Friday, December 12, 2008


Father Jim and Henry arrived at 9:30 a.m. last Friday, Dec. 5, via Philippine Airlines. Sammy and I were at the Puerto Princesa Airport to meet them. When the deplaning passengers began filling the baggage-claim area (a temporary, makeshift structure that looks like a garage), we saw Henry awaiting his checked-in luggage but could not see Father Jim. That got us worried for a while. Sammy and I were beginning to make a list of local diocesan priests we could plead with to take Father Jim’s place for the Retreat that was to start that afternoon.

When Henry finally joined us outside the terminal, we learned that Father Jim had gone with Dr. Pocholo Calanoc and Sec. Tony Gonzales (a former Secretary of Tourism in the Cory administration). These two happened to be on the same flight and were going to be judges in the Mutya ng Pilipinas finals to be held in Puerto Princesa that weekend (part of the “Pista Na, Pasko Pa” celebration, since the Immaculate Conception is the Patroness of Puerto Princesa). Dr. Calanoc, a cooperator, is a specialist in spinal surgery and had operated on several numeraries, including Father Jim. Apparently, Dr. Calanoc is a good friend of Mayor Hagedorn who was at the airport that morning to fetch them. They brought Father Jim along and we missed him because they took the VIP exit from the tarmac, without passing through the baggage-claim area.

We brought Henry to the retreat-venue, which is the St. Ezekiel Moreno Spirituality Development Center—henceforth, “St. Ezekiel Moreno Conference Center” or “St. Ezekiel’s”—in Barangay San Jose north of the town proper for a final check of the facility and appointments. Father Jim called by cell phone on our way, to tell us he would be with the group of Mayor Hagedorn (and not to worry). We arranged to have lunch at Badjao Seafront Restaurant.

After checking out the venue of our Closed Retreat, we drove back downtown to pick up Severo “Jun” Santillana (a supernumerary from Metro Manila who was attending our Closed Retreat) from Legend Hotel where he was billeted from the previous day when he arrived. It turned out that Father Jim was there having breakfast with Mayor Hagedorn, Dr. Calanoc and Sec. Gonzales. We interrupted them for brief introductions and the usual exchange of pleasantries. It was agreed that Mayor Hagedorn would have Father Jim driven over to Badjao Seafront by lunchtime to join us, which is in fact what happened.

Father Jim, Henry, Jun Santillana, Sammy and I had an excellent lunch at Badjao Seafront with a sunny-day’s view of the mouth of Puerto Princesa Bay. We were joined halfway through lunch by Engr. Jess Garcia, a very active cooperator, who had confirmed that he was attending the Retreat. It was a doubly good thing because Sammy’s Toyota Hilux Pickup could seat only four inside (besides the driver) and Father Jim’s arrival made five of us faithful of the Prelature. Sammy and I were prepared to ride in the truck bed but Jess graciously offered to join us in convoy. Henry assigned Father Jim and Jun Santillana to Jess’s Pajero. The rest of us rode to St. Ezekiel’s in Sammy’s car.

St. Ezekiel’s is owned by the Augustinian Recollect Sisters. It has a nice chapel, around which stand separate buildings for administrative offices, dining, conference rooms, and sleeping quarters. The single bedrooms are air-conditioned, each with its own toilet-and-shower. For our Retreat, we agreed to the rate of Php1,200.00 per person per day, which included meals (breakfast, lunch, merienda, and dinner), or Php2,400.00 each for the whole weekend (Dec. 5-7), counted as two days. We had decided to collect (through Orphy, as Treasurer of our notional Bagatnan Cultural Center, which is the name we use on our letterhead) Php2,900.00 from each of the participants to help cover the overhead expenses (including air fare for the priest and two numeraries).

The participants included five supernumeraries (Jun Santillana, Sammy, Orphy, Bing Cabrera and myself). The rest of those who attended are: Manny Capinig, Jess Garcia, Leo Valderrama, Randy Sabenacio, Gerry Ortega, Allan Carlos, Bong Miguel, Kiko Aquino, Munding Quicho, Jomari Encarnacion, and two teen-agers, Allen Arcenal and Cris Lobo, taking up Petroleum Engineering at Palawan State U (brought to the Retreat by Munding and Kiko).

David Caloza, the new Director of Kulyawan (vice Eddieboy Maranon, who has been assigned to start the Work in Indonesia) arrived on Saturday afternoon to interview Bing (preparatory to admission, David having been deputized by the Defender, Jae Narciso) and to give us a talk on doing apostolate. This was the first time most of us met David.

It was a rainy weekend, and we were somewhat distracted by other activities in the same compound (a retreat of high school seniors and a recollection of parish lay workers); the Pacquiao-De la Hoya fight at noontime of Sunday; and the Mutya ng Pilipinas finals but the Retreat was surely a success in terms of conversion and growth in the interior life, and in the quality of the participants as effective cooperators and potential supernumeraries of the Work in Puerto Princesa.

After dismissing the men from the Retreat at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, Father Jim preached a Recollection for around 20 women, mostly family or friends of the wives of the male supernumeraries and cooperators. We had a simple potluck dinner with Father Jim and Henry at Sammy’s house that night. Present were Orphy and his wife, Maricon (whose birthday is on Dec. 8); Manny and his wife, Judith; Sammy and myself. Jess and his wife, Baby, dropped by before proceeding to the City Coliseum for the Mutya ng Pilipinas coronation, where they had ringside seats.

Father Jim and Henry left Puerto Princesa by PAL on Monday, Dec. 8, after celebrating the Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (attended by some supernumeraries and cooperators, with wives and children) and after that, breakfast (for two, compliments of the A.R. Sisters) at St. Ezekiel’s. Father Jim and Henry boarded at around 10:00 a.m., with Manny’s usual pabaon of fresh seafoods, and some organic vegetables from Jess (earlier checked in by Manny).