Ever since I met Fr. Atong, he has been my confessor. I chose him from the beginning to hear my sins because “wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding” (Job 12:12). No one knows us better than our confessors, and so with most of the coristas, I can cry out to him: “You know my foolishness, my sins are not hidden from you” (Psalm 69:5)
Fr. Honorato Castigador, OP is one of the “big men” in the province. He is well known and respected within and outside the Order and you can even spot his face in documentaries and history books. He served the Dominican Province of the Philippines as a formator, a chaplain, a spiritual director, a professor, a prior, rector of the Central Seminary and of Letran Calamba and as a Provincial, and continues to serve the Church in all vitality and enthusiasm. At age 72, he still plays basketball with his classic “Ayayay’s” and gives talks in different parts of the country. In spite of his old age, he remains a strong and active worker in the Lord’s vineyard even obediently accepting a new assignation in the far mission area of Sri Lanka.
Most of my moments with Fr. Atong are met with corrections in the classroom if not in the confessional. He isn’t called “Castigador” for nothing. But his sharp rebukes are always infused with a fatherly affection concerned only for the wellbeing of his child. His remarks do not humiliate but rather inspire one to do better. In confessions, he never belittles nor condemns but encourages one to strive harder for the path to holiness. Whenever I remember Fr. Atong, I hear his signature laughter which resounds in the classroom during his lectures. A true intellectual, he continues to be knowledgeable with the vicissitudes of our time while staying detached from the pomps and vanities of the world. His lessons in class either give color to the past or bring one to the transcendent.
Fr. Atong is one person who reminds me that happiness is indeed possible in this kind of life. He definitely belongs to what Greek tradition calls kalogeroi, “beautiful old men”. His counsels during confessions reveal the truth; his mere presence brings forth grace. I cannot articulate enough how I admire him. As a young Dominican, I can only thank him for his many efforts in the Order and can only dream of following his footsteps as an authentic and an exemplary Dominican.
By Br. Eugene Dominic V. Aboy, OP