this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on September 6, 2001.
My Dad isn’t an ordinary dad. He is special in a way because he is a married priest. Some people think that somehow this is wrong. Others are cool about it. And many just don’t mind.
But ours is really just an ordinary family. I’m 22-years old, a commerce graduate of San Beda College. I have four brothers, two of whom are adopted. Our eldest, Bart, is working with the Manila International Airport Authority. He has his own family now. Next is Cris Jr., a graduate of the University of the Philippines who now works for Octoarts EMI. Then there is Marc, who is an engineering student at UP. The latest addition to our family is Seth Joseph who has been with us for almost two years now.
Mom is a businesswoman while Dad manages a credit cooperative. After 20 years in the priesthood, Dad married Mom and they settled down in Obando, not far from another community in Bulacan where he used to be the parish priest. Twenty-five years and five children later, we are still living in the house of my childhood.
I write this piece not because I owe anyone an explanation but to make up for a lost opportunity. My parents and Marc were interviewed recently on national television about our family, and I couldn’t join them because I was too shy to face the TV cameras.
Some people keep making a big deal out of my family’s ordinary life. In our small town, most people refer to me as “anak ng pari.” Different people react differently when they learn of my background. Some are shocked, while others are amazed. Some think it’s funny, others look at it with disapproval.
My classmates and friends would usually introduce me to their parents as “anak ni father.” If someone who doesn’t know us asks who I am, people in our town are likely to answer, “Anak ni Father Cris. I don’t mind, though, because first, it’s true, and second, so what?
My classmates and friends are cool about Dad being a married priest. And they like him even more when they get to meet him and find out how nice he is.
But I cannot avoid people who love to tease me about it. And I just laugh it off.
Dad is quite popular among the people who know him. I have met couples who told me that Dad had officiated at their wedding, and they would show me pictures taken on the occasion. I had a teacher who was once served as Dad’s sacristan.
Dad has appeared on several TV shows to talk about celibacy and the kind of life married priests are having now. Once when I was a freshman in college he spoke during our retreat and met Father Albert, our retreat master and my professor in theology. Father Albert liked Dad and even invited him to speak in other retreats. Unfortunately, he never got to do that.
People enjoy talking to Dad because of his wacky sense of humor, open-mindedness and generous heart and spirit. He’s ready to offer a lending hand even to people he doesn’t know. He will lend his money even to those whose only collateral are their words. He never thinks twice before helping. He tells me that maybe one day when we need help, these same people whom we are helping would reciprocate the gesture.
Dad is a good provider. When it comes to our education, he makes sure we have everything we need. That’s why he’s still working even at his age (he’s already 69). He always teaches us the value of education, the importance of prayer and living a clean life, and advises us not to do things we might regret later on in life.
He doesn’t interfere with the way we live our lives. He only guides because he trusts us and is aware that we can take care of ourselves. He himself would say that’s why he sent us to school.
There are times, though, when he thinks we are going out of control and warns us to make sure we don’t do crazy things. Sometimes we get into his nerves. But then everyone has a temper, isn’t it? I’m not an exemplar of good behavior but I try not to do things that will make him angry not because I’m afraid but out of respect for him, a respect that he deserves.
Dad is good to Mom as he is to us his children. They take care of each other. Once when Mom was asked what it was like to be married to a priest, her reply didn’t surprise me at all: “No regrets.” Perhaps those two words sum up the condition of our family. Although we are not rich (after all, priests are not trained to earn a living and become wealthy), I can say we are one happy family. I know the families of other married priests and I have seen the same foundation that Dad has built for his own family. These other families are also happy and their members are close to one another. (They have pretty daughters, too.)
Some of my friends have womanizing fathers and some of them come from broken families. I have friends who are into drugs. I believe these things happen against one’s will, but sometimes that’s how life is. Given this, don’t you think I am lucky to belong to a family like ours?
Perhaps you’re curious about my stand on the issue of priestly celibacy. Sorry, but I can’t explain it because I don’t know much about it. But I’m not against it. It’s often said that God has plans for us and maybe-just maybe-this is what God wants for my Dad: for him to be with us and not in church wearing a sutana.
I didn’t write this piece to heap praise on my Dad. He has his faults, and I’m sure he’s aware of them. He has some regrets too, but I’m sure they are not about his decision to leave the priesthood and have his own family. In fact, he never left the priesthood for as the Catholic Church teaches, once a priest, always a priest. “You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek,” the Bible says.
I was never ashamed of who I am or who my Dad is. The fact is, I’m always proud of who Dad is and how great a family he helped put together. And the reason our family is great is that Dad is a priest.
If my family’s example is anything to go by, I strongly recommend priesthood to every man who intends to get married. (Yeah right. As if…)