‘Man of the people’: Getting to know Iba’s new bishop

‘Man of the people’: Getting to know Iba’s new bishop

Jilson Tio (left) with Msgr. Bartolome Gaspar Santos, Jr., Bishop-elect of Iba, when he was still rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima in Valenzuela.

By Raymond Sebastian

March 5, 2018


If there’s one person closest to the bishop-elect of Iba apart from his family, it may well be Jilson Tio.

Having served with Msgr. Bartolome Gaspar Santos, Jr. in various capacities at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima in Valenzuela for almost a decade, Tio has seen firsthand his natural closeness to regular, common folks.

“He is very approachable. You would often catch him offering Mass at a wake on the street or mingling with ordinary people. He has a heart for the needy and would even brave the floods to rescue parishioners,” he shared.

Active parish priest

Tio added that the bishop-elect initiated programs for the poor and the needy like their monthly “Boteng Gala” which sponsored free milk for children.

He also observed the active involvement as a rector and parish priest in the life of the shrine.

“He gave the National Shrine a new direction when he became our parish priest and rector. He implemented numerous projects including the improvement and renovation of almost all parts of the church and convent,” said Tio in an interview.

According to him, such is Santos’ vision for the shrine that he has ongoing projects to date, one of which is the adjoining Centennial Building, his brainchild.

He shared that the monsignor also strengthened the community’s love and appreciation of the Scriptures by hosting weekly Bible studies for his parishioners.

“He prioritized the promotion of the message of Our Lady of Fátima nationwide. It was evident in the visits of the national pilgrim image of Our Lady. He would always find the chance to be present in the different visitations,” said Tio.

‘Separation anxiety’

This is probably why Tio was hardly shocked when he received the news from Rome that Pope Francis had just appointed his “boss” as the new bishop of Iba.

“I was not surprised because his gift of ministry is worth sharing not only with other shrines or parishes but also with other dioceses,” he explained.

No doubt, the faithful of Fátima shrine feel proud that one of their own has been elevated to the episcopate. But it is actually a bittersweet moment for Tio and his co-parishioners, because it also means having to let go of their beloved pastor of over nine years.

“We’re experiencing separation anxiety,” said the young man who already considers his unassuming shepherd a father.

When Tio was battling a life-threatening illness, Santos would visit him personally to celebrate Mass in his hospital room.

He is also one of the few monsignori he knows of who has no problem commuting by MRT.

New mission

Tio said he and his co-parishioners are grateful that their shrine has already produced two bishops, the first being Emeritus Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, who had also served in Iba as well as Kalookan, and now Santos.

“To our brethren in Iba, you are very blessed! We pray to Mama Mary in her titles as Our Lady of Fátima and Ina Poon Bato for Msgr. Bart, now bishop-elect, to have the same zeal in serving God’s flock not anymore in our parish and diocese but in another one. We hope that he would also find in his new mission the same warmth and support that we gave him for the past years,” he added.

Santos’ episcopal ordination, which will be presided over by Manila Archbishop Luís Antonio Cardinal G. Tagle, is scheduled on April 30, 2018 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Malolos, Bulacan.

The Diocese of Iba, which covers the province of Zambales and the independent city of Olongapo, is set to welcome him as their fifth bishop on May 25, 2018 at the San Agustín Cathedral in Iba.

The rite of liturgical reception and canonical installation will be officiated by his predecessor, San Fernando Archbishop Florentino G. Lavarias.