DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/23 January) — A telephone technician in a mall in Davao City and a seller of pre-paid cellphone load at the pre-departure lounge of the Davao International Airport will have their own stories to tell when Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Beltran Quevedo, OMI, is elevated by Pope Francis at the Vatican on February 22 as the lone Filipino among 16 new Cardinals worldwide and the first ever Mindanawon Cardinal.
MindaNews chanced upon the Cardinal-elect at the airport Thursday morning (January 23) at the entry to the main pre-departure gates, seated on a maroon plastic chair by the wall beside an electrical outlet, charging his telephones and scratching on the pre-paid card to load credits to his old phone.
The new phone he has yet to familiarize himself with — an iPhone he received for free — as a reward for at least ten years’ loyalty to the same internet service provider. The old phone is pre-paid and that was what he was loading with P600 worth of credits.
While waiting for boarding, Quevedo shared a funny story that happened inside one of the malls in Davao City on Wednesday, January 22, ten days after the Pope announced he was going to be one of world’s 16 new Cardinals.
He said “yes, okay” when MindaNews asked permission to share the story with the readers.
After officiating at a wedding at the St. Joseph the Parish Worker in Sasa on Wednesday, Quevedo proceeded to a mall to find a technician who could transfer his telephone directory from a very simple Nokia phone to the reward iPhone he had just claimed from the office of the service provider a day earlier.
Davao City not being his turf, the Archbishop of Cotabato enjoyed the freedom of doing transactions by his lonesome, with no one recognizing him and offering him special treatment.
The technician took some time to transfer his numbers to the new phone because the systems were not compatible for direct transfer. At one point, Quevedo recalls, the technician inadvertently deleted all the numbers already saved in the SIM card, ready for transfer to the iPhone. The technician apologized for the delay.
Quevedo said he would come back for it. The Cardinal-elect then went malling for a few minutes and returned to find his directory already transferred.
How much was the service, he asked. The technician responded that it was up to him. Quevedo said he knew the technician really worked hard so he gave him P500. The technician said it was too much but the Cardinal-elect said he deserved it.
As he was preparing to leave, the technician asked for confirmation if he was a priest. Quevedo nodded. “I am sure he saw there were so many numbers with “Fr” and “Sr” (Father and Sister)” but the technician may not have known that the “Bp’ was for Bishop. But it could also be that the technician saw the small cross pinned on his polo.
The technician asked where Quevedo was based. When he said “Cotabato,” the technician asked, “Ay, di ba may bagong Cardinal, Father? Di ba taga Cotabato siya? Kilala mo siguro?” (Oh, isn’t there a new Cardinal, Father? Isn’t he from Cotabato? You know him?”)
A smiling Quevedo replied, “Oo, kilala ko” (Yes, I know him)
Before leaving the stall, he told the technician, “May sasabihin akong sekreto sa iyo. Yung bagong Cardinal, ako yun. (I have a secret to tell you. The new Cardinal, that’s me). He laughed.
The technician was stunned. But he quickly asked for the Cardinal’s mobile phone number and gave his name: Bingbong Falle.
When Quevedo left, Falle texted him a thank you note, an apology for not immediately recognizing him and again repeated that what he paid was too much.
Grateful that Falle did something he would never have been able to do by himself, Quevedo texted him back to thank him for giving him his contact number.
Early Thursday morning, Falle sent his newfound friend and textmate, another text message asking him to bless his family and relatives.
In a text message on Thursday evening, he told MindaNews that indeed, he was stunned. “Nagulat ako nung pagsabi nya na siya si Cardinal! Talagang na bless ako kahapon. Gaan ng pakiramdam pala na makaharap at makausap mo yung taong isa sa pinakamakapangyarihan sa ating bansa” (I was stunned when he said he was the Cardinal. I was really blessed yesterday. It really felt good to be face to face with and to talk to one of the most powerful persons in our country).
At the airport on Thursday morning, Quevedo was among the last to board the flight scheduled to depart for Manila at 10:10 a.m.
Before joining the queue for boarding, he returned the maroon plastic chair to Richelle Briones, the vendor of pre-paid phone cards from whom he purchased two pieces of P300 load, and thanked her for lending her chair.
“Ay, okay lang po,” Briones replied, smiling.
When MindaNews told her the person who borrowed her chair was the new Cardinal, she quickly asked for his hand to put on her forehead, and posed with the Cardinal-elect for a souvenir photo. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)