Fr. Eric I. Santos of the Eastern Catholic Church
Preaches Where He is Needed Most
By Apolinario Villalobos
Fr. Eric is “Fr. Ericson I. Santos, D.D.”, an Eastern Catholic priest who established an “oasis of faith” in the heart of Malumot, a depressed area of Panapaan 7 in Bacoor City. The young priest has gone through trials that saw him start his spiritual career as an Aglipayan priest.
He finished his studies in Batac, Ilocos Norte, and in 1999 was ordained as an Aglipayan priest. His first assignment brought him to Olongapo, particularly, the Sta. Rita parish where he preached until 2004. On that same year until 2008, he covered the whole of Zambales and Cavite. In October of 2008, he was elected as Bishop for southern Tagalog diocese. For his consecration, no less than, Bayani Fernando, the popular head of the Metro Manila Development Authority stood as his sponsor, with Bishop Romualdo Badni officiating. The following year, 2009, he was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Zambales.
Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances that brought about some enlightenment, Fr. Eric made a crucial decision to join the Holy Eastern Catholic Church, particularly, the Metropolitan See of the Philippines and All Asia. From then on, what he started in Malumot began to prosper as he found the community deserving of such spiritual attention.
A young spiritual shepherd at the age of 36, Fr. Eric, has been consistent in his advocacy by attending to the needs of the Catholics around the area, reaching out to them, using a motorcycle. He confides that the spiritual offerings of the faithful are in a way “returned” to them through the affordable improvements of the chapel. He derives his personal financial support from being the chaplain of Bacoor city which makes the government then, afford to extend not only the temporal assistance for the constituents, but the spiritual as well. He became known among the people of Bacoor as the priest who dispenses spiritual help with much ease, in spite of distance and time.
When I visited Fr. Eric, it was a Holy Thursday during which I witnessed a “pabasa” in their humble chapel. He was a picture of a “true shepherd” who melds with the faithful around him, in his shorts and t-shirt. While we were conversing, groups of children would stop by to kiss his hand or put it on their forehead as a sign of respect. We had an iced chocolate that he bought in the food stall nearby to counter the terrible heat of the early afternoon sun. Just like any Catholic “father” of the parish, he dreams of having the present chapel renovated for the necessary second floor.
Malumot is “catch basin” during flood days since time immemorial as it is situated beside a river that easily gets overflowed. Fr. Eric experienced the waist-deep flood since the first day he lived among the people of this area but his resolve was never deterred. He could have just lived comfortably in any subdivision near the area and just conduct regular service in the chapel, but such decision never entered his mind.
Without saying, his act implies that he should suffer with his flock according to his vow of poverty…indeed, an act of a true Catholic priest or Christian shepherd for that matter. May other Christian leaders emulate your ways, Fr. Eric..or, Bishop Eric!…Bacoor City is fortunate to have you!