Remembering Father Manny Ombao, who inspires and cares

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(Photo by John Michael Pineda / jpineda@umatuna.org)

By John Michael D. Pineda
Umatuna Si Yu’os

Father Manuel P. Ombao, also known as Father Manny, passed away early morning of Nov. 11, 2017 at St. Luke’s Medical Center – Global City in Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines. He was 71.

On April 13, 1946, Father Manny was born in the southernmost part of Luzon, in the city of Sorsogon in the Bicol Region of the Philippines. At the age of 24, he was ordained a priest on Nov. 28, 1970 at the Diocese of Sorsogon, serving in various ministry in the Philippines and on pastoral work abroad in Saipan.

In 1994, Father Manny began his ministry on Guam and served as chaplain of the Guam Memorial Hospital for four years until 1998. He then became the pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Inarajan for six years then until 2004.

Ten years since he began his ministry on Guam, Father Manny then became the pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Toto. A few years later, Father Manny was incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Agaña in 2007.

In 2008, Father Manny went to San Juan Bautista Catholic Church in Ordot as parochial vicar. Eight years later, on Sept. 30, 2016, Father Manny was appointed as the pastor of the Ordot parish by then-Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Agaña Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, SDB.

The wake service and burial for Father Manny is scheduled to take place in Sorsogon City on Nov. 22, 2017. A corresponding Memorial Mass was scheduled to be celebrated at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica in Hagåtña on Nov. 16, Thursday at 12:10 p.m.

Father Jeff San Nicolas was the main celebrant of the Memorial Mass assisted by Deacon Frank Tenorio who read the Gospel. Fr. Manuel “Jun” Trenchera, Jr. was the homilist of the Mass who spoke of Father Manny from knowing him in his first years as a priest.

“We have come to this celebration not to praise Father Manny, but to pray for him,” said Father Trenchera as he began his homily. “Let us praise… for the Lord who made it possible for Father Manny to do praiseworthy things.”

Father Trenchera continued, “He was ordained by Pope Paul VI during his visit to the Philippines in Nov. 28, 1970. He was assigned as parochial vicar of St. Michael Church in Irosin, Sorsogon; that was the first time I met Father Manny because I was there… I was 15 years old and I was head sacristan of that church.

“His zeal in the ministry encouraged me to aspire to become a priest like him.”

Father Trenchera said that he had a video conversation with Father Manny the week before while at St. Luke’s Hospital, “He was weak and said he couldn’t get up from bed and that he was in pain in his whole body.”

Father Trenchera said that Father Manny insisted to undergo therapy so he could walk again and come back to Guam to resume his duties as pastor of San Juan Bautista Church, “In the critical moments of his life, his thoughts were about continuing his ministry as a priest to his people, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Sister Dorothy Lettiere, RSM, who served at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Inarajan while Father Manny was there said, “I was privileged to be in Inarajan the whole time that Father Manny was there. He was one of the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate, humble man that I ever met.

“He always went out to the people and served them well. He was a man of God, a man of holiness,” said Sister Lettiere as she fought back some tears, “He brought me closer to God. I always admired him so much.”

Sister Lettiere shared a story about how her late mother who visited Guam in 2000 for her silver jubilee and stayed at Inarajan. Upon meeting Father Manny she was drawn to him because “there was something so approachable, and so wonderful and comfortable about being with him that she loved so much.

“As a matter of fact, she said to me before she died,” Sister Lettiere shared with tears in her eyes, “she said ‘make sure in my coffin, there is a picture of Father Manny, and also, the cup that he gave me where it says, ‘I thank my God for you’ and on the top, he put ‘to my adopted mom, from your adopted son.’”

Sister Lettiere said that even though her family lived thousands of miles away, Father Manny was very close to them, “I’ll always be grateful to him for being so close to my family and caring about them.”

The parish of San Juan Bautista celebrated Mass followed by the rosary nightly right after hearing about the news Father Manny’s death last Saturday. The last Mass is being celebrated tonight, Sunday, Nov. 19, beginning with the rosary at 6 p.m. then Mass at 6:30 p.m. followed by dinner. The parish extends their invitation to pray for their pastor, the late Father Manny.