It was about time when the Holy Father, in contact with the Papal Nuncio, had to appoint Rev. Fr. Rex Andrew C. Alarcon, one of Caceres’ greatest clergymen, to become the shepherd of the Diocese of Daet since Archbishop Gilbert Garcera had been transferred to the Archdiocese of Lipa. When I personally heard the news about an hour after the official announcement, I was both excited and proud for him considering that he is one of my professors and a close friend as well. Knowing that this new appointment would be, as Msgr. Noe Badiola states, a “loss for Caceres and a gain for Daet”, I am left with nothing to do but to cherish the experiences I had with him as a mentor, a supporter, a motivator, a friend and also a humorous priest.
It all started in 2008, when I was in second grade at the Naga Parochial School, Fr. Rex was the new director, following the sudden demise of Msgr. San Andres. I did not know him personally that time, considering the fact that I was not that aware of anything but studies, play time, and friends. I was in second grade when Fr. Rex took his position as director. My first impression of him was that he desires innovation, so during the first years of his directorship, he initiated the school’s physical improvement, because a lot of facilities were refurbished that year. As I continued on with my elementary studies, I observed that Fr. Rex is a kind of priest who is virtuous, well-loved by everyone, and a know-it-all priest. He would always make sure that all teachers and staff were doing their tasks, and students were learning in school. He also makes sure he is present during morning rituals and other school activities.
Years have passed, and I would soon enroll at the Minor Seminary after elementary graduation. Fr. Rex was delighted about the number of Parochialites who entered the seminary when it reopened. However, since the seminary had no teachers for high school yet, we continued our studies at NPS for seventh grade. He, then, became our teacher in Latin. He gave us a very interesting course – from memorizing Latin prayers and Latin sayings to basic grammar. There did I truly realize how strict but approachable he was as a professor.
It was only when I studied High School when I developed this friendship with Fr. Rex. During one of my birthdays, he opted to visit me at our house, even gave me a birthday gift, and spent time with our family. This was the first time I experienced his presence as a friend, but there was more to come than that experience.
As a seminarian at the Naga Cathedral, I had several encounters with him – breakfasts at the parish convent, masses, parties, and the like. He was not only that of a straightforward professor; he was also a motivator and a supporter. He is the kind of person who appreciates talents and never fails to encourage someone to keep up the good work. He would often see me play the keyboard in the mass or in other activities, and would tell me, “Matibay man talaga!”. I became empowered even by these simple words of encouragement. On breakfasts, he would show concern by asking how we are doing at the seminary or he would often ask “Pira na lang kamong Parokyalista sa seminaryo?” or I would ask him about Philosophy or about other things. Aside from that, I could see that he wants to test people of their abilities. He would often request me at certain NPS or Archdiocesan activities to assist especially at masses. At one instance, he tasked me to help at the Clergy Christmas Party last December 2018, wherein I was to prepare for the Name that Tune game and the rite for the Opening Liturgy. He was trying to test my skills and, if it wasn’t for his encouragement, I would have not been confident in doing the task. I was able to prove to him that I can be able to apply what I have learned at the seminary, in school, and in life.
Fr. Rex may be that clever and friendly priest, but he also could not get enough of humor. His hysterical laughs in some classes, like our Latin class, in talks, and even in some Masses, when at one point he could not get out of his laughter up to the extent that he had to let the concelebrant continue the mass for him. This entails the fact that he is not that of a mere serious person. His jokes made audiences laugh, but his own laughs got the audience even more laughing. This is why I idolize him because of his power to socialize.
Upon hearing the news of his new appointment, these experiences became nostalgic. Nevertheless, Fr. Rex continues to motivate me to keep up the good work as I go about my seminary formation. He is actually one of the priests who inspired me to dream of studying at the University of Santo Tomas for Theology. “Make history”, he said, in one of our conversations regarding the prestigious school. I am glad that my teacher is now a Bishop, and has the opportunity to become a mentor, a supporter, a motivator, perhaps a joker, and a good friend to others, just as he did it to me.