golden jubilee celebration 2017
A GOLDEN AND PASTORAL BISHOP
DLS Pineda with Fr. Michael Abellanosa and Fr. John Carlo Radaza
Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos dreamt of the Diocese of Butuan's Golden Jubilee to be a celebratory moment. He thought of it to be a time when Agusan's Catholics would realize a new revenant: for its BECs to be responsive to the needs of the time; for unmarried couples to marry in Church; for the faithful to re-discover and unite under God's Word.
So in the months leading to the Jubilee, the septuagenarian joined the Panaw Duaw, waking up at three in the morning and marching at times with the parade of people from all walks of life. He also concelebrated fiesta masses in far-flung parishes whenever he could and
joined in the festivities which followed. He even made his presence felt in the fun run, even if nobody expected old men in wheelchairs and with aching joints, to attend. Because through it all, his vision for the Diocese had always been one that's on the move, always reaching out-outside the church's walls, outside the convent-to the people in need.
One can imagine a younger Bishop Pueblos to be congenial with almost everyone. Growing up in Bohol, he was used to being surrounded by joyful people who loved to eat, laugh, and drink with company. And being in the seminary since high school, away from his family, he kept close to his friends. Such was his upbringing that the Focolare Movement by Chiara Lubich and his idea of universal brotherhood, resonated well with him. Often in his homilies, he repeated the lines, "magpa-alkanse; be the first to love,""Per Fratres ad Patrem" (through brothers, to the Father), and of course, "mangilabot dili manghilabot."
He would carry the ideas of the Focolare with him to his being a priest and eventually,
to his being bishop. People would remember him-at times with slight annoyance accepting invites, coming to houses, or occasionally, barging in without prior notice, while tagging along vans full of 20 or 30 people, ranging from his friends, his gardener, cook, and personal assistant to his priests, lawyers, mayors, and congressmen. While it might seem like a rowdy and untamed crowd, all this was rooted on his praxis of people journeying together to the Kingdom. He was likewise ready to entertain anyone without prior appointment; he made sure that his idea of communities went beyond the theoretical plane.
The bishop's trips would begin quietly in front of the mirror in his room where he would stand upright and groom himself. It was a habit which he had gotten used to,
that even in his old age he would comb the few strands of hair on his scalp and make sure everything was still in place. Afterwards, he would cross the corridor to a small chapel. There, he would make the Sign of the Cross and breathe out short prayers to the Blessed Sacrament which was flanked by statues of Mother Mary and San Juan de Dios. Returning to the Bishop's Home in Ampayon after a trip, he would follow the same routine in reverse: a short prayer to thank the Lord for his excursion and then quietly walk back to his room.
Bishop Pueblos was not known to follow strict protocol in his trips. He would sometimes take long car rides to Zamboanga or Kidapawan, stopping by at a number of eateries, dampas, and restaurants along the way and having coffee, tablea, some fish and his favorite kakanin. Sometimes he would take the plane. Occasionally, he would take a boat or a ferry to cross islands; in the marshlands of Agusan del Sur, he would not think twice about boarding bamboo rafts to get to where he needed to
be. He had a sense of adventure and he would not complain about time spent on the
road; he used it to pray the rosary.
Of the many places he would visit, the Poor Clare Monastery in Kidapawan City was his
favorite. The bishop sponsored its establishment in Kidapawan since the Poor Clare nuns, originally from Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, sought to move away from the bustling city life. Not only did the bishop find them a new home, he was also able to
build his own quiet corner.
Once the bishop arrived on the eve of the Feast of St. Clare, August 11, one of the nuns
would ring a bell-a bell that was rang only for Bishop Pueblos. All the sisters would suddenly come out of their seclusion and congregate around him. Each one would hug him tightly as if seeing a long lost friend or brother. The priests accompanying the bishop would then leave for the seminary and only the bishop was allowed to stay.
During meals, however, they would all eat at the same long table and would be served
a wide and endless buffet of fresh, local and heirloom recipes. The bishop would eat anything the nuns served, such as deep sea creatures cooked and marinated in vinegar, and whenever a priest refused-either for being too full or for simply having
no stomach for exotic delicacies-he would conduct a short ritual by flippantly praying over the priest's belly. Somehow, it would work.
Right after celebrating mass the following day, the bishop would make the trip back home to Butuan. The trip to and from Kidapawan would take longer than their stay in the monastery. Their spirits, however, would remain unwearied.
The bishop would be remembered for molding his distinct brand of being pastoral. He went to the people who made up his flock whether it was a politician's eldest son getting married or a catechist's daughter being baptized. And even in his old age, he didn't mind crossing streams to get there.
It was no wonder that tens of thousands showed up for his wake and burial. On the day
that he was laid to rest, groups of indigenous peoples sang prayers beside his covered
up grave for hours on end. Indeed, Bishop Pueblos' greatest legacy lies in the making
of a diocese which is accessible through the many little things it accomplished.