By Nancy Caluya-Nicolas
On December 10, 2016, KKFI Executive Director Nancy C. Nicolas delivered an inspirational speech at Central United Methodist Church on T.M. Kalaw Street in Manila in front of children of pastors of the United Methodist Church. The event was meant to revive the PKs’ (preachers’ kids) organization that after a one-and-a-half-decade hiatus. This is Ms Nicolas’s message:
I am honoured to be here. Seeing so many luminaries and VIPs of the church, I wonder what the members of the Organizing Committee were thinking when they decided to invite me to deliver the inspirational speech when there are so many who are much more qualified than myself. I should be the one sitting there in the audience and listening to any one of you.
Pero nagkasubuan na kaya tiis-tiis na lang kayo sa anumang sasabihin ko.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad to share with you some of my experiences and thoughts about being a PK or preacher’s kid. I am happy to see familiar faces and I am equally happy to see new ones.
As PKs, we share something special and unique. We are all survivors. We survived the many travails that preachers’ kids had to endure. The mere fact that we are all here is a cause of celebration. Indeed, this occasion is a celebration more than anything. However, we are aware not every PK survived, we are aware of that.
Perhaps, God willed that we survive so that others who are still in that stage will have something to look forward after the storm has passed.
I understand why some of you do not want to use the term “PK” anymore. You want it changed, right? I know why. It has a negative connotation, especially in the United States, where when somebody says, “There’s a PK in the room,” is a cause for panic or at least caution.
When someone describes someone a PK, it means that person has a propensity to rebel against the established institution, particularly his or her parents’ religion and values.
Do you know there’s a medical terms such “Preacher’s Kid Syndrome”? It’s a medical condition, they say, term describing the pastors’ children to become the stereotypical rebels albeit without a cause. According to a study done in the US, a little over 20 percent of PKs become atheists or drug users. I am not sure if there has been a similar study done in the Philippines.
I find it curious that PKs often describe their childhood as “struggle” and themselves as “survivors.” That’s why I told you I was glad to see you, my co-survivors. I am happy to see many have made it through the storm. Although surviving doesn’t mean we were able to do so without a scratch. I’m sure the degree of injuries vary. What is important is that we are still here, celebrating our unique lives, being thankful after all these years.
However, I admit having second thoughts gracing this very special occasion. To reminisce those days evoke both positive and negative emotions. How traumatic was it for a child to know that you are living in a glass house that every member of the community stares at 24/7?
“Parang nasa showbiz, kaya lang walang pera.”
Just when you thought you have tamed and charmed the members of the church and they are beginning to look at you positively, here comes another pastoral assignment relocating to a place away from your school, your classmates and your friends.
You find yourself in another glass house but that does not make you comfortable just because it is familiar. Another fishbowl only means another set of some one hundred, three hundred or five hundred pairs of eyes staring at your every move, ready to pounce at you at the slightest mistake.
I find it funny that church members would always assume that preacher’s kids were “pasaway” even before they have seen them. Again, that’s because of PK Syndrome. Experience taught them to react that way.
I know all of us have one wish: To treat us like normal kids or young persons who are not necessarily holy, not necessarily multi-talented who can sing, dance, act, play all sorts of musical instruments, who know by memory key Bible verses and are as enthusiastic as the old members to attend the Sunday worship service.
We wish we can break some rules every now and then without the whole community talking about how “sinful” we are and so “unlike a child of a pastor.”
After all, the PK Syndrome has been there for generations, even back to the biblical times.
Do you know who the most notorious PK was? Somebody? The answer is: Absalom, the son of David (2 Samuel 18:33). Well, the experts in the Bible among you would say David is, technically, not a church leader. A political leader, maybe, but not the priest.
Well then, there’s the equally infamous brothers Hophni and Phinehas, sons of Eli, the priest (I Samuel 2:12-34). I know I’m not being kind comparing us to Absalom and Eli’s sons. They are the stereotypes of the negative PKs. I do not know exactly the reason why this event is being held, but I surmise it is to organize a support system for other, younger PKs and not let them become the modern-day Absaloms.
And since there are a number of successful Preacher’s Kids around, they can be inspired to “survive” their situations and still live a normal, successful life.
Both my parents are pastors in Isabela province. My late mother, the Rev. Policarpia Lanuza Caluya, took on assignments in larger congregations than my late father, the Rev. Florencio Juan Caluya, who preferred assignments in remote barrios. We always lived in the parsonages of the bigger churches in major towns where my mother was assigned.
Sometimes, my two brothers—Henry and June—my sister, Rosenie, and I didn’t feel like attending Sunday worship services. Maybe this phenomenon occurred twice or thrice a year. To PKs, this is considered a cardinal sin. We would hear words from members of the congregation. Hurtful words like, “Parang hindi mga anak ng pastor.” Sometimes, worse than that.
I wonder if they knew that their comments have left scars in the PKs’ psyche. I wonder that we suffered thinking about what they thought of us? That we were not worthy to be children of our parents who happened to be pastors?
So this was the world I, I mean, we, had to endure, especially during those critical growing-up days. I am thankful to my parents, especially to my mother, for boldly expanding my world.
When I was 13, barely out of grade school, she encouraged me to participate in SCYD held in Aldersgate College in Solano, Nueva Viscaya. At that time, our conference was still called the North-East Philippines Annual Conference or NEPAC.
She accompanied me to the bus terminal in the town of Alicia in Isabela, helped settle in a bus seat and told the driver to let me off in Solano. I remember by heart her instruction, which was simple enough: Once you get off at Solano, take a tricycle and tell the driver to take you to Aldersgate College. I met no major problem, except jitters.
That’s how I started my involvement in the church beyond the confines of the four-walled church. At 16, I became an officer of NEPAC. Five years after, I became the national president of the UMYF.
In between, I met friends and mentors. I can no longer remember the names of all of them. I apologize. But I certainly could not go on without mentioning some of them, like, Mr. Gideon Epistola, Ate Phebe Crismo, Ate Emma Cantor, Daisy Carreon Derige, Nida Gapuz Martinez, and Sid Balatan.
College was an opportunity to be more independent. I studied in the Wesleyan University in Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija. It was hard, especially on the financial side, but being accustomed to having nothing made me and my elder brother, resilient. We shared the same rented room in Cabanatuan.
But one thing about being United Methodist pastors, they always find a way to pay for the education of their children. It was a mystery to me until now. Although I was aware my parents had a hard time, but they were able to send all four of us, their children, to college.
I took up a degree in chemistry but I was not able to practice it. Ate Phebe Crismo was the program assistant of the Mass Media Commission of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines or NCCP. She asked me if I would be interested to be her assistant. I did not hesitate to apply for the job. That was 1983.
Two years after, Ate Phebs transferred to another office in NCCP, the Commission on Christian Education. She was replaced by a handsome young man, who is now my husband, Mr. Fort Nicolas.
Soon, I was promoted as the program coordinator of the Commission on Youth and Student Ministry. My brother, Kuya Hen, was still jobless after two years. We graduated the same year. I was already in NCCP for a couple of years yet he was yet to find a job that befitted his college degree in electronics engineering. One day, obviously out of frustration, he told me he had decided to enrol in the Union Theological Seminary in Cavite to become a pastor.
I almost panicked! I didn’t want my beloved brother to go through what my parents went through—all the criticisms, the cruelty and hypocrisy of some members of the church, mostly prominent and active ones. I am sure the whole family has enough of those in a lifetime.
“Kuya,” I begged him to, “I will find you a job. But, please, don’t become a pastor!”
That’s Preacher’s Kid Syndrome at work right there. Not wanting any of your loved one experienced what your parents experienced as a church worker.
I was awed by the great minds of NCCP staff members. To me, being like them was enough to get me through life. However, I realized that I needed to know more. I had the opportunity to work as the assistant program manager of a project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency or CIDA and implemented by the Commission on the Role of Filipino Women or NCRFW. There, I learned to be technically equipped there. I am thankful for the experience.
However, the pull of the church is too much. It might have been implanted in my DNA. So off to another church-based NGO I went. Once again, Ate Phebe Crismo informed me of an opening for a program director in Lingap Pangkabataan Inc. or LPI. The board chairperson of LPI then was Dr. Zenaida Lumba, who immediately hired me. The board promoted me as acting executive director after only six months.
Why? Because Lingap Pangkabataan Inc. was to be closed. Its only funding partner, the KNH or Kindernothilfe, was terminating its assistance. My role was to manage the closure of the NGO. I could not accept it! I talked to everyone—the KNH, the Board of Trustees, the staff—and worked for the continuity of the organization.
I was able to convince the membership to change the composition of the Board in order for the KNH to continue its funding. For the next 10 years, I continued to manage the LPI as its executive director. At my ninth year, Kuya Dave Gutierrez came wooing me to take on the KKFI executive directorship vacated by Mrs. Priscilla Atuel, who retired a year before. Kuya Dave, who was the Board chair, had been the acting executive director for almost a year by that time.
It took almost two years before I said “yes.” In 2010, I became the executive director of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. or KKFI, which is the social development arm of the United Methodist Church. I am still working at KKFI.
My story may not be as dramatic as the others’ but what I would like to point out the obvious: My life’s twists and turns were fuelled by religion and values of my parents, who are both pastors.
Yes, I caught the virus of the PK Syndrome, a very unique set of emotions and actions that usually form an identifiable pattern. Thank God it was not the extreme variety. I also rebelled and I also rejected certain lessons that I prefer to learn in my own sweet time.
But there are positive behavioural patterns, too, that I developed because I grew up as a PK. I learned to understand that everyone has needs to fulfil. One of the basic ones is the need to belong and to have a unique identity.
My parents were effective pastors because they treated every member of the church as family. I applied that in my jobs. In Lingap Pangkabataan, we had over 50 projects all over the country, each one with an average of five staff members each. I knew each of them by their first name. I was patient with them. I knew their respective situations. They loved me for that.
As pastors’ children, we know how to empathize. That is always a good trait to have, especially when you handle people.
Indeed, I believe the children of clergy have a special role in the church. As I said, we are unique. For years, we have occupied the front seat, I mean pew, in the spectator sport called church life. We know it inside and out and upside down. We have that singular perspective.
If there is anyone who knows how the church should go, it is the PK. A pastor’s child can provide that singular perspective on how the church should be run so it may move forward.
Offhand, I would say it is the PKs who have already made it through the rain who must champion, motivate and advocate for those who are still in the process of surviving.
We must assure the latter that there are better days to come. They only need to endure. We must educate the church to allow the pastors’ kids to be regular children. Allow them to be not as devout as their parents. Just let them be who they are. They’ll come around. Like we did.
I understand the PKs as a group went into a hiatus. I guess the group needed that time for self-examination, a search for relevance. I know the dust is starting to settle. The direction is getting clearer.
Is there a need to revive and revitalize the PKs as a group? Definitely. There is the need to. So, let’s do it.
Kaya ba? PKs pa!
Again, thank you all for the opportunity. God bless the preachers’ children.