The Queue For Halos

by Juan L. Mercado


Until  Friday, we saw this Cebu “templete” only on TV and newspaper photos. Creaking joints, grey hair and bifocals didn’t permit the wife and me to join over a million people who gathered there in thanksgiving for canonization of 17-year old Pedro Calungsod.

Martyred in Guam April 1672, he joins San Lorenzo Ruiz of Binondo. Calungsod was a joven bisayo, say 17th-century documents. A plam is the motif of a modern church, with soaring spire, that honors this Visayan teen-aged catechist. A palm “is the Christian iconographic representation of martyrdom,” explains Fr. Brian Brigoli.

The Catholic Bishops Conference head, this February, requested retired Cardinal Ricardo Vidal:  Please oversee the beatification process of Cebuano Bishop Teofilo Camomot and Bishop Alfredo Obviar of Lucena.

The Vatican gave, in March 2001, the green light to begin the beatification studies for Obviar. He handled ordinary duties, specially catechizing of children, with exemplary fidelity. He died in 1978, at the age of 89.

A commission, led by retired Bishop Antonio Rañola, beefed up membership to submit, end of 2013, it’s probe into Camomot’s life to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican.

Camomot’s life of prayer and service for indigents, as priest and later auxiliary bishop of Jaro (1955) Cagayan de Oro (1958), drew many. Did he sometimes bilocate as did Capuchin monk Padre Pio of Pietrelcina?

At a Sept 27, 1985 meeting in Cebu City,  “Camomot was on my left, and Archbishop Salvador my right, Cardinal Vidal recalls. “Monsignor, you have to vote,” I told him.” Yet, on his return to Carcar 40 kilometers away Camomot and secretary found a woman waiting.  “After your visit earlier today (to administer anointing of the sick), Tatay was able to get up.” How is that possible?, his secretary asked. The bishop laughed: “Keep that to yourself.”

Camomot would hock his bishop’s ring or cross to help the hard up. “Msgr. Lolong’s ring is here again, pawnshops would call,” recalls a friend. Held up on a Bukidnon road, disgusted gunmen turned away since all  Camomot had was P20. He had given his money to poor priests.  The bishop called back the frustrated gunmen and gave them his ring. A Cagayan de Oro pawnshop returned it.

Camomot died in a 1988 car accident. When his body was exhumed in 2009, it was intact. Nuns jettisoned the prepared urn and hurriedly procured a new coffin. “Cardinal Vidal identified the remains,”  Cebu Sun Star Sun reported. “The vestments were changed. Vidal certified every piece. And the grave was then resealed.

Some mornings, the secretary recalls he’d be asked by Camomot  to include a name in the Mass memorial for the dead of that day. Usually, it would be a priest, from Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo or Bukidnon (dioceses Camomot previously served).

Late afternoons, their office would receive a telegram informing them of the priest’s death. Asked how he learned, Camomot would say:  “The priest came to me to confess.”

How long does the process from inquiry to canonization take?

For St. Lorenzo Ruiz, it took all of 350 years and for San Pedro Calungsod 342 years. Two Filipino women, meanwhile, wait in the canonization pipeline.

One is Isabel Larrañaga Ramirez who founded the Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart in early 17th century. John Paul II named her “venerable” in 1999. The other is a “Chinay”: Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, who set up the Religious of Virgin Mary congregation in 1684. Benedict XVI named her “venerable” in 2007.

Add to that Spanish Augustinian nun Mo. Consuelo Barcelo, who formed an indigenous Filipino congregation, writes Jeremiah Opiniano of The Filipino Connection December 20, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints recognized the heroic virtues of Barcelo” who co-founded the pontifical Augustinian Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation (OSALC) Prefect Angelo Cardinal Amato declared that “this Servant of God is now “Venerable”.

Barcelo helped set Filipino Augustinian congregation. Over the last 130 years, members served in La Consolacion schools, and clinics, socio-pastoral ministries in rural areas, foreign missions for overseas Filipinos in some eight countries, Opiniano adds.

Cynical power, in this country, is reflected in Imelda  Marcos’ 1,060 pairs of shoes. She wails about getting back “my Roumeliotes gems” confiscated by government. A 37 carat diamond, crafted by Bulgari, is centerpiece.

“(She) asked a local court to stop government from selling the ‘Roumeliotes Collection’. The jewelry was taken out of Malacañang presidential palace without knowledge, much less the consent, of the petitioner, her court plea reads. “They are mine”, she insists.

Ruiz, Calungsod, Mother Ignacia, Ramirez, Obviar, Barcelo had nothing of that sort. All Camomot had in his room, on his death, was an old razor plus half a tube of toothpaste. He had given away his other pair of shoes.

The contrast reminds us of what Thomas More said to his student Richard who swapped perjured testimony to secure execution of his teacher, for appointment as Attorney General for Wales:  “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. But for Wales?”


Leave a Comment