That's me with Fr. Edd Pagcaliuangan assisting me at my thanksgiving Mass at the Sentrum of De La Salle Lipa last Dec. 4, Monday. The occasion was my Silver Sacerdotal Jubilee. Actually, I was ordained priest in Bauan Parish church on Dec. 2, 1981; however, since this year's Dec. 2 fell on a Saturday (a busy day for parish priests and beside the Brothers are in their District Retreat), I settled for Dec. 4 which was a Monday. Of course, not all of the diocesan priests could come, but majority of them did.
The Archbishop, Most Rev. Ramon Arguelles, was there and gave a very long homily, almost a lecture on the theology of the Eucharist, centering on the theme I chose for my celebration: Blessed, Broken and Shared!
The people who mattered to me most were there. Of course, my own family led by my still beautiful and strong 85-year-old mother was there. Also present were my sisters Ate Coring, Ermie and Mayet with her hubby Boss Didi, my brothers Danny and Fr. Lou who was among the concelbrants in the Eucharist. My nephews George, Lonlon and CJ, my nieces May and Camille. George and Lonlon did the reading, while May did the prayers of the faithful. I will write a separate posting about my family's celebration of my silver jubilee at home during that Saturday. That in itself is another story!
My godfather, Monsignor Elias Poblete, travelled from his retirement in Pansol, Calamba to narrate how I got to be his godson. Again that is a story by itself. Fr. Jim Reuter, S.J., my mentor in Social communication and my idol and my spiritual father, gave a beautiful piece that only he could give. However, the people at the back complained they could not hear this over-ninety year old Jesuit communicator. Fr. Ernie Garcia, C.Ss.R., spoke on behalf of the Redemptorists -- present and past (as in the Juvenate in Antipolo). Msgr. Fred Madlangbayan, my long time boss at the Commission on Social Communication, finally declared in public that it was me who was mainly responsible for what the media in the Archdiocese is. He recounted how we struggled, especially during the Martial Law days to keep this afloat. He professed his innocence and pointed to me at what people thought was a self-serving name of DWAM (Daily Work of Alfredo Madlangbayan).
UST was also there. I requested the Psalterion choir to remind the people of the original language of the Church and the beauty of the Gregorian chant -- they sang in Latin (with one Responsorial psalm in Tagalog and two English songs for Communion). They were accompanied to Lipa by their yet-to-be-installed rector, Fr. Gerard Timoner, O.P. Sem. Noel Abalajon, our seminarian-coordinator to UST Alumni Priests Association (ALPA), was also there as with the other coordinators. Of the Board Members of ALPA, it was only Fr. Rene Vigilia of Cabanatuan who travelled to Lipa to concelebrate.
My colleagues in the local media, headed by our Dyaryo Veritas editor-in-chief, Joenald Rayos, who is also Batangas Press Club head, were among the crowd of around one thousand during the Mass. However, most of my basketball friends were not able to make it due to their practices. Bingky Favis called me early in the morning saying they could not re-schedule their morning practice to the afternoon as the venue has been reserved. He said he needed his assistant Eric Gonzales in the practice. Eddie Laure, now of Alaska, called up citing the same reason. Even Charlie Dy begged to be excused. Chino Trinidad called to say he was just given an assignment (to interview Boom Boom's family for GMA) and so he could not make it to Lasalipa. However, Coach Francis Rodriguez with his wife came. I introduced him to Br. Dodo Fernandez, president of Benilde, as Francis was applying to be head coach of the men's varsity team of that school. The big bosses of the Basketball Coaches of the Philippines Association (BCAP) -- President Chito Narvasa and Secretary-General Cayetano "Tanny" Gonzales -- announced my appointment as BCAP's Coordinator for Batangas Province. My appointment takes effect immediately till December 30, 2007. I am being tasked to organize the coaches in this province.
They were there -- the people whom I became friends because I ministered to them and their communities: my Hilltop family, led by the Mendoza sisters, of the Mission Area VI of Batangas City; my DWAM family, my Sunday TV Mass family, my ex-Juvenist family, my Ulat Batangan Family, and other individuals whom I had been associated with for one reason or another: former students at SBC High School, former students at St. Theresa's Academy, former teachers in elementary and college, and present co-workers at De La Salle Lipa.
The star-for-all-seasons, my friend, Mayor Vilma Santos-Recto, who had already asked to be excused because she had to preside over a meeting of her department heads to assess the damaged done by thypoon Reming during the week-end. But in the middle of Archbishop's Arguelles, she walked in. I had her called up to say something to the congregation. After the Mass, they had a heyday taking pictures of and with her. Happy na si Mother!
Of course, the biggest surprise and the greatest gift I recieved that day is the conferment of the Deed of Benefaction to me by the Brothers of the Christian Schools (FSC) in the Philippines. Br. Dodo Fernandez, FSC, Visitor, spoke on behalf of the Brothers; Br. Mawel read the original citation in French with Br. Ricky Laguda, FSC, translating it to English! I shed a tear when Br. Dodo whispered to me that this was mainly Br. Rafael "Rafe" Donato, FSC, who had this materialized. I cried at the thought of him passing away weeks after he celebrated his golden jubilee as religious (Oct. 16) and turned 69 (Oct. 12). It was Br. Rafe who personally asked Archbishop (now Cardinal) Dency for me to be the resident chaplain of the Brothers and the school here at Lipa. Indeed, he became my best friend, confidant, and older brother. I was his confessor!
I am 55 years old: 40 years as coach, 33 years as teacher, 37 as media person, and 25 years as priest. and let me be clear about this. I am a priest who is a coach, teacher, media person at the same time. I don't think it is right to take those from me and say that I am just a priest period. My being coach, teacher, media person is integral to my being priest. BELIEVE IT ... or DON'T!!!