“I-AMPO lang ko (Pray for me).”

This was what newly installed Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Ruben Caballero Labajo told the faithful during his episcopal ordination at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral on Friday morning, August 19, 2022.

Labajo, who received his appointment from Pope Francis in June this year, will be the second auxiliary bishop to serve Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma. Palma’s other auxiliary is Bishop Midyphil Billones.

“I-ampo lang ko, ilabi na ang akong mga kaubang obispo, si Archbishop (Jose) Palma, ang atong Archbishop sa Cebu, ni Bishop Dodong, ang akong kauban isip auxiliary bishop, ug ang atong bishop emeritus (Emilio Bataclan). Naa ra sila nga akong kasumbungan, kapangutan-an. Unya ang atong ang mga kaparian sa Sugbo, dili ta kaingon nga maglisod ta kay taga-Sugbo man sad tanan,” Labajo added.

[Pray for me, especially for my fellow bishops, Cebu Archbishop (Jose) Palma, our Archbishop of Cebu, for Bishop Dodong (Billones), my fellow auxiliary bishop; and our bishop emeritus. They are there for me to consult and inquire with. Also, let us pray for all priests in Cebu. For me, I will not find any difficulty doing my job because I am surrounded by fellow Cebuano priests.)

Following his appointment as auxiliary bishop of Cebu, Labajo also received the title of titular bishop of Abbir Maius.

A good priest

In his speech after his episcopal ordination, Labajo said becoming a bishop was farthest from his mind when he first entered the seminary in 1984.

Labajo was born on September 24, 1966 in Poblacion, Talisay City, Cebu.

He completed his philosophy and theology studies at the San Carlos Seminary College and Seminario Mayor de San Carlos.

He was ordained priest on June 10, 1994 at the Archdiocesan Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Cebu City by the late Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.

In his first assignment, Labajo was appointed parochial vicar of Mandaue City in 1995.

In 1997, he became parish priest of of the Sto. Niño Parish in Sta. Fe, Cebu.

Labajo was assigned as vicar forane or rural dean of the Vicariate of Sts. Peter and Paul in 2001.

Seven years after, or in 2007, he was named team moderator of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Barangay Tabunok, Talisay City, and in 2014, he became the moderator of the team of pastors of Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

From August 2019 to the present, Labajo was the moderator-team of pastors of the St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Balamban, northwest Cebu before the Holy See appointed him to his new role.

Prior to his appointment as auxiliary bishop, Labajo had been serving as vicar general of the Archdiocese of Cebu since 2020.

“But, I just felt confident during the ordination because I entrusted my ministry self, my life, my ministry to God. Mao nang relying on God’s help and I’m sure nga maayo ra ni ang dagan sa unahan,” he added.

“Nalipay ko kay human na ang seremonyas, and at the same time, naa gihapon ang kakulba kay kahibaw man ko og unsay ahead. Daku kaayo nga tahas nga gisangon sa akong abaga,” said Labajo.

(I am happy that the ceremony is over, but at the same time, there is still that anxiety because I know what lies ahead. I carry a lot of responsibility on my shoulders.)

Now as an auxiliary bishop, Labajo will work in tandem with Billones and Palma in managing the affairs of the archdiocese.

Aside from Palma and Billones, also present during Labajo’s episcopal ordination were Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles Brown, Cebu Auxuliary Bishop Emeritus Emilio Bataclan, former Cebu Auxiliary bishop and current Bishop of the Diocese of Malolos Dennis Villarojo, who was Labajo’s seminary batchmate; and other bishops from across the country.