Bishop Broderick Pabillo has just been “seated” as the new shepherd of the northern part of Palawan. After close to 3 years of being “sede vacante” (vacant seat), the chair is now warmed. The long wait is over; the throne is now occupied. On the feast day of St. Ezekiel Moreno yesterday (August 19) and his anniversary as bishop for 15 years, in a Rite of Installation, whatever he does from hereon becomes official as the Bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay.
At the ceremony in the Cathedral of Taytay, I could not help my memory from recalling how has he been and has become from the moment I met him as a rural priest then of the parish in Barangay Macarascas. I am inclined to say that not much has changed in him – the same simple man, the same independent mind, the same straightforward person, among others. Most of all, he is the same man of the cloth that whenever you would talk to him you would have a sense and a feel that he has just finished talking with God in intimacy.
A point, when he was transferred to Manila as auxiliary bishop, I told him, “Mas magiging busy na po kayo n’yan kasi from a small barrio to the biggest city po kayo eh.” Quickly he quipped, “Nasa sa ‘yo naman yan. Pwede kang maging busy sa baryo, pwede rin sa city. Pwede kang maging tamad sa baryo, pwede rin na tamad ka sa city.” For this man of mission, to become busy is second-skin to him. That said, to be “seated” and to be simply sitting is not his cup of tea. He would rather be walking around villages, climbing mountains, crossing seas, engaging people in conversation, etc. All told, to be “seated” for Bishop Pabillo is to be emerged and be immersed in doing everything for the sake of the Gospel.
Going back to memories. It was Bishop Pabillo who pushed me that pursue further studies abroad. I was hesitant then that it was not the need for Palawan just yet. But this he opined, “You should also be open and available to serve anywhere, even outside Palawan and outside of your comfort zones. At any rate, your learning can also be applied at any given time and place, not just in the classroom.” I could not argue with him then. He, with all his credentials as an intellectual, was then serving the remotest and the poorest of peoples. And so, fast forward to five years, right after I got my doctoral degree from Spain, I presented myself to him. Then and there, he told me to be available for lectures. My overconfident self was somehow expecting that he would recommend me to academic institutions where he also taught before. But lo and behold, he requested me as a resource speaker in the smallest sitio in Nasuduan where his parish leaders were gathered. For the record, my first lecture after I got a doctoral diploma from Europe was with the simplest of people and in an unbeknownst far village. Again, I really could not argue more nor further, Bishop Pabillo has led the way how to become a firebrand teacher and a dynamic academician.
At one point, I confided to him something. Needless to say that it is inevitable for anybody, especially leaders like priests, to encounter a crisis in decision-making. Some stakeholders, and even close friends, could be turning back on you. This was how Bishop Pabillo comforted me with- “May mga bagay na dapat ay pinapalipas at pinalalampas na lang”. He added, “Congratulations on your pain. That makes you very human”. He also told me, “Don’t worry. It is when you do things right and good that people will start to attack you. Be very patient.” Finally, he assured me, “Punta ka rito sa akin. Dito ka muna sa amin.” Enough said.
Furthermore, Bishop Pabillo walks his talk. His homily at yesterday’s Installation was sort of inaugural speech, aka, plata forma de gobierno. It has all the ingredients proper of the day and to the celebration – an acknowledgment of “who’s who” that led to his appointment as bishop of Taytay, recognition of St. Ezekiel Moreno as a courageous missionary from Spain who came to Palawan, explanation of his episcopal motto “Fides en Caritate (Faith through Love), note to himself to be like the Mabuting Pastol, a reminder to everybody to walk the path of synodality and an offer to government leaders for collaboration. To say the least, what was expressed has aptly capsulized what the flock could expect from his brand of shepherding Palawenos.
After the event, when everybody and everything was already cooling down. I was able to chance upon him for chitchat. Among others, we talked about the challenge of being immersed in the culture of Palawan. I commenced, “E di mag-aaral na po kayo na magsalita ng Cuyunin?” He replied quickly, “Oo nga eh. Naghahanap nga ako ng dictionary at libro ng common phrases in Cuyunon.” Having nothing on hand, I opened for him a Facebook account where he can learn anything Cuyunin. He commented, “I can read and understand somehow, but it would be the pronunciation that will challenge me.” I just happen to know the man, he is a Bible Scholar. As such, as in a computer language, Bishop Pabillo is a “default” linguist. Be pretty sure that he can also manage languages in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, etc. He has learned them all when he was studying in Italy. And with his fancy for terminologies and culture at that, to Cuyunon could just be a walk in the park. Bet your bottom dollar on it.
In a previous column, I referred to him as Moga, a moniker tagged to him by his colleagues. Preferably and properly though, Brod must he be called. He is Broderick, the bishop. He is also Brod, the one whom you could depend upon as a brother.
Welcome back, Brod. Be blessed. Be very busy.