It was a shock to read, in Ernie Ordonez’s always-cogent business commentary, that the ageless Fr. Jose Blanco had passed away. I am personally grateful to Dan Mariano, who runs the ABS-CBN online news website, for writing about the great man (Derps to two or three generations of students, disciples, and friends).
I was none of the above, and yet it is no exaggeration to say that Fr. Blanco left an indelible impression on me, and helped shape the values I hold dear (or, and I say this without any irony, that hold me). Non-violence as a way of proceeding; the political responsibility of the religiously committed; the "truth of the situation" — seeing him up close and at work taught many of us, even those who never studied under him or worked directly with him, a slew of lessons, both as ideals (which I always fell short of) and as methods.
I was greatly moved when Dan quoted him at some length, because the chosen words brought his lean, gaunt image back to mind. It was not only what was actually said, but how it was said — the choice of words, the cadence of the phrasing — that reminded me of the personal encounters (all too few) that I wrested, so to speak, from the turmoil of the 1980s.
Ever the priest, Derps wrote of the uprising that was initially given little chance of success: "People power is grounded and based on God’s saving activity within us as a people. In the dictum of Augustine: God created us without us, but God will not save us without us. Our political liberation has been our work and struggle and sacrifice, but equally and internally it has been the work of God."
I remember what a good friend, who is now (inevitably) a Jesuit priest, told me: Once, during a solo eight-day retreat under Fr. Blanco’s guidance, he had reached an impasse. He couldn’t concentrate on the points, he had a hard time praying. Fr. Blanco sensed this unease, and told my friend: Take a walk. My friend did, walking out of the Jesuit quarters in Sta. Ana in Manila and into the world. Immersion in street life proved immediately therapeutic. By the time my friend got back, the impasse was breached.
PS (August 26, 9:28 am): I added a link (above and, well, here as well) to a six-month-old post, where I first mentioned Fr. Blanco’s lessons on "the truth of the situation."