Remembering RCV (and Lola Nena too!)

By: Jobers R. Bersales October 18,2017 - 10:50 PM


I join the Catholic faithful as they enter into this period of mourning with the passing of our dearly beloved long-time shepherd of the flock, His Eminence Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, archbishop emeritus of Cebu.

Ricardo Cardinal Vidal almost did not make it to Cebu. From his confines as a young archbishop of Lipa in Batangas, he had begged and cajoled the church hierarchy not to appoint him coadjutor archbishop of Cebu, in the line of succession to Julio Cardinal Rosales.

He eventually met with Pope John Paul II, at that time just recently elected into the papacy, to explain why he was not worthy of moving to Cebu: he did not know the place and never spoke the language.

The pope (now a saint) merely replied, “ You know, my dear brother, I come form Poland. I was brought to Rome and I did not protest. You have not been taken out of the Philippines. You are still in the Philippines, only in a different region.”

That was in early 1980 and he soon forgot about it until December that same year when, bumping into Cardinal Rosales during a gathering of bishops in Manila, the latter blurted, “Hoy, Vidal, how is your Cebuano now?”

The following month, it was made clear to him that the die was cast when, in an audience, Pope John Paul II asked him, “Are you ready to go to Cebu now?”

The rest, as I keep on using in this column, is history. From his first night as coadjutor, assigned to a windowless room in what is now the Archdiocesan Museum — with an air-conditioning unit whose back was to its bathroom, making him comment in jest, “This is good.

I do not need to go to a sauna!” — to his untimely demise 46 years later, the funny and lighthearted cardinal had called Cebu home.

I know this is selfish of me but my sadness at his passing is more personal in that I have lost a regular “ka-birthday” (we were born on the same day, February 6).

Since he retired from the active duties in the archdiocese at the age of 80, I had always dropped by early morning at his retirement home, just a few houses from where I live, to mark our birthdays together.

My first brush with the cardinal was when I was tapped by the Archdiocesan Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, through heritage architect Melva Rodriguez-Java, to design and install the exhibits in the then-Cathedral Museum of Cebu, which was set to open on November 26, 2006.

That was September of that same year, and we had barely two months to work on the design and eventful inauguration. I felt extremely blessed that I was going to guide His Eminence through the exhibition which we had hastily set up together with Louella and Rudy Alix, Trizer Dale Mansueto and Frankie Despi, among many others.

(It can be said, without a shred of doubt, that had it not been for the cardinal, the museum would have taken longer to see the light of day. And thus I join my fellow curators also in mourning the death of our founder.)

Our paths would cross again from time to time along the way, but the longest was when Msgr. Agustin “Ting” Ancajas asked me to form a group of writers to interview the good cardinal and shepherd its publication in time for the 410th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Cebu in June 2010.

The book “Viam Veritatis, The Life and Ministry of Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal” was a first biographical work for me and was without doubt a fun time.

My coauthors and I— Louella Alix and Trizer Mansueto as well as our photographers Lorenz Gibb Lapinid and Mark Adnrew Jorolan — saw the cardinal up close and really very personal for the first time.

Devoid of the often-suffocating trappings that go with the position as head of a huge archdiocese, he was relaxed, always cracking jokes and was extremely caring, making sure that we had all that we need as some of us virtually lived in his residence, given only four weeks to come up with a publishable material.

Trizer even had to fly to Mogpog, Marinduque, where the cardinal was born and grew to a young adolescence before entering the minor seminary in Lucena that would start him on the path to the Cardinalate.

Although I no longer see copies of the book, which must have been given away to friends and members of the hierarchy, the memories of those days and all the stories of a life well lived, I keep to heart.

* * *

The Reynes-Quisumbing family announced late last week the passing of their matriarch, Dr. Lourdes Reynes-Quisumbing, at the age of 96.

Known to relatives and family members as “Lola Nena,” Dr. Quisumbing was the secretary of the Department of Education in the Cory Aquino government and a former graduate school dean of the University of San Carlos as well as of De La Salle University in Manila, and was president of Maryknoll (later Miriam) College.

Her remains are now lying in state at Rolling Hills Memorial Chapels, with masses held every 8 o’clock in the evening.

My condolences and prayers to Lola Nena’s children (my cousins on the Reynes side) Vising, Marilou, Cora, Boy Blue and Agnes and all the other siblings who must forgive me for forgetting their names.

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