Marte (not his real name) entered our class in English under Ma’am Araceli Lim, to the surprise of my classmates, to resume his secondary education at fourth year after returning home from not finishing his training to become a Jesuit priest. He looked thin and haggard. He was robust and healthy when he left us at third year high.
How would I have fared if I went to training with Marte, thin and lacking with vigor, as Mother saw me? Maybe the opposite happened, I became healthy and strong. Maybe I finished the formation process and became a Jesuit. Perhaps.
He was back in the same section and classmates he left a year ago. As usual we were seatmates, for our family names start with initial V and Z. I failed at not being nosy to get the reasons why he came back and what happened to his health.
(Fast forward: I learned later after we graduated from college that he became a Corps Commander of Catanduanes Colleges ROTC and got involved with the relief operations after super typhoon Sening. The massive devastation that he saw could have left a big impact or question mark on his mental balance years after leaving the Seminary.
I heard stories from classmates about Marte when I was already teaching in Catanduanes State Colleges that he got married to a nurse who was part of the 260 or more practicum nurses who came to Catanduanes through the initiative of then Press Secretary Kit Tatad. At present, the wife and two daughters are in USA. Thanks God, Marte is happy in heaven.)
One afternoon, I saw Marte walking aimlessly near our apartment in Gogon and invited him to have a merienda. I saw something was wrong with him and I felt sad.
I decided to ignore the sad news about Marte. I want to remember him during our happy days in high school, a lively classmate and seatmate, behaved and never had done any mischief, looking at beautiful classmates and dreaming of a place under the sun, a classmate who once dreamed of answering the call of Melchizedek.
An invitation as one of the speakers on a program welcoming the 260 plus practicum nurses from all over the Philippines surprised me to no end. For I was three years in my teaching and there were more qualified professionals than me. My reaction was to look for people who can help me do my task.
My walking brought me to the Virac Cathedral looking for father Ping Molina. I was told later by Mr. Gonzales, the ‘man to go’ in the church that Fr. Molina was not feeling well. I was brought to the room of Fr. Ed Bernardo and I was given a Bible that until now stays with me after undergoing a make-over. I was further instructed by Mr. Gonzales to proceed to Bishop Sorra.
I was received by Bishop Jose C. Sorra at the Fiat compound, as if I was expected. The warm and gracious welcome tamed my nerves and put me at ease. We came immediately to the purpose of my visit, to write a speech addressing the practicum nurses with ideas on how to care for and love the sick from a religious standpoint.
Humility is the beginning of greatness, someone said.
The atmosphere permeating the room was educational between father and son, not teacher and student. He recited sentences of quotes, wisdom, personal experiences drawn from his knowledge about life. We were seated near his table decorated with choice books. I wrote most of what he said. I cannot describe exactly my feeling at that moment but one thing I was sure of, I was with a pious man. His disposition was not hurried, he was calm and never assumed an air of importance. Walking in the room with purposeful gait but never pretentious.
We finished with what I came for and I stood to make my heartfelt thanks and adieu. Once more, I saw Bishop Sorra, dedicated servant of Lord Jesus Christ, bowing his head in response to my thanks and goodbye, a sign of total humility, “I am your servant. Servant of the human race.”
“the price of repentance . . . is forgiveness.” Romeo learned the biblical quotation from Bishop Sorra, his benefactor/angel during the years when he got involved in political controversy. He was a member of Namfrel and was active during the Snap election of 1986. They were harassed by a certain group, their camera snatched and with a Jeep almost bumping one of his fellow members. They filed a case and it was resolved through amicable and friendly settlement.
Because of the ensuing heat created by the event, Bishop Sorra made him stay in the Fiat home for three months. Then, went to Fr. Gabrielito Garcia in Magnesia church for one year as handyman and sometimes sacristan. His lucky charm continued as he was appointed as utility man of then Gov. Verceles, which opened up a way for him to go to college. The people who harassed them during the snap election of 1986 were later made casual employees of the provincial capitol and they ended up being good friends.
“I cried nang mamatay si Bishop Sorra na naging parte ng buhay ko,” said Romy, expressing deep grief at the death of Bishop Sorra.
As for the welcome ceremony, I committed to my memory the text of my speech to honor and not disappoint the humble bishop behind it. It was well received by the beautiful nurses that after the program I was requested to sing. My guitarist was my good friend Bo Rodulfo.
Ending this narrative, I was thinking of what gems I received from Bishop Sorra that day. T’was the gift of learning humility thru example from a human source. This memory from Bishop Sorra I wish to share with you, dear readers of Catanduanes Tribune.