By Fr. Emeterio Barcelon, SJ
He was a kind and lovable Jesuit, not too common. But instead of being known as Father, being a priest, he was known as Sargent all over Manila especially among the Spanish speaking families of Manila. Being a young seminarian in Spain near the end of the nineteenth century, he was drafted by the Spanish Quinta and was not exempted from military duty. He was then sent to Filipinas where he attained the rank of Sargento. Corporals at that time were made in charge of less populous towns while Sargentos were given larger town.
When the Philippine war of Independence came he was captured by the Filipino Insurgents and assigned to a prominent family in Batangas as a servant. The little girl in the family would come to bite his hand because she was envious because her parents loved this servant. This little girl grew up and became a nun of the Hijas de la Caridad. He was soon extradited to Spain after the war. There he entered the Jesuit Novitiate and asked to be sent back to the Philippines. When the American Jesuits took over, he opted to stay, instead of being shipped to India or back to Spain. He was a popular figure especially when he uses the English he learned, like, “You are a pain in the neck.”
There were anecdotes that I know about him and I am sure a lot of people know many others but what I know will give the flavor of encounter with him. When he visited families, he greeted them in Spanish. In my home a helper wanted to learn greeting him back in Spanish. So she asked my father to teach her how to say: “Please come in.” after saying: “Buenos dias.” Typical of my father he made her repeat:” Huele mal su subako.” She kept repeating it and with joy when Sargento Pascual visited she said with a flourish: “Huele mal su subako.” which means “Your armpits stink.” Sgt. Pascual laughed and told her he knew who taught her that.
The other anecdote was when my mother was depressed, in order to cheer her up, she told her that he wrote more letters to more girls than anyone present. When investigated it was true. He wrote love letters and read the answers back for the Spanish soldiers in his company. Few of them could read or write. Then another story is when I was a young Scholastic in Cebu the rector called me and told me my mother was in serious condition and that he was sending me to Manila to be near her. Once In Manila the superior of the mission Fr. Kennally, who later became Bishop of the Marianas, told me to stay home but by nine in the evening to report at La Ignaciana in Sta. Ana.
So that evening I reported to La Ignaciana and met Sargento Pascal in the corridor. He asked me why I was there. I told him he knew very well that my mother was very sick. He then figured out aloud that in La Ignaciana, the superior was Fr. Siguion and he was away. So as the oldest in the house he was automatically Superior and it was too late to call up the Mission Superior. He decreed that he was not accepting me in La Ignaciana and that I should go home. “You came to Manila to be with your mother and now you are here so far from where she is. Go home.” I went home and the next day I reported to Fr. Kennally who told me to just stay home.
Sargento Pascual took a special concern for me because he baptized me in a church in Intramuros. He also baptized my sister who followed me. Another Jesuit friend of my parents was supposed to baptize her but she was born in Baguio and he happened to be there at the time. Much later in true Jesuit fashion who ask to be misunderstood for Christ’s sake, Sargento Pascual was accused of some shenanigans in a home for recovered women of ill repute. He was exiled to Dapitan, like Jose Rizal. But a year later they found out he was innocent and was recalled to Manila. I will not forget his welcome since at the time I was a boy of about eight when a family friend took by the hands and swung me over the Pasig River in the Muelle de la Industria.
After the Japanese war in 1945 the foreigners were sent home to their countries. Sgt. Pascual was sent back to Madrid in Spain. But after one winter, he asked to go back to the Philippines, He could no longer suffer cold weather. He did excellent work with the Spanish-speaking community of Manila until he died. I don’t remember when he died and I was probably abroad doing my theological studies.
There are other storied Jesuits I would like to write about in the future .Like most of them they constantly try to thank God and keep asking if what they are doing is for the greater glory of God.