Hope and Father Henry-A A +A
Check and Balance
Sunday, August 25, 2013
LAST Saturday, we celebrated the 1st death anniversary of my mother-in-law – Leonora M. Alfonso – who succumbed to bile duct cancer over a year ago, an experience that almost made us penniless considering the delicate and costly operations she had gone through while battling the disease.
The incident was humbling, at times numbing, as we stare at the ominous veil of death that approaches all of us each day. It also tested our strength, our beliefs, our faith and our subservience to the will of the all-powerful creator. To commemorate the 1st death anniversary of my mother-in-law, I fetched Father Henry of the Chevalier School last Saturday. Glorious in blue “barong”, Father Henry, a Dutch national, looked more like a Filipino mestizo to me than a European. Father Henry said he arrived in Angeles City in 1962 and did not leave the country ever since aside from a few visits to his native Holland.
After Father Henry ended the mass, he silently sat and mingled with my nephews and seemed to enjoy the company of little angels. “Father, I know one great Dutch man – Vincent Van Gogh,” I blurted out. Father Henry replied: “You must be a lover of art. You should see the Van Gogh Museum in Holland.” To which I replied: “Yes Father, someday I will go there in your native country to see all the Van Gogh paintings.”
I told Father Henry that Van Gogh, who shot himself to death, was not able to sell any of his paintings during his lifetime. “Most great people were not appreciated during their lifetime,” said Father Henry. “Just like Jesus Christ, he was not appreciated before.”
Again I told Father Henry how we parents who have children studying at the Chevalier School appreciate the new computerized system they adopted for the daily attendance of all students. Even the teachers are now using biometrics for their daily attendance. Father Henry told me that even the school rooms have CCTV cameras, so that they will know what is happening in each room. Not only the students are monitored, even the teachers are now being closely being observed with what they do in the classrooms.
It’s seldom that I talk to a priest and so I made a few suggestions to Father Henry if the Chevalier School management would be able to put an overpass right in front of the school and to close the canals in its front and at the side. I still remember when a student drowned in the open canal years ago. Up to now, the drainage is still open and waiting for its next victim. Will Angeles City Mayor Ed Pamintuan do something about it? I mean, Mayor Pamintuan will you please order the City Engineer to close this canal for the safety of the students?
Before he boarded my car, I asked Father Henry one last question: “Father, last time a poor student of the University of the Philippines took her life because she could not afford to pay the P10,000 tuition fee. Is there a hope for the Philippine education system?”
“Yes,” said Father Henry: “That is why we are here.”
The Chevalier School had produced some of our country’s best leaders – Elmer Cato of the Department of Foreign Affairs and lawyer Cesar Villanueva to name a few. When all seemed bent on leaving this impoverished country, here is a Dutchman who had embraced everything Filipino. I had learned soon that Father Henry is a philanthropist and his generosity had been experienced by the sick individuals that he helped at the Ospital Ning Angeles. What a great Man of God.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on August 26, 2013.