7/29/08


Msgr. Manuel P. Del Rosario: The Second Baaoeño Bishop
From P.B.Robosa's "Baao Vignettes"

At forty years old, Msgr. Del Rosario became the youngest consecrated Filipino Bishop of his time and the local newspapers dubbed him “The altar boy who became bishop”. Again the Baaoeños had cause to be proud because in the Bicol region, only three places have the distinction of producing among it flock two bishops of the Catholic Church, a rare honor that speaks well of the strong religiosity of the townspeople.
Manuel P, Del Rosario was born on July 1. 1915 at Salvacion, Baao, Camarines Sur, the youngest of five children of Jose Del Rosario and Modesta Platon. He was studios and intelligent that he finished his elementary and intermediate at Baao Elementary school in only five years instead of the normal seven years. At the young age of twelve he was in enrolled by his father at the Provincial Normal School in Naga purportedly so he would become a teacher, but being the youngest and the smallest of the students, he couldn’t stand the manual aspect of the extra curricular activity of cutting grass, so in the middle of the year he got sick. After two months or so of absence, the Principal of the school was still willing to take him in so he could finish the First year, but by this time, the boy preferred to be a full time altar boy. Baao’s then Parish Priest, Fr. Florencio “Padre Inciong” Gonzalez, was able to convince his father to enroll the boy instead in the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary the following year of 1928, from which the boy eventually graduated from in 1932.
From 1932 to 1936, the Bishop of Caceres, Msgr. Francisco Reyes, sent him to study and finish his college education at the University of Sto. Tomas, from where he received his Licentiate in Philosophy. He continued to the UST Central Seminary from 1936 to 1939 to receive with honors his Licentiate in Sacred Theology, and on March 25, 1939 was ordained Priest in Naga City under the hands of Msgr. Pedro P. Santos, then the Bishop of Caceres after the death of Bishop Reyes.
The young priest was immediately assigned as assistant Diocesan Economo, then for a few months, coadjutor of the Naga cathedral then later as Diocesan Economo and coadjutor of the Parish of Iriga. During the War years, he served in important functions in the Diocese of Caceres as Economo, Censor, Rector of the Peñafrancia Shrine and Diocesan Secretary.
In 1949, he became Diocesan Consultor, Vicar forane of Catanduanes and Parish Priest of Virac. The following year, he was appointed Vicar Forane and Parish priest of Gubat, Sorsogon and remained in this post until 1955. On July 25, 1955, he was appointed coadjutor Bishop with the right of succession to the Bishopric of Calbayog, Samar and at that time he was the youngest Filipino priest ever to be consecrated bishop. In the same year, he became Apostolic Administrator of Calbayog and remained there until 1958 when he became Bishop of Calbayog. In 1961, he was appointed as the First Bishop of historic Malolos and took possession of the same on March 4, 1962. On December 15, 1977, because of a stroke, he retired as Bishop.
Among his achievements that can be seen today is the present form of the Peñafrancia shrine which he caused to repair when it was dilapidated after the Japanese occupation. His improvements on the Cathedrals of Virac and Calbayog along with its Bishop’s Residence and on Gubat’s church. He caused the construction of the Carmelite convent and the Immaculate Conception Seminary both in Guiguinto, Bulacan, He also created new parishes in both Samar and Bulacan Very few people know that Msgr. Del Rosario was one of the few prominent Filipino Clergymen of his time that was being eyed to become Cardinal. Today we could only surmise, if Bishop Del Rosario became Cardinal, if not for the untimely stroke. Baao could have the singular distinction of producing not only the First Filipino Bishop but also the First Filipino Cardinal. But history, if not busy repeating itself, sometimes plays tricks. It played a trick involving both Bishop Barlin and Bishop Del Rosario. If Bishop Barlin fought Aglipay that was spawned by the Philippine revolution that had its first seat of Government in Malolos, 65 years later, his “kabanwaan” would take the Episcopal seat of Malolos. I do not know if our poet Laureate Luis Dato noticed this connection but during this time he wrote a poem about Malolos. Strange indeed sometimes---this, History.

1 comment:

rosadel said...

Hi Paulix,

Many thanks for this article. It clarified some vague memories and caused a flood of nostalgic tears for the fun I had with my cousins on the beautiful beaches of Virac and Gubat and my days in Calbayog. I even remembered the time before the war, when my Lola took me with her to visit him at the old big palacio - the bishop's residence, where he was residing as the diocesan secretary. And then, I remembered the annoying bats in the dark shrine of Penafrancia,and I watched the painter on bamboo scaffolding on his back painting the ceiling.

Did you know he was at Vatican 11? I still can't find the picture with him celebrating the mass with the Pope and other bishops in Rome. I think it was near the end of the council that he had the stroke in Rome and left for home.

I guess he is today the oldest living bishop in our country.

Thanks again.