This afternoon, we have come together for the interment of the remains of our late beloved Prime Bishop Edward Pacyaya Malecdan. We join his wife, Manang Myrnam, their children and relatives in mourning his passing away from this earthly life. The death of a loved one always brings grief and sadness, especially to the family, relatives and friends of the deceased. Even Jesus wept with Mary and Martha and the other people who were mourning the death of their brother Lazarus. But Jesus turned their grief into joy when he raised Lazarus from the dead. In the Gospel this afternoon from Luke 8:49-56, Jesus also brought joy to Jairus and his wife by bringing their dead daughter back to life. How we wish the same can be done to raise Bishop Ed from death now so that our tears of sorrow will become tears of joy! But we know that raising the dead back to life cannot be done today. Jesus taught us that the dead will be raised during His 2nd coming. In the meantime, we have prayed the Collect imploring God to accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant Edward who has fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection; and to grant him entry into the heavenly abode of those who through the ages have been found pleasing in your sight.” (BCP 328). So even as we mourn the physical loss of Bishop Ed, we look forward with joyful hope of the resurrection. Meanwhile, we can find solace and inspiration in the life and ministry of Bishop Ed whom God called to serve his flock as a deacon, priest, Seminary teacher and dean, diocesan bishop and then as prime bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines.
Please allow me to share my reflections on the life and ministry of Bishop Ed based on my personal knowledge and encounters with him. I first came to know Bishop Ed in 1969 I when I enrolled for the 7th grade while he enrolled for the 3rd year here at St. Mary’s School. At that time, Bishop Ed just came back to St. Mary’s to resume his studies which was disrupted when his father died in an accident at the Lepanto Mines. Bishop Ed had to quit after 2nd year high school to help his mother and older brother support the family. From shoe-shine boy in Sagada, he became a gardener at Makellay’s farm in Sinipsip, then a cement-mixer at Itogon Suyoc Mines, and then as a janitor at the Makati Medical Center. After sojourning from one odd-job to another for 4 years, he decided to continue his studies with the prodding of his uncle Frank Longid. So he came back to SMS for his 3rd year in 1969. Because of his athleticism, Fr. Stapleton choose him to play for the SMS basketball team that won championships against teams in Bontoc, Lubuagan and Balbalasang in Kalinga. He was also a member of “Post 11” – a Boy Scout troop organized by Fr. Abellon, who was then the rector here, and who was their Scout Master. Bishop Ed considered his return to SMS as providential because that was where he met and caught the attention of Manang Myrnam who became his bride in 1978.
I consider myself lucky to have been under the tutelage of Bishop Ed, starting when I enrolled as a freshman at St. Andrew’s Seminary 1976 while he was in fourth year. He was the team captain and star player of the Seminary basketball team and I was privileged to have played in his team. More than anything else, he provided leadership and imbued a winning spirit to our team. He became our coach after he graduated in March 1977, and he became my mentor when I succeeded him as Student Sacristan, a key position of responsibility in the spiritual formation of seminarians. (I still vivid recall his advise, “Brent ilam ta baken paspas ay maamin nan mompo”). During graduation, Bishop Ed also received the Faculty Award for his overall performance in academics, athletics, house work, spiritual formation, and all other aspects of ministry formation in the Seminary. In recognition of his potential as a Seminary faculty member, Bishop Abellon cut short Bishop Ed’s internship in Guinaang, Bontoc, and sent him back to the Seminary for further studies. While studying History at Trinity College, he got married in 1978 and was ordained to the diaconate in 1979 while being an adjunct faculty of the Seminary.
Our third encounter was when Bishop Ed and I were among the 5 candidates who were ordained together on December 22, 1980 at St. Thomas Church in Dagupan, Tabuk, by Bishop Richard Abellon. Bishop Ed was ordained as a priest while I and 4 others were ordained to the diaconate. After his ordination, Bishop Ed returned to teach at the Seminary while pursuing masteral studies at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. In 1991 after ten years as Seminary Instructor, he went on sabbatical leave to pursue studies in Church History at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Texas. He finished his Master of Arts in 1993 with his thesis on the Formative Years of the Philippine Episcopal Church, and returned to the Seminary to resume teaching. Sometime in the mid-2000s, his Alma Mater in Texas conferred him the honorary degree of Doctor in Divinity in acknowledgment of his services at the Seminary and the Episcopal Church in the Philippines.
In 1994, Bishop Ed was nominated for the office of Suffragan Bishop of EDNP. At the same time, he was also being considered for the deanship of St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary to succeed Dean Henry Kiley who resigned. With a deep sense of calling, he decided to withdraw his nomination for Suffragan Bishop and accepted his appointment as the 6th dean of SATS where he served until he was called to be the 4th diocesan bishop of EDNP in 1997.
When he became our diocesan bishop, he admitted with humility his lack of knowledge and experience in parish work and diocesan administration since he spent his whole ministry teaching at the Seminary. But he made up for his deficiency by being a good listener, keen observer, fast learner, diligent worker and a team player. He translated the principle of basketball teamwork in the Diocesan Office where he worked closely with the diocesan staff whom he called his “reliables” for their competence and dedication to serve. He was keenly aware of his heavy responsibility as diocesan bishop because EDNP at that time was in financial crisis due to the cut in the financial subsidy from the Episcopal Church in the US. Because of the crisis, we had annual budget deficits and our clergy and lay employees did not receive their salaries for as long as 6 months. We implemented cost-cutting measures and some employees were given early retirement. During those times, our Diocesan Employees Credit Coop or DECCO became our lifeline. But these were temporary remedies, so Bishop Ed focused our diocese on the attainment of ECP Vision 2007 with self-reliance, renewal and outreach as the main goals.
One great temptation at that time was to use our accumulated diocesan endowment fund for the salaries and benefits of our clergy and lay. But Bishop Ed wisely decided not to spend the endowment fund but to build it up and then invested the bulk of it in the Rural Bank of Paranaque. This move was lambasted and opposed by some members who feared that the church will lose its investment. There was strong pressure on Bishop Ed to withdraw the investment, but Bishop Ed did not give in because he was confident that his decision was based on reliable information which those opposing his decision did not have. In the end, the investment at RBP yielded substantial returns resulting in a balanced diocesan budget. The church fully recovered its investment, proving that the fears of losing the investment were unfounded.
In 2008 when Bishop Ed was called as Prime Bishop, yours truly inherited a much improved diocese in terms of self-reliance and mission outreach. There were surpluses instead of the annual deficits in our diocesan budget. The number of fullfledge parishes increased from 3 to 9 and 12 congregations became provisional aided parishes. Three of our institutions: St. Mary’s School, St. James High School and St. Theodore’s Hospital were incorporated to broaden their capacity for self-reliance and self-governance. And the Walter Clapp Centrum and Timothy Chaokas Memorial Student Center were built, while St. Joseph Resthouse and the Diocesan Center were upgraded to increase their self-support contributions.
One highlight of Bishop Ed’s episcopate is the division of EDNP in year 2000. The division resulted in the creation of the new Diocese of Santiago and made EDNP the smallest diocese in terms of geographical coverage but still the biggest in terms of church membership. Bishop Ed believed that the division would accelerate mission expansion and congregational development of both the new diocese and the mother diocese. This vision has been proven by the remarkable growth of both dioceses under ECP Vision 2018 which was ushered in by Prime Bishop Ed in 2008 and was continued by Prime Bishop Rene when Prime Bishop Ed retired in 2014.
Prime Bishop Ed has left us just as we are preparing to embark on a new ECP Vision 2028 under Prime Bishop Joel. (I think he will be visiting Prime Bishop Joel from time to time.) But while he left us, I believe he will not abandon us. When he left EDNP for Cathedral Heights, he did not abandon us. He was a patient and brutally frank mentor especially when I was just starting in the episcopate. He taught me valuable lessons and offered practical suggestions in pastoral ministration and diocesan administration. He made it a point to attend and participate in our diocesan conventions. He accepted every task that was assigned to him, whether as celebrant, preacher, bible study facilitator, lecturer, or resource person. And he was excellent in all of these tasks. He is known for his well prepared homilies, and he wanted us his clergy to prepare and deliver good sermons. He used to provide us with references and guides on good sermons. ( I believe he will still be observing us to see who is naughty or nice about sermons.) A writer in his own right, he authored “A brief history of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Sagada” and wrote several articles on ECP history. He started editing for publication his MA thesis, “The Philippine Episcopal Church: Its Formative Years”, but this was derailed by illness. The ECP leadership should see to the publication of this book for posterity.
Bishop Ed maintained his cool and calm demeanor even under pressure or stressful conditions. He demonstrated this demeanor sometime in 2007 when he led us clergy and lay volunteers to try to rebuild St. Peter’s Church which was demolished by government contractors in Sabangan. The situation at the construction site was tense due to the presence of thugs who were trying to prevent the reconstruction. The situation became worse when suddenly a half-naked woman appeared and started dancing in front of the Bishop. She was followed later by a man swinging his samurai sword threatening to hurt anyone who got near him. Bishop Ed who was helping lay out the lumber at the construction site did not panic. He just stayed calm and cool until the tension subsided. Whether he was facing a samurai sword, a tough negotiator, or colon cancer, he was calm and composed.
Bishop Ed called himself an “outdoor person.” After office hours during his healthy days, Bishop Ed was either in the basketball court or the tennis court. He played great tennis and he won championship trophies in Bontoc and elsewhere.
He also loved to dirty his hands in his garden, orchard, field, fishpond. When he was in Manila, he would drive home to say hello to his plants. He used to bring oranges from his orchard for the staff at the diocesan office. Bishop Ed is a rare breed of an all around athlete who excelled in all sports that he engaged in including basketball, volleyball, softball, and lawn tennis.
Bishop Ed was also a cowboy at heart. He bought a cowboy hat and a pair of cowboy boots in Texas, and one of his favorite songs was “God must be a Cowboy”.(?) He also used to ride his horse above Lake Danum, but later passed on his horse to clergy in the Sunnyside area who he felt needed it more for their outstation visits.
And he was the only yodeler in town. In many community occasions, he was in demand to render his favorite yodel song, Chime Bells Are Ringing to the delight of the audience (but which did not impress his children anymore because they heard it more than a thousand times!)
Now we will all be missing this yodeler, cowboy, farmer, athlete, writer, bishop, priest, pastor, counselor, preacher, teacher, mentor, father, grandfather, and much more! Such was the life and ministry of Bishop Ed. A life worth emulating for its dedication to Christian service. It is the life of a man who has “fought the good fight, finished the race, and have kept the faith.” 2Timothy 4:7.
Let me end with these comforting words from 1 Peter 1:3-7 — “Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of His great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope, and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away. They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God’s power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time.”
May our brother Bishop Ed in the company of all the saints, rest in peace and rise in glory! In Jesus’ name. Amen!
Rt. Rev. Brent Harry W. Alawas
Diocesan Bishop, EDNP
Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Sagada
May 4, 2018