paul the ability to write and teach English. Her presence give comfort to the two, though on a different level. Paul started to have problems of his own trying to get out of the world and discover; on the other hand, Richard for all his life spent time at home than meeting new people. Richard was much more manageable, but when it comes to materialistic desires like toys, he had to give them up for the sake of their survival. Richard had learned how to control his urges at the expense of losing some childhood memories. 

In a Christmas Eve at Yorktown, Virginia, Richard received an iPad as present after his father returned from California. The family was still living with their aunt; however, they needed to go to another country. Richard had started elementary school in Yorktown and gained a small amount of friends, though he had moved since most of them were in the military. It was also his first time having a crush, a girl named Jamie. She had caramel brown eyes and a dirt brown hair and tanned skin. In Richard’s eyes, that’s what he expect what every woman had looked in the United States. Everytime Richard saw her across the hallway, he’d gaze at her for awhile. They both ride the same bus and with her friend, Sara, always together talking.

At one point, Jamie asked, “Hey Richard, I got a birthday party this Friday. Would you like to come?” Richard considered and responds, “Sure.”

A surge of excitement flowed through his veins. He was excited by the fact he was going to his crush’s party. He thought that he could impress her and support her in her endeavors despite not having a gift and it’s an invitation. When it came to the birthday party, a lot of things went out of hand. He was introduced with his three older brothers who looked suspicious, stared at the group of boys including Richard. Most of the inconvenience started is when Jamie went into one of her older brother’s room. They were taking turns playing Destiny and started to discuss about video games. Since Richard didn’t know much about the terminologies being spoken or the type of vernacular he had to execute, it was not an easy feat. Instead, he went with his friend Sam who liked anime, same as Richard did at the time. After the party, Richard spent time with Sam. However, Richard had to move for the last time; Richard went to Sam’s home and spent the last days together as he was also about to move. After that, Richard went and moved to Maryland while his aunt moved to Hawaii where his mother and his brother would stop becoming the caretakers.

    

After leaving Yorktown, Richard moved to Annapolis, Maryland where he continued middle school. However it was not as comfortable as Yorktown. This was a time Richard had gained new friends, as well as, bullies he had to run away from. Most of his middle school years hiding from the bullies while suffer the pain at being in an ESOL class. At first,  Richard was uncomfortable since he had never been in a school whose demographics are mostly African Americans. But, as time went on Richard didn’t mind. In fact, he had developed crushes over the course of his two years in middle school. There was one thing that affected him during his stay in Annapolis. Richard’s advisory teacher, Mr. Morris, was the kind of person he did not have during his younger years. Mr. Morris was a realist almost borderline nihilistic; in spite of it, he taught the advisory a lot of lessons. Though his demeanor discourages the class, for Richard he had tapped into him something he had been thinking in the course of his life: purpose. It was as if Richard’s mind had been rekindled by Mr. Morris’ words. Richard started to become more cynical as time went on for he did not know what to do with it. 

In his last year of middle school, more inconvenience and shocking events had thrusted. To name one, Richard’s new crush, Yen, dated his close friend, Joseph. This all started in the first year of eighth grade that he had a crush on Yen. Over the course of the school year, Richard had not made any moves that would let Yen notice Richard. In fact, he was too busy with home. During this time, his family was planning to move out of Annapolis and move to Adelphi. Richard was tired of moving around and he wants to have a simpler life. Of course, Richard did not express this. Instead, he was frustrated and angry. In his view, life could not get any better. How can you have a purpose in a cruel world? These kinds of questions that was running through Richard’s mind. 

Richard’s family were Christians and everyday they went to church sing songs and hymns, but at the time was confusing. He couldn’t understand why we must go to church daily; otherwise, you’ll get your bum blasted to pieces. He was not comfortable being with strangers he did not know; however, he wished he knew how to know them. He was living a dog’s life at the time: sleeping on an air mattress behind two large dressers. Breathing is rugged and full in your lungs and to top it off: it’s a freezing blizzard. The darkness that overtakes the small space Richard sleeps on the air mattress, gives him daydreams often with girls he had a crush on in school whilst laughing maniacally. In short, his mental health is being engaged with demons running his life full of torment and suffering. This continued till Adelphi now having a bunk bed with no partner to sleep on top of him. He sleeps alone sulking and depressed because of his state of being. He wanted it to end it all. Until a certain discussion in Bible Study struck him one Saturday night.

“Do you know why you’re here on Earth?” asked one of the teachers.

At first, Richard thought of saying the repetitive answer, ‘to share the gospel.’ Before he said it, the teacher spoke, “Whatever you answer, that’s up to you. But the underlying point is this: wherever you want to do in this world, you either follow God’s will and be in the air with Him, or continue in this world seeking worldly desires, but never reach the truth nor share it and burn in fire and brimstone: Hell.”

In a huge gulp, Richard had thought about that night.

“Going to Hell?” Richard asked himself.

He needed to find his purpose in life.

     The next year, Richard was a freshman in high school with a headstart in the student government. Busy trying to find his classes and learning more about the school, Richard was joining a Youth Camp which his church Youth had never experienced. and so does Richard. As time goes by, Richard has been finding himself little by little asking questions to his father and also starting to believe in what the Bible is saying about this world and God’s plan. At this point, Richard trusted God’s word despite the suffering and torment he still faces until now. However, it was not as continuous as it should have since he does not know how to manage his time complete due dates. In spite of that, he went to Youth Camp to see what they have. 

At night, Richard was driven to the camp for at least two hours back to Virginia as the location of camp lies. Richard was quite excited, yet nervous. Not only is he excited to take a rest and spend his time in the cabins he will sleep in, he will certainly learn more about Christ Jesus as his struggle to give time to learn more about Him. He wasn’t so sure if he was convinced, as he was playing around with the idea. In fact, he did so much that he turned it into a project: finding out how people think about religion and how it impacts them. Richard was pumped internally, but externally he is too tired to express such emotions. The next morning after settling, Richard felt uncomfortable trying to decide how to feel that he should have not accepted to come and continued school or make some kind of excuse not to. As he felt something in his heart that driven him to guilt. That morning, Richard and his cabin group were discussing about how to live the Christian life.

One of the questions that stuck out to him from the leader of the cabin was: why are you a Christian? Richard paused and thought about why while someone simply answered, “I’m a Christian because my parents are Christian.”

It was then followed with a response stating, “Then what happens if your parents are gone? Are you no longer a Christian?”

The room was filled with a momentary awkward silence thinking through what he actually meant. It gave Richard a realization that being a Christian isn’t something you’re affiliated with but what you as an individual should personally decide to believe in. It was a conscience decision Richard had to decide for himself. At this moment, Richard’s life would change entirely.

 Skipped to the last day of camp, Richard was patiently waiting for the pastor as well as everyone else. With his Bible prepared as well as a pen and paper to take notes. He was met with Pastor John, the last person to end the whole night before preparing for departure. Into the sermon, the pastor was discussing about a story when Jesus spoke to the women drawing water from the well. The atmosphere in the room became tense since the pastor has touched on subjects everyone was familiar with. One of those subjects are relationships which Richard at first did not care for the subject until there was one kind of relationship he was familiar since childhood: friends. Richard once again driven in guilt and unimaginable dread in his chest. He knew that he failed his relationship in middle school when he was trying to witness his friend as he was having trouble with his life. However, Richard himself was in a deeper trouble with himself. As much as he wanted to help, he did not know better. He was exactly a hypocrite: pretending to be something he is not. All his life, from his childhood till his high school years was a lie built up over time. His purpose and his own identity was a coping mechanism of the bad things that has happened during all of the times he spent. That night, Richard had finally found himself on his knees in tears.

The guilt had driven him to the ground so much that he started praying for forgiveness of all the unspeakable things he had done and the hypocrisy he had lived as well. Richard stood to the front and talked with one of the volunteers who helped guide Richard. It was his leader in the cabin that helped him. He and Richard discussed why he went up there and Richard opened up as to how he mocked and ridiculed an individual on the internet that they almost commit suicide. He also told about the times he fought back home in the Philippines. That night Richard was finding himself and finally accepted by Christ Jesus. He promised himself that he would no longer lie to himself about almost everything and be transparent about the problems he has. 

On the day of departure, Richard said their goodbyes and headed off back home. On the way back, Richard started to reflect on himself and start his changes. Although he was still not confident in himself, in time he will pray and find himself through Christ as he will be used in God’s plan for people in need. Richard begins his journey to find himself through his new life. He had to first learn what it means to live as a Christian.

   Richard starts to find what he could do to serve his church; however, the church was struggling to find their own sanctuary as they did not have enough money to pay rent to another church they stayed in. At first, the thought came to mind that they could join the other church, but some of the members did not want to, due to wanting to preserve their name. This continued lead on until late September of 2019 where both churches joined together due to their members leaving and walking away from the church. Under a new name, Richard had thought about and prayed what he could for God all those years yet no opportunity had opened that he would search. Richard cannot always be getting alms as there was someone already taking the position. At first, he was settled for cleaning the church with his brother who is now studying to become a pastor. 

      In the current day, Richard talked to the church’s Sunday school teacher for the children’s ministry, initially for community service hours for him to graduate. As Richard continued to help the teacher’s, Richard had started to think about teaching as it was also a form of studying, as he was still trying to learn how to walk the walk. After gaining his service hours, Richard started to enjoy his time and even participated in the carollings of the children. It struck Richard that he could live the rest of his life helping to develop the new generations of the church and preparing for them the dangers of being a youth as a Christian. He is still unsure if he would become a teacher for God, but he wants to help the children for the future struggles God will set him and the children in the days to come. 

The End.

 

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