Revisiting the past

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Sunday, July 20, 2014


LAST June 17 one of our Filipino Carmelite Priests, Fr. Eddie Albiño, had suddenly died from heart attack. After saying Mass in the morning in our parish church in San Francisco, Agusan Sur, he succumbed and was rushed to the hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

It was a great shock for all of us Carmelites in the Philippines. Fr. Eddie was only 63 years old. His funeral was set for June 25 and together with my wife I went to San Francisco to attend the funeral. We arrived in San Francisco on June 24 at 12 midnight where Fr. Eddie was laid out for the wake. His face was bloated because of the embalmment and I hardly recognized him. The next day we attended the funeral Mass and the burial in the new cemetery of San Francisco.

San Francisco is a very memorable place for us Carmelites. In the old cemetery in San Francisco is buried Fr. Engelbert van Vilsteren O. Carm, who was parish priest in San Francisco when he was killed in 1973 in a mistaken identity by a group of Rizalians, who had opposed the declaration of martial law during the plebiscite called for by Marcos.

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Fr. Engelbert was still very young. He had newly arrived from Holland as a missionary and this was his first assignment. When he died he was one of the first martyrs under the martial law regime. Another Carmelite who is buried there is Br. Isagani Valle, a Filipino seminarian of the Carmelites who was salvaged in Buenavista, Agusan Norte, while he was on exposure there. He was killed because he was an anti-martial law activist.

San Francisco is a memorable place for us in particular. It was here that my wife, Lorna, lost her husband in the infamous Antongalon Massacre in 1985. Her 6 young children were left without a father and this prompted me to leave the priesthood in 1988 and marry his widow Lorna Malicay and adopt her children. It was an experience which has left an unforgettable trauma in the children that still has its ill-effects until now.

After 3 years we received also a daughter of our own whom we consider to be a gift of God and a clear sign that God has approved of my decision to leave the priesthood, which I never in my life would have expected to happen. Since that time we officially became Lay Carmelites and associate members of the Carmelite Order.

Coming back on Fr. Eddie Albiño, he was the first Filipino Superior of the Carmelites in the Philippines. He has in his own way contributed very much to the Filipinization of the Order. On his mortuary card are printed his own words in his memory, I quote: “Whatever status or position we have now, it is because we are Carmelites, and we cannot brag about it. The Order does not owe us gratitude; rather, it is us, simply because we were the ones, who opted to be Carmelites. In this way we can easily learn to live out our religious life and vows in a very simple way.” This is a full-length portrait of Fr. Eddie – Rev. Fr. Eduardo Castillon Albiño, O.Carm.

Fr. Eddie was a very simple and humble Carmelite. Testimonies about Fr. Eddie during the wake and the funeral Mass of so many friends of Eddie were very emotional and these showed very clearly how much he was loved by so many people. Fr. Albiño had been assigned as social action director of the Diocese of Butuan. I feel my association with Eddie because I myself was assigned as social action director in Iligan City. That was a horrible experience for me as a priest. Because of my involvement in the labor movement I was put in detention in Camp Tipanoy and handcuffed brought to Manila and under escort brought to the plane that deported me from the Philippines.

As a priest and a foreign missionary I felt terribly humiliated like Bong Revilla must have felt as a senator when he was put in chains. But in his case he is a big criminal but in my case I was totally innocent of the charges they had filed against me except for Marcos who had declared my involvement in a strike in Iligan City illegal and deported me as an undesirable alien. Our visit to San Francisco was indeed a re-visiting the past similar to what Renato Constantino describes in his book, ‘The past revisited’.

On another note, I am still supporting President Aquino in his stand regarding the legality of the DAP. He is right in filing a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court. Of course, there must be a separation of powers but as President he has the right to stick to his guns when it comes to following his ‘straight path’ and fighting corruption and dishonesty of our government officials. For me, Aquino is still the best president we had since the ouster of Marcos.

[Email: nolvanvugt@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 20, 2014.

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