WHEN the Edsa revolution happened I was no longer in Manila. I got a new assignment as parish priest in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. However, when I arrived there I had a traumatic experience which drastically changed my course of life in the Philippines.
Two of our parish workers who had been actively involved in the anti-Marcos movement were suspected of having infiltrated the ranks of the NPA. That was during the so-called DPA (deep penetration ageny) or Ahos campaign, which claimed many innocent victims. Our two parish workers have lost their lives also in that campaign. One of them was married to another social worker in our parish who was also very active in the BCC-CO program in our parish. She was left behind with six children, the youngest of whom was born shortly after the incident had happened.
In spite of this, she continued working in the parish in order to keep her family alive. Having observed this for two years I finally decided to leave the priesthood and married her. It was a difficult decision because I loved my work as a priest; neither did I want to leave the Order.
Luckily, after some time, we were able to become associate members of the Order. Both of us love the Carmelite spirituality. But there was no way that we could stay in the parish of San Francisco. That is how we settled down in Cagayan de Oro where we were able to set up a program of Basic Christian Communities in the Archdiocese with the help of a funding agency in Holland. That is how we survived financially as a family with six children.
After almost three years we were blessed also with a daughter of our own. She was really a gift from Heaven after we had tried hard for so long. For me it was a confirmation that God had approved of my decision to leave the priesthood. Working in the BCC-CO program in the diocese, I felt also as if I never had left the priesthood. My wife is also active as a catechist in the parish and a coordinator of the BEC program in the archdiocese.
Looking back now, it would have been appropriate if the church could have given us both the ordination to the diaconate. But the Church in the Philippines is not yet that far as in other countries. I am happy, though, to project myself as a layman in the church, as an antipode against the growing clericalism within the hierarchy. People don’t have to call me anymore Father. I am now a real father. I do believe also in equality of all men regardless of status, color or culture. That is what I have inherited from my childhood in Holland. We don’t talk there about race or color. I was surprised, shortly after I had arrived in the Philippines, somebody asked me: Sir, to what race do you belong? My answer was, “To the human race, how about you?”
Aside from my work in the church I continue the struggle for liberation of the Philippine society. After the government of President Aquino, the process of democratization in our government institutions was greatly obstructed through the plunder scandal of President Estrada. But under the regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, democracy has suffered a total loss. The situation is much worse than under the martial law years of Marcos.
Corruption has reached a record height. The leadership in government is in an extreme crisis. All my hope has been placed on the coming elections, on the person of Noynoy Aquino. He is for me the Lord’s Anointed, to carry on the legacy of his mother Cory Aquino in order to bring about again a reign of justice and freedom in our beloved country. Ever since the beginning of his campaign for president I have predicted for Noynoy a land-slide victory in the May elections.
When Noynoy wins, the first thing I will do is to apply for Philippine citizenship. After having lived and worked in the Philippines for almost 50 years I owe it to the people to become one of their truly Filipino citizens in my home land, the Philippines. Imagine, under the present law I am not even recognized as a senior citizen, because I am not yet a Filipino citizen. Only in the Philippines that is possible.
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