“Kuya, can you be my best friend?”

I distinctly remember the moment one of my students in Para Kay Kiko asked me this halfway through the summer program. This question caught me by surprise. For one, I never saw myself as a person my students would be interested in – I thought of myself as a very timid ‘teacher’. I was convinced that my introverted self dissociated me from my students. Yet, as I would learn from that moment and many other encounters thereafter, this was not the case. I realized that you have to be your genuine self to connect with others.

In Para Kay Kiko, I got to be myself. I didn’t have to be ashamed of my nerdy attraction to the Sciences and odd sense of humour. These, I felt, even helped ignite the motivation of my students in the classroom. Still, what occurs in the classroom is not what makes PKK special for me;  instead, it is the friendship one forms with the students and fellow Xaverian kuyas from different batches. Coming into PKK, gaining new friends wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. However, as it turned out, joining the program offered all of us a special bond. It is this friendship that isn’t bound by masks, but is rooted from the same authenticity of our unique quirks, personalities, and being. As they say, friends need not be cut from the same cloth.

This authenticity shared by the kuyas allowed me to learn to genuinely care for the other, to see their needs as my own, to feel their joys and pains as my own. Having this point of view then would encourage me to do more, to love more, and to give more, even when it is most tiring. This was especially something I had to learn as I dealt with my students and even in working together with other kuyas in the workroom – from designing our lesson plans that would engage the students, coming up with activities (thank God for Kahoot!), preparing our slides, planning events such as the Recollection, Graduation, and even the weekly General Assemblies. I believe that this is the fruit of authentic friendship – a friendship God utilizes to reveal His own friendship with us. By the time Graduation came, my heart was full witnessing both our students and kuyas in tears as we bid farewell.

Ultimately, Para Kay Kiko helped me grow as a child of Francis Xavier; it is growth that isn’t solitary but with fellow sons of Kiko. My experiences in the program taught me the value of community, and enriched my understanding and practice of the Ignatian ideals that weren’t new to me, yet somehow unexpectedly transfigured in my heart.

St. Francis Xavier, our kuya Kiko, pray for us.

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