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The miter fits the Indio: The unique destiny of Jorge I. Barlin

Two months later, the Bishop took a prominent role in the deliberations of the First Provincial Council of Manila and his experience and knowledge helped to answer many questions. In 1909, the prelate was stricken with a mysterious disease and medical advise prompted him to seek treatment abroad. He was also due for his ad limina visit to the Holy Father and so he sailed for Rome. In Rome his ailment worsened and he died on September 4, 1909 and thus ended a bright spark in the long history of the Catholic church in the Philippines.

His life had been a series of glowing examples of unquestionable service, first as a young
 Pope Pius XIII
Pope Pius XIII
appointed Barlin Papal Chamberlain.
seminarian and priest to the illustrious Bishop Gainza who was his mentor and whom the young Barlin saw breathe his last. At an early age of 11 he entered the seminary to endure a life far different from those enjoyed by boys his age. For thirteen years he learned the discipline imposed on the seminarians that would prepare them for greater sacrifices after ordination at the canonical age of 24, Before the age of 29 he served as Chaplain and Majordomo of the cathedral of Nueva Caceres, appointed by Bishop Gainza who preferred him among other priests. At 30 he was sent to a faraway fishing village of Siruma, a victim of the succeeding bishop's mistrust for native priests. Again he lived with his deprivations and served his capacity as parish priest earning the respect of his parishioners. For another three years he served the equally desolate town of Libog, Albay (now Sto. Domingo, Albay.) In 1887, a new Bishop recognized and appreciated the worth of the exiled priest of Libog and appointed him Vicar Forane of the province of Sorsogon and parish priest of its capital. The rest of his story has been recounted in the preceding pages.

This story puts him in his place in Philippine history and his significance to the Filipinos of his time. One hundred years had passed, a monument erected in his honor and his name, no matter how small, firmly immortalized in our book of great men, and still many of us have difficulty appreciating his greatness. Is greatness its own undoing? Perhaps we have set him up so high that we in our time have lost all hope of relating and identifying with him. Would Barlin be different if we looked at him through human eyes? In the early days of our nationhood, we have set our heroes on very high pedestals in the mistaken belief that on that plane many more of us will be inspired to emulate them. We forgot that their greatest value was in their humanity, without their humanity their heroism would just be accidents. Many writers now fortunately have started to view our heroes in a different light. Not perfect idols made of brass or steel but real walking, taking human beings with fears and weaknesses capable of making mistakes. These heroes only greatness was in recognizing a duty and never giving up until that duty was done.

I once read a book by a writer who attempted to classify his heroes. The fifth and last kind in his classification attracted my attention, "A hero is one who sticks it out even if all around him, everything is falling apart". If Barlin became great to the eyes of his parishioners and outstanding in the eyes of his superiors it is because he stuck to his work no matter the conditions. He stuck to his place when everything was beginning to go awry and stood by the conviction that everything will be better without the need for bloodshed. He stood doing his work faithfully and fruitfully without counting his gains or hoping for profit. This is what our heroes are made of, and what we are made of, if we stick to our duty, and if we do what we believe we ought to do and do it well. If we see these in ourselves and our fellowmen, then Barlin is more alive and meaningful, because like him we are no different from all the other famous heroes.

Bishop Barlin just tried to live by his motto, "To be a Good Soldier of Christ', and to this "good soldier", one hundred years ago, there was no reward, the world just went by and turned into a new age, leaving the Filipino Nation with only his memory and his title.



 
References:
Abella, Domingo
Bicol Annals
Vol 1. Manila; 1953

Ataviado, Elias M.
The Philippine Revolution in the Bicol Region
Manila; 1953

Santiago, Luciano P.R.
The Hidden Light: The First Filipino Priests
Quezon City; 1987

Schumacher SJ,John N.
The Revolutionary Clergy
Quezon City; 1981