Fr. Joseph Borreros and his Journey through Life
…from a struggling student assistant
to an Orthodox priest, and educator with Divine guidance
By Apolinario Villalobos
As a youth, he was among the wave of adventurous migrants from Panay Island, particularly, Dao, Capiz who came to Cotabato. He found his place in the Tacurong Pilot School as a Grade Six pupil in 1961. His family lived in the market of the town which that time was just weaned as a barrio of Buluan. He continued his studies at the Magsaysay Memorial Colleges of the same town. In college, he took up a pre-Law course at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City but failed to pursue it when he succumbed to a sickness.
He went back to Tacurong and took up Bachelor of Arts in Notre Dame of Tacurong College. To support his studies, he worked as a janitor and later as Library Assistant in the same school. That was during the directorship of Fr. Robert Sullivan, OMI, a kind Irish priest. After his graduation, he taught at the Notre Dame of Lagao in General Santos, South Cotabato for three years.
In 1973 he got interned at the Marist Novitiate in Tamontaka, Cotabato City, and professed temporarily in 1975 during which he was assigned as a Marist Brother at the Notre Dame of Marbel Boys’ Department (Marbel is now known as Koronadal City). From Marbel, he was sent back to the Notre Dame of Lagao.
In 1976, he left the religious congregation of Marist Brothers, but was taken in by Bishop Reginald Artiss, CP, the bishop of Koronadal, to assist in the establishment of the Christian Formation Center which was located at the back of the cathedral. For two years, he went around the parishes and diocese covered by the authority of Bishop Artiss in training members of the Kriska Alagad, Lay Cooperatos, as well as, in establishing Basic Christian Communities.
As Bishop Artiss perceived his potential as a cleric, he was sent to the Regional Major Seminary of Mindanao in Catalunan Grande, Davao City. Fortunately, due to his extensive and intensive pastoral formation background, he was privileged to skip subjects related to it. After four years of theological studies at the said seminary, he was ordained as a priest on April 1, 1982 by Bishop Guttierez, DD, of Koronadal. His first assignment was the parish of Sta. Cruz , formerly politically under South Cotabato, but today, that of Sarangani Province.
In 1985, he was a “floating” priest, awaiting appointment as Superintendent of Diocesan schools and temporarily established his residency at Our Lady of Parish in Polomolok, South Cotabato with the late Fr. Godofredo Maghanoy. The following year, he was finally designated to the mentioned position which he held for three years.
In 1989, he went on a study leave to take up Masters of Science in Educational Management at the De La Salle University in Manila which he finished in 1991. Two years later, he was about to finish his Doctorate in Religious Education pending the completion of his dissertation under the guidance of Bro. Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, but failed to do so due to an important and life-turning decision….to have a family and develop a Non-Government Organization. Driven by his new-found advocacy in life, he worked as Coordinator of the Community Volunteers’ Program under the Council of People’s Development, a Pastoral NGO of Bishop Labayen for three years in Infanta, Quezon.
From 1995 to 2004, he was with the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA) as a Monitoring Officer of the projects in governance. While with the said NGO, he studied Orthodoxy theology on his own, a week after which, he was consecrated by His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew at the Orthodox Cathedral located at Sucat, Paraἧaque, Metro Manila.
He was inspired to bring along his former 61 parishioners in Maricaban, a depressed area in Pasay City when he presented himself and his family to Fr. Philemon Castro, parish priest of the Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral in Paraἧaque. Like him, he found his former flock to be also journeying spiritually. After several months of catechism, they were accepted to the Orthodox Church. They were further accepted by the former Metropolitan Nikitas Lulias of Hongkong and Southeast Asia. A little later, Fr. Joseph was ordained to the Minor Orders as “Reader”, for which he started to render regular duty at the Cathedral on Sundays which did not affect his NGO-related activities.
He was asked to leave his NGO responsibilities in 2004, in exchange for which he was sent to Greece to serve as a full worker in the Ministry – live with the monks of the Monastery of St. Nicholas of Barson in Tripoli, southern Greece. Afterwards he was sent back to the Philippines to do catechesis in different mission areas, particularly, in Laguna, Sorsogon and Masbate.
In 2006, he was ordained to the Orthodox priesthood and assigned under the Omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople which is presently headed by His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, Successor to the Apostolic Throne of St. Andre, the first-called apostle.
In 2009, he did mission work in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Until today, he carries the same responsibilities but the area expanded to include SOCSKSARGEN area (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos), as well as, Davao del Sur.
To date, he was able to firmly establish three communities, such as: Holy Resurrection Orthodox Community in Lake Sebu; St. Isidore of Chios Orthodox Community in San Guillermo, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur; and Apostles St. Andrew and James Orthodox Community in Kisulan, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.
Aside from taking care of the Sacramental life of the faithful, his mission work also includes values formation of students. Two particular schools that are benefiting from this are the Marvelous College of Technology, Inc. in Koronadal City, and Pag-asa Wisdom Institute in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat where he also serves as Principal. According to Fr. Joseph, the two institutions are community-centered, privately-owned, mission-oriented and most especially, cater to the less in life but with a strong desire to overcome their socio-economic barriers.
Fr. Joseph and his family live at the Theotokos Orthodox Mission Center in Surallah, and which also serves as the nucleus of his mission works. His life is typically austere as shown by the structure that accommodates his flock during worship days. The same character also defines the rest of the “chapels” throughout the areas that he covers. But since there are other things that his Mission needs, he unabashedly appeals to the “mission-minded souls to help in their capacity, sustain, strengthen, so that it will grow with flourish for the glory of God”.
Fr. Joseph, as an ordained Orthodox priest has been given the name, “Panharios”.
For those who are interested to reach out to Fr. Joseph, his address is at:
Theotokos Orthodox Mission Center
120 Dagohoy St., Zone 5
Surallah, South Cotabato