A Rawitdawit, A Courageous Bishop and a Climactic Confrontation

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When the rawitdawit (poem) about the 1814 Mayon eruption was posted [“A Rawitdawit on the 1814 Mayon Volcano Eruption, 12/22/08], my attention was not drawn to the story but to the man of the cloth that retrieved it, Bishop Teotimo Pacis. The late bishop was a person I respected greatly for his courage.

I first noticed his name in high school. Nobody fails to notice the change in name of the bishop invoked during Mass.

I came to know him later in a curious way. I was then on confinement.

One bright morning, we cannot help but notice a yellow Volkswagen Passat enter the compound (rarely do cars come to that place). I noticed the markings (no, they were not letterings). Out came a big, tall man walking purposeful strides.

He asked for the commander and they conferred in the latter’s office. After 15 minutes a notice came that the bishop wants to talk to me. I dizzily thought, “Now, what is this?”

“I’m here to help you. Tell me all that I need to know”. He was direct to the point. I am not even sure if it is an order but I can readily feel the aura of authority. We were the only two in the room.

“I will be back. Tell me if you need me”. He thrusted a handsome amount in my hands. He called for the commander and they talked in the office. I noticed he was behind the table using the commander’s chair and the commander was seated in the visitor’s
chair. The bishop wasn’t smiling and he had that air of superiority.

I noticed after that that our treatment got better. And there came a string of visitors. And messages.

He came again after two months and it was Christmastime. He was bearing gifts and he said Mass. He blessed the children of the politicals and he wed some of them (now how many gets to be married by a bishop?) We again talked privately in the commander’s office.

We met again after a few months. We were on a hunger strike. We were demanding the enforcement of the Geneva conventions. We were also asking that our food allowance not be subject to “cuts” by the higher-ups.

He came storming. He was driving the pale yellow Passat and it screeched to halt, the car rocking. He demanded to see the commander in the same office.

“How can you call yourself Christians when you cannot give your fellow man his due?….” The office’s door was open and all can hear his booming tirade. This went on for 20 minutes. After which the commander came out thoroughly shaken and near tears. He shakily called for formation of the guards.

The sermon continued but now in front of the guards and in full view of everybody. It seemed that the guards’ torsos were shaking with every righteous thunder emanating from the bishop’s lungs and conscience. They were shifting on their feet, eyes fixed on the ground. They were veterans of Mindanao, fought the MNLF’s bloody uprising. I did not know that they can be cowed with searing thunder and righteous conscience.

I left that place soon and I lost contact with the bishop. From sources, I learned that he resigned his office soon after that climactic confrontation. I was sad to learn he spent his remaining years in poor health. He died in 1984.

When I finished the rawitdawit it was not its story that was on my mind. My mind were filled with memories. And thoughts and wishes.

I then realized I was yearning na sana all our bishops had that booming courage and righteous conscience of late Bishop Teotimo Pacis.

[photo credit:delest, albay pg]

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