Every vocation in priesthood begins in answering the call of God. Aside from fulfilling the religious life, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Lieutenant Commander Francis Ariel Sualog has also answered the call of the uniformed service.
Despite his purpose in fulfilling the Word of God, Sualog still remembers the experience that strengthened his faith in the Lord.
“Parati kong naalala yung isang verse sa Bible galing sa (I always remember the bible verse) Galatians 6:2, that says we carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. I have duty na sinumpaan na magserve sa bayan so hindi talaga nawawala yung compassion ko at yung pagmamalasakit ko dahil this is my calling (to serve my country so I don’t really lose my compassion and my concern because this is my calling),” Sualog said.
Growing up in religious life and serving people
A native of Aklan province, Sualog came from a religious family. In fact, one of his aunts is a nun.
All throughout his elementary until high school, he was a faithful altar server.
Sualog’s passion to serve the Lord has been developed when he entered the seminary.
“Nararamdaman mo na spirit of desire at happy ka at the very young age I’m very happy with staying in the church at the same time pagka-may mga misa po tayo at mga sacraments ay active rin po ako so natutuwa ako sa mga ganun at nadevelop na po yun nung nagpasok na po talaga ako sa seminary (You feel the spirit of desire and happiness at a very young age. I am very happy with staying in the church at the same time when we have masses and sacraments. I am also active and happy with those and it was developed when I actually entered the seminary),” Sualog told the Manila Bulletin.
Apart from his passion to serve the Lord, Sualog was also inspired to serve the people in his community because of his dedicated parents.
“Ang nanay ko kasi ay public school teacher at ang tatay ko ay dating barangay captain kaya para sa akin fulfilling yung parang pagtulong sa kapwa, nakita ko na gusto ko talaga magserbisyo (My mother is a public school teacher and my father is a former barangay captain, so for me it is fulfilling to help others, I really wanted to serve),” he said.
He took up Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at St. Joseph Regional Seminary in Iloilo and soon after entered the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines. A year after his ordination, he chose to enter the Coast Guard as chaplain on December 10, 2010.
During that time, Sualog recalled that there were only a few chaplains in the Coast Guard and at the same time some of them were getting older. With his initiative to serve and knowledge to swim at sea, he chose the PCG.
“Sa mga spiritual needs ng ating mga kababayan natutulungan ko sila bilang ordained priest. As PCG officer, I can help them yung physical presence ko para makapaglingkod ng serbisyo in whatever form na makakaya ko kumbaga both spiritual and physical help marerender ko. Kumbaga yung faith ko, yung paniniwala ko na-eexercise ko. Kailangan kong ma-put into action that is why pumasok talaga ako as chaplain (In the spiritual needs of our countrymen I help them as ordained priest. As a PCG officer, I can also help them with my physical presence to serve in whatever form I can as I can render both spiritual and physical help. The faith and belief that I have I can exercise it. I need to put these into action that is why I actually entered as chaplain),” Sualog shared.
Awarded for his heroism and kindness
Assigned as deputy commander in Task Force Bayanihan Returning Overseas Filipinos at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2, Sualog served as the team leader in assisting Filipino passengers composed of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), seafarers, and land-based travelers amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Assigned to strictly implement the health protocols among the passengers, Sualog would oversee the flow of the operations, which includes the passengers’ swab test, hotel quarantine protocols, and transportation among others.
As he was organizing his duties for the day, Sualog still vividly remembers how his faith was strengthened when a pregnant OFW from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia unexpectedly gave birth at the NAIA 2 on Aug. 5, 2020.
An OFW Frelyn Sosa, who was 33 weeks pregnant that time, had experienced contractions while waiting for the confirmation of her hotel facility, where she was supposed to take her mandatory quarantine.
Sualog took the initiative to check and assist Sosa while waiting for the medical staffs to respond in the area.
However, Sualog said the medical staffs during that time continuously conducting swab test to the passengers entering the borders and could possibly be exposed to the viral disease, which made them not immediately attend to Sosa in order to prevent her acquire the disease.
“Initiative ko na lang talaga na magpakuha ng gloves, sinuot ko yung gloves na ‘yun para kung ano man magiging ready na kami. Ako yung team leader I really have to take on the responsibility so dinasal ko lang talaga nanalangin ako sa ating panginoon sa Diyos na bigyan ako ng presence of mind at hindi ako matakot sa pagassist sa pagpapaanak kay ma’am Frelyn (It was really my initiative to get gloves and wore it for whatever happens I am ready for it. I am the team leader I took the responsibility so I really prayed to our Lord to give me the presence of mind and I will not be afraid to assist in giving birth to ma’am Frelyn),” he said.
The chaplain who assisted in giving birth said the baby’s feet came out first, which was a sign that the baby was still premature since Sosa was only 33 weeks pregnant during that time.
While Sosa was carefully giving birth, the baby’s head stuck for a few seconds but with Sualog’s guidance the baby immediately comes out to his mother’s womb.
Despite Sualog’s lack of experience in childbirth, he ensured the safe and successful delivery of a healthy baby boy.
“I can feel really that there’s a guidance yung ating Diyos and ‘yun din ang panalangin ko. Safe naman siya nakalabas medyo stress na nga si baby kasi baliktad na at medyo naipit pa yung ulo nung nakalabas tapos dumating na rin yung doctor. Iniisip ko lang that time basta makaligtas itong si baby at yung kanyang OFW na ina ngayon po ika-nine months na ni baby (I can really feel that there is a guidance from our God and that’s also my prayer. He was safe when he came out, the baby was a bit stressed because it was upside down and his head was still a bit stuck when he came out and then the doctor came after. I just thought that time as long as the baby and his OFW mother can survive, and now the baby is nine months old),” he said.
With the chaplain’s heroism, President Duterte has recognized him and approved the conferment of the Order of Lapu-Lapu, Rank of Kamagi for his act of courage and kindness in serving the Filipino people.
Under Executive Order No. 35 series of 2017, the Order of Lapu-Lapu is awarded to government officials or personnel, as well as private individuals in recognition of their invaluable service in relation to the advocacy of the President.
“I was really surprised because at that time hindi naman yan yung aking naiisip, para sa akin patuloy lang tayong gumawa nang mabuti kasi ang award susunod na lang ‘yan sa iyong ginagawang kabutihan. Ang instrumento naman yan ay ang Diyos na siyang may akda niyan (that’s not what I’m thinking, for me we just continue to do good because the award just comes right after you do good. That instrument is God who is the author of all),” Sualog said.
Strengthening faith amid pandemic
Sualog shared that the unexpected childbirth in NAIA was one of the experiences he witnessed during the pandemic.
“Marami na rin ang may insidente na ganyan dito [sa NAIA] pero aside from that marami na rin tayong natulungan dito, meron dyan na muntik na manganak pero nahabol pa natin sa ospital, may mga nawalang ng malay dahil marami kasing problema mga OFWs natin especially sa kasagsagan ng pandemya at hindi lang pisikal pati psychologically marami rin may problema (There have been many incidents here [at NAIA] but aside from that we also helped many here, there were some who almost gave birth but we still managed to brought them to the hospital, some lose consciousness because some of our OFWs have lots of problems especially now in time of pandemic and not only physically but psychologically many also have problems),” Sualog said.
As an ordained priest, he also gave spiritual and emotional help to the Filipino passengers returning home to enlighten and eases their burdens and sorrows amid the COVID-19 threat.
“Ngayong pandemic kelangan talaga natin tanggapin na nangyayari talaga ito delikado talaga yung COVID-19 at dapat paigtingin pa natin ang ating relasyon sa Diyos kumbaga ang ating aspeto ng pananampalataya ang ating emotional attachement sa Diyos ay palalimin po natin (In this pandemic, we really need to accept that this is really happening, COVID-19 is really dangerous and we must intensify our relationship with God so that our aspect of faith, our emotional attachment to God, will deepen),” he said.
Sualog advised his fellow Filipinos to strengthen their spiritual life to have the courage and strength to fight the battle against the pandemic.
Apart from strengthening their faith in God, he also urged them to follow the health protocols and take care of the physical aspect to prevent acquiring the viral disease.
The chaplain has called for “bayanihan” spirit to extend a helping hand to others, “we will be rewarded that God is seeing our actions towards our fellow Filipinos.”
“Do not lose contact with your parents, mga kapatid isa rin yun sa magbibigay ng lakas sa iyo na ipagpatuloy ang pagtulong ang pagserbisyo pagnalaman mo na okay sila, walang sakit, at nakakakain sila ‘yun ang nakikitang biyaya ng Diyos sa iyo so in return magserve ka sa iba na nangangailangan (your brothers and sisters, that is also one of the things that will give you the strength to continue helping and serving when you know that they are okay, not sick, and they can able to eat. Those were blessings from God and so in return you serve others in need),” he said.
Despite the COVID-19 threat, Sualog encouraged his fellow countrymen not to be afraid for the Lord is there to help.
“In Isaiah 41:10 na nagsasabi na do not be afraid dahil nandyan ang Diyos ‘yan ang pinanghahawakan ko sa lahat ng trabaho ko at nung nagtraining ako bilang isang Coast Guard dahil nandyan ang Diyos tutulungan niya tayo (saying do not be afraid because God is there, that’s what I hold onto in all my work and during my training in Coast Guard because God is there he will help us),” he added.