FAITH means preaching in a church surrounded by distractions: blasted by the defeaning horns of the jeepneys and taxis, and the irritating yells of passenger barkers. Most of the time, it means out-reaching the unfortunates, improving the condition of the church and doing wonder in the community.
Mosigñor Rey Manuel Monsanto wakes up by these.
Mosigñor Monsanto was born May 28, 1946 in Catmon, Cebu. Later, he and his parents settled here in Cagayan de Oro City when he was still very young.
"My father was actually in the military. We settled here when my father was assigned here," Monsanto says.
As he entered fourth grade, he was fond of listening one famous radio program in the locality.
Surprisingly, he had the chance to speak up in the program. There was one question he did not forget in his whole life, which became a story itself.
The anchorman asked him, "What would you like to become when you grow old?"
Thoughtlessly, he replied, "I wanted to become a priest". It just came out of nowhere and unthinkably.
"And now, I'm a priest."
The 63-year-old Monsigñor Monsanto heads the Nazareno Parish as parish priest for more than two years now. He was ordained priest in 1970 in Luneta, Manila at the age of 21 years old.
Like most of the prelates who ministered during the Martial Law era, he's brimming with idealism.
In 1975 the church in the Philippines sent the young priest to Rome for studies and away from the Martial Law tyranny.
"Gipadala ko didto para dili ko madakpan during sa Martial Law ni Marcos," Monsanto recalls.
The priest is involved in activism with his friends from the militant Kabataan Makabayan movement and the Federation of Free Farmers.
Even after Martial Law days, Monsanto continued his belief for change during the Aquino Administration. He even joined in negotiating peace talks to Coronel Noble in the coup d'état attempt against the Aquino government.
He said nothing has changed.
"Nagpadayon gihapon ta. Sa una, I was too aggressive that time," he revealed.
In the early 90's, He staged along with many supporters a rally against the staging of cockfighting (otherwise known as sabong) in Barangay Gusa.
Recently, he protested on the proposed Small Town Lottery (STL).
"But I cannot say which is which was challenging or which is which is great achievement," the priest says.
34-year-old Jocelyn Cordova, a hijas of the Black Nazarene in Cagayan de Oro, confirms that Monsigñor Monsanto's greatest achievement was having the Black Nazarene here in Cagayan de Oro.
"All of the sudden, Nazareno Church changed a lot," said Cordova.
The priest calls it differently. He calls it "the greatest gift".
Monsigñor Monsanto is fond of history, no wonder his church preaching is full of historical backgrounds of the symbols of Christianity. So he realized that since the occasion is the feast of Nazarene, he might as well lend the miraculous hand of the Black Nazarene.
So the following day on December 17, 2008, he wrote a letter to Quiapo Church requesting to lend the miraculous hand of the Black Nazarene, but denied.
"We were all of the sudden downhearted knowing they denied our request," said Msgr. Monsanto.
But on December 22, 2008, Monsigñor Monsanto noticed a message on his cellphone. He read it was from Quiapo. He thought they were just making over to the priest.
"Once I read their text message, I was surprised. Instead, Quiapo church is giving the whole statue of the replica of the Black Nazarene," said Monsigñor Monsanto.
"For 400 years, this is the first time it happened that Quiapo is giving the statue of the Black Nazarene. Usually, hulam raman." He added.
Now, devotees of the Black Nazarene have been constantly visiting the church, and even non-devotee drops by to wipe their handkerchiefs.
On its first year celebration here last year, close to 10,000 devotees joined the parade of the 250-kilo religious icon and it was reported that the number will doubled.
"I don't say it was a miracle. It was given by God. It was God's greatest gift," was the priest's parting words.