MONSI' IS NOW BISHOP LOUIE OF KABANKALAN CITY

Kabankalan City are now excited for the episcopal ordination & installation of Bishop Louie P. Galbines on May 28 & 29, 2018.

Who is Most Rev. Fr. Louie P. Galbines?

 He was in the middle of playing tennis with his coach, Kiko, when four calls had been missed on his cell phone. The fifth call rang with such urgency that the match had to stop.

“Hello, is this Monsignor Louie Galbines?”

“Yes?” Msgr. Louie Galbines, whom everyone calls ‘Mons’ Louie and whom doicese staff endearingly refer to as ‘Monsi’, wondered.

“Are you the Vicar General of the Diocese of Bacolod?”
The voice sounded Italian. Mons Louie asked, “Yes, may I know who’s on the line please?”

“This is the Papal Nuncio to the Philippines.” The last time Mons Louie spoke to a nuncio was a few years back, to discuss diocesan matters.

“Pope Francis has appointed you as the new Bishop of Kabankalan,” the Papal Nuncio announced, “Are you going to say your yes now?”

Msgr. Louie Galbines, Vicar General of the Diocese of Bacolod and Head of the Commission on Clergy, had been narrating to ADSUM the Vatican-commissioned call that only a few people get to receive. “Is someone just playing games with me?” It was either the call of a lifetime, or some prank call of an old friend.

His phone still clutched to his ear, Mons Louie told the disembodied voice at the end of the line that he was scared, he couldn’t believe it, and he needed more time to pray about it. Mons Louie himself had felt disembodied by the announcement. Daw nagalutaw, he said. The Nuncio gave him three days to decide, but warned him not to tell anybody. It was between the Nuncio, the Pope, and him.

Not even the tennis coach, Kiko, the person he was with during the fateful call, got first dibs despite Mons Louie wanting to get it off his chest. Instead, Mons Louie had called off the last set of a good tennis match.

“Tingala ko man nga si Zechariah nag apa,” Mons Louie chuckled. “When you have something beautiful in your heart but you cannot share it, it’s so difficult!”

It was on March 4, a Sunday, when Mons Louie received the Papal Nuncio’s call. Mons Louie was to see him at the nunciature in Manila on March 7 for his final decision. The days in between had been very delicate for Mons Louie, spending hours in prayer at the Bishop’s Chapel each day, tiptoeing lest the Bishop notices and gets curious, and resisting the urge to share the news to his brother priests during their Clergy recollection.

“I said the Rosary many times, knelt in prayer, discerning if it is really God’s will,” Mons Louie shared. “Kay basi ambisyon ko bala haw, kabudlay.”

“I couldn’t believe because there are a lot of good and really intelligent and more equipped priests in the diocese, but why me?”

He consulted his spiritual director and asked, “Shall I accept or decline the appointment?”

He had doubts. Dangled before him is a huge responsibility. As Vicar General for many years, he has seen the painful and oftentimes lonesome ministry of a bishop.

“I know myself and where I come from,” Mons Louie admitted and questioned his worthiness. “By myself, I am nothing gid.”
But his spiritual director had told him what was to be the cornerstone of his decision. His director said,

“This is not a question of being worthy, but a question of being loved.”

For Mons Louie, it was a statement that shattered doubt, and shifted how he viewed the episcopacy. In 2016, when Bishop Emeritus Vicente Navarra retired leaving the seat in the diocese empty, and when Bishop Buzon vacated his in Kabankalan, Mons Louie’s name had been thrown around as the most viable bishop-to-be. When asked if it ever occurred to him that he would become bishop, Mons Louie said, it was far from what he had in mind; there were too many problems to handle, and being bishop would be an unnecessary burden. He had wanted to take time off to focus on the academe and other less demanding pursuits.

But since the phone call, God had shown Mons Louie that the episcopacy is His gift more than a burden he imposes. An explosive truth worth repeating helped Mons Louie inch closer to his yes: this is not a question of being worthy, but a question of being loved.

“Starting that time, tanan ko nga readings were about trust,” Mons Louie expressed. “Trust ni Abraham kay God, trust ni Mama Mary…” Mons Louie recounted that while kneeling down in deep prayer, what were most striking were the images of Mary carrying Jesus, Saint Joseph holding Jesus, and in the middle, Christ crucified. The lines that recurred to him was the Divine Mercy prayer of trust, “Jesus, I trust in you.” He had been telling Mama Mary that, “gusto ko mangin part sang Holy family, so indi ko ni makulbaan.”

“That’s what strengthened me, that it’s not about being worthy, kay indi man ko worthy,” he said. “It’s about God’s love nga indi nya ko pagpabay-an.”

When it was time to see the Papal Nuncio, Mons Louie was ready to say his yes. It was a warm, earnest, intimate meeting over fresh fruit juice, a moment for the Nuncio to see the priest bear his heart. Along with his yes, the Nuncio had asked Mons Louie to tell his life story.

“I fully understand what poverty is because I grew in the poverty of the sugarcane fields.” Mons Louie grew up in Hacienda Pader in Ma-ao, Bago City. It was a daily walk to and from school , “balik-balik, pila ka kilometro,” and to and from the market where he would sell bread. “At 4am in the morning, mabaligya kami tinapay sa merkado from Grade 3 to high school.”

The youngest among six children, Mons Louie’s earliest prayer was, “Lord, buligi lang ko nga indi magastuhan akon ginikanan sa akon.” His father was a “manugpala” in the barrio, and in school, the young Louie would often be bullied for that. But his parents would always remind them that even in their poverty, honesty must be their non-negotiable.

‘But necessity pushes you to attain more than what you can so I studied diligently bisan indi ko alam,” he recalled. His leadership skills were honed as Corps Commander of their high school’s CAT.

“I wanted to be a soldier, to be a general, so I applied to the Philippine Military Academy.”

He qualified in the PMA exams, but the vocation campaign of a priest made him decide to enter the seminary. “Nakita ko gid ang hand of God nga ga pick up gid sa akon halin sang gamay pa ko.”

Even the nuncio was teary-eyed during Mons Louie’s recollection.

“Te ako man, hibi gid ko in front of him, indi ko magpati,”Mons Louie said. “You’re like given a diamond, and you do not know what to do with this.” With this new role, his mind seemed to have reached its limits, not so much about the onerous responsibility that comes with being bishop, but with how God can love him so much to be given this task.

“I’m sure indi man ko perfect-perfect sa akon gina himo, pero amo na bala, indi mo ma-intiendehan ang paghigugma sang Dios,” Mons Louie shared. “Wa-ay wa-ay ka, pero kun kaptan ka, you become everything…daw Midas touch! Amo na akon experience…”

“Ang kulang mo, sugpunan nya. Kung wala, ihatag nya…indi ko ka explain, he just loves you for no reason,” Mons Louie narrated with such luminosity, the kind that astounds and leaves one awestruck, and wanting to have a similar experience.

“He chose me because of Him,” he said, that a platitude such as this reclaims its truth.

“They say episcopacy is the fullness of priesthood,” Mons Louie said, “but for me now, it is part of the fullness of God’s love.”

Bishop Buzon asked him about his plans for his episcopal logo. Mons Louie is pondering and considering “confido,” or trust in Italian, which is what defines his experience now. “Amo na akon feeling now, you are not 100% that all will be okay, but you trust anyway.”

***

One of the final questions of the ADSUM interview was based on people’s encounters with Mons Louie. He is known for his infectious laughter – and may soon fit the title, the “Laughing Bishop” – that always leaves people in high spirits. “Monsi”, the moniker he has earned is a softening of the stern sounding “Monsignor” and is so telling of his friends’ love for him. Where does this unforced joy that is so characteristic of Monsi coming from?

To this, Mons Louie replied, “I met God.”

A long pause followed. It was over ten seconds of Mons Louie taking everything in, of silently retracing the “Golden Thread” of God’s loving work that has run through his life since his days of hawking and helping at the hacienda, of his stay at the UST Seminary where he was everyone’s “Kuya”, of the unexpected assignments in his youth as Chancellor, of his early crisis of wanting to leave the priesthood, as a student at the Angelicum in Rome, up to today, in the Presbyterium he has learned to love sincerely. It was ten seconds of both interviewee and interviewer holding back tears.

Back in the day when he entered the seminary, Mons Louie’s spiritual director asked why he was entering this life. Mons Louie, a lad fresh from high school in Ma-ao, said, “I want to become a saint.”

By Kimee Santiago

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