When the videos of former Ateneo junior high school student Joaquin Montes bullying some of his batchmates surfaced and went viral, an overwhelming majority of people called for swift disciplinary action. Some even called for Montes to be given an equal dose of the treatment he dished out, notwithstanding the violent consequences in the end. Such a response is understandable; bullies get away with their crimes with impunity and divine justice acts slow.
I reacted similarly upon finding this out, being a victim myself. I condemned the slow, turning-a-blind-eye response the Ateneo administration did – much like how Claret showed its apathy during the time I was in high school. It made me wonder: do Catholic schools sweep bullying cases under the rug for the sake of reputation? I did change my stance in time, as Ateneo president Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ ordered Montes to be excluded from the Ateneo with no chance of returning. Kicked out, in layman’s terms. It may not be enough for some, but at least Ateneo did something in a formal capacity.
Now, moving on. I posted the preceding pictures in my Instagram stories, and I didn’t expect a lot of feedback from most of my circle there. Here’s the gist if you’re too lazy to read: I encountered one of the bullies who made my high school life difficult, but didn’t confront him then and there. Eleven years I waited, and now God puts my enemy ahead for me to strike down. A different person would have been thankful for the chance to smite down his enemy, eternally grateful to God for a chance to vanquish his foe.
But I let him leave.
Was it a missed opportunity?
“For He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”
This aforementioned fair-skinned tisoy (local parlance for a mestizo) bully graduated grade school from Ateneo. However, he did not make it to Ateneo high school for some reason – thus, he transferred to Claret alongside a few schoolmates of his. I don’t know; kicked out, maybe? All throughout high school, he boasted that he would return to Ateneo for college.
Equity has guided man for the longest time now; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Our inclination towards equity while in an unfair world makes us exhaust all means to get what is rightfully ours – whether it’s vengeance over a past misdeed, or what have you. I myself wanted to exhaust all means to get even the moment I saw that bully. I could have confronted him right on the spot, releasing more than a decade’s worth of frustrations and finishing off with a curb stomp. But after that, what do I have? A corpse in front of me, a criminal record, and 25 to life.
“Beloved, do not take revenge but rather, leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written: vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Let’s wind the clocks back a few years. A classmate of mine in the required freshman English and Literature subjects was among the close friends I had in college. This friend revealed that the bully was a cousin of hers, and that he never passed Ateneo’s college entrance exam in the first place. In addition, she told me that the bully graduated from De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde, right across the main university. I paid no mind to him ever since I graduated from high school, eventually getting my degree in 2012. Karma going full circle? Maybe.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
A lot of emotions came in a rush the moment I saw that bully. Forgiveness wasn’t among those emotions. It would take a saint to be actually cordial with someone who messed with you back then, left noticeable repercussions, and got away with nary a slap on the wrist. I’m not exactly religious myself, but at that moment I felt the Lord stop me and say: Let him go. You have a better life now. Don’t ruin it.
I have had closure from a seemingly unfulfilled college life, and have forgiven myself for a disappointing past. I am at peace now, and God has determined that it isn’t fruitful to pursue an old foe. Heavenly retribution comes at its own appointed hour. It moves slowly not because we do not deserve justice, but because we deserve inner peace.