One of Seth Godin's latest entries - What's your superpower? - reminded me of something. Not so much about my superpower - but of the impact that others' superpowers have had on me.
(Just in case you're wondering: I am Phil - I uncover stories behind numbers and make sense out of data so you can make a better decision.)
Mr. Godin's entry came at a time when I also unearthed from the morass inside my room a bookmark from one of the magazines that I patronize. It asks "Who is your superhero?"
I guess it's pure coincidence.
But it got me thinking: Some of the superheroes in my lives have led very quiet lives - but in spite of that - or perhaps, even because of that - they had made an impact in my life.
The first superheroine is my music teacher, Ms. Regina Batarao. When I was in fifth grade, she encouraged me to take up music and play the organ during masses. I am not sure now if that was her ploy of actually getting me into church every Sunday and Thursday - but it did work. I can't say that I am more religious because of her 'tactic' - but I can say my ears are more 'sensitive'. I learned - through her - the art of the oido: listening to a song over and over again, looking for the chord-combinations (what I call the "musical skeleton"), reconstructing the notes, and then putting those notes on a music paper with the right notation and beats.
I never got to mastering it - I was very impatient with listening to the notes for the left-hand. But every time I hear a song on the radio, my brain whirs and I get to identify the "musical skeleton" of the song after its first chorus/refrain. By the end of the song, I can visualize the notes in my head - and I know that if I wanted to, I can most likely reconstruct the right-hand notes for the song.
I am grateful to her for this gift and encouragement. And for that, she is my superheroine.
The second superheroine in my life is my Religion teacher, Ms. Lily Magadan. I was a 3rd year high school student when I met her. She was my guitar teacher. At the end of each day, she would gather 10 to 12 of us inside the music room or in the empty church, and get us to play the guitar. The first lesson - "Yellow Bird". We had to master the strumming. I never was good, though - and early on, I knew that I was not going to be any good. I gave up.
But she did teach me something else: How to question my beliefs - and how to believe in something or someone that reason or science cannot explain.
She taught us - in her religion class - how to read the Bible, critique it, use a concordance, and 'contextualize' it. She asked us questions about "Why do you think this was written this way? What are the historical facts behind these? What would the interpretations be from a historical perspective? And what is your interpretation? If you put faith back in, how would you reinterpret it?"
A lot of us were scared of her. But she taught us how to read, how to contextualize things, how to question - not just religion.
Both of them encouraged me to get into the Ateneo de Manila University - and forget about being in the State University because "you need a Jesuit education - that's where you will grow the most".
They were right.
In my life, my university days have been filled with challenges - I was stretched academically, physically (darn those PE classes and volleyball!), emotionally (raging hormones, hello!), and spiritually (philosophy of religion?).
Both of them are my heroes.
What's their superpowers?
I guess if you'd meet Ms. Magadan right now, this is what she'd say: "Hi, I am Lily. I inspire people to reach their fullest potentials and reach for the skies, whilst keeping their feet on the ground."
And Ms. Batarao would probably say, "Hi, I am Regie. I teach people how to listen - really listen - to what is being said, to what is not being said... and be open."
They both passed away several years ago. And I never had the chance to tell them they were - and still are - my heroes.
I know this entry won't do whatever they have contributed to my life justice.
But their names? Engraved in my heart. And in my soul.