Humility, Prizes and Pride
(This is a reflection of my son, Yuri, during his NSC 2011 experience in Roxas City, Capiz on October 15-22, 2011)
Perhaps, it was pride. No, not probably. It was pride. Pride that – as a former delegate of Soli Deo Gloria Christian Academy (SDGCA) for two years – I had earned seven medals – five in the Junior Student Convention (JSC) 2009 and two in the National Student Convention (NSC) 2010. I took up a first place medal in the JSC and two fourth place medals in the last NSC. I felt like I was a medal-winner, and that was my weakness.
I remembered Sir JP, our P.E. teacher. About a month before the NSC this year, he shared about how he related his experience of a dislocated joint (I’m not exactly sure) to the story of how Jacob wrestled with the stranger. He related how God injured Jacob because, according to the Bible, he was a very strong man and was probably proud in this area. He said that God gave him his condition in order to rebuke him of how proud he was in the area of sports. Then, a week before the NSC, he shared another humbling experience. It did not seem as significant to me as it did after the convention.
First day. We, the Living Heritage Academy (LHA) - Homeschool delegates, flew to Iloilo City along with three delegates from SDGCA. I was glad to see them, and (I‟m pretty sure) they felt the same about me. At least there were no feelings of extreme competitiveness and the like. Then we rode a van to Roxas City. We stayed at my father‟s friends‟ home overnight.
Second day. We moved to La Hacienda Hotel. The Philippine Christian School of Tomorrow (PCST) was already there, as were some of the other LHA delegates. Eventually, we met our teammates. Later we had our appearance check and the submission of arts and photography entries. I knew very well what to expect from other schools, but I was still amazed at what they came up with. I even tried to conceal my entries as much as possible. The submission of these entries was a real test. We could not submit without certain stickers on our „passports,‟ and we had to wait about four hours to get them. Then, we submitted them, but we discovered that we could not have plastic covers on our entries, so we took them off, dismantling the photography matting. We had to manually fix them for about another half-hour. We returned to the hotel hungry and tired later that night.
Third day. Spelling. It was alright. I was – or felt – very prepared. Probably, Kuya Arky (my coach) would have said different, but I still felt prepared. I was not nervous, and we even kept talking before the beginning of the competition. At the end of the competition, I discovered that I had at least four mistakes. I felt a little nervous, but I tried comforting myself by saying, “Many others probably had even more mistakes than you.”
Next, we had music events. I quickly changed and went to the room where the solo piano events were held. I sat down and listened to the contestant before me. He delivered an excellent medley of a very fast version Sonatina (which I knew very well), Majesty, and another piece whose name eluded me. Then, it was my turn. Nervousness struck me for the first time in the competition. I ended up making many mistakes. I felt bad. Then, I had my duet with Jotham, another LHA delegate. I was frustrated that the violins kept getting out of tune. We quickly practiced and tuned our violins. Then, we listened to a piece performed by two Koreans, a pianist and a flutist. I was impressed by the flutist, but the keyboard on which the pianist played was too soft. I felt confident that we would play better than them. Our performance, from what I could hear, ended up lackluster. Then, we went back to the hotel. We attended the rally night at the Capiz Gym that evening, where things really kicked off. The news of awarding of pre-submitted events the following day made my heart beat faster. I was proud of the entries we submitted, and God would teach me a lesson in that area.
Fourth day. Bible Bowl (a Bible quiz). I felt a little unprepared for this event. Last year, under SDGCA, I and four others took the fourth place out of perhaps fifty schools. I wondered how this year would turn out as I represented LHA. Kuya Arky told us to pray after each question. When the competition began, we got many questions correct, but we began getting streaks of wrong answers after. Some were painfully and regretfully close. And here, I began praying in my mind, “Lord, if you want me to be humbled, let me be humbled.” A part of me did not want Him to answer, but I knew that He really would. We ended up at the sixth place along with PCST and another school, so we needed a tie-breaker. Jotham kept reminding us to pray. Before praying, I said, “Do not pray that we would win; pray that God would bring out His will for us.” God‟s will was that we would lose the tie-breaker and end up seventh, one place short of a medal. I was disappointed for a while. SDGCA took the fourth place again, and perhaps a shadow of jealousy rested in my heart for a while. Nevertheless, I congratulated the members of their team and Pastor Guilbert Enriquez, administrator of SDGCA as well.
We went to the Capiz Gym again later. There was singing and a few videos and then, the awarding. I expected to take a few medals back to the hotel, but no, I did not. Yet, I did not feel bad about it. There was PACE Bowl the following day, and six more events which had not been called yet. We went back to the hotel and I kept talking with God of how my pride was my downfall. But I had not completely learned my lesson. We practiced with a delegate from Manila, Julius Ocampo, who would join our PACE Bowl team. I said in my mind, “A first place medal would make up for the seventh place in Bible Bowl.” That mindset would lead to our loss the next day.
Fifth day. PACE Bowl (an academic quiz). As an SDGCA delegate, we took the fourth place. Still harboring that feeling of pride, I joined the others as we went to Capiz Gym for the PACE Bowl. We had reviewed like crazy last night. The competition began, and we missed the first question. Then, as it went on, I returned to my prayer the last day: “Lord, if you want me to be humbled, let me be humbled.” And I was; we had a final score of twelve out of thirty questions. We could have probably gotten more answers correct had we not been careless. We did not make it close to the top six. SDGCA took fourth place again. We went to them and congratulated them again, and they did the same to us.
Later we claimed our photos and artworks. I heard that a fellow LHA delegate had five finalists for art. We went to claim our photos and I was again disappointed (although I had not really expected to place) to find that I was not a finalists. Tim, another LHA delegate from Davao City, had one finalist, and we actually shouted for about five seconds in the room.
Then, at the rally, awarding came again. I took no medal again but I did not feel bad. Jotham took a first place medal in the clay sculpture. Another LHA delegate took five medals in painting, and I remembered how I did the same at my first year in SDGCA. But I did not feel bad about it, like I usually did for the past two conventions.
As we rode a tricycle going back to the hotel, Mama called me. I shared to her my prayers and how I felt. And, for the first time, after talking to Mama, I felt like crying. Not for the medals. I prayed, “Lord, what if all of my prayers for humility were still out of my pride? And when you brought me through these experiences, what if I was not willing to accept? What if I had focused everything on the medals, never on You?” I wept inside as rain poured, but I managed not to cry outwardly. When I remember that night, I still feel the same way.
At the hotel room, it dawned on me. I probably would not bring home any medal. I said, “You know, Lord, that’s just fine with me. I prayed that, if You wanted me to be humbled, I really would be humbled. And I was. Still, thank you, Lord, for breaking me and teaching me in the area of my pride.”
The next day, athletics were held. We had three delegates for these events. I just briefly prayed for God’s will for them to prevail, and God willed that they would not place in any of their events. At the rally, I won no medal once again. It was over. I had not won one medal out of my ten events.
The last day, we had fun going around the city. At the rally, Mr. Danny Thomas, the pianist for the NSC, shared his testimony. I listened as he shared how he had grown proud in the area of his talent, and he was rebuked repeatedly of how he lived his life and made decisions without asking God’s guidance and will. I felt no more bad feelings of not winning. Then, we closed the NSC.
It was over. I earned no medal, but I learned many lessons. That being said, I am thankful to God.