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Love's Possibility and Promise

Written by Patrick N.

For the Saint

by Regine Velasquez

Bakit ba may lungkot sa 'yong mga mata (Why is there sadness in your eyes?)
Ako kaya'y di nais makapiling sinta (Don't you want to be with me?)
Di mapapansin ako sayo'y may pagtingin (Don't you notice how I have eyes only for you)
Sana ang tinig ko'y iyong dinggin (Please listen to me)

Ako ngayo'y di mapalagay (I am perturbed)
Pagkat ang puso ko'y nalulumbay (Because my heart is lonely)
Sana ay pagkaingatan mo ito (Please take care of it)
At tandaan mo ang isang pangako (And remember this one promise)

Pangako hindi kita iiwan (I promise not to leave you)
Pangako di ko pababayaan (The promise I won't forget)
Pangako hindi ka na mag-iisa (I promise that you will not be alone)
Pangakong magmula ngayo'y tayong dalawa (Promise that from this point on, the two of us)
Ang magkasama (are together)

Ano itong nadarama ko (What is this am feeling?)
Ako kaya'y nahuhulog, umiibig na sayo (Am I falling in love with you?)
Sa tuwing kasama ka'y anong ligaya (What joy! Whenever I am with you)
Sana sa akin ay magtiwala (Hoping that you will trust me)

Kung tunay man ang nadarama mo (If what you're feeling is true)
Mayron akong nais malaman mo (There is something I need you to know)
Ang aking puso ay iyong-iyo (My heart belongs to you)
Wag sanang lumimot sa pangako (Don't forget the promise)



It was a heavy Monday. A group of us who went to Thailand to attend a regional Jesuit conference arrived in a delayed flight to Manila. We arrived exactly three hours before my first class of the day. Not having the benefit of sleep, I dragged myself in Fr. Nemy's class and eventually to the 1130am mass in the college chapel after. I felt like a zombie. All I wanted was to get things done and over with so I can sleep. I wanted to sleep.

I was snoozing in the mass. I was barely awake. Yet, I was jolted into consciousness after hearing Fr. O'Gorman's stunning news about the dying Fr. Joey Fermin. Fr. Joey was the Headmaster of the Ateneo Grade School who suffered an unnamed variant of cirrhosis. He underwent liver transplant six months ago. Apparently, his body rejected what supposedly a compatible liver. He died on that day, a good nine hours after that O' Gorman mass. We were to bury him three days after.

The news of his eventual demise struck me. Initial thoughts quickly surfaced, prominent of which was this question: Was it better not to be?

Was it better for the liver transplant to not have transpired given the eventual result? Was it better to have applied palliative care rather than the risk of a sensitive and expensive operation? I realized I was counting. And in this kind of situation, I felt the normalcy of counting. It was an injustice—a failure of hope for a better result given the generosity of heart and pure intention. I walked towards home, contemplating on the predominant feeling of regret. But it was very apparent that the pertinent questions were not about counting or cost-benefit. It was actually: to love or not?

It was about loving. Life can readily present various examples from the frequently overlooked mother's care to these kinds of appropriation of extravagant medical treatment for the person we love. Despite the struggles of daily living, the question of to love or not still persists. What I carried throughout the day after that mass was weight of love. There is a weight, a burden if you will, to loving. Loving takes a lot—in fact, it takes everything from emptying one's pockets to one's private space and eventually to one's entirety. Yet despite its demands, it is almost impossible to not love. And this adds more weight to regret or pity or anger—the fact that despite all these, I cannot not love.

I was sharing this heavy load of regret mixed with impossibility of not loving with the scholastic who did the donation. In the course of the conversation, I was struck by the incident that he narrated to me. When he visited and said his goodbyes to Fr. Joey, Fr. Joey responded with a thank you and a sorry. He was grateful for the scholastic's generosity and he was sorry because his body rejected the donated liver. This incident led me to reflect on love's possibility and promise.

Love's Possibility

I began to ask in that particular situation, how could it happen? How is possible that despite the failure of hopes, despite the losing end of the bargain, despite the impending casualty of death, gratitude and forgiveness reign? That incident of gratitude and forgiveness belongs to a plethora of other people who in the clutches of death manage to thank life and the people around them. I have been both a witness and a subject to this. I clearly remember when my maternal grandfather was dying he thanked me and repeatedly told me how much he loves me. These occasions of final goodbyes—where the closest friends and families are intimately present to exchange farewells and see you soons—these are miracles. These are possibilities created out of love.

Love's power lies precisely on its ability to create even the possibility. Two people, completely different and even opposite find themselves in each other's arms because of the possibility of love. This creative power of possibility transcends even the imagination. Love knows no bounds, knows no constraints or limitations. Whatever that is given, even the bleak and confusing situations of pain and death, it can transform into life. People who simply be there for their friends despite the lack of solution and direction in their experience of sorrow and suffering, lovers who got back several times after petty fights or break-ups, acceptance of death and realities of forgiveness and gratitude despite the failure of expectations are but a small sample of love's creative possibilities. Sky is the limit as the expression goes but love even goes beyond the skies. Love is itself the limit.

Thus, life is possible to go on. Redemption can happen even in the gravest mistakes. Resurrection is a reality which is the final answer and not death. The fact that the I survives, the fact that there is even an I, is because of love. Creation continues despite the destruction.

Love's Promise

And no other reality that espouses this thought in its fullness than in a promise. What is perplexing perhaps in a promise is not so much its content as its power of creating and actualizing a possibility. Not only that it makes things possible, it makes real its conceptualized possibilities. It forms and breathes flesh and bone to the form itself. It creates.

The Creation story which we are all familiar with best illustrates the promise. Everything is created through the word. For things to be real, for being to happen, for being to be, it has to be spoken. Several lines share a similar structure in the creation story—when God said [blank], then there was [blank]. It was in the saying where things came to be. It is through an act that be-ing was born. Likewise, a promise is not a promise if it is not spoken—if it is not verbalized. The possibility and its subsequent flesh and bone happen in the verbalization.

Heiddeger mentioned that man is the spokesperson of being—that our vocation is to speak of, to articulate being. It is through the verbalization where disparate and multiple experiences and thoughts find their meaning and sense. Thus, words do carry powerful meanings and sense. Language is never a game, in contrast, to what Wittgenstein is proposing. Ergo, to lie is to betray our vocation. To lie is to sow chaos and confusion. To lie is to corrupt being.

In our culture, we place emphasize on the word—palabra de honor—word of honor. If the palabra is unfulfilled or betrayed, we feel pain. Further, when we have said something, it is almost impossible to take it back. I have said it already, thus I have to fulfill what I have promised. The have that manifests itself as an obligation is more than an obligation. A promise is not just a social contract. Its binding force does not lay so much on duty as in its power to create. I have made something real the moment I spoke it. It is in creation where duty takes its form. Something has been created. Something that has not found its telos or its completion but is already. Something has already existed. Thus, to abandon my word, to betray my promise means to run away from a responsibility. The moment I spoke, I am already responsible.

Aside from the impetus of responsibility is the offering of self, which provides for the other source of binding force. What is seemingly part of the content—a party—is actually the element that makes secure the content itself—me. I am the content. What I promise is my self. What I offer is my self. I am the guarantor. Thus, it is not so much also of the content but of the guarantor. You promised! is an expression common to little children when their parents fail to fulfill what they promised. It is the subject and the act. It is the person who makes the promising. The anger and pain are directed to the promisor. Thus, more than a social contract, a promise is a relationship. It is not just the deliverance of goods, the abiding of rules, or even the terms of the promise itself. It is the between that is shared by the promisor and promisee. The violation of a promise is a violation of the relationship.

And isn't it perplexing that love is precisely about responsibility and relationship? When I say, "I love you" I also mean that I am responsible for you and I have a relationship with you. The force that binds finds itself born out of the utterance of reaching out and togetherness. Thus, a promise appears to be not only a creation of possibilities but also a bearing of responsibilities and a giving birth of togetherness. Forever does happen and its scope is love. Its weight is bore together by two lovers. Creation, responsibility, and togetherness are one in the essence of a promise. Thus, when a promise is broken, it hurts tremendously not only because of the failed expectations but of abandonment—I am left alone. It is the experience of being forsaken—the denial and rejection especially from the one I love.

Then again after healing and moving on, despite the rejections and failures, we still make promises. It is impossible not to promise. To love is to express, to verbalized—to love is to promise. And we hold not so much on the expectation of the fulfillment but rather on the totality of the promise itself—its creative power and the responsibility for each other that they both bear in the relationship that is born out of love. Hope, in its essence, is held on because there is already happening once I promise. Hope, in this context, is not only eschatological or the waiting for something that is not. That is optimism. Rather, hope is both eschatological and in the here and now. Because of the there is that was born in a promise, I have reason to eagerly wait and work for the future. The future, though not yet, is present already. There is meaning to waiting. There is sense in hoping.


When we bid goodbye to Fr. Joey in his funeral mass in the Gesu, I could not help but ponder on the saying, see you soon. The MTV video that featured messages on facebook (that somehow became a shrine) mixed with varied pictures of Fr. Joey presented a lot of see you soons. See you soon itself is a promise—a verbalization of a guaranteed togetherness in the fullness of time. We firmly believe such reality where everyone of us will see each other despite the reality of passing away, of death. Saying see you soon negates the reality of death, which a negation of life. This paradoxical reality, which is divine, is made possible through love—a love that creates and transcends even broken or failed promises.


  1. I cannot find an email address here via which I might write to you with a question.

    But, if you would entertain a question (of course you don't have to make any promises to answer it, simply to consider it anonymously), please write to me at

  2. great point about promises...


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