|FR. ROBERT REYES EXPLAINING HIS ART OF RUNNING FOR A CAUSE|
Today – as we celebrate the 224th birthday of Francisco Balagtas with National Artist National Artist Virgilio Almario, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Ms. Gemma Cruz-Araneta, and the Linangan sa Imahen,
Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA) members at the Plaza Francisco Balagtas – we are still looking for our missing guest. Or is it the guest that we miss? The last time we saw him was in Hongkong.
Yes, Fr. Robert Reyes promised that he would make his panata for Holy Monday by running from his home in Malabon to Balagtas’ town in Pandacan. But he was nowhere to be found.
A week before this Holy Week when we performed with magicians, Richard Buligan and Ian Martin, for the World Poetry Day celebration at the Filipinas Heritage Library, we kept on reminding Fr. Robert about it as he put a ribbon around our finger pointing toward Hongkong – courtesy of Rosario Perdigon, Nene Vital, and Sonia Zerrudo -- for the second anniversary of Lakbay Dangal, one of the two groups of Domestic Workers he organized in the Crown Colony, with Buhay Ka!
Last 24 March, while waiting for our plane to recover, like him, from braving all the storm, he unearthed two of the articles written about his recent activities: first, when he offered prayers for the Abadilla 5 and their families in a picket before the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice and, secondly, when he celebrated a mass in support of the protesting Philippine Postal Corporation workers asking for the resignation Postmaster General Josefina de la Cruz. He gave us a copy of his homily with this: “Mapalad ang mga taong nagtitiis ng pagsubok, sapagkat pagkasubok sa kaniya, siya’y tatanggap ng korona ng buhay.” We were about to ask if his choice -- the gospel according to St. James -- is an allusion to the Chief Justice’s impeachment trial. However, at the time, he did a Houdini. The next thing we heard was that Fr. Robert was seen both in Wanchai and in World Wide House with Ramaniel “Mang Ambo” Suabas, famous for his barbecue and other dishes from our beloved city of Tayabas whose Rizal monument turned into a
heritage site for dump trucks and other trash!
Some said they saw Fr. Robert was tracing, or re-tracing, the “Lakbay Dangal Trail” from Jose Rizal's old clinics near the lamppost in Duddel Street and in D'Aguilar Street to Rednaxela where our National Hero treated his mother from December 1891 to June 1892. Others observed that he was with Lakbay Dangal’s advisers -- from A for Aquino to Z for Zerrudo – with Ely Amby, Floriebie Calamba, Gemma Calingasan, Sherly Edralin, Cecilia Eduarte, Janeth Ann Floro, Maritess Mapa, Victoria Munar, Gloria Petrola, Mary Jean Reyes, Juvy Santing, Mirasol Tadia, Roda Talingdan, Aileen Tijones, Michelle Zape and other core group members at the Sacred Heart Cannosian!
But then again he was a no-show until he re-surfaced at the St. Clare’s Primary School where he delivered a lecture before his guests: Rowena Amador, Nida Ampaguey, Evelyn Cabucos, Annabelle Libao, Flordeliza Valdez, and Cathy Zurita before graduation certificates were distributed as the highlight of Lakbay Dangal’s festivities last 25 March.
After a day, he was spotted at the Great Café with no less than our Consul-General Noel Servigon with his wife Chi; at the Philippine Consulate General in Almiralty with Vice Consuls Charles Macaspac and Joy Banagodos; at the Pacific Coffee Company with his supposed sister Pureza Rocha; at the Almeidas’ condo unit with two poodles in Mid-Levels where a Pinay, who allegedly committed suicide, was discovered to be gang-raped by her own boss and three others; and at the Flow Bookshop with its owner Surdham after visiting the Schoeni Art Gallery whose owner, Swiss-born Manfred Schoeni, was in Boracay to establish the headquarters of a European "resident" community when he was murdered in 2004.
Anyway, last 26 March, he was in Lamma Island visiting either the Nocedos or Dyogis or the Order of St. Clare Portiuncula Monastery. And it was Dr. Alexander Aquino -- the main reason why there is UAE Exchange in Hongkong -- who testified that he shared his good life with Fr. Robert during lunch at Shakey’s Hankow Branch. Reportedly, too, the Running Priest ran away after praying for his friends with cancer!
Last 31 March, at around 9:30 p.m., just right after the Earth Hour, when we turned the lights on, he texted us that he was and will be in Virac, Catanduanes until May. Then, he will move to Liliw, Laguna for good – before the launch of his latest book about Lakbay Dangal -- all in the name of Francisco.
Not Balagtas but de Asis!
Vim Nadera: Who is the real Robert Reyes?
Robert Reyes: When I worked in China as an ordinary English teacher, my fellow teachers just called me Robert. My students called me either Teacher Robert or Mr. Robert or simply Teacher. This helped me
tremendously in once more appreciating myself minus the titles and privileges that I experienced back home. I felt happy being ordinary and just blending well with my fellow teachers and students.
VN: If you were not a priest, how would see yourself?
RR: If I were not a priest now, I would most likely be doing something related to farming or ecology. This is probably why the past six years have been a unique experience of nature in different places from China to Hong Kong; from Palawan to Catanduanes.
VN: Do you come from a family of priests?
RR: No I do not come from a family of priests. In fact I am the only priest in our family. Both sides of my parents are Protestant. Many of my father’s cousins are Aglipayan. Three of my mother’s elder sisters are Methodists. Jokingly, I would conclude that the protestant element on both parents’ sides caused me to become the “protesting priest.”