We were in second year at Catanduanes National High School, when Fr. Jeff, a Jesuit priest gave an exam for priesthood. If we passed the exam and finished the formation process in becoming a Jesuit, our assignment is Guatemala. Father Jeff gave an introductory lecture on fine points about being member of the order of the Society of Jesus and its motto: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, meaning “For the greater glory of God.”
The number of students who took the test were more than enough to be accommodated in one room of the administration building next to Physics classroom of Mr. Agustin Reyes. “Give me a lever long enough and I will move the world.” I always mentioned this legacy to mankind of Archimedes, whenever I remember Mr Agustin Reyes. Who knows one day with faith and fortitude, one of us can move the world, I believe it’s you reading the Catanduanes Tribune now.
Seven passed the exam and I was one of them. The two other guys I remember are Danilo Tomagan and the late Martin Valeza of Rawis, Virac, Catanduanes. I beg for consideration from those I failed to mention. Can the seven who passed the exam become good clerics of Christ and befitting to enter the calling started by Melchizedek?
Martin Valeza was the only person who went ahead to formation process to become a Jesuit and the rest of us continued our high school education. We had our own personal reasons for not entering the priesthood after passing the exam and mine is the objection of dearest mother Rosario. That I look frail, thin and have tendencies for juvenile misbehavior.
Mother and father knew of the belief among Catandunganons that when you have a son who is a priest, “it will absolved or wash away the sins of the parents and they will have a long life.” If she objected and I didn’t look sickly, the reason would be self-serving: mother will greatly miss her favorite and nice-looking son.
Let us leave the story above before my pen rolls uncontrollably, writing about ex-seminarians, seminarians I met to this day, more than the sum of my fingers at my hands and toes of my feet. We will come back to them anyway if pading Urgel Santelices, Atty. Alfred Aguino and Vice Mayor Atty. Leo Zafe Mendoza, all ex-seminarians, will not text me with vehement objections on possible abuse of my literary freedom.
I mourned the death of Bishop Jose Crisologo Sorra and Father Pedro S. Aldea, the reason which compelled me to write this narrative. I will employ literary freedom to write anything that comes to mind. In order for me to share some of my knowledge, personal opinions and lessons learned from these two dear Servants/Elders of Christ.
My feelings, appreciation, respect and high estimation of their calling and profession remains high and undiminished, partly due to my encounters with Bishop Sorra and Fr. Pedro Aldea.
Contrary to things I heard about priests, being human like us, they are polishing/perfecting their personality and character, in spite of temptations and challenges (of the three vows of a priest) through strong self-control, so as to approximate our own ideal and expectation of them and what priests must be as a ‘man of the cloth’ of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In my early years at the Bureau of Immigration, we rented a room at R. Papa Street in Caloocan city. The place is near a church where there were two Chinese priests I preferred to be the one officiating the Mass whenever I attended a celebration. Though I had difficulty in following the Mass because of the way the Chinese priests pronounced and used the English language, their manners and ways in conducting the Mass had me enthralled. It made me attentive, seated erect and inclined forward to hear all the words they said. My eyes to the priests and the altar. I liked them celebrating the mass because of their devotion, sincerity, honesty and an aura of spirituality they projected around the area of the altar while officiating the Holy Mass.
Meeting Father Pedro Aldea was never in my calendar of activities nor was he my person of interest to visit. We were travelling to Caramoran town when I learned he was the parish priest of Caramoran Church during the early seventies. I was then on my second, going to third, year as college Instructor of Catanduanes State Colleges (now CSU) and thank God, I was beginning to like my job.
I was with uncle Lei (Catalino, youngest brother of mother) driving our brand-new green Ford Fiera to Caramoran. Somebody I don’t know whispered that I should be included as passenger of the car.
It is proverbial that nothing happens in the world without the hand of God. My father told me to be of good assistance and follower of Fr. Aldea. The timing of my visit was made more interesting because of an approaching national election. You may surmise, I was there to campaign for certain candidates, which may hold true but other circumstances were no longer very clear to me.
The Church that had seen many years was my first impression upon my arrival.
We were met and greeted by the baritone voice of Fr Edling as my biological father Bailon called Fr. Aldea. Our baggage were unloaded, those consigned to Fr. Aldea were brought to his room and ours we carried to our assigned room. Later we went to the reception house to take merienda and have familiarization talk.
The following day I went around the compound of the Caramoran Church and found some activities going on. The improvement of the Church was on-going, people are coming in and out the adjacent home used for receiving of visitors. Our Ford Fiera will be going around all the barangays of Caramoran for propaganda and promotions of candidates with the use of sound system.
I was told by Fr. Aldea to stay, to listen and learn from people coming in and out of the church compound. It’s explicit that I was not needed in the car but in the church.
Whoever authored my presence in Caramoran had an intended purpose for me to play in the election campaign. He wanted me to help them.
At the visitors’ home, I had opportunities to talk to college students of Caramoran studying at Catanduanes State Colleges. We discussed many topics about problems of our province and they asked questions they wanted answers from me. I never saw or experienced drinking with students in my days of stay in Caramoran. Matured parents and associates were the only oned allowed to drink when I was there for a few weeks.
The person you meet today maybe an angel to you years later in life. He is not much to you today but one day his hand will be extended to make you stand.
An influencial whisperer could had been the reason why I was included as candidate to Sangguniang bayan of Virac, under the Albertos’ banner on that national election in 1980.
The last time I talked to Father Aldea was in his home, in front of a gasoline station of Atty Leo Z. Mendoza. I was with pading Roger Magtangob, close friend of Fr. Aldea. This was his greetings I will love to remember forever in my memory:
“Hane, taano baga ta nag lalayaw layaw ini, Roger? May mga nag abot sakong information na naheling ka kung saen saen dyan. May plano kang mag kandidato?
“Hane, director baga ako ning Local Water Utility Administration asin adviser sa TODA, magsabi ka sana.” This statement was made before the last national election of 2019.
Tis’ not easy to forget a man who sees the potentials, promises and possibilities that you can offer this world. The ravages of time and five years coming in and out of the hospital and major operation was bypassed by his vision. Seen is the masculinity formed by experiences, successes, failures and the overcoming of human illnesses, judgment and wrong perceptions.
‘What he sees is masculinity of himself in me’.
Mutual admiration and respect for one another we had established, had proven to me that our friendship could untie bigger or smaller problems in case if I will be affected. That he did was an expression that the friendship we forged in Caramoran was unsullied up to the end.
That is for me the Father Pedro Aldea who saw many things in me that was also in him. If he only had liberty to fly like us, if only he was not bounded by the calling he had embraced. If only the ‘three vows of priests is that easy to unshackle in his conscience, he could had been also an Eagle and an Angel.
“Once a priest, always a priest.”
Adieu, my friend! Muchas gracias father/confessor Pedro Aldea. Fly now my/our Angel to your eternal Home.
“Candles are lighted in our heart for you forever.” A.V.Z