We’re living proof that we can rewrite our life story to find a happy ending. But then, no good story ever turns out the way we expect it. But I’d like to think there’s something that speaks to the incredible power of the life stories we tell about ourselves. After all, everyone is a born author… of his or her own life story.
Born on January 6, 1949 in Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte. Fr. Gonzalo Tan Villamil Jr. said that the call to priestly ministry came early on while he was in his teens. After finishing elementary at Liloy Elementary School, he opted to enroll at Saint Vincent’s College. His exposure to seminarians in the religious-run school could have motivated him to join them as an aspirant.
“It was not smooth and steady climb to the priesthood”, he shared. “Over the years I pondered on my trails; on my journey in life. It wasn’t just tough; it was really like journeying through the wilderness. The drive to achieve what I wanted in life was so intense but the force which tried to pull me down was equally strong or… even stronger. Honestly, getting into college during those years was like climbing the highest mountain”, he added.
From his earliest memory, he recalls himself as a simple houseboy. He cooks, cleans, feeds the livestock, and does other manual labors. During those times, he felt that his parents love him the less. “Maybe because I was just an adopted son,” he shared. One time, when young Gonzalo was attending the mass, he daydreams about becoming a priest. He was so enchanted at the priest presiding the mass. Yet his fantasy was cut short when he reflected at his present condition. “It was stupid thinking that I’m going to be a priest. During those years even becoming an altar boy was a luxury”, he added.
But no one can lose sight of what he desire. Even if there are moments when he believes that the world and others are stronger-his secret: He did not surrender. “A few months during my college days, I once again felt God calling me”, he shared.
Fr. Villamil’s free hour is indulged in writing. His literary attempts clutched him to be an Editor in Chief in Our Seminary, a seminary publication of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Bohol, where he took up his Philosophy. He then met a foreign friend, a writer of Serra International, who scribbles his dream to reality.
There was no turning back after he made the decision to pursue a priestly vocation; he was finally ordained priest on March 07, 1978, after finishing his Theology Studies at the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary. “My ordination is the greatest gift from God”, he shared.
Msgr. Gonzalo’s priestly assignments include the following: Chaplain of the Hospitals and Parochial Vicar of Holy Rosary Cathedral 1999-2003; Parish Priest of Immaculate Conception Parish, Roxas, Z.N.-2004; and at present as Parish Priest of Saint James the Greater Parish, Dapitan City
To many who have had the chance to work with him, Fr. Gonzalo is the charismatic leader who leads by example and journeys with people in their everyday struggles. Widely known to be consultative, he takes the time to listen to the people’s views and opinions while remaining firm and decisive in his stand on issues and concerns.
“As a priest, I took this journey with them. I witnessed how people struggled and I myself struggled with them. “I learned humility before people, zeal for homily preparation, and heart for people. One of my challenges as a priest was to recognize and overcome each day my own weaknesses as I served them”, he shared.
After almost 32 years as a priest, Fr. Villamil reflects, “Prudence and wisdom are needed to be joined in ministry”. He feels very inspired in Confession and during Holy Eucharist. “God trusts me so much and He uses me even though I have weaknesses”, he said.
“My work is hard, but I find it rewarding. My life has lots of pains, but I suffer them gladly. I have no regrets at all about my life or doubts that I am where I should be. In the end, this is about the Lord’s Will and not mine”, he shared. “To capsulize everything, life is a journey and he who walks with the True Guide in life will be able to find his way no matter how long, no matter how far our journey will be. And so long as I live; so long as there is God as the center of my life, I will continue my journey. If I’ll be given a chance to travel back in time, I’m still going to choose to be a priest,” he concluded.
We may be trudging on rocky roads and rough hills along life’s way; the treks may be so lonely and risky; we may be clouded with trials and obstacles; doors may be closed upon us, but rest assured that God will open the windows for us. God’s grace is just sufficient and ever present for those who call on HIM.
I don’t know just how Fr. Villamil’s story will end. But it has a good beginning. After unfolding the past pages of Fr. Villamil’s life and knowing “what kept him going” I proceed and continue my journey full tank- a journey which its end and success rest in God.