COMMENTARY: The Bishop in my Mind

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/21 July) – When I was a kid, I thought the bishop was king, like God. I mean, really, someone invisible who was more powerful than the ordinary priest I regularly see.

I have never seen a bishop. I thought he lives on top of the mountains or high above the clouds. I’ve seen pictures of Jesus Christ, Mother Mary and St. Joseph, some saints and the Pope but never a bishop. He seem to live in another galaxy.

The priest was someone I was not comfortable with. I don’t know why. I knew they were supposed to be God’s messengers or something but they didn’t seem friendly or approachable. I hear old folks talk fondly of them but not one ever gave attention to my existence. They too seem to come from Mars.

I saw (Well, sort of) the Santo Papa once. I stood two hours elbow-to-elbow with a huge crowd waiting for him to pass by. I thought I would faint from the heat but the lady beside me told everyone we would be blessed a thousand fold if we see him. Who would not want to be blessed a thousand fold?

When he passed, everyone’s hands raised (calling him), I could not see him. Frustrated, I wanted to scream and curse. (There goes my million fold blessings.)

Once, we were playing hide and seek near the conviento and some of us wanted to hide there but someone warned the obispo lives there, implying he didn’t like children, especially children who hides in the garage (not sure if the cars there were expensive or solicited from funny politicians)

I also used to wonder why priests and bishops live in a large conviento when I was told Jesus Christ was a carpenter’s son. I calculated he can’t be living in a big house, his father can’t afford it.

There used to be a practice/ritual where the priest, together with his sakristans, go around the neighborhood. I think this was before the fiesta. For whatever reason I really didn’t know because I would hide in my room. I believe my mom would offer them food and drinks and I would feel bad for not getting my share. When I got out I would see them going to our neighbors and would think how lucky they were for having those endless snacks.

The only time I learned the bishop makes an appearance is during Holy Week when he is supposed to wash the feet of his servants and ordinary people. I thought it was dramatic. I heard its suppose to be symbolic. Symbolic of what I didn’t understand. But I wondered why the gentlemen can’t wash their own feet? We were always ordered to wash ours before we go to bed.

And I remember, never, never were we allowed to make fun or talk ill of priests and bishops, never miss to kiss their hands out of devotion and respect, never forget to say good morning or good afternoon, and never play in the conviento.

The high and mighty lives there.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Ramon Jorge B. Sarabosing is a writer and visual artist based in Butuan City.)