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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chapter 11 - New Parish Assignment



Chapter 11
New Parish Assignment
   

     "How fast time indeed flies,” Fr. Driarco realized as he embarked on his new assignment as parish priest.
          “Way to go. We don’t  have any control where  our calling would bring us. Obedience is the key,” he learned convinced recalling various posts after missionary work from Taiwan.
          “What a better way of returning back the compliment to people who earlier helped and sent you in the Seminary,” the thought playing in his mind.
. . . . . . . . . . .

           Parish of St. John the Baptist of Esperanza is  actually his third assignment in a row. Like all other priests, living with the people in each parish is  actually just a one big family, warm, delightful and full of life. People are too accommodating in fact that he would always exercise prudence not to be swayed away attached into their private lives.
          “Don’t touch livewire, they would electrocute you to death in the end,” he would recall the good Bishop of Romblon advising him.
          “The priests of the Church should all be above reproach. You cannot serve both God and mammon. Remember you are the Word made flesh, a living witness of His glory if you wish. Practice what you preach,” he reminisced the wisdom from the good Bishop.
          “Turn right and travel straightway onwards. That’s the road towards heaven,” he would in turn admonish any of his beleaguered parishioner coming seeking for his advice in the convent.
There’s really no other alternative left. The choice is yours. Either you work or not work for it. One thing though is sure. The prize is worth a thousand times more than the effort. Where the heart is willing it will find thousand means; but where the heart is unwilling, it will find not just thousand but millions of excuses, he would add recalling that didactic maxim of the past.
          “Dealing with people is probably easier said than done. What if the Mayor wants to abuse and charge you against the wall?” Most unlikely, being the prince of peace in the area. But what if he would do it to any of his parishioners. That’s where the real trouble lies. Fr. Driarco himself would not give damn who they are. His records from two other parishes would show. In fact, he doesn’t mind being re-shuffled again to any other parishes. He’s not the one easily bullied and intimidated.
          “If I don’t stand up and protect my people, then I don’t have any business either to be in this kind of work.”
          “Never mind, if misunderstood as long as you’re doing your work. That’s your job. Christ did. Even coming face to face with the Devil later asking Him to surrender. But no. He just can’t. His work tells Him not to. He’s serving His Father not Satan.”
          “No compromise with devil. That’s what Christ did,” he would challenge himself.
          True to his knowledge, if ever there is one person uncomfortable with Driarco in the parish it is no other than the Mayor himself. By all means, Driarco represents great barrier to promising career in the province of the ruthless politician.
          “The mayor’s political ambition should not be allowed to go on unabated. The more he’s staying  in the office, the longer the impunity he gives;  the stronger he holds on to his power, the greater the suffering of the people, killing innocent taxpayers and opponents and milking government coffers clean and dry,” the young priest thought.
          “His hunger for power should be stopped,” he would add.
          “But how?” Now that he has bloated his resources through various expansion of  business empire in the province. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. True, but probably after justice has been served to his father’s death. When? I have to see yet the dawn of day rising in this parish. The Lord knows ‘when?’ By then reconciliation would be coming in the end, he thought was  proper clincher.
As parish priest, he has been preoccupied dispensing the seven sacraments. In between, he would always find time visiting the sick in the hospital saying mass, hearing confession and to those who are in dire need, extends extreme unction. He would also visit the prison and do the same providing the necessary lift from following up their long delayed cases to organizing them into viable group for economic development.
          Dishing out fiery homily lately still stick in his mind.  Probably because of the hangover he still has on the fate of his late father whose spirit now coming alive with his work as new parish priest of the municipality. Sometimes dishing out sermons has been mechanical to Fr. Driarco precisely he balanced what he preaches from what he works.
“Homily is good but working out what you say is better. Walk your talk in other words. However, practicing or living what you preach is the best,” he was awakened  facing the reality.
Evening mostly find Fr. Driarco glued on his Remington 150 typewriter completing his synthesis of his first three years work as a parish priest.
          “It’s better putting ideas into print. It’s the safest way  preserving incisive ideas for the church today,” so thought Driarco thinking of the vast experiences he has on the parish dragging him almost to issues beyond his duty unsolicited. Ironically, that which he could not easily get rid from.
          Fortunately, the more challenge he meets, the more his sagging spirit buoys up. “Taklin was right. Priesthood is really the start of the road towards Calvary,” he recalled his good friend back then.  How an ordinary priest could manage slipping away from the abuses perpetuated against his flock is up to his ingenuity. Who could help him anyway when charged against the wall if not the same people he served! The list is long. And so if he would take the cudgel for and behalf of his people, what would they say. Who shall set them free?
          “Did Christ not command His priests to liberate them from all forms of bondage of sin,” he would say defending their cause.
          “Let those who have no sin be the first to throw stones against us” which could probably be translated ‘those who are criticizing us should be the first to eat their own words.’
          “It’s not our making to be hyphenated-priests. The people are. They just can’t go to the police, the Mayor and other officials of the community they perceived us part of that big family they could easily confide their problems without fear.”
          “Subsequently, spilling of beans and skeletons of their closets to the community are revealed. And what if the Mayor and his henchmen continue wrecking havoc against the people of the community does it?”
          Such has been the case of five priests murdered one after the other unceremoniously. Thus, the names of Frs. Malig, Rutas, Lagila, Novala and Maknil and countless others follow.
          Fr. Malig run counter against a powerful Petrofil multi-company; Fr. Rutas against illegal logging syndicate notably politician and military; Fr. Lagila, against a Mayor who raped an innocent parishioner and Fr. Novala, against an abusive military officer who manhandled and in the end, killing innocent suspects; Fr. Maknil, against local official fabricating their own witnesses, including no less than his sacristan, charging him of masterminding an ambush staged against  Mayor in broad daylight yet. Adding the long lists Driarco could recall was Fr. Buenaflor, murdered by lone hired assassin killing him instantly point-blank hitting his temple while riding a motorcycle. His only sin – joining Sta. Isabel workers’ rally lobbying for additional compensation and other benefits the construction firm accrues them. Effective fertilizers of the earth, what the culprit and Mayor Torres might account for their effort.
          These are what so far Fr. Driarco learned of the barbarity of the Mayor excluding those who have been forgotten let alone their cause buried with them into the grave. They too exclude score others of laymen, pastor and other ordinary church workers mysteriously vanished leaving without any  imprint to trace. Add the list of those silent voices killed before they could even speak out issues on their minds – the farmers, student leaders, labor union leaders, teachers and students ordinary mortals like housewives and fishermen and many others which run by thousands. Altogether, their voices had not been stifled would have registered hundred of decibels that could have destroyed Marcos’ and his twelve Martial Law apostles’ eardrum. Sad to say the strength of the monster was stronger than anybody else. It is unfortunate indeed, so said a well-read national daily that they vanished like balloons into the thin air.
          Such was one picture painting grim scenario of the Apo Lakay’s baby. Everything was possible under the merciless sun whoever and wherever you are. It’s was just again the question of time and timing.  These restless souls incidentally have been roaming around requesting just due them. Parents, friends and other concerned citizens lately called for due process of law after filing a class suit against the Marcoses but whether their cause would be heard is yet to be seen.
. . . . . . . . . . .

          “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing,” Fr. Driarco would hum breaking the ice of his reflection on the fate of thousand of casualties.
          “When would they ever learn, when would they ever learn,” he sang with Mayor Torres in his mind. Indeed when? While there is still time to do or when he himself become and additional fertilizer anew to the ground.
. . . . . . . . . . . .

          Meanwhile, the Mayor and his cohorts have been busy consolidating their forces anew for possible ticket in Marcos Kilusang Bagong Lipunan as its standard bearer of the province governorship office. No guts, no glory, he would justify changing  to high gear in his political career. No fear would probably his new catchword. His bank book incidentally would reveal how much his worth these days giving him great chance of pulling out another victory in the forthcoming election. How could he possibly win anyway if he has no means. 
          “Money, money and money,” that’s what all the people needs during election, he would brag to his quarters.

. . . . . . . . . . .

          “So he’s finally back,” said the Mayor to Baldo.
          “Wanting maybe to follow his father’s graveyard Boss.”
          “By all means, if he intends to cross our path.”
          “By all indication, it seems he does.”
          “Then, it would the end of the road for him. God bless Him.”
          “And may He rest in peace, his soul whiter than snow.”
Thus said the Mayor to Baldo wanting to wipe out the remnants of Mang Clineo from the face of Esperanza’s political landscape. Theirs’ was the swiftest sorties establishing a plot how to add Driarco on their list of target.
          “Some people are just meant to be used,” the Mayor thought his laughter reverberated within the four walls of his private room.
          As usual, Esperanza has leapfrogged into  busiest  first class municipality  teeming with trade, commerce and industry. It could be  one of the best cover maybe of the dreaded incident paving the way for an election few months more. The general public might maybe forget the miserable and bloodiest event in their municipality with them left in the dark the real incident but not for Driarco, Danny, Jojo, the Mayor and his henchmen knowing how the death was delivered clean.
          Jojo, the star-witness of the incident has been back in the municipality. He joins his former friend now his boss in the parish doing house chores for the priest and giving assistance during celebration of holy masses. When would be the time of reckoning, Jojo is yet to know. As vital instrument for peace of the municipality, he is more than willing to come out in the open to speak out the truth in Court. But the good priest weighing all possibilities decided not to settle it in court for the meantime.
          “You know what? When you complain an issue out of goat in a Court you would end up arguing about a cow. We are better judges in other words than those in any RTC Sala controlled by the Mayor,” the priest said stunning Jojo.
          “Besides, if you don’t have the means, better not elevate any issue in Court. The more it would be at your disadvantage,” Fr. Driarco continued impressing upon his good friend and sacristan how to handle their cause.
          “Crime does not pay. The Mayor is just like any other mortals. He’s not clothed with invincibility. He will have his day full later.”
          Digressing from the topic.
          “Wonder if you ever heard of an Indian philosophy Karma,”
          “Nope,” Jojo answered.
          “Golden rule,”
          “Yes.”
          “Then, it’s all similar save that karma transcends the boundary of mutual concern down to our earliest roots.”
          “Mang Clineo, you mean a victim of karma.”
          “Not sure. Maybe his father’s great grandfather exacted blood from somebody else.”
          “And bingo, Mang Clioneo’s blood was taken as repayment in return.”
          “As sacrifice. But I’d like to go beyond that concept of karma.”
          “What it is?”
          “Love what  else. You get me - love.”
          “But some are not really that lovable.”
          “Then you don’t have any other alternative left than to accept them what they are.”
          “Like the good Mayor.”
          “He’s beyond acceptance,” Fr. Driarco twisted the issue.
          “Should be hated more instead.”
          “Maybe yes because he is abusing the word ‘love’.”
          Jojo acceded. When you kill people, rob them blind, abuse their innocence and all that degrading his personality, you don’t deserved to be loved.
          “Precisely, we have the constitution to safeguard Juan’s liberty, security and all other basic rights without which man’s existence is incomplete,” he learned.
          Not all day is that rosy to Fr. Driarco. Once he contacted the dreaded malaria and all the while was thinking that it would postpone forever his birthday while recuperating in a provincial hospital. He looks as zombie later coming out from the hospital after that dreaded disease drained him of his vitality.
          “Thanks to my good appetite allowing my fast recovery,” he would declare to himself.
. . . . . . . . . . .

          Sleeping one night in the convent, he dreamed of charging the Mayor with a Batangas knife slashing the Mayor’s belly the intestines protruding dangling out from the politician’s breadbasket blood spurting out into the ground driving the poor politicians crazy begging for dear life. But before he could thrust the fatal blow, Jojo woke him up.
          “Sorry father but I have to wake you up because you just shouted your decibel too strong in one’s ear.”
           He was panting catching his deep bated breath waking up from what seemingly a nightmare. Standing on his own feet, he wonders how he could possibly go that far. Falling on his knees, he prayed fervently before an altar invoking enough strength not to fall into temptation taking the law on his own hands. But the more he struggles for enlightenment, the more he was drawn into the commission of crime losing completely himself his grip of reality disoriented.  It’s only after fixing his eyes on the innocent face of Mother Mary did he recovered his composure.
          “You got the choice,” the Blessed Mother seems to be saying.
          “Christ has suffered that much for our sins. Please don’t add more suffering to Him, “ her words echoing  as he gazed the crucifix atop an altar.
          “Must be dreaming again,” he said deciphering the message he got.
          “Was the Blessed Virgin telling it to the Mayor through me?”
          “Or is she simply giving the message leaving him to read between the lines taking them at face value.”
           Looking back again at the altar in his room, his eyes happened to glanced at the little receptacle securely encasing the cylindrical bottle its tip pointed about five inches tall. It resembles the needle Mary Magdalene used during the ministry of Jesus. But how it looks deadly sans the leather jacket among Tibetan needle appears more deadly and menacing. No wonder it was considered a secret weapon among Tibetans back then.   As if in a trance, the needle in a small glass container webs magic beckoning him to free itself out from its receptacle. The urge to open it was there and  simply irresistible. 
          “Why not?” taking the small bottle containing his rare find and have it poked gradually getting closer into his eyes. As if hypnotized, he took it out and freeze both its  end between his middle finger and thumb.
          “So you want to go back to your owner,” he whispered as if in a trance possessed by irresistible force under Satanic spell answering that inkblot of family history calling cv  vengeance. It was only after putting it back in the bottle when he somehow recovers peace and sanity. From there, he was wide awake till daybreak probably making the devil advocate happy that moment imbuing the innocent priest sense of revenge.
          Before he knew it, the cock crows auguring another brand new day. Soon the bell tolls merrily inviting the parishioners for a celebration of another Holy Eucharist. Surprisingly, the Mayor was there among early church goers occupying the first pew yet. With him were Baldo, Bobo and the rest of his men. From the altar, Fr. Driarco alerted by the suspicious presence of the mayor and henchmen, didn’t take any chances. He had his mind focused occasionally on the group; his eyes on the bible on the table. Underneath is another bible. Inside this bible is a .38 Magnum caliber safely encased in its customized what looked like bible pages ripped away in the middle.
          “Careful. This should not be taken for granted as man is still the best resource on earth. What good do economic resources bring, if the goal of this resources are taken out from the equation?” The young priest cleared.
          “At least I could make it even when time comes. Protection by oneself? God understands this!” he quipped as the liturgy of the word continued.
          Nothing happened after the final benediction was said.
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