"Faith gives us all the courage to embrace our grief and continue to love."
In times of extreme adversity and calamity, such as during this pandemic, many of us are asking these questions: Why do bad things happen to good people? If God is loving and compassionate, then why would that all powerful Being allow us to suffer? In this season of death and sickness, what is the will of God?
St. Alphonsus Liguori, in his essay “Conformity to the Will of God,” proposes that “our whole perfection consists in loving God, who is in himself most lovely . . . But, then, all perfection in the love of God consists in the union of our own with his most holy will.”
We are called to embrace the will of God in all things which befall us, not only when they are favorable, but especially when they are contrary to our desires. When things go on well, even sinners find no difficulty in being in a state of conformity to the divine will; but the saints are in conformity also under circumstances which run counter and are mortifying to self-love. It is herein that the perfection of our love for God is shown.
St. Alphonsus concludes: “It is certain and of faith, that everything that comes to pass in the world comes to pass through the divine will.”
And so it has come to pass that COVID-19 has been spreading in my hometown, Cagayan de Oro. Many people I know have gotten sick because of the coronavirus; while most have survived, some did not make it.
One of the latter was Francisco Bonto, Frank/Frankie to his Upsilon brods, UPLB classmates, and Pfizer colleagues, and the brother of my father-in-law Aquilino Bonto. They were both members and Illustrious Fellows (lF, leaders of the fraternity) of Upsilon Sigma Phi; Papa Quiling joining the fraternity in 1946 and becoming IF in 1950 when he was in the College of Law of the University of the Philippines (UP) and Tito Pacquing joining in 1955 and becoming IF in 1959 in UP Los Baños.
It is a long story but as a young man Tito Pacquing ended up in Cagayan de Oro at the Xavier University (XU) College of Agriculture. Apparently, two great Jesuit priests Fr Vic Cullen, well known to us as a missionary in Bukidnon, and Fr William Masterson, who built both the Katipunan campus of Ateneo de Manila and the Manresa campus of XU, were instrumental in making that happen.
It was at PF Roa, the bookstore selling school supplies in front of XU in Corrales St which holds many memories for us Cagayanons, that he met Tita Yoly of the Parcon and Linaac clans of Cagayan de Oro. Tita Yoly was working for her uncle in that store and Tito Pacquing would buy ballpens from her every day. The rest is history.
When Tito Pacquing retired early from Pfizer, where he had become at some point the number one salesman, they moved back to Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon to become farmers. And so when Titay Bonto and I got married in 1985, we always made sure to visit Tito Pacquing and Tita Yoly at their Baungon farm or in their Pabayo-Tomas Saco house in Cagayan de Oro. And we loved doing that – almost once a year for more than 30 years.
Our conversations were about everything —our relatives, their children, farming, politics of course. Tito Pacquing was an affectionate man; Tita Yoly too was very supportive of us. They were a couple to emulate and look up to.
Tito Pacquing, 85 years old, was taken viciously by COVID last May 28. Tita Yoly and their children Christian, Josephine, Jerome, and Francis, his in-laws, grandchildren, and other loved ones, could not even say goodbye or accompany him to his temporary resting place in CDO where he would be taken to the heavens by God’s angels. His Upsilon brods could not do the moving ritual—the roll call—the fraternity conducts when one of its own passes on.
We too in Manila watched the video of his lonely burial with sadness, but for sure we will visit his grave and condole with Tita Yoly on our next trip home.
Thank you Tito Pacquing for being such a good and loving person. Thank you Tita Yoly for your unconditional love for Tito. Thank you Bonto cousins for bearing your grief with such humility and acceptance of God’s will.
I do not understand the will of God and will not pretend to see where all of this is going. But, as Saint Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians (the reading in last Sunday’s mass), we live by faith and not by sight. This is what gives us all the courage to embrace our grief and continue to love as willed by God.
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