Sunday, December 17, 2006


Tagbilaran Cathedral ( December 14, 2006)

First of all, may I express my sincerest thanks to the Holy Father through the Apostolic Nuncio, in having confidence in me, entrusting to me the People of God in Tagbilaran. I am aware of the high status of the Diocese, its lively faith, the number of its vocations to the priestly and religious life, the faith qualities of its priests and religious, recognized not only here , but also in the whole world; the number of bishops that it has contributed to the Church in the Philippines; the responsible and the ever apostolic lay faithful who have kept on leavening with the Gospel values the different levels of society, the family, the schools, campuses, politics, offices, and recreation areas. Aware of these realities my knees shake with trepidation and apprehension.

Secondly, I would like to express my gratitude to my immediate predecessor, Bp Leopoldo Tumulak, A man of deep faith, a bishop respected highly by peers, the bishops and archbishops in the Philippines, the adopted and accepted father of the men in uniform in our land, he is a man of no air, no pretensions, no guile. What you see is what he is: Bp. Tumulak. With so much happiness. He came to me and gives me all the ecclesial and ecclesiastical tips that I have to know. Bishop Leo, I will always be indebted to you.

Thirdly, to Ricardo Cardinal Vidal goes my sincerest thanks for his gracious acceptance of my invitation to give the homily on the occasion of my installation. Needless to say h e is the most sought after homilist, especially on occasion like this. It is not just his personality that attracts the audience, it is his home grown wisdom and direct way of expressing these nuggets of advises and tips to the bishops who are embarking in the difficult mission of shepherding God’s People that makes him popular.

Fourthly, I am extending my thanks to all the bishops and archbishops here present, especially the sufragan Bishops of Cebu. Your presence gives me the necessary strength to face the odds that come my way in the process of shepherding.

People of God in the diocese of Tagbilaran, the priests, the religious and the lay faithful. I come here to answer a call. It is a call to faith, call to a deeper faith as expressed well in the story in the Gospel where a man exclaimed: “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.” A bishop lacks faith, a bishop has no faith? Well, that is my story, capzulized in my motto “ Ambula Coram me” “walks before me.” This motto I directly took from the story of Abraham, the father of faith. He was a man who heard a call one day, a call to a great promise-a promise that he, who was there 75 years all will have a child in his old age. He believed in the call. But it demanded from him the abandoning of his own land, his relatives, his acquaintances, his friends and undergo a journey that would take him to far distant country – a country that will be given to him. He believed and therefore he walked, making a long journey until the promise was fulfilled. He was given the promised child. But more than the child, he had found God- he had discovered the faith. That is my life. I am looking, searching for the faith. For nineteen long years, I made that journey in the Diocese of Borongan. There I have not only close encounter with God: I experienced him in different guises, in the raging typhoons that oftentimes razed down the houses as well as the means of living of my people; I experienced him in cries of the children and poor people, the wails of hungry children asking for food, the problems of the husband left behind by their wives to seek jobs in far away countries. I saw God in the meetings of the priests, in the Masses that I had celebrated with religious sisters. I saw God in the first Diocesan Pentecost Vigil Celebration way back in 1988, who made his presence felt through the strong winds, chilling thunder and lightings, and heavy torrents that soaked the people to the bones. Yes, in my journey in the Diocese of Borongan, I still have doubts in God’s providence, I still lacked that childlike trust of Abraham, the simple faith of Mary who said: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.”

Ilalandumong mga pulong sa atong Inahan Santa Maria Kinsa miingon: “Sulugoon lamang ako sa Ginoo, matuman unta dinhi kanako ang imong mga gipamulong!” Yes, upon yesterday morning of my pompous arrival in your beautiful island province, I said to myself, “Now I would be a Boholano! And a story recoiled in me. . . a story I know I haven’t read. . . though surely. . . I . . . many times had heard it, about this acclaim that Jesus is a Boholano! Now I can claim and recite with you the “Hail Mary” prayed in your Bisayan dialect: Maghimaya ka Maria, napuno ka sa grasya, ang Ginoong Dios anaa kanimo, Boholanon man ikaw sa mga babaye nga tanan, ug BOL-ANON MAN USAB ang bunga sa tiyan mo nga si Jesus!

It is my perception that the occurrence of the last October 17, 2006 when the Holy Father sent me his message: to . . . leave behind Borongan and make a journey in Tagbilaran. . . is God’s Providence! He wants me to deepen my faith here in the Diocese of Tagbilaran. I still need to make a journey, to undertake more steps in this beautiful Diocese of Tagbilaran.

….Before I forget let me heartily express my sincere Gratefulness and prayerful Farewell to the people I am leaving behind. . . . . . DAMO NGAN DAKO NGA SALAMAT.

So, dear People of God in the Diocese of Tagbilaran: I am here as a pilgrim! Ania ako isip usa ka Magpapanaw sa Diosnong Pagtoo! I am one who is to make a religious journey in your midst, searching for God! Selfish does it sounds – but, not it is! You too are in this journey with me, for that is the meaning of being constituted as the People of God, a people together in a journey, a people in a pilgrimage! Magkuyog kita niining Balaang Panaw uban sa Pagtoo, hiniusa sa Paglaum ug giniyahan sa Paghigugma! Together . . . You, the priest, women and men religious, the lay faithful, and I, - - - we hope to find this God who declared: (1 Pt 2:9) You, however, are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own, so that you may announce the praises” of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light!


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