Bohol’s Choice Cuts
By Loy M. Palapos
January 18, 2014
JEFFREY PINES MALANOG
A PARISH PRIEST AS AN ACTION-MAN
“When the going gets tough, only the tough gets going” is a dictum adopted by many survivors of the rat race in the concrete jungle. The usual collateral damage is one’s moral values, even those that have been handed down from generation to generation. In a material world where success means money and power, age-old tenets have obliterated, with the victor, more often than not, devoid of any scruples.
But not all the time. In Catholic countries like the Philippines (the only Christian country in Asia), materialism is in upsurge; but it does necessarily imply that all noble hopes are relegated to abject oblivion. There are still those whose sense of Godliness far outweighs Mephistophelian schemes.
To the Roman Catholic Church is derived this distinction of being the citadel of hope in a fast disintegrating world of decadent motives. To these altruistic crusaders of just causes belongs a man who has kept his vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience, notwithstanding the temptations in his chosen vocation. Having very supportive parents and relatives is one of the reasons he remains steadfast in his resolve to serve the Lord.
Born in Tagbilaran City on March 15, 1964 to Marianito Paculba Malanog and Aquilina Maquiling Pines, Msgr. Jeffrey Pines Malanog learned early in life the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the significance of family solidarity. His father, who had been an International Ship Captain, instilled into his young mind the importance of discipline and hard work, while his mother, a retired government employee at the Treasurer’s Office of the Provincial Capitol, inculcated into her son’s heart the sublimity of a God-centered life.
From Bohol Wisdom School (1976), he finished high school at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary (1980), where his desire to be a Priest became a vehement goal. He enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary where he finished Bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology as Cum Laude.
He was sent to the University of San Francisco, California for a Master’s degree in Theology, where he also graduated Cum Laude (1994). He was sent next in another scholarship grant to Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada where he was again accorded a Cum Laude distinction for his Master’s and Licentiate in Canon Law (2001).
He came back to the Philippines and was appointed Judicial Vicar and Director of the Marriage Tribunal of the Diocese of Tagbilaran in 2003. Simultaneously, he was Assisting Resident Priest at St. Joseph Cathedral (2003-2006), then Chaplain, Divine Mercy (2006-2007), before he became Moderator Curiae of the Diocese of Tagbilaran. The Bishop appointed Fr. Malanog as a Parish Priest of St. Joseph Cathedral on September 27, 2007 and concurrently Vicar General of the Diocese of Tagbilaran.
Years ago, the Dampas Catholic Cemetery became a subject of ridicule by an unappreciative local urban community. Instead of being viewed as a sacred place, it became a breeding ground of lawlessness. Personal items, like bags and wallets with documents, etc. were stolen and dumped in the cemetery after being divested of cash and other precious contents. The graveyard was safe haven for robbers. Raids by police officers bagged teenagers having pot sessions, gambling, or doing other illegal inanities. The sacred sanctuary had been transformed into a quagmire of sacrilegious and blasphemous acts condemned by society.
When Msgr. Jeff Malanog took the reins as Parish Priest of the Tagbilaran Parish, he did not fail to notice the degradation that made the Cemetery a place of notoriety. It became a priority in his quest for reforms.
The clean-up drive that commenced the rehabilitation and beautification project confirmed the illegal atrocities committed in the resting place of Tagbilaranons. Dirty condoms erased the doubts that the sanctuary was made the venue of clandestine sexual activities. The needles, syringes, bottles, lighters, tin cans, and other crudely made paraphernalia confirmed the use of prohibited drugs in the area. Even illegal gambling had remnants left.
It took months for Msgr. Malanog to plan, organize, and direct a team to transform the eyesore into the clean and wholesome promenade and picnic grounds that it is today.
Another priority project Msgr. Jeff has a hands-on involvement is the Residence of retired Priests, and those with illnesses that rendered them incapacitated to perform their daily chores. They used to be housed in Taloto, a bit far from their avowed evangelical tasks. Although given adequate subsistence needs, the emotional and mental motivation was not well pronounced. Instead, they felt useless, abandoned. Not a glorious feeling for those who have spent their fruitful years nurturing their flocks to righteousness.
The compassionate Msgr. Jeff single-handedly changed the gloomy atmosphere to that of gleaming hope. His co-disciples are now safely housed right at Saint Joseph Cathedral. Their physical welfare well taken care of, with health concerns addressed by volunteer Doctors, the Disciples have long been liberated from the feeling of being left out. Relatives and friends can visit them and exchange pleasantries with them. They give significant advice to those who need it. They hear confessions. They have been brought back to mainstream community relationships. And they are happy. They belong.
The Saint Joseph Cathedral Medical Clinic was an original project of Msgr. Crispin Varquez. It started with the former Parish Priest concerned about possible loopholes in its operations, like the un-monitored possibility of the money given to indigents who seek medical help being spent for other things. The commitment of Mrs. Erlinda B. Sarmiento to handle the responsibility, when she was asked about her participation, made the project another success story. Now, indigents from all over Tagbilaran City and the 47 Municipalities of Bohol bee-line to the Medical Clinic from Monday to Friday, to be diagnosed by volunteer Doctors who make medical prescriptions to be filled up by Linda and her staff. Linda and the Doctors do not receive even a single centavo as compensation for their job.
Msgr. Malanog understands the importance of the Medical Clinic to help assuage the medical needs of hundreds of parishioners who cannot afford to buy the medicines they need. The medicines and legitimate drugs keep on coming from a few foreign countries and from the locality. Businessmen, like Mr. Richard Uy of FCB, is a regular donor. Every three months more than a quarter-million pesos worth of medicines go to the right beneficiaries. Through all these, Msgr. Jeff and Mrs. Sarmiento can only sly with relief. “God provides.”
Obviously, the aesthetic sense of Msgr. Malanog has not just found expression in his Dampas Cemetery Project. Observers, especially those who frequent Saint Joseph Cathedral, cannot fail to notice how the physical make-up of the entire compound has changed. The backside of the Cathedral facing the Municipality of Dauis used to be the dumping area of garbage thrown away by unscrupulous individuals who only care about their own backyard. Now, a few trees are trimmed, plants are being adequately positioned. The once god-forsaken cliff has turned into an inspiring view.
The Children’s Playground has also undergone a make-over. The Grotto and other religious amenities have improved to everybody’s satisfaction. If before candle vendors swarm over the church-goers, and anybody can display his wares anywhere, the dastardly scene does not exist anymore. The vendors have organized themselves, and make their own laws to regulate themselves.
All these have taken place because of the enlightened mind of Msgr. Jeffrey Malanog. As an Administrator he is extraordinary. As a human being, his compassion knows no borders. As a Disciple of the Lord, he is exemplary. Everybody loves Msgr. Jeff.