By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD
WHAT’S HIS REAL NAME?
One Monday evening I had dinner at the Columban House in Singalong St. Manila. Sitting beside me was Maria, a Columban Lay Missionary from Fiji, working in Manila. All of a sudden while we were eating, she started texting the Misyon promoters, telling them in all excitement about me. They told Maria to ask me what the correct spelling of my name was, as they had been discussing this earlier. Was it ‘Joeker’? ‘Joker’? ‘Jawcare’? Well, well, well. Why don’t you just call me ‘Joe’?
The night before our scheduled visit to St Peter’s Square during the Jubilee Year of Families, we were cautioned to be extra careful of professional thieves, especially on the underground train. The thieves were so smart, we were told, that they could remove your socks without removing your shoes. ‘I think that’s a bit too much,’ I whispered to my seatmate who shared the same sentiment. Then coming out of the underground station, I saw Fr Hubert Wooning SVD, one of our older classmates, walking ahead of us in Angelica Street. Hastening my strides, I dipped my right hand into his pocket. He turned around in panic, freeing his pocket, while some of our classmates came to the rescue –- only to find out that the ‘thief’ was me.
I told my friend, Mr Paul of Akrobi village, about the death of my dog, Peace. His death really pierced my heart and left me sobbing like a child. Paul told me that in their cultural belief, if there was an impending misfortune, a good dog would offer its life to ward off the evil to its master. As a priest, naturally, I brushed aside such a comment. A week later I got an attack of malaria so serious that one of the staff had to be assigned to look after me the whole night. Thank God I survived. But, I was thinking, could it be that my dog had died to save me?
I went to a supermarket in Cubao when I was in the Philippines for a vacation. I was looking at some items on one of the shelves and was standing closely to what I thought was a mannequin. Suddenly it moved and said to me, ‘Bili na po kayo . . .’ My goodness! I almost had a heart attack. It wasn’t a mannequin at all.