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The first time I met him, I was wearing the Miriam uniform with a dazed look on my face. It was 6:45 a.m. and the bus got me to school too early for class. In those days, work hadn’t piled up like it did in college and I had the time to do everything I wanted with my mornings. Mass was one such activity and even if I sometimes dragged my feet toward the chapel, there was one particular morning I’m grateful for because that day, Mr. Miyagi came to say mass.
He would come every Tuesday, I think. I never missed Tuesday mass or even when I came in late, I made sure not to miss the homily. I sat at attention, with a pen and a piece of paper in hand. The notes came just as he spoke and I kept writing down all of the wisdom he had shared. Fr. Rudy helped me grow up and believe.
When I went to college, I worried myself thinking we might never meet again but to my surprise, a good friend of mine, Tito Balty, once visited me in school and said I had to meet his priest friend. I walked toward the Jesuit Residence with this 70-something-year-old man whom I met at mass and exchanged many emails with. He saw Fr. Rudy coming toward us and he proudly said, “Nash, this is my good friend Fr. Rudy.” Of course it was the surprise of my life and my one chance to tease Tito Balty. “Ahem, Mr. B, This is my friend, Fr. Rudy.” So it came to be that every once in a while Tito B, Fr. Rudy and I would walk around campus, find a spot, then talk.
His is a fantastic life! I receive messages from him at 6 a.m. everyday. He sends me thoughts about God and Bible musings and once I hear his message come in, I know it’s morning already. Sometimes he’s in JR. Other times he’s away–in Davao, Mindoro, Cagayan de Oro. Wherever he is most needed, he goes. He taught me through his example that the idea of going where one is most needed is not empty Ateneo rhetoric. He is the first Filipino missionary ever sent out of the country. Today, I realized how much he meant to so many of us when I met his students–all of whom are old men. They had Fr. Rudy as a teacher in high school many years ago. He left them before the school year was over to go to Japan and he returned to the country only after 45 years or so. In those years the boys became men and Fr. Rudy discovered love and forgiveness in Japan. His is an awesome story.
I am fortunate to know such good people. One day, I will come to write about him in the way I’ve come to know him so that even if the rest of you have yet to meet him, you’ll feel the same grace bestowed upon you that I felt God had reserved for me.
ILU, Lolo Rudy. Happy Birthday!