Featuring ANG HAPAG NI ABBE in Joey Alvir Velasco's own words
edited: Thursday, July 28, 2011
By Arsenio C Jesena
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Monday, July 25, 2011
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Featuring an article written by my friend, artist Joey A. Velasco who joined our Lord's HAPAG last July 20,2010
ANG HAPAG NI ABBE
written by Joey Velasco
Yesterday, I, alone, stood by the grave of my friend Father Abesamis.
And I read the only thing written there: “Born Jan. 11, 1934. Entered May 30, 1950. Died Jan 31, 2008.” That was all. Everything this great man ever was and achieved in his entire lifetime of 74 years was vainly summarized in those meaningless dates.
After graduating as Valedictorian in the Ateneo de Manila High School Department in 1950, the young Charlie Abesamis, full of talent and idealism and generosity and hope, wanting to save souls for the greater glory of God, entered the Jesuit Novitiate in Novaliches. Of all possible careers, Charlie chose what to him was the noblest and most meaningful—to be a Jesuit.
As I stood there in the midst of all the departed Jesuits that surrounded me in that cemetery, I thought of this great man who had dedicated his priestly life to the service of the millions of poor and downtrodden victims of oppression in this nation he loved so much--the Philippines.
I first encountered the name CARLOS H. ABESAMIS in 2005, shortly after I almost died and the doctors had to remove my kidney. My sickbed almost became my deathbed. And like Iñigo de Loyola more than five centuries ago, who during his long convalescence after his bone operations could find only two books to read, I also was given only two books—the Holy Bible and a little volume handed to me by Brod Eric, entitled A THIRD LOOK AT JESUS by Carlos H. Abesamis, SJ.
After reading that book, and being profoundly touched by it, I said to myself, “This Carlos Abesamis dude must be very learned…and very holy.” I did not even know Carlos Abesamis was a Priest. But because of all the wonderful enlightenment and challenge and promise I was granted through the book, I really wanted to meet him.
I finally met him six months later in Novaliches -- in the Healing Center of Sister Raquel Reodica, RVM. Carlos Abesamis was there to be healed of his cancer.
So, this was the author of A THIRD LOOK AT JESUS, Fr. Carlos H. Abesamis , SJ. He was clean-cut, very handsome. He looked like he was in his early 50s. (I missed it by 20 years!) And he was a Priest. A Jesuit Priest.
Fr. Abesamis told me that he had been longing to meet me since he first saw the painting of HAPAG, for it profoundly touched his entire being. I told him I had hoped to meet him too since the time I first read his book, A THIRD LOOK AT JESUS, because it really enlightened me, gave me an entirely new perspective on everything, and ushered me into total wellness.
We were happy to discover that we were of kindred spirit. We just naturally clicked. We were touched and angered and inspired and challenged by the same things. We felt and thought the same way. We sought and found and were listening to the same God.
He was all laughter when I told him about my misadventures in the Minor Seminary, when I was a rebel without a cause and the unchallenged brains and lord of our Seminary mini- Mafia, plotting all the mischief and mayhem in our sacred playing fields and school grounds and dormitories.
I told Father Abbe how I had adjusted the house alarm clock to wake up Father Prefect and all the seminarians at two o'clock in the morning. How I had fed the pet monkeys of our Father Rector with super-hot chili pepper hidden inside sweet bananas!
How heartily Father Abbe laughed at all my kababawan and my naughty pranks! He would laugh, and his eyes would fill up with tears in his laughter!
One day he invited me to stroll from the Loyola House Infirmary all the way to the north end of the Ateneo campus—the Ateneo High School grounds. He told me about his great mentor in third year high school--Fr. John P. Delaney, SJ. He even mimicked Father Delaney's Irish-American accent as he encouraged the young high school students when they met to work for the poor in “Towndow” (Tondo) every Saturday.
He introduced me to Father Delaney’s statue as though it were the real, living Father Delaney.
I had my camera with me. I offered to take Father Abbe’s picture with the statue of Father Delaney. At first he refused. But after a while he agreed and requested me to take his picture beside his mentor’s bronze monument, convinced – in spite of his initial humility -- that it was proper, right, and an honor to be in the same picture with the great U.P. (University of the Philippines) Chaplain.
One time while we were atop the roof of the Loyola House of Studies, I asked Father Abesamis, “When was the noblest point of your life as a Jesuit?”
He answered that it was NOT during his Innsbruck years, where his Professor was the great theologian, Fr. Karl Rahner, SJ, or even his Ordination to the Priesthood. Not his long years of training as a Jesuit Novice, Junior, Philosopher, Regent, Theologian or Tertian; or his years of studies in the Biblicum in Rome -- but during the days when he was marching and protesting in the streets of Manila with and beside the victims of human rights and injustice.
Father Abesamis told me that if JESUS were alive today, He would—seeing all the poverty and injustice around us—He would definitely be an ACTIVIST too.
Father Abesamis and I became very close, and often I would open up to him, intimately sharing with him my deepest soul and my journey of faith beyond my painter's canvas.
Father Abbe often used my paintings and my story in his lectures and his seminars. And he taught and trained me to be a Lecturer, for the greater glory of God.
He gave me my baptism of fire as a Lecturer on my paintings and art work when he invited me to join him as an observer (daw!) in one of his lectures. But I could not remain only an observer. Before he ended his lecture, he introduced me to the group and asked me to share with them the story of HAPAG. That was the start of my career as ARTIST-MISSIONARY-LECTURER.
From then on I have been lecturing about my painting to all sorts of groups, sacred and secular—almost every day, with each person in the audience thirsty for the saving and healing Word of God. I would just stand there before my audience, allowing myself to be the vessel of the Holy Spirit, aware of the inspiration and grace that would flow through my unworthy mind and heart.
We also gave Retreats together. One time a Priest in Bulacan requested me to preach a Retreat to the diocesan Seminarians. I felt hesitant, because I didn’t know how to give a Retreat. So I asked the help of Father Abbe. He gladly gave the Retreat with me. He assisted and guided me so well that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we did give a very good Retreat!
Father Abesamis taught me two essential things about Jesus Christ: being connected to the Source and being poured out in Mission.
Father Abesamis frequently spent time with me and my family—with my wife Queeny and my children: Marco, Chiara, Clarisse, and Marty. We would meet at my home in Fairview, or we would go out to eat with the HAPAG children or spend time along the seashore in Bataan. My family really felt close to him, and each on of us felt his human and holy love and appreciation for each one of us.
It was during Father Abesamis’ last days that I was given the opportunity to relate most intimately with his deepest heart and soul. He chose and anointed me and shared his inmost self with me. He cared for me, my well-being, my mission in life, and the path and MISSION that lay ahead of me, following and continuing his work.
During his final years, he was confined at Lucas Infirmary in Loyola House. We were all distressed because of his colon cancer. But he led us in asking for a miracle, especially through the intercession of Our Lady, Mediatrix of all Grace And St. Anthony of Padua.
Father Abesamis received a miraculous remission from his cancer, and he went right back to work -- continuing and even adding to his former workload of Seminars and Lectures and Retreats. The miraculous remission enabled him to enjoy strength and good health, and he resumed his old work with great gusto. But the cancer ruthlessly returned.
To regain his health and achieve a cure, aside from faith and prayer, Father Abbe tried wholistic and alternative medical approaches—including a very strict diet and even a trip to China for healing…but nothing worked.
Every day he grew weaker and weaker.
It was such a painful tragedy witnessing that great and holy man slowly deteriorate and fade away from us all.
He was weak, lying in bed. Tired and weary, he managed to give strength to me. Although wasting away, he showed me and all of us what fullness of life was all about.
But having tried everything and failed, he finally accepted defeat.
At last, he asked me no longer to ask for miracles. He had already experienced many miracles, according to him, including the miracle of our friendship.
Every day he was getting closer and closer to home. He was returning home to God…as a little child.
Fr. Abesamis began using, and enjoyed using, a new way to talk to God—He prayed like a child. He prayed like a child, baring his inmost soul and his deepest doubts to Almighty God, his Mother and Father.
One day he prayed out loud in my presence --
“Jesus, why do I suffer? I tried very hard to be good. Since childhood, I have always been a good boy. I studied well. And when I met Father Delaney, I was so inspired to follow You more closely. I joined the Society of Jesus, and I have been a faithful disciple.
“I taught people about You, and I loved the poor and stood for their rights and even stood in their stead.
“I have been an honest man. I had blind spots, yes, but I never maltreated anyone or abused anyone sexually.
“I never left the Jesuits in spite of my painful trials.
“Why then do you allow me to suffer like this?
“I thought I was your friend ?!?”
And then, deep in his heart, Fr. Abesamis received an answer. From God.
And the answer made Father Abbe break down in tears. And I saw him cry for the first time.
“I am allowing you to suffer…precisely because you are my friend…whom I love so very, very much...
Kung kaibigan kang tunay,¦dapat kang tumagay...”
Joey Alvir Velasco
9 March 2008
The 40th day after Father Abbe’s death