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Two brothers, yet worlds apart.

Fr. Apollo de Guzman and Fr. Efren de Guzman are brothers who both entered the Salesian Order. Between the two brothers was their sister, Sr. Emma de Guzman, also a religious, who entered the ICM order and labored 30 years as missionary in Cameroon until she passed away.

The elder Fr. Apollo is 73 years old, but looks younger than his brother. He attributes this to the fact that he was missionary to a First World country, while a rough-hewn Fr. Efren was missionary to a Third World country.

My wife Meng and I were late for our dinner at Sugi in Greenbelt 5, because the homily at the 6 p.m. mass at the Sto. Nino de Paz chapel about the Lateran Church was long-winded and run-around.

Fr. Apollo agreed that parish priests should work on their sermons. He prepares on Monday what he would deliver for the coming Sunday; Catholics cannot default on their sermons to the INC or the Born Again.

Fr. Efren gave Meng and me a rosary each, blessed by His Holiness, Pope Francis.

From force of habit born out of his European stint, Fr. Apollo, asked if we may have wine to go with our tempura and sukiyaki. Since the good fathers were not on duty, we didn't expect them to turn water into wine and we settled on a Merlot with the curious label, "Hardy's" (obviously from a vineyard Down Under).

Fr. Apollo draws a comfortable pension after years of missionary work in Europe. He claims 5 citizenship - his passport has "European Union" above, (1), reads "Belgium" below (2), he also remains Filipino (3), claims dual citizenship (a double count, 4), and is a senior citizen (5).

He has the best of both worlds. He retired in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, where he stays when the weather is sub-zero in Europe; then he flys off to Europe to escape summer in the Philippines. Popular with the Filipino community abroad, he kangaroo hops from his base in Brussels (where he is a lifetime member of the Knights of Rizal chapter) to Netherlands, Barcelona, London, Manchester, etc.

He subs for chaplains of Filipino communities in Europe. Filipino chaplains render assistance to nationals. Fr. Apollo even had the occasion to render assistance to a Philippine ambassador who was falsely maligned (instigated by insiders) of mistreating his household staff. The diplomat's recall order was amended, and he was instead cross-posted to the Philippine Consulate General in Hamburg.

Fr. Apollo has a novel theory that the Philippine Catholic Church is underutilizing its dominant numbers because of its poor structural set-up. Bishops are princes in their own diocese; and the parish priest calls the shots to level of detail. The Church could be more proactive if the parish had more minders with closer interaction with its members. (Just like an army could not run without its sergeants.)

Younger brother Fr. Efren impressed us with his gift of diving names and their meaning. The first time we met in Berlin, Fr. Efren was en route to return to his mission in Angola where they looked forward to 2 p.m, the hour when they had their one meal for the day. The country is rich beyond dreams with diamonds and oil underneath; but outside the circle of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, very little trickles down to the populace. The non-resident ambassador of Angola who visits the Philippines from his embassy in Singapore manifests a lifestyle exuding this.

Fr. Efren was removed from Angola because his malaria attacks had worsened. When the Jesuits needed someone experienced to help withTimor Leste refugees, the Salesians lent him to their operations in the troubled country. He returned to the Philippines and, no stranger to privation, he now serves at the Tahanan ni Maria, a pre-departure station for indigent senior citizens. Some wards were sneaked in by pedicab under cover of darkness and left outside the house by their families (like babies abandoned at doorsteps to the care of strangers).

The two Salesian brothers could parallel the story of Martha and Mary, where one labored while the other had the cushier task. But neither envies the respective directions that their vocations have taken. FEEDBACK:

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Title Annotation:Opinions and Editorials
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Nov 13, 2014
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