THE body of Msgr. Esteban “Eser” Binghay momentarily lay in state at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish (IHMP) shrine in Minglanilla. I attended yesterday’s mass before his remains were brought to his hometown in Balamban town where he is to be buried. The IHMP was the last parish he held before his stay at the Theotokos chapel in Carcar City.
His relatives and friends called him “Eser” and not the common nickname “Teban.” I didn’t get a chance to ask him that because we were but nodding acquaintances. I simply called him “Mons.“ But my older son was lucky enough to have him preside over the confirmation ritual that he went through and which was held at the campus of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy, the school where he completed his elementary school studies. Mons could no longer stand for the entire duration of a mass then and for the confirmation mostly sat on a wheelchair.
I was a young activist when Mons held the Guadalupe parish. I wasn’t a parishioner and didn’t care about the goings-on at the church but it was during his stint there that the church and its surroundings began to acquire the look that befits the “residence” of Cebu City’s other important patron (next to the Sto. Niño). Then Binghay was transferred to the Sto. Rosario parish during my early years in SunStar Cebu nearby, then to Minglanilla where I brought my family after Sitio Kawayan in Sambag 2 was hit by a fire in 2003.
Binghay gave parishioners a vibe different from those of the other priests, one that made him easily approachable, like a grandfather. He broke down personal walls and seemed to me like he didn’t want to be too formal and ritualistic. His homilies weren’t as prepared and rigid as those of, say, the late Ricardo Cardinal Vidal. He was spontaneous and loose. He even instructed the choir on how to sing a song during one mass I attended in which he was the presider. The sight was amusing, but the lack of formality endeared him to many mass goers.
Of course, I heard some bad things said about him, especially after a group of priests took over the IHMP’s rein. I won’t dwell on those things because I don’t have the facts. Suffice it to say that the good memories of Binghay’s stay in Minglanilla remain. Like during his stints in Guadalupe and Sto. Rosario parishes, Binghay left an indelible imprint in Minglanilla. He thus will be remembered for long.
When Archbishop Jose Palma took over after Cardinal Vidal’s death, his first few moves included the replacement of the archdiocese’s old pillars with younger priests. Binghay’s death showed Palma’s move was apt. Now the archdiocese is being led by a generally younger batch whose leadership is still relatively unproven. But these new leaders of the archdiocese can learn from the good deeds of those who preceded them.
I know there are out there many Catholics who eagerly pounce on every misdeed committed by some priests and use these to bash their own Church. I hope they will also pounce on the good deeds priests like Binghay left behind.