By Abraham de la Torre
REVEREND FATHER VICTOR Emmanuel Clemen is the parish priest of the Holy Spirit Parish in BF Homes, Quezon City. A Boholanon, whose poker face belies his amiable soul, he prefers to be called Fr. Bobot by all.
He took over wh ere Fr. Jerome (Jigs) Rosalinda left off in June of 2013. An action man like his predecessor, he lost no time in instituting changes to an already dynamic church and her community. Where the altar used to be staid, he gave it a golden tint, replete with ornate side altars to enhance the majesty of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary. The monochromatic cream-colored church is now in beautiful hues of blue.
He perseveres to this day, his current project being the transformation of the garden behind the church into a Via Crucis al fresco. Each station has a sacred image hemmed in by a metal arch framing each way of Christ’s poignant cross. As the work progresses daily, onlookers are already expressing anticipatory sighs of awe and delight. The unveiling and blessing is scheduled before the Diocesan Way of the Cross on March 21 this year.
He cannot possibly be complacent with the energy emanating from a very supportive Parish Pastoral Council led by its Chair, a noble, no-nonsense lady in the person of former Judge Thelma Ponferrada. Self-effacing and spiritual, Ate Thelma always prefaces the meeting with an opening prayer, either by Fr. Bobot or her and, at the end, distributes vitamins for the souls in the form of spiritual verses.
Fr. Bobot used to lace his homilies with homespun humor. The kind that is appreciated by many but frowned upon by a few. This was at a time when he was testing the parish waters, an obligatory transition toll. He was also trying to ascertain who would possibly be his friends, because in any church, they naturally abound, along with probable foes. The proverbial difficulty of pleasing everybody could not have been more apt at this phase of his pastoral mission.
Thankfully, well-meaning members of some ministries talked among themselves not so much behind his back as to go about removing the apparent displeasure of the minority. We are, after all, basically one ecclesial family.
Equally auspiciously, Fr. Bobot rose to the occasion and sank his predilection for banter.
Last Sunday, the second of Lent, his homily was about stress and its antidote – sacrifice. He introduced it by recalling Abraham’s obedience to God who did not blink once even when it meant offering his beloved and only son, Isaac, as a holocaust. Such was Abraham’s – and his son’s – faith that neither had qualms as to the consequence of an almost crime. For that was what Abraham was about to commit. Had God’s messenger not intervened. Like crime deserved punishment, Abraham’s loyalty was rewarded as amply as his tribe increased.
This was the juncture where Fr. Bobot squeezed in his sense of humor. He related a friend of his, a rich woman from Eastwood, who was worried sick – stressed out – because of her jewelry, and could not rest until she is reassured she won’t lose them. Wherefrom he drove home his point. Stress is worrying over non-essentials. The woman already had wealth and she dreaded having to part with it. Fr. Bobot said that sacrifice cures stress by giving up certain comforts and getting out of those zones so that others may have a little of what we have. Like Abraham, who was willing to give up his only son, we ought to own a sense of selflessness. Like God Himself, who gave His only Son for He so loved the world that it may be saved from sin, as was conveyed by the second reading, which also asked that if God is with us, what can separate us from Him. The answer is as clear as a bell. Greed. Avarice. Selfishness. Glutonny. Worrying over wealth that is already there. Instead of giving thanks as a form of sacrifice, which Psalm 116:17 extolled. Only then can we be ready to see Jesus turn white as snow and transfigure into His preparing us for the endtimes.
Eastwood is where Padre Pio Parish Shrine is situated, where Fr. Bobot is Director for many years now. He is also the Chaplain of St. Anne School in Project 6, which is owned by a fellow Boholanon and friend of long standing, Dr. Aurora Apuada.
Sacrifice is what possibly prompted Ate Zeny Limos to volunteer as an instructor to poor youths of the Jesus of Nazareth Parish whose idle moments are utilized to learn basic algebra (which is the forte of Ate Zeny),
English and general information. It is heartening to hear her share her sheer joy in the progress of her wards’ education, the duration of which is six months.
Next to Ate Zeny’s one-(wo)man self-mandate (her husband, Kuya Boni, is also a volunteer PPC member who is the structural coordinator of the church) is Ate Ella Doller’s Faith and Formation Ministry. She was tapped to represent the parish in that Commission and has been attending by her lonesome the meetings thereof. Never frustrated by her solitary pursuit, she is prodded by a personal pledge of service, not for personal gain but for her spiritual slogan ad majorem Dei gloriam. Happily, she is propped up by Pope Francis’ latest “first commandment,” of providing for the needs of church people and always showing God’s love for all. For, she quotes, “How can you praise God and not love the unlovable?”
There are other selfless servants of the church like the Mother Butler Guild. Who are always present on Saturday afternoons, cutting and arranging flowers as well as sacred vestments and linen for the altar which never loses its splendor, thanks to the Guild’s golden touch.
The church is also blessed with two all-around cleaners, a cook and a washer woman, who all see to the upkeep of the church, her office, rectory and Fr. Bobot’s provisions.
Add to them the church bookkeeper, Ate Joan, whose integrity is beyond reproach as far as parish funds are concerned.
Not to say the least, Ate Analyn is another volunteer catechist, whose basic task is to prepare candidates for baptism and confirmation on a regular basis. She helps out in the office’s clerical concerns otherwise.
Sacrifices are miracles in disguise. I recall the PPC-sponsored Christmas party last year, whose motif was Wild, Wild West. As the phrase implied, everyone was required to be in cowboy attire. Ate Gigi Davide, the proponent of the program, made sure that the theme was adhered to, even procuring two live horses to embellish the event. This was at a time when the monsoon was still lurking at the corners of every occasion. So there was a need to guarantee fair weather. Which PAG-ASA could never vouch for. So Ate Thelma called Kuya Boni and me to join hands with her and, together, we raised a supplication to heaven.
We did not take the prayer for granted. We claimed it. And the rain did pour after all, but only shortly after the party.
That made us more than believe. That we get our just desserts according to what we deserve.