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A Birthday reflection

By Salesian prenovice Benjo Ian Mangila

Canlubang, the Philippines, 9 July 2020 -- We can't imagine the Salesian Oratory without music. One of the Filipino candidates to Salesian life shared on his birthday about learning musical instruments as paradigm of life-long formation:


When I entered the Salesian formation house, the only instrument that I could play was the guitar. My 1st to 2nd year as Aspirant was an experience of the guitar. I needed to learn all the basic chords for me to play a song. Each guitar chord seemed too complicated because I needed to learn the basics of the formation process, which were all strange to me. Everything was new, the people, the environment, the rules, the house, etc. I needed to step my foot forward so that each strum and pluck may sound fine, to go along. It is like placing my fingers on the different strings in and frets to make the guitar sound well. I reached even the point of giving up playing the guitar because everything seems to be structured and repeated every day. I said to myself, "I will never learn unless I practise these basic things over and over again. I will never love the formation process unless I practise them over and over again. It needs to be part of me, printed within my heart. Later on, this will make an impact on my life." Slowly, things went well and as expected this process is very much challenging and painful because of too much pressing on the strings. These pains with me while playing are my imperfections, sins, and mistakes. God gave me calluses so that despite my shortcomings, I can continuously play my guitar of life.


When I was a 3rd-year Aspirant, I learned how to play the bass guitar. This instrument is massive because the strings are thick. The guitar and bass guitar are the same guitar but, the structure and the sound that each produces are different. The bass guitar makes a low-frequency sound making music even more solid together with the high notes. My 3rd to 4rth year of my stay was an experience of the bass guitar. This low-frequency sound represents the foundations, the importance and, the values of the formation process that I need to imbibe within me. It is a time of learning the values behind the rules and regulations of the formation house. This stage requires seriousness in learning how to love the solidness of the way of life of the Salesians. Playing the bass guitar is like learning and living the values of the formation process with greater depth and love. Without a good bass sound, the music may not sound good because of the lack of foundational sounds. Imagine the guitar without any bass strings. The bass guitar may be simpler to play than the guitar but the process of playing is much more painful.


When I became a prenovice, I started learning the piano. The piano is very much different from the guitar and the bass guitar that I've been playing. Everything for me is complicated. I tried combining the things that I've learned from the two previous instruments in learning the piano, the theory on the chords, and the basic bass movements. Applying these things will help me in pressing the piano keys well, creating a sound of great music. Reading notes is also part of playing the piano, which I also need to master. The prenovitiate for me is like learning to play the piano. I have combined my love for the formation process and the awareness of living its values, pressing myself slowly in the ways and means of the Salesian life despite all the difficulties. Again, the process of learning is challenging, undergoing white keys and black keys at the same time, accidentally pressing the wrong keys, etc. I still need to practice and the guidance of others who are good at playing the piano for me to improve in learning the instrument.

Playing the instruments for me is like practising and loving the formation process that I am currently undergoing. While playing each of these instruments, my usual problem is that my hands get sweaty. These sweaty hands represent my struggles, difficulties, imperfections, and issues. As I go along with my formation process, I have these things imprinted within, some vanish but, some remain. This problem still creeps up on me and usually I get discouraged by it.

Lord, thank You for knowing my capacity to love through the musical instruments that You've given me because learning an instrument is learning how to live my life. Continue to teach me to live a life close to You. Lord, I put all my trust in You no matter what will happen to me, to continue my vocational journey or to give it up and live in a different way of life. The only thing that matters for me now is to play an instrument praising You in my whole life. Amen.





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