Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 April 2023 Reflections on the occasion of my 25th year in the Priesthood
As I have promised you yesterday, today we reflect about the women the Lord had sent me to meet him, to follow him.
My first assignment from 1998 to 2010 after ordination was teacher-administrator of the Immaculate Conception School for Boys (ICSB) and Immaculate Conception School of Malolos (ICSM). My students would always ask me why I left the news to become a priest. My usual answer given in a jest, especially to the boys, was that I wanted to “love” more women than just one. It was a “birong totoo” because that was how I felt when I began examining my life and heard anew my vocation following that conversation with Atty. Dan.
During my retreat last March while praying over the many graces and blessings I have not been aware of, I realized how God prepared me for the priesthood and its call of celibacy. As I looked back in my life, he has blessed me with great women, so beautiful inside and outside. They were gifts that even if I did not get married because I chose priesthood and celibacy, I feel so blessed with that unique relationships with these wonderful women who continue to enrich my life as a person, as a priest.
First, my Bosses in work have all been women.
My first boss was Ms. Gina Bautista-Navarette. She was the editor-in-chief of the UST’s Varsitarian when I applied as a news reporter in 1984. Even at that time, she has always been the epitome of “beauty and brains” – so lovely and so kind, but really tough inside, especially with her knowledge and beliefs. She finished Industrial Engineering and went to work first at PRC as one of its young executives, then to Johnson & Johnson and then to Jollibee as VP for Marketing. When Jollibee bought Greenwich Pizza, she became its GM and a few years later, became the President of Red Ribbon when Jollibee acquired the famous cake company. While still the VP for Marketing at Jollibee, I invited her to our school for a career talk to our students. She in turn would call me sometimes for comments for their products which I enjoyed because I had valid reasons to eat burgers and palabok!
Later on, Gina emailed me of their moving to Canada for a “lifestyle shift” but even then, she had never forgotten to greet me during my ordination anniversaries as deacon and priest! That is why, whenever I remember and pray for Gina, “it is the Lord” whom I see.
My second boss was Ms. Tina Monzon-Palma. Yes. The Ms. Tina Monzon-Palma of television news. Late have I realized the super blessing given to me by God to have worked under Ms. TMP as we called her.
So tall and lovely, surely better than that girl from Ipanema! But, in her I found really a WOMAN in the truest sense. Astig. But with a lot of sense of humor. So kalog. And yes, so kind and thoughtful. What I could not forget is her sense of humility. Imagine, the goddess of TV News for so long that you would surely believe if she tells you World War III has begun, is in fact a humble person because she says sorry. I have personally experienced her saying sorry once or twice but on other occasions, she has that tender way of letting you know she is sorry like saying “kumusta na kid?” or just being extra nice on certain days. Whenever I feel in a dilemma of saying sorry or not, when I feel so proud, I remember Ms. Tina who despite her stature and every right and privilege would always be that humble to say sorry.
Another thing I learned from Ms. TMP was when she told me why she would always reprimand me with my scripts and reports: she insisted She would insisted excellence in our work. Later in the seminary and as a priest, I would speak of excellence as holiness, of giving your best always. It is the very heart of St. Therese’s “little way”, of doing small things excellently.
I will always be proud of Ms. Tina. Monzon-Palma. Even she had moved to other networks, she remained our kapuso, seeing us, conversing with us her former colleagues at GMA-7. She came to my 50th birthday and again in my anniversary. In fact, she came so early because she told me, she just wanted to talk to me. Truly, I could say that afternoon, “It is the Lord” when I was with her.
My third and current Boss is again a woman, also beauty and brains, but most holy and truly a Wonder Woman. The President of the Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) and Board Member of Fatima University Medical Center (FUMC) of which I am both the chaplain: Dr. Caroline Santos-Enriquez, MD.
I first met Dra. Caroline in 2010-2011 when I was first assigned as attached priest here at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela. Twice the chaplain was indisposed and I had to celebrate Masses for him. After I was given a parish of my own to shepherd, Doctora would always invite me for talks in OLFU and twice to address their graduates at the PICC.
During my retreat last month, she came to my prayers. Yes, “It is the Lord” experience again and I felt so ashamed before God not realizing this immense grace and blessing of how a great woman of faith who has hurdled so many trials in life, a very wise manager and steward who has steered OLFU to what it is today with six campuses would believe in me? Our Bishop told me during our clergy reshuffle in December 2020 that he had asked Dra. Enriquez to recommend to him three names he would assign as chaplain. I was her first choice, and again, “It is the Lord!”
Of the other women and friends God gave me to lead me back to his Son Jesus, will share them Monday in our next blog. For now, I too believe that nothing happens by accident. God knew everything beforehand that I would be sent out of the seminary in 1982 only to go back after nine years and become a priest 25 years ago. In all those years, he blessed me with so many friends, especially friends who are girls, some are ladies, and many are women like my three Bosses in the professional life. They are among the best of his blessings I was not aware until I went back to those 25 years of my priesthood. It is the Lord I have seen in them. And like James Taylor in his 1971 song Places in My Past, I could sing…
There are ladies in my life Lovely ladies in these lazy days And though I never took a wife May I say that I have loved me one or two
Amen. Have a blessed long weekend!