The Catholic Church hierarchy in the Philippines is peopled with many Kapampangan religious leaders who are noted for their pioneering spirit and missionary zeal. The first names that come to mind are Cardinal Rufino Santos of Guagua, the 1st Filipino prince of the Church and Archbishop Pedro Santos of Porac. But equally outstanding was the life of another Kapampangan priest who also rose to become an archbishop of note: Most Rev. Alejandro Olalia.
The future church leader was born on 26 February 1913 in the town of Bacolor. He studied at the Bacolor Public School and attended San Carlos Seminary (1930-36), from where he finished his priestly studies. Sent to the Gregorian University, he was ordained a priest at age 27 on 23 March 1940 at the Pio Latino American College. Two years later, he obtained a Licentiate in Canon Law. He then hied off to the United States as an exchange priest, where he served in a Georgian parish. On 18 May 1944, he earned a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Catholic University of America.
Upon his return to the Philippines on 4 February 1946, he was assigned to be the Assistant Parish Priest of Tondo. In September of 1947, Fr. Olalia was named as the private secretary of the Archbishop of Manila. His leadership qualities earned him an appointment as Coadjutor Bishop of Tuguegarao and Titular Bishop of Zela on 2 June 1949 at the age of 36. A scant two months after, he was ordained as bishop on 25 July 1949. The next year, he succeeded the Dutch-born Bishop Constancio Jurgens C.I.C.M., who served Tuguegarao for 22 long years.
From Tuguegarao, the bishop was assigned to Lipa in Batangas in 1953, replacing then Bishop Rufino J. Santos, who was elected as Archbishop of Manila. The reverend was noted for being a good manager of the church, often conducting business even in full Prelate regalia. He was also noted for being an open-minded religious, “who accepted all good things that came to the Philippines, including the Cursillo”. He was the first to support the SOS Children’s Village in Lipa, a haven for abandoned and orphaned children—a revolutionary concept at that time, established in Lipa in 1967.
It was during his term that the Diocese of Lipa became the tenth Archdiocese and Ecclesiastical Province as decreed by Pope Paul VI on 20 June 1972. He was likewise elevated to the rank of an Archbishop. Archbishop Olalia would stay at the diocese for 20 years, until his death on 2 Jan. 1973, not quite 60 years old.
(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")