THE past week had been a series of celebrations from significant birthdays to family reunions with visiting cousins. It had been a whirlwind of get-togethers. But nothing can eclipse the birthday of Fr. Bernard Ybiernas Mapa, OCD or, for most of us, “Tito Pari.”

Fr. Bernard has been a mentor of most Discalced friars and nuns, the spiritual beacon of the members of the OCDS and the Casa Maria and to us, the descendants of the Efigenio-Enrica Lizares genre, he is the only priest we have in the family. He has been the celebrant of most weddings in our families; guided some relatives during their last moments; buried many of our beloveds; baptized our children, and— I am proud— even my apo, Iñigo.

Belonging to the fourth generation of the Tana Dicang’s legion of offsprings— and the legion is large—Fr. Bernard is “Tito Pari” to us.

While it is genealogically correct that he is of the fourth generation genus, we address him as “Tito” because he walked in the era of giants— among our fathers and mothers. They called each other Prima or Primo. So he became “Tito Pari” to us.

But the tribe of the Primos and Primas are diminishing as our patriarchs and our matriarchs are now enjoying a more glorious life in their heavenly abode. We are fortunate and blessed to have “Tito Pari” to listen and counsel us, to guide us, to remind us of the family’s traditions, to instruct us of the virtues and values that the family held dear.

More so, he is ever ready to be a friend, an elder whose love and wisdom is valuable and deeply cherished. It is also interesting to learn some of the family trivia from him having had up close and personal encounters with our great grandmother, Lola Dicang, and her 14 daughters and sons. We loved to hear stories about them because they come to life and not mere characters from the pages of family documentaries.

The Carmel community inside and out of its monastic walls have nothing but endearing words for Fr. Bernard. He is the first Filipino Carmelite priest who was schooled in a Carmelite monastery in America.

At 89, he has mentored so many priests and nuns of their order spanning many generations and always faithful and religiously abiding by the rules laid out by Holy Mother Teresa.

A voracious reader and mystic, he has led and journeyed with many to a more productive and meaningful vocation whether as a monk or a secular with his inspiring one liners or his extensive sharings of the truths of the Gospel. Many give him credit especially among the OCDS that their spiritual lives have flourished because of his teachings, (which needs to be faithfully documented and chronicled for posterity).

His eloquence in different languages— Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Greek and German (if I am correct), and English of course, (did I leave out any language?)—has enabled him to enjoy more the writings and preachings of the doctors and many more authorities of the Church.

It is not being hyperbolic to say that he is an icon in the local and national Carmelite landscape. Many of the OCDS counterparts in other sectors of the country are awed how advanced in maturity, in information and in learning the local OCDS have in comparison to them. He has guided, prepared and seasoned them to be valiant followers not only of the Carmelite order but to give God, the Creator, the Redeemer and Sanctifier of us all, the adoration, the praise He deserves.

As earlier mentioned, Tito Pari belonged more to the age group of our parents, thus the Primo and Prima salutation. However, he is proud to say that he is of our generation and his personality, his charisma and even his charism have transcended many generations. He can relate; he patiently listens. Sometimes, when approached for advice, he listens more before saying anything. That is wisdom. In this noisy world, the gift to hear beyond the words is the godly grace. And he shares this grace to whoever is wanting.

For his birthday, Carmel prepared a whole day celebration with Mass and an agape. The cousins also wanted our way of greeting him on his birthday. His May 30 calendar was full but he set aside the day before for us. So on the 29th, we got together sharing greetings and laughter and much love for this beautiful man, Fr. Bernard/Tito Pari.

During lunch, he intimated that his prayer is still for another religious priest to surface in our clan. The Lord always listens to a prayerful man. Perhaps, by God’s grace there will be another among our children and grandchildren who will be one of the chosen. Not to fill his shoes, which is too big to fit in, but foremost to be a friend, a counselor, and even a spiritual mentor, to the coming generations of Lizareses.

May God grant you more birthdays, Tito Pari!