Many paid tribute to Bishop Alberto Ramento. But the most touching tribute came from workers he supported during their struggles. As his son, Alberto Ramento III, said, “Hanggang sa huli, pag-aari pa rin siya ng simbahan. Hanggang sa huli, siya ay para pa rin sa masa.” (Until the end, he is owned by the church. Until the end, he will be with the masses.)
BY EMILY VITAL
Many people came to honor Bishop Alberto B. Ramento. The most touching tribute to him came from workers he supported during their struggles. His eldest son and the youth of Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) also gave testimonies extolling Bishop Ramento’s selflessness in serving the poor.
Marlene Gonzales, a member of the Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Chong Won Fashion (NMCW or United Workers of Chong Won Fashion), read a statement from the Solidarity of Cavite Workers. The statement referred to Bishop Ramento as an organizer of Cavite workers. Before the end of her speech, Marlene’s voice quivered.
In an interview, Marlene said they miss Bishop Ramento’s presence especially at this time when the workers have more struggles to go through.
Marlene first met Bishop Ramento in 1999 during a strike by Ishida workers. “Pumupunta siya roon at nagmimisa sa harap ng piketlayn.” (He visited the workers and celebrated mass in front of the picket line.)
The good bishop also used to join them in negotiating with the capitalists. “Hinaharap niya ang mga taga-PEZA para ipagtanggol kami.” (He faced the officials of the PEZA or Philippine Economic Zone Authority to defend us.)
Bambi Valenciano, staff member of the Workers Assistance Center (WAC) in Cavite, said Bishop Ramento was a very approachable bishop. “Simpleng tao. Sa unang tingin, hindi mo iisipin na bishop siya. Laging nakangiti. Komedyante.” (He was very simple. At first, you wouldn’t think he’s a bishop. He was always smiling and was a comedian.)
Bishop Ramento always found time to visit the workers in the economic zones “Inaalam niya ang sitwasyon nila.” (He always asked about the situation of workers.), Bambi said.
Marlene recalled vividly Bishop Ramento’s message to them during the 10th anniversary of WAC. Bishop Ramento said, “Tuloy-tuloy na ipagtanggol ang isinusulong na dagdag na sahod. Hindi ito ibibigay nang kusa. Lalong magpalakas para labanan ang kontra-manggagawang mga patakaran.” (Let us persist in the struggle for wage increases. It will not be given to you freely. Strengthen your ranks to fight against anti-worker laws and policies.)
In Tarlac, as in Cavite, the s and farm workers at the Hacienda Luisita found a staunch ally in Bishop Ramento.
Rene Galang, president of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), said, “Naantig ang mga manggagawang bukid sa kanyang suporta.” (The farm workers were touched by his support.) Rene, Ka Boyet to his fellow workers, said Bishop Ramento was there when the workers were about to lose hope.
Ka Boyet said that after the November 16 massacre in 2004, Bishop Ramento did not falter in his support even in the presence of soldiers. “Ipinagpatuloy niya ang pagtataguyod ng katarungan para sa amin.” (He continued defending our rights.)
Ka Boyet also said that Bishop Ramento also helped them to survive through their most difficult times. “Ngayon, mayroon na kaming1,000 ektarya ng palay at gulay. Malaki ang naging ambag ni Bishop Ramento para rito.” (Now we have 1,000 hectares of land for rice and vegetables. Bishop Ramento contributed a lot in our struggle to acquire this land.)
Sol Capati, a member of the Youth of the IFI, remembered when she asked the good bishop about the death of IFI priest Fr. William Tadena. “Sinabi niya na pinatay si Fr. Tadena para hindi na makapagsalita at hindi na makapagbigay ng pagkain at inumin sa masa.” ( Bp. Ramento told me that Fr. Tadena was killed to silence him and to prevent him from giving food and water to the masses.)
Sol said, “Tinanong ko siya kung natatakot siya para sa sarili niyang buhay. Ang sabi niya sa akin – Baon na ang isa kong paa sa hukay. Hindi ko na kailangang matakot. Isusugal ko ang buhay ko para sa sinumpaan kong paglilingkod sa Diyos at sa bayan.” (I asked Bp. Ramento if he was not afraid for his life. He said he already had one foot in the grave. He did not have to be afraid anymore. He would just gamble with his life in order to pursue his vow to serve God and the people.)
Sol said that Bishop Ramento’s life was indeed Pro Deo et Patria (For God and for Country). She said that the good bishop is a father to many IFI youth and priests. “Nagmulat siya sa marami sa amin hinggil sa isyung panlipunan.” (He awakened a lot of us, the youth, about social issues.)
His eldest son, Alberto Ramento II, also known as Aldos, talked of his father’s love for the poor.
Aldos said that most of his father’s stories were about the plight of the poor workers and
s. He said they, his family, lived a frugal life. “Itinuro niya sa amin paano mabuhay tulad ng masa.” (He taught us how to live like the masses.)
Aldos related, “Kapag nagsasaing sa bahay, kailangan sakto lang. Sasabihin niya maraming nagugutom. Paulit-ulit niyang sinasabi na ang sobra, kailangang ibibigay natin sa nangangailangan.” (When they were cooking rice at home, Bp. Ramento insisted that they cooked only what could be consumed. He told them repeatedly that whatever surplus they had should be given to those in need.)
Aldos, who served as his father’s sacristan, recalled that his father would always take him to places where the poor live. “Sa halip na resort sa Cavite, dadalhin niya ako noon sa komunidad ng mahihirap na mangingisda.” (Instead of bringing me to resorts in Cavite, he brought me to poor fisherfolk communities.)
Aldos said his father told him stories about the workers of the Saulog Transit who went on strike. Bishop Ramento met with the union members in the Church. When he went to college, Aldos said he met workers of Saulog transit who told him how his father helped them then.
Aldos said he had “the coolest Dad on earth.” Aldos said the bishop liked Bob Marley. “Get up! Stand up! and Exodus are his favorites.”
The eldest son revealed they knew of the death threats. “Pamutat na lang naming sa hapunan.” (They served as dessert for our dinner.) He said most of them were text messages.
Aldos said his father wanted that his remains be brought to the IFI Church in San Antonio in Cavite. “Gusto niya lagi, iyong pinakasimple.” (He always preferred the simplest.)
Aldos said his father’s urn will be turned over to the church. “Hanggang sa huli, pag-aari pa rin siya ng simbahan. Hanggang sa huli, siya ay para pa rin sa masa.” (Until the end, he is owned by the church. Until the end, he will be with the masses.) Bulatlat