By By Rev. Fr. Rommel M. Arcilla
Thank You, Bishop Manolo
posted 29-Oct-2019  ·  
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He was appointed Bishop of Virac when I was still a 1st  year Theology seminarian at the Holy Rosary Major Seminary in Naga City. I have known him to be a Canon Lawyer and so he was strict especially regarding his  absolute NO ALCOHOL policy for seminarians. After my second year in theology, he sent me out for a regency because of a vehicular accident which I had and it happened because I was drunk. Luckily, the policy was not yet imposed on us then.

He was a very simple man, even as bishop, and I remember him helping the boys in pushing the old pick-up truck at Fiat for an engine start while I was on the driver’s seat. He is the kind of person who would not use his position and influence for his own benefit, that’s why he was even denied a plane seat during the time of the Asian Spirit airline. He was very humble and very polite especially to those elderly ones who did not know that they were talking to the bishop.

I have known him to be fair in his decisions and judgments. He knows how to appreciate one’s efforts and little successes especially in the ministry and he knows how to punish those who may have committed some unbecoming acts as priests, mostly because of drinking. I hope no one will oppose this statement because I am really telling you all these based on my own experience. I had been his “head ache” for countless times and I hope that era of mischief on my part is now slowly coming to an end.

I must admit that there were times that I hated him for his decisions. I hated him not because he was wrong, but because I just don’t want to accept that I was the one at fault. He called my attention for my craziness for several times and I will always end up in tears and saying “I am so sorry Bishop”. I am just so lucky that, even before the unlimited calls and texts came into place, Bishop Manolo’s forgiveness and understanding had been unlimited already (well, at least for me).

It is a common knowledge, and I hope the bishop will not disown me, that we are related by blood. We both belong to the Arcilla Clan and this is something I cannot really deny and avoid. My friends in the ministry would often tease me saying: “Malakas ka baga ki Obispo kaya dai ka piga panghimagan!” Normally, I would not comment but if they only knew, I was the apple of the eyes of the bishop because I knew he would not allow me to go scot free after any misdeed just because I am related to him.

Some years ago, I was on the brink of deciding to leave the priesthood because of a serious problem which I encountered. We talked and he asked me: “Ano na naman ini Rommel?” I felt he was telling me then that his patience for me run out already and that I no longer have a chance to be a priest anymore. To cut the story short, I told him I want to leave, but I am still here as a priest because he did not allow me to throw the gift of priesthood to the dogs. I thought, then, that he was like a CEO talking to his employee who had done something wrong. But later did I realize that Bishop Manolo is a real father to his priests and he would never want anyone to get lost and out of the priesthood.

As a bishop, it is normal for him and it is a part of his role and obligation to ensure discipline among his priests. I don’t really regret those times when he would remind me of things that I must do and not to do. In fact, I am even grateful that he sent me to a renewal facility because now I can say I found myself again and so in love with my ministry. I always longed to find that “Gaudium Sacerdotale” (joy in the priesthood) and Bishop Manolo showed me just the right way to find it. I will be forever grateful to him because he trusted me and he believed in me even after all those crazy things which I have done.

When I had my renewal program, part of it was the evaluation and recommendations, to which the bishop of the participant and his companion in his journey (a priest) is required to attend. Well, I cooperated in that program to the best of what I can, but the recommendations for me by the staff were in conflict to what I recommended for myself. It was normal for the bishops to heed the recommendations of the renewal center, but it was different for me. Bishop Manolo simply told the body that he trusts and believes in me and so his decision is for me to carry on with my plans and recommendations for myself. It was the best moment of my life and I was in tears when I embraced to thank him for his trust and faith that I still have a chance to redeem myself from my self-inflicted misery.

“If only priests would be so honest and open to me, then, I am really willing to help them.” These was his words of assurance that he is always willing to help anyone to stand once again and be proud of the gift of priesthood. He is always ready to listen and understand our problems, trials and challenges, and offer the best solution possible to remedy any situation and pull us out of our own misery. Thank you so much, Bishop Manolo, oremus pro invicem.

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