The governor’s tight three-day Southern California visit was filled with speaking engagements, including forums organized by the Pampangan Crusaders USA (PamagCUSA), a reception tendered by a Los Angeles Catholic Parish Pastor, Fr. Rodel Balagtas, the second annual coronation of the Virgen de los Remedios at the Lady of the Angels Cathedral downtown, and a dinner-reception that followed at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be blessed with your presence this evening,” he told the community leaders at the SIPA theatre on Temple St., Historic Filipinotown. “Knowing how difficult it is to gather Filipino leaders in one occasion, I am overwhelmed by your kind willingness to hear one fellow Filipino,” said the 53-year-old priest who was suspended from priesthood by the Catholic Church after he ran for public office in 2007.
“Think of the time when the consul (at the American Embassy in Manila) told you that your visa is approved, and your heart leapt, and you felt like you were walking in the air as you passed the envious eyes of other expectant applicants,” he told more than a hundred Kapampangan community leaders. “And by the grace of God you finally arrived here. How many daily jobs did you take? Two? Three? How did that first dollar salary feel like?” He commended the leaders for achieving success in their quest for a better life abroad.
“You have reached heights that make you the envy of Makati executives, and believe me when I tell you deserve every bit of your success, because it was borne out of perseverance, sacrifice and foresight.”
“This only proves that when the Filipino put his or her heart, mind and muscle to it, nothing is impossible,” he continued. “The most difficult becomes a reality in just a matter of time. The objective is achieved with persistence and determination. And out of all the thousands of Filipinos here in the US who have made their mark and proved that they can make it, it was you who were chosen by your peers to be their leaders,” he told the community leaders. “Inspire each and every one of your members to be leaders themselves; to be sources of inspiration in the transformation of the communities at home, with the hope that ultimately, the whole society may be changed,” Gov. Panlilio said.
Panlilio, whose position as governor is being threatened by a movement calling for his recall, looked serene and unperturbed. Reportedly, some 15 Catholic priests in Pampanga are poised to sign a petition that the movement is passing around hoping to gather the required 100,000 signatures. He never mentioned the issue in all his speeches. Instead he continued to focus on his social programs in the province of Pampanga and how expatriate Kapampangans could help their province.
“In these times of doubt, we are in need of greater charity and prayer as proven and effective responses to conflict,” he told more than 300 Kapampangans at the Ocean Seafood Restaurant dinner-reception on Sunday night, following the coronation ceremony at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. “Our celebration today here in Los Angeles of the coronation of the Virgen delos Remedios and our homage to Christ the Santo Cristo del Perdon connects us with our brothers and sisters back in our provinces and proves that we are truly a Church, a kingdom that has no boundaries.”
Panlilio also requested for special prayers for himself as a public servant, in view of the recall movement and other challenges to his administration. “The trials are many, the difficulties are diverse. I can only turn on our communal prayers to sustain and strengthen me as we strive to make a difference in the socio-political life of Pampanga,” he pleaded.
“As you materially help your relatives and friends back home, please remember me always as you turn your thoughts to God,” he exhorted his province-mates. He is regarded as a superstar by Kapampangans, and during the reception, he indulged the guests by singing two popular John Denver songs, accompanying himself expertly with an acoustic guitar.
“Among Ed” was born in Minalin, Pampanga on December 6, 1953. He has made his mark as a prime-mover for social development, a dedicated and well-loved priest and a leader. An eloquent preacher, the poor in his province know him as the tireless director of the Social Action Center of Pampanga (Sacop), who put a face to the Church’s presence in the communities displaced by the lahar disaster in the 1990s.
He ran for governor in 2007, defending his controversial decision (to run in a public office) as a logical continuation of his ministry for the poor, who he viewed as having been exploited and neglected for too long by a succession of corrupt and uncaring politicians. He won over his two leading competitors — provincial board member Lilia Pineda and incumbent governor Mark Lapid — both of whom are allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (www.asianjournal.com)