Saturday, May 15, 2010

Remembering My Captain

He was just an ordinary laborer,- a mechanic, at the Salt Industry of the Philippines or SaltPhil way back in the late ‘50s. I am referring to Pantaleon S. Novio, Jr.,- my uncle who served as Barangay Captain of Brgy. Bubog for more than 20 years during the entire administration of Pres.Ferdinand E. Marcos. But he was more of a look alike of Constabulary chief Fidel V. Ramos. Those were the days when the Local Government Code is unheard of. The days when our village officials do not have allowances and perks but despite of this, they work selflessly and dedicated most of their time to public service. He gave me my very first taste of public service when I was just in the elementary grade.

We, his nieces and nephews, call him Tito or Papa Addie. Strict, disciplinarian but full of heart and compassion for the poor specially the needy. I remember him carrying his "buntot-page" whip imposing discipline to vagabonds and justice to their victims. I remember him being a chainsmoker and a lover of suspense-thriller pocketbooks and Hollywood war movies.

Though he never finished any college degree, unlike those who administered after him, he gained respect not only because of his power and authority but for his morally upright examples, both in private and public life. And I cannot help but remember him today. I will tell you why later.

Today, May 15, 2010 is also feast day of our patron saint Saint Isidore, the Worker also known as San Isidro Labrador. You know, in 1930, a group of farmers from Camiling, Tarlac, headed by Pedro Luis came to my place and later convinced his fellow farmers and all the barrio residents then to make San Isidro Labrador our patron saint. Luis, in 1949, when then San Jose Mayor Isabelo Abeleda, Sr. approved the petition making Bubog as one of the barrios of said town,- was appointed as the first barrio lieutenant.

When I was young, I had a feeling that the story I’ve read from the books about the life of San Isidro Labrador was just a fairy tale. It never happened. It’s just a product of fancy imagination. Imagine, the angels went down from heaven to help him plow the field and all those sort of things? Isn't it a fairy tale material?

But I am (hopefully) a mature man now and I came to realize that those stories really happened in real life in Madrid. And today, the message behind the life of Isidore,- for me, is much clearer now : Even a simple laborer can achieve sainthood. Also, physical labor has dignity and sainthood does not stem from status. The life of Isidore and living during my childhood days in Brgy. Bubog taught me that contemplation does not depend on learning and the simple life is conducive to holiness and happiness. Legends about angel helpers and mysterious oxen indicate that Isidore's work was not neglected and his duties did not go unfulfilled. The life of Isidore constantly reminded me this: “If you have your spiritual self in order, your earthly commitments will fall into order also.”

I was informed that there will be a big thanksgiving celebration tonight and I am just wondering if St. Isidore will be given equal respect and adoration by the jubilant residents and officials in my home barrio viz-a-viz their victorious political patron. Nevertheless, happy fiesta to all of you!

By the way, my uncle succumbed to heart attack and died on the eve of the Feast day of Saint Isidore, the Patron Saint of our beloved barangay some six years ago. I do not wish to elaborate but he died on the road while extending a helping hand to neighbors in need. And I am saying a little prayer for him today.

Papa Addie was firm in his decisions without being arrogant. He did not amass wealth despite of many opportunities that came his way as a public servant, for his only wealth and most cherished possessions are his family, friends, an out-modelled Yamaha motorcycle and an old toolbox.

Isidore was totally unselfish. He was a loving and compassionate human being, not unlike my beloved Papa Addie


  1. You mean you were a witness when the Tarlac farmers went to your place to persuade you and your village-mates to have San Isidro Labrador as your patron saint?

  2. @Anonymous ; I just learned it from Mr. Rudy Candelario, our local historian...