Last year, I inherited the stewardship of a 29-year-old bakeshop owned by the Diocese of Imus, the Blessings Seminary Bakeshop. My turn to manage the Bakeshop is also a blessing. I am still in the process of convincing myself. I have frequented this bakeshop since I was a seminarian. I was then assigned to get the bread that was about to expire. We eat them as our merienda. And I was informed that the tradition continues. The seminarians are spoilage-saviors.
My first visit as the general manager of the Bakeshop was different. I was like an inspector, checking every corner to find what needed to be fixed and the areas that needed to be improved. A friend accompanied me, and I remember whispering to him, “Ang pinaka magandang gawin ay isara ang bakeshop, gibain ang building at magtayo ng commercial spaces.” The area is in a residential barangay in Imus, Cavite. Hundreds of villages and subdivisions surround the seminary compound. The idea of having a commercial building is very promising.
My joke about closing Blessings Bakeshop was met with a slap in the face. A framed history of the BSB hangs on the wall, handwritten on parchment but already faded. Reading the first lines of the bakeshop’s early beginning humiliated me. The story is not a narration of how a business enterprise got started. It narrates the vision of its founder. It tells the story of integral human development. It is indeed a story of BLESSINGS.
“Out of a great and deep pastoral concern inspired by an infectious desire to help the less-privileged, Msgr. Felix Paz Perez, D.D., then Bishop of Imus, embarked on putting up various livelihood projects to bolster a certain degree of improvement in their lives and, at the same time, for these projects to become effective venues for values formation and these to become trumpets echoing God’s providential care.” The dream was to improve the lives of the community.
Barangay Buhay na Tubig is a community in the middle of nowhere. The priests at that time were laughing at the idea of buying property there to build a seminary. The road was not cemented. There was just one single sari-sari store and no public transport. It was even a place where salvage victims were thrown. These heightened Bishop Perez’s dreams. The Church, through the presence of the seminary, ought to serve as a tiny spark of hope in a very dark community.
The seminary fathers then initiated livelihood programs: babuyan, manukan, palaisdan. All these endeavors involved the seminarians and the very small community in the area. It was indeed a venue for the formation of values for future priests. That was how they were taught about the Church’s social doctrines. They understood the lesson not in the classroom but by relating to and living with the community of Buhay na Tubig.
“The vision and dream of seeing people given prime focus, empowered, spiritually filled and lives improved drove Bishop Perez toward going around the Diocese and establishing farmers cooperatives, agricultural ventures, and the like. He believed that given the opportunity and proper guidance of the Church, people will learn to appreciate the value of self-determination through hard work that instills honesty and active participation, discouraging laxity, passivity and fatality.”
I never had the opportunity to meet Bishop Perez. I was just in Grade 1 when he died. But his story lives on. He is the bishop who shaped and influenced the character of the Diocese. He cared so much about the people’s lives that his pastoral care for the Church always involved the integral dimension of the human person.
He patterned his ministry after that of the Good Shepherd himself. He preached in the streets. He joined rallies. He was a frontman on the picket lines. He was once bombed with a water cannon. He did all this because he believed the human person was not just a soul to be saved.
The human person has a body. The human person gets hungry, sick, tired and lost. He responded to the call of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines for a renewed integral evangelization.
To be continued.
The author is an MBA student at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, DLSU. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.