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  • From Criminal to Disciple

    With Loy M. Palapos
    July 27, 2014

    From Criminal to Disciple

    He was an obedient and silent boy, the type “who wouldn’t hurt a fly,” until an episode in his second grade at the La Paz Elementary School changed his world – he hacked with a bolo the arm of a classmate who bullied him by cleaning a chalk-encrusted eraser on his breast, dirtying a white shirt his mother painstakingly washed and ironed for him one Monday morning. His rebelliousness heightened when a security guard in school, who caught him and his friends playing while classes was on, made him and his “barkada” crouch on the pavement on all fours to move 25-centavo coins with their nose from one point to another. Before he finished his elementary studies he and his group were notorious for thievery, and became a local version of the “Akyat Bahay” menace.
    Stabbing another teen-ager brought him to the (BDRC) Bohol Detention and Rehabilitation Center, before conviction and being sent to the Bilibid Prison, at which time all prison anomalies (protests, riots) were attributed to him.
    From Muntinlupa, he escaped and was in hiding in several provinces in Luzon for several months, only to learn that he was listed for pardon a couple of weeks after his dastardly act. On board a ship in Tagbilaran City he was re-captured and was brought back to Bilibid, and was placed in a “bartolina.”
    Until one day he met a religious group (in prison) who inspired him to read the Bible. In one midnight Mass he had a passing glimpse of the Virgin Mary passing by. It completely changed his life.
    Blas Garrote Romanillos (BGR) is now a respected Pastor of El Shaddai. He has travelled all over the country, and in some parts of the globe to spread the Word of God. I met him again last July 17, for an hour of exchanging pleasantries, and about his life. These are excerpts of that chance-meeting.

    LMP: What did you do lately?
    BGR: Last month I was assigned at PFCC 42 (Provincial Formation Coordinating Center) in Maasin, Leyte.
    LMP: As of now, what is your position at El Shaddai?
    BGR: I am the Head of PFCC 42 of the Diocese of Maasin.
    LMP: Why did you have to go to other places?
    BGR: I came here to Bohol because it was the anniversary of PFCC 39. In 2012, I was assigned here in the Province for one year, and then, I was transferred to Loaog City, Ilocos Norte.
    LMP: Where is your family now?
    BGR: They are residing in Dasmariñas, Cavite.
    LMP: How many children do you have?
    NGR: We have four boys. Our eldest, Blaise Samuel, is 18 years old. He is a sophomore student taking up Bachelor of Science in Information Technology. Ben Joseph, is on his fourth year at Kin Yang Academy, and is a varsity volleyball player. David Peter, is a third high school student, the same school as his brother. The youngest, Emmanuel, is a second year student, also at Kin Yang Academy.
    LMP: As a Pastor, what are the places you have visited?
    NGR: I have been to Canada and Hongkong. In the Philippines, I was assigned in Davao, Bohol, Cebu, Dumaguete.
    LMP: How does El Shaddai divide the entire country?
    NGR: It depends on the status of the Provinces. Usually, those Pastors assigned in other country like, Hongkong, when they came back to their home province, they would decide to have their own Catholic Life and Spirit Seminar, with the consent of the Parish Priest.
    LMP: As far as your sustenance is concerned, is it direct from the national El Shaddai?
    NGR: Yes. This coming August is the 30th Anniversary of El Shaddai.
    LMP: How does El Shaddai differ from Jesus is Lord Movement?
    NGR: There was a time, when the two movements had an issue, regarding Channel 11. It even reached the Supreme Court, but the problem was already settled. From that incident, the biggest El Shaddai church was built, our International House of Prayer, located at San Dionesio, Parañaque.
    LMP: What is the difference between El Shaddai, and the mainstream Roman Catholic?
    NGR: El Shaddai is under the umbrella of the Roman Catholic. El Shaddai is a Hebrew word, “El” means God, and “Shaddai” is Almighty.
    LMP: So, it does not really go away from the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church?
    NGR: Yes, we are on the same way, no difference.
    LMP: Do you consider Vilarde as a Priest or something?
    NGR: We call him, Servant Leader.
    LMP: How is he recognized by the Roman Catholic Church?
    NGR: As a Layman. Before, we call him Founder. But he said, he is not the Founder, only God is the Founder.
    LMP: How do you comment on the fact that the religious groups, everytime there is an election, are the main target of those Presidential aspirants and other politicians?
    NGR: Maybe because, they have seen that these religious groups have numerous attendees. With that, they are hoping to have their votes. But in our case, Brother Mike Vilarde, is not forcing us on whom to vote. We have the freedom to choose and exercise our right as a Filipino citizen.
    LMP: As of now, if you are going to assess your life, would you say that you are already complete?
    NGR: Yes, because I am a fulfilled man. I was able to go to places, I only dreamed before, like the USA. I have developed my skill in painting, and fortunately, God answered my prayers, some of my works were already sold. It is really a big help to my family’s needs, especially to my children who are still studying.
    LMP: Looking back, in the years when you were young, and now that you are on the right perspective, have you ever thought why you committed such crimes before?
    NGR: As what I have shared to you before, Sir Loy, I am not that notorious. My parents brought us in a religious manner. It all started when my classmate in grade two, after he erased the writings on the board, shook off the eraser dust on my uniform. I was so angry that I went out, and saw a grass cutter, which I used to slash his arm. Actually, I met him this morning, we hugged and talked, everything is doing well with us, because we already forgive each other.
    LMP: Talking about your children, is everything okay with them?
    NGR: My children are all good, they are on the right path. I am also very thankful to my wife for raising them well.
    LMP: Is she a fulltime housewife?
    NGR: No, she is working at the Cebu Pacific Air-Pilot Association.
    LMP: From where is she?
    NGR: She is from Inapoy, Kabankalan, Negros Occidental.
    LMP: As of now, what else do you want in life?
    NGR: I really wanted to travel abroad. I have been there before, but I want to reach the other beautiful places around the globe. One lesson I learned in life is, no matter what we went through, especially in times of trials, we should not lose hope. God is always there to help us along the way.
    LMP: Going back, when you were still young, have you thought about God? Because I learned in the last interview that we had, you only became near to God, when you were already in Muntinlupa.
    NGR: When I was still a young boy, among my other siblings, I was the one who always went to church. Right from the very start, I already have faith in God. But sometimes, human as we are, we commit mistakes and do things against His will. My experiences in life brought me back to His arms.
    LMP: Do your children also have that kind of belief?
    NGR: Yes, because my children have a very active spiritual life also.
    LMP: You believe that it is God doing everything for you.
    NGR: Yes. He can even take me now, if He wishes to.

    The life of Blas Romanillos is more poignant than what is seen in “Maalaala Mo Kaya” episodes. His 360-degree turn from criminal to Pastor is seldom duplicated. His conversion is a miracle by itself.
    Now he has become a missionary. A disciple of God who reflects on his own life so others may be saved. Everywhere he went, he tells his life story, not because he wants to be admired, but to make people know, that God has strange ways of doing things. That total surrender to His will is what every individual needs to do. “Everything you honestly and sincerely wish can happen, “in His time.” Just wait.

    Filed under: 2014, July | Permalink