Romulo Valles, 1st Dabawenyo Arcbhishop of Davao: “How happy I am to be home”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 May) – Romulo Geolina Valles, the first Dabawenyo Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Davao is “happy to be home,” back to the region where he studied to be a priest and was ordained a priest, this time, to be both “sheep and shepherd.”

“This wandering and peripatetic son of Davao has once again come home,” Valles, the former Zamboanga Arcbhishop, said in a 28-minute homily interrupted by applause and laughter during the three-hour installation rites Tuesday morning at the San Pedro Cathedral.

Newly-installed Archbishop of Davao Romulo Valles, D.D. interjects jokes in between his homily during his canonical installation on Tuesday, May 22 at the San Pedro Cathedral in Davao City. He was Archbishop of Zamboanga before being appointed Archbishop of Davao by Pope Benedict XVI. MindaNews Photo by Ruby Thursday More

“I may be shepherd but I can only be a good one if I keep in close touch with my being sheep…  Make me love being a sheep that I may be a good shepherd to your people here in the Archdiocese of Davao,”  said the 60-year old Valles, whose family migrated from Maribojoc, Bohol to Lupon, Davao Oriental when he was 13. [ Listen to his homily ]

His predecessor, retired Arcbhishop Fernando Capalla, described Valles’ installation as “the most shining moment in the history of the local church,” as Valles, the fourth Arcbhishop of the  nearly 42-year old Archdiocese of  Davao, is the first Dabawenyo to lead the Archdiocese.

The first archbishop, Clovis Thibault, was from Canada; the second, Antonio Mabutas was from Ilocos and Capalla is from Iloilo.

It was, indeed, a homecoming, as Capalla recalled in his message at the end of the mass, that when he was installed as Archbishop of Davao on November 28, 1996, it was Fr. Romulo Valles who was the master of ceremonies, assisted by Fr. Julius Tonel. Valles was then rector of the St. Francis Regional Major Seminary (Remase) while Tonel was vice rector.

Valles was named Bishop of Kidapawan in 1997 and Archbishop of Zamboanga in November 2006 while Tonel became Bishop of  the Prelature of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay in 2007.

The Papal Nuncio, Giuseppe Pinto, attended the “Rite of Liturgical Reception Eucharistic Celebration and Canonical Possession” along with some 60 Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops from Batanes to Tawi-tawi who wore the same beige vestments. Valles wore similar vestments in golden yellow.

The bishops gathered at the parish social hall before the procession to the main entrance of the Cathedral at 9:13 a.m. At the main entrance, Valles, his head bowed and hands in prayer, paused before ascending the few steps where he was formally welcomed by the Papal Nuncio and Capalla at the entrance.

Valles said he chose for his Gospel text Matthew 17, verses 1 to 19 on the Transfiguration, the same Gospel text used during his ordination as Bishop of Kidapawan on August 6, 1997.

Valles was ordained priest on April 6, 1976, served as assistant parish priest of the Christ the King Cathedral in Tagum from 1976 to 1978 and parish priest of the san Nicolas de Tolentino parish in Mati, Davao Oriental from 1978 to 1982. He returned to the Christ the King Cathedral in Tagum as parish priest and Vicar general from 1982 to 1984 and from there to Rome where he completed his Licentiate in Sacred Liturgy in 1990.

From Rome, Valles returned to REMASE where he served in various capacities until he became rector from 1993 to 1997 and from there moved to the Diocese of Kidapawan as Bishop.

“This was my last place before becoming bishop, at REMASE,  so in a sense this is my home,  my place,” he told MindaNews at the parish social hall before the installation ceremonies.

Valles said he had mixed feelings when he learned of his new assignment. “I have come to love Zambonaga, gente amable, beautiful local church, deep devotion. But coming home to Davao is a joy for me. It is indeed a blessing to have known Zamboanga and also a  blessing to be moved to Davao.”

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, his vice mayor and several councilors attended the installation. Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte was among the offerors.

Valles’ humor-laced homily was a preview of what parishioners expect of their new Archbishop.

Capalla told the congregation how “fun to be with” Valles is. “There is never a dull moment with him,” he said, adding the new Davao Arcbhishop is always “seriously joking and jokingly serious.”

Valles spoke about how he realized rather belatedly, that he was to deliver the homily at his own installation because they were following the liturgy used during the installation of Manila Archishop Luis Antonio Tagle in December.

They can actually ask another bishop to deliver the homily but Tagle delivered his own, he said. “Archbisop Tagle man to. Muloy (his nickname) man ko,” Valles said, adding Tagle is a regular on TV for “The Word Exposed” while his own homily might just end up as “Word Confused.”

The congregation roared with laughter and gave him a resounding applause when he said, he accepted the challenge because  “Romulo Valles, DD man. DD meaning  Dugo ni Dagohoy.”  DD means Doctor of Divinity but having roots in Bohol, Valles  said the blood of  Francisco Dagohoy runs in his veins. Dagohoy led the longest revolt in Philippine history.

Another remark that made the crowd laugh was on his homecoming. “How happy I am to be home, to be in familiar surroundings, to be with  familiar faces, with whom one shares a common historical background but more importantly I am telling you this to say in a sense I am one of your own. For that reason you really have no choice but to allow me to come home.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)