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!


Tagbilaran City – December 13, 2006

To be extended an honor with such a grand magnitude as to involve the whole city of Tagbilaran, stopping on the one hand all other activities in order to concentrate on the affair of receiving me; and inviting the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines to come over here and play the active role of introducing my person and office to the citizens of Tagbilaran, is for me a dizzying experience, incredible in its unfolding. Bothered and bewildered, I have been asking the question: “Who am I to deserve all these?”

And yet, there you are, the generous individuals, officials of the city, who are geniuses in anticipating the need of one who is new in the place; persons who could feel and perceive the critical role of the bishop’s office in the temporal affairs of the citizens; sensitive persons who believe in the importance of introducing a new comer to the community. With one brilliant stroke you save me from otherwise going around the city, introducing myself as the new bishop of Tagbilaran. This for me is not just pure hospitality – it is a warm welcome. Thank you.

The office of the Bishop is constituted not for honor but for service. A bishop is clothed with all the regalia, not that he may be looked up to, but for all to perceive that ecclesiastical dignities are not to be clung on to, but to be stripped off for the sake of the people who are to be served, much like what our Lord did in the last supper. He took off his clothe as Lord and Master, and took on the rag of a slave, picked up a basin and pitcher of water, knelt before each of the Apostles, washing off the dirt from their feet, and kissed them. Distinctive work of a slave, but he was not ashamed to assume it. After all that was his mission when he said: “I came not to be served, but to serve.” Or, as Jesus declared after the washing of the feet: “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master’, rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:12-14). Later, this act of Jesus who humbling himself to serve his brothers was picked up by St. Paul, exhorting the early communities to follow the kenosis of Christ. He said: “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus. Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2: 6-8).

It is within this framework of service that I acceded to come to Tagbilaran. This happened last October 17, 2006, when the Holy Father instructed me to come here. Drilled in the virtue of obedience, I consented to his instruction. After all, a wish of the father is a command to the child. And so, I am here. I am here within the framework of service. Briefly expressed, I come here to see how the faith is lived and expressed in a Boholano way so that I too could live and express the Christian faith in a Boholano way. Your faith and my faith, welded together in the dynamics of study, reflection and prayer; our listening together to each other, studying together, caring for the poor, the sick and the marginalized in society , these acts will blend together, so I hope, as a beautiful hymn to praise our God, the be-all and end-all of everything.

It is also within this framework that I came to establish a relationship you, the representatives of the State. The State is a perfect society that looks into the common good of the citizens in the here and now, the temporal order of things. The Church is not against the State; nor the office of Bishops set up to oppose civil policies.. I am here to look after the faith of the People as well as the conduct that naturally flows from the faith. In the act of complying this work, it may happen that conflicts may occur. But I believe that these conflicts could only be in the level of perception. Human that we are, our perception of realities may not always square off; interpretations may differ. But they can easily be resolved, not by the invocation of the principle of separation of Church and State, but by serious dialogues. Here, the need for always the keeping the communication open for both sides is called for. The Church ever listening to the State, the State ever listening to the Church: that is the ideal of any good working relationship. After all, we are serving a common subject: the people.

Again, thank you for your warm welcome and great hospitality.


Once there was an aging king who, after long years of leadership, wished to hand over his kingship to his son, the only heir to his kingdom. The problem was that his son was far from being prepared for the huge responsibility. He was imprudent, rash, and decadent. He had so much to learn to be a true leader and a good servant. Yearning his son to be a good king, the old king thought of a way to teach his son the lesson he needed. And so one day he asked his son to spend some days in the forest. The son, although mystified by his father’s order, immediately consented to the demand because he dreamed to be a king right away.

After two days in the forest, the impatient son went back home. The king excitedly asked his son what he had learned.

The lad answered, “I saw how beautiful the trees are, how dark and dangerous the forest is, how cool the stream waters, how fresh the morning dew, how freezing the night in the forest.”

“In that case you have learned nothing,” the king desperately said. “Go back to the forest and let the forest teach you what you need to learn,” the king commanded.
Puzzled and dismayed, the lad went back to the woods. He could in no wise understand what he had to learn from the forest and how to learn it. As he wondered and pondered, the mystery and marvel of the forest enchanted him. And for six months he stayed deep in the forest. After six long lonely months he went back to his father.
The king was delighted to hear what his son had to say. “What have you learned?” he asked.

The son humbly explained, “I am not sure of what I have really learned. I just realized that everything in the forest bears a subtle shade of meaning to each other. I saw the mystical nuances of things as I enjoyed the music of the gushing stream and the singing crickets. As I discovered how vulnerable the beasts could get when afraid, and how they wail when wounded. As I saw how splendid the sun is as its rays pierce through the leaves and break through the darkness and depth of the forest. As I noticed how lovely the insects behave and how painful they sting. As I observed how the birds find their resting place in the twilight and how cold and dark the night can be. As I discovered when the leaves shall fall, and how and why they fall. Until suddenly I felt that I belong to the forest. I am one with the forest. I found out that something greater than me connects everything in the forest and makes sense of everything. I may not know how the forest really works but I think the forest is one big paradise where everything is one – a rhapsody that does make sense.”

Finally the king said, “My son, you are now ready to be a true good king.”
I may not know how Borongan really works but I was able to learn that it is one big wonderful rhapsody where everything makes sense. And I thank God that He has given me many wonderful years so I could be with the people and be one with the people – and so to be able to listen to them, to live with them, and to love them and be loved by them. Borongan taught me a lot for over nineteen years. The connections and nuances of so many things. The subtle shadows of meaning in the smiles and sorrows of real people and in their silent joys and simple hopes. In their pains and struggles. In their faith and in their love. Having learned so much from Borongan, I asked myself: Have I become a better servant-leader? That I cannot tell. What I can only tell is that, like the king, God always wants us to learn more and beyond -- because there is always something more to learn. God can lead us even to where we don’t expect to be if only to teach us what it means to love and how to love better. For over nineteen years, Borongan has been teaching me a lot … until now. “Until now” … because starting today I will learn from Tagbilaran. I took the purifying pain of letting go and leaving the place and people who taught me a lot about life and love that is Borongan. Now I am here with you, hoping to learn how to love better and how to walk better with God and closer to God … with all of you, my dear people of Tagbilaran.