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jun sibug
paterno 'jun' c. sibug jr THE ORIGINAL title of this article was Paring Balikbayan from Baltimore to Balic-balic Parish. It is a tribute to the late Fr. Jose Pamintuan, a fellow Capampangan, who chose to go back to his homeland to be a servant of the most humble in life. His untimely death in 1946 ended all aspirations of American Archbishop Michael O'Doherty for him and for the Philippine church. What is so remarkable about Fr. Pamintuan's life story was how he was raised in a stately mansion of an elite landlord, made his solemn spiritual vows in the United States of America's first Roman Catholic basilica, and became the parish priest of an obscure village. By answering the call of service for his fellow Filipinos, he set aside his hopes of studying in Rome.

The date May 26, 2008 came and went unnoticed by folks of my old hometown. Unknown to most, this date in history marked the day (85th anniversary) one of Angeles City's sons was ordained priest in the United States of America, who was likely the first Pampango to achieve such a distinction. After her defeat, Spain passed on the colonial rule of the Philippines to the United States. The administration of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines was handed over to an American archbishop. Thus, the administration of the parishes was also transferred to the secular clergy. The exodus of many religious monks back to Spain created a shortage of priests in many parts of the country. All of these moves were prompted by the clamor in the revolution of 1898 to secularize the parishes and the Filipinization of the clergy. In the early 1900s most young men studying to be priests were either enrolled in seminaries in the Philippines, Spain, and Rome. All students sent to the United States, called pensionados, were enrolled in courses other than the priesthood. This was the condition that this "little man from the Philippines" would grow up in. It was when the Pamintuan family moved to the United States that gave Fr. Jose Pamintuan opportunity to enroll at St. Mary's Seminary.

Father Jose Maria Pamintuan was born in Angeles City on December 6, 1896. He was the son of Don Florentino, a wealthy landlord, by his first marriage to Mancia Sandico. Don Florentino was himself a lawyer but made his fortune from their vast sugar cane plantation. Fr. Pamintuan took his early schooling at the Ateneo de Manila from 1905 to 1914. The Pamintuan family later immigrated to the United States and settled in the Washington D.C. area in Maryland. He enrolled in several colleges before finally entering Saint Mary's Seminary in Baltimore on February 7, 1918. He obtained his degree in philosophy from the Theological College in Washington D.C.

The old Pamintuan house of Angeles City (as it is now referred to) where he was born has been renovated and now houses the regional clearing of the Central Bank of the Philippines. The expanses of the walls of this house have been silent witnesses to various events of Philippine history. Except for the British, several flags have been hung on its walls and waved from its balcony. The fledgling republic on the run proclaimed by Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898 celebrated its only anniversary here on June 12, 1899. The top generals of the United States Army, including Gen. Arthur MacArthur, made it their living quarters when Aguinaldo moved on to his northern hideout. During World War II, soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army occupied it, too.

The ceremonial ordination of Fr. Pamintuan was held at the Baltimore Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on May 27, 1923. This church was the first cathedral built in the United States of America, whose first Bishop was John Carroll, who was appointed by Pope Pius VI in 1789. It has become the symbol and bastion of freedom of religion throughout the world. From the laying of the cornerstone in 1806 until its renovation in time for its bicentennial in 2006, various church historical events happened here. Seven Provincial Councils and at least three Plenary Councils were conducted under its roof. Napoleon's youngest brother, Jerome Bonaparte, was married to Elizabeth Patterson here on December 24, 1803. The church was also one of Alexis de Tocqueville's inspirations in writing his book, Democracy in America. Father Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, was ordained here on December 22, 1877. Millions have visited this church. Three memorable events in the 1990s stand out: the pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II in1995; the renewal of vows of 35 Sisters of Charity, including Blessed Mother Teresa, in 1996; and the 1997 visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, which became the first occasion that an Orthodox patriarch preached in a Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States.

The Solemn High Mass offered by Fr. Jose Pamintuan on May 27, 1923 had all the indications of a big celebration for Filipinos in the Baltimore area. It was celebrated at the Holy Trinity Church in Washington, D.C. All those who assisted Fr. Pamintuan were Filipinos, which included Rev. Jose Reyes and Mr. Eduardo Aniceto, S.J. as deacons. The master of ceremonies was Mr. Augustine Cenaniji, S.J. Most members of the Philippine diplomatic corps and the Philippine Commission attended. The Rev. Philip M. Finnegan S.J., a former professor in the Philippines, delivered the homily. He praised the faith of Filipinos and the sacrifices of Filipino Catholic mothers in offering their sons to the church. Other priests in attendance were the Rev. John B. Creeden, S.J., President of Georgetown University, the Rev. Joseph R. Smith of Savannah, and the Rev. James A. Ryan of the Catholic University. The Knights of Columbus, led by Gen. Frank McIntyre and Mr. Emilio Amores, were also in attendance to lend a hand in the mass. A sumptuous banquet was served for lunch at the Pamintuan residence with more guests from the academe, the church hierarchy, and the military. An afternoon tea was served to end the day of celebration.

[About the author. Even in college, Paterno C. Sibug Jr., was known as Jun Sibug. He took his elementary education at Holy Family Academy, his high schooling at the former Sacred Heart Seminary, and spent college at the University of the Philippines. Mr. Sibug now lives in Chicago, Illinois and is presently working as a Pension Benefit Administrator. His main references are mostly books from the Newberry Library Filipiniana Collections and University of Illinois in Chicago. He cares about history, and is always proud to have been born a Pampango.]

-Posted: 3:52 AM 8/21/08 | More of this author on eK!