Sunday, May 15, 2011


ONCE A PRIEST. Fr. Jose Dayrit left the priesthood to marry and raise a family, leaving his Kapampangan community in turmoil. He became a researcher and a college dean after turning his back on his profession. This picture is from his Sapangbato days where he served as a chaplain. Ca. 1936.

The post-religious life of Fr. Jose Cunanan Dayrit is no different to the experience of many former priests who left their holy vocations and struggled to get back into mainstream society. While there are many reasons for leaving priesthood—disillusionment, internal squabbles, inability to live by the rules, human frailty (especially when it comes to matters of the heart), such rude awakenings are often met with disapproval by a harsh and judgmental community, leaving former priests stigmatized as they try to fit back in.

Jose was born on 12 September 1908, the youngest son of Eligio Dayrit and Eduviges Cunanan. The Dayrits were an enterprising family—Eligio’s brother, Felipe, was the first pharmaceutical chemist of Mabalacat town. Jose shared this brilliance, and after finishing his early studies in the local schools, he heard his religious calling. A month before turning 15, Jose entered San Jose Seminary on 12 August 1923. As a seminarian, he excelled in his studies and became a full-fledged priest on 5 April 1935, earning the distinction as the first ordained priest from Mabalacat.

Fr. Dayrit was first assigned to Sapang Bato, which was close by the military camp and which already had a thriving populace. He served the Holy Cross Parish from 1936-41. For convenience, he was likewise assigned as a chaplain of Fort Stotsenburg. He next move to the Immaculate Conception Church in Guagua, where he finished a one year term (1938-39). Even if his stay in the parish was only for a short span of time he was also well loved because he was regarded as a kind and good priest.

In 1937, Fr. Dayrit’s shining moment happened in that 33rd International Eucharistic Congress held in Manila—a first for Asia. The more popular events were the Philippine sectional meetings officiated by regional leaders. The meetings for Pampanga delegates were conducted at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, and Fr. Jose C. Dayrit of Sapangbato was chosen as one of the speakers during the 2-day gathering together with Rev. Frs. Jose Pamintuan (Sampaloc) , Cosme Bituin (Guagua), Vicente de la Cruz (Mexico) and Esteban David (Minalin)

But alas, a bitter feud with his Bishop ensued—a disagreement that must have been so painful and profound so as to cause him to resign from priesthood. Fr. Dayrit found himself fallen from grace, so he retreated to Manila and never looked back, to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and start anew.

Calling on his entrepreneurial skills, he opened and operated Malayan Restaurant on busy Raon St. (now Gonzalo Puyat St.) near Avenida. It was while working here that he met Maria Paras, a kabalen from Angeles. After a short courtship, Fr. Jose Dayrit married Maria who gave him three children.

Fortune dealt him a cruel blow as the children came one by one. His food business was not enough to support his family though. He accepted a job at the Southern Luzon Colleges in Naga City and became the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. There, his new-found career blossomed, and he put to good use his gift of language (he knew Latin, Greek and Spanish) by translating Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere into Kapampangan (“E Mu Ku Tagkilan”). For the rest of his life, he would embark on exhaustive researches at the National Library and continued his passion for writing.

When Fr. Jose Dayrit finally died in the 60s, he was almost ignored by his town—only a handful attended his wake held at Our Lady of Grace, the main church of Mabalacat. But surely, that would not have mattered to him; it is the triumph of the human spirit despite adversities that will long be remembered and rewarded not by Man but by His Maker.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What are the names of his 3 chilldren?