When Fr Bill asked if I could take Mass tonight, I immediately replied yes. I take this as a privilege to honor a fellow Jesuit, a dear friend and brother, with whom I grew up in the SJ. Boboy was one of our primi. Both his batchmates, Frs. Jonjee Sumpaico and Lester Maramara, are currently missioned abroad, and are still in utter disbelief at all these. However, his other batchmates who have since pursued their respective vocations outside the Society yet kept close ties of brotherhood among themselves, are here present. In a group chat that includes their and our batch, we have been exchanging fond memories of Boboy if only to console and comfort ourselves at the untimely loss of such a good and holy man.
But is it indeed untimely? The common theme in today’s readings for Thursday of Easter Week 2 is obedience. The apostles declare that it is better to obey God than men. Jesus says that he who believes, he who obeys the Son, has life eternal. The courageous obedience of the apostles reflects the loving obedience of the Son to the Father with whom the Son is always and for all eternity one in the Spirit.
Our Jesuit formators time and again teach us that Ignatius wanted his men to be distinguished by their obedience. In the Constitutions, he says, “This is the ideal we must aim at in the Lord, with all the resources of our mind and heart: that holy obedience unreservedly embraces not only our performance, but our intention and our vision…” (Constitutions, Part VI, Chap. 1, ). But this vow, which seems to become more challenging as one advances in Jesuit life, is made possible, only with a vibrant and discerning practice of poverty and chastity. Like other edifying Jesuits before him, Boboy looms large in death as a Jesuit who lived the vows in the most unassuming and self-effacing manner. Hence, besides the shock and sadness that engulf us at his sudden departure, I have nothing but admiration and envy at how Boboy, in so short a time, and with so little effort, had been able to accomplish what we who have been left behind continue to struggle and grapple with.
Fr. Nono spoke last night of Boboy’s simplicity that characterizes someone who vowed poverty. What I saw through the years is the consistency by which Boboy remained simple: in his words and actions. He is the same simple and gentle Boboy from Camaligan even when he came to live in Cebu as regent in Sacred Heart School. Because of his down-to-earthed-ness, Boboy easily warmed into the Nstra Snra de Guadalupe Parish in Cabanglasan as assistant to Fr Mat Sanchez. Long after he left Cabanglasan for other assignments, the parishioners remember him as a cool and calm young priest. His concern for the parish workers and their families was expressed in concrete actions to help them in little but lasting ways. For instance, he helped to get the son of a Cabanglasan parish worker into Ateneo de Naga as a working student. In this, Boboy is also consistent. The same compassionate concern for his Cabanglasan parishioners, he also extended to our workers here in LHS and Arrupe, San Jose and dela Costa.
Secondly, Boboy excelled in his practice of obedience. Long before Laudato Si’, there was Boboy and other like-minded Jesuits who saw ecology as a frontier which the Society needs to embark on. Convinced that he could make a contribution in this urgent yet unattended concern, Boboy started to work on a master’s degree in Environmental Management. From our informal conversations on one of my home visits in Naga, I gathered that in coming to Naga in 2016, he was asked to or he wanted to explore possibilities by which he could make use of what he studied in Environmental Management, something that is of great urgency and necessity in our poverty-stricken and disaster-prone Bicol. Yet Boboy later found himself being tasked in 2017 to do leadership succession planning. Then in 2018, he was appointed OIC Junior High School Principal, missions for which Boboy was, strictly speaking, ‘not prepared’. Yet, Boboy made himself available to the mission given to him. A good Jesuit that he is, he obeyed as he was told and gave himself fully to the task at hand. I wonder, though, whether Boboy has Fr Provincial’s permission to change status from Kalookan to the ‘Kingdom come’, so quickly and quietly. But he can have recourse to the first reading today as a perfect excuse!
Finally, as regards chastity, Jesuits know what Father Ignatius says in the Constitutions: “…the implications of the vow of chastity need not be spelt out, for it is obvious that it calls for an unambiguous fidelity by our striving to be singlehearted like the angels, wholly limpid in soul and body.” (Constitutions, Part VI, Chap. 1, ). It is true, about Boboy’s chastity, nothing more can be said besides we what already know about him. Boboy was true to his name, Angelo. Not in the sense of having no taste for the earthy and earthly. I can confirm that Boboy loved videoke. When I would be in Manila, I would text him, ‘videoke atyan!’ And if he is free, we would walk down to Riverbanks or Riverside or ring anyone of our employees who would open their homes to us, undiscovered Himig Heswita talents, as Fr Nono remarked last night. Angelo’s chastity shines forth in his disinterested and sincere relationship with his friends, be they Jesuits, former Jesuits, or lay collabolators. Angelo boasts of healthy and mature relationships from near and far: Camaligan and Aklan, Sapang Palay and Payatas, Barangka and Pansol. His family here present could not believe the steady flow of people paying respects to Angelo. He maintained and cherished these friendships always in line with his single-hearted relationship with Christ the Lord.
In our stunned sorrow, we say, “What a loss for us on earth. What a gain for them in heaven!” But that isn’t really the case, is it? Because in our profession of faith in the Risen Christ and in the communion of saints, heaven’s gain is our gain as well, for we belong to the one Body of Christ, the Church. In Boboy’s passing to eternal life, we gain another intercessor in addition to all our Jesuit forebears who have gone ahead of us.
“Boy, tonight, you will travel to Naga, an maogmang lugar, the happy place. You are so fortunate to have been given the privilege to rest in our beloved Bicol land and in our dear Ateneo de Naga. And from there, to take your flight to the happiest place every Jesuit, every believer, can aspire for, beside the Son and his INA. Hence, with you and for you, I pray to INA, Nstra Señora de Peñafrancia: “Inang mamomoton, ika an buhay. Ako rangahon mo sa kamondoan. Ina kon ako man parakasala, sa Diyos hagada man an pgkaherak. Ina, sa taed mo kaginhawahan. Ogma an puso ko ngonyan.”
Norlan Julia, SJ
Loyola of House Studies, 2 May 2019