THE CARDINAL & THE MONSIGNOR AT CLARK. Fr, Maning was a constant companion of Rufino Cardinal Santos. Sandwiched between 2 unidentified Clark Field officials are L-R: Fr, Alejandro Olalia (future Bishop of Tuguegarao), Cardinal Santos and Fr. Manuel del Rosario who are all Kapampangans Circa 1950s.
In my case, he was a surrogate father for 2 years, and a very strict one at that. The daily use of the bathroom was limited to 10 minutes max--or else he would pound the door till we came out. Curfew was set at 10:00 p.m., after which the iron gates to the rectory were locked. Many times, I would scale the gates to get in because my graduate classes would end past that time. Inside the rectory, wearing sandos was a no-no. Oh, how I would try getting out of his way, but then I had to assist him in his daily Masses and help out in different church duties so there was no escaping his temper. Then again, it was Tatang Maning who provided us 100% support as we struggled to eke out a living in Manila, giving free shelter and food, supplementing our meager salaries with additional allowances and treating us out to fancy dinners when we needed a break from our usual pork and beans meals. When we got homesick, it was Tatang Maning who amused and entertained us, taking us out in his car for a quick spin around the city.
As a child, I knew early that Tatang Maning--from the way he was held in high esteem by my mother, aunts and uncles--was kind of special, extraordinary even. At the peak of his priestly career, Tatng Maning rubbed elbows with the rich, the influential and the famous. I have seen his albums with photos of him chummy-chummy with Pres. Diosdado Macapagal, having lunches with former First Lady Trining Roxas, opera star Conching Rosal, Ambassador Rogelio de la Rosa, diplomat Mel Mutuc and joining Cardinal Rufino J. Santos in his many travels abroad. This, indeed, was a far cry from his very humble beginnings as the 8th child of Emilio del Rosario and Josefa Valdez, in a family that would soon grow to include 19 more children!
Born on 4 July 1912, the young Maning spent his elementary days at the San Fernando Elementary School. He then took his secondary education at the Pampanga High School, graduating in 1927. Two years later, in June 1929, he entered the San Carlos Seminary. Because the family was financially challenged (his other brothers were also taking expensive courses in Medicine, Law, Dentistry and Accountancy all at the same time), it took 10 years for him to be ordained. No less than the Most Rev.Msgr. Michael O’Doherty ordained him to sacred priesthood on 26 March 1939 at the Manila Cathedral. His first assignment was as a co-adjutor of San Juan del Monte and as Chaplain of the National Mental Hospital. In October 1939, he was sent back to his home province, serving briefly as a co-adjutor in San Fernando, before being assigned in 1940 to the parishes of Balanga and then Orion, Bataan as assistant priest.
In October 1941, he was finally named as the cura parocco of Zaragosa, Nueva Ecija. My then 13-year old mother kept him company there, and she would recount how Tatang Maning would negotiate the dirt roads on horseback just to reach out to his parishioners! His efforts were rewarded 6 years later with his appointment as Sub-secretary of Finance at the Arzobispado de Manila. Concurrently, he was also the Chaplain of the La Loma Secretary.
Finally, on 15 May 1951, Tatang Maning was installed as the parish priest of San Roque Parish where he would stay on for the next 3 decades of his life. His first task was the renovation of the church, completing the project in 1952. In the next few years, he extended the church to include a rectory and a social hall. He was also instrumental in the erection of two barrio chapels in Obrero and Manuguit in 1963-64.
When Kapampangan Diosdado P. Macapagal ascended the presidency, Tatang Maning became his Spiritual Director. Likewise, he struck a deep friendship with fellow Kapampangan Cardinal Rufino J. Santos, often traveling to Europe together. When Cardinal Santos was elevated to the rank of a Cardinal in 1960, Tatang Maning was part of his entourage to Rome. In 19 April 1960, he was accorded the distinction of being named Privy Chamberlain of his Holiness, Pope John XXIII. Three years later, he was again named as Privy Chamberlain of His Holiness, Pope Paul VI. In 26 March 1964, he celebrated his Sacerdotal Silver Jubilee with a Testimonial Dinner given in his honor at the Winter Garden, Manila Hotel, an affair attended by no less than President Macapagal and the First Lady, Eva Macapagal.
Long after I have flown the Blumentritt coop and established my independence, I would still occasionally see Tatang Maning in his regular visits to Pampanga where he would make the rounds of the residences of his brothers and sisters where most are settled. By then, he was already retired, living with Imang Susing, another half-sister, in his spacious Marikina house, together with his beloved canines and a menagerie of exotic animals. Already in frail health, Tatang Maning passed away of emphysema on 25 Sept. 1987 at the Cardinal Santos Hospital. His remains were brought back to the San Roque Parish where his longtime parishioners paid their last respects.
Sometimes, when I pass by Blumentritt and see the church and its familiar grounds, I still think wistfully of Tatang Maning, my uncle priest, hoping to see a vision of him saying Mass, back hunched before the altar. I know a part of him still dwells there, in that busy Church which he loved best, where he touched the lives of thousands of people---wayfarers, devout women, beggars and vendors, babies, little children who had received the Holy Host from his hands, heroic sufferers, kindred spirits, sinners and souls unknown to him---living his Faith to the fullest in the service of the Lord.
(18 October 2003)