Mar Bernardo

Mar Bernardo was one of those few classmates at Philippine Bible College-Baguio whose career I had been watching. He had the looks, the build, the talent and the charisma that could attract anyone at first glance.

Anyone in those days too would remember Dale Chilton, our teacher whose goal it was to make us learn Jesus by digesting the book of John. I was sitting beside Mardonio in that class. I was a poor student, with nothing much to brag about, learning the book of John by sitting in the class of the talented Dale Chilton; a poor Ilonggo trying to learn Ilocano by sitting beside Mardonio.  Dale would begin the class by asking his ministry students to lead a prayer.  It was a custom we never questioned. Now, let me tell you how he said it, but it was my mistake probably because I was not listening well. He said, in a tone so low and so succinctly:  “Shall we ask Erdardo to lead us in a prayer,” and Dale was looking at me. So with the help of the structural grammar I had mastered from Eduardo Montoyo Sr.,  my English teacher in high school, and the pronunciation I had picked from some Americans, I said the prayer as best I could. I think I said it as sincerely as I could, since we had been taught that the Lord of the heaven and the earth would hear a prayer sincerely offered, bad grammar or not. I finished saying that prayer even  before Dale Chilton turned his eyes on me. Then he stared at me, his European eyeballs like that of Jesus gazing at Peter after the three great denials:  “Are you Bernardo?”

Mardonio looked at me with an impish smile. I thought too that the eyes of everyone in class were on me. It was an embarrassing day, the beginning of my many embarrassing days at Philippine Bible College. There were more to follow, but I better not tell you.

I heard later that Mar had launched a career in banking in Manila and was courting Revelina Belo. Lina was one of those ladies at PBC-Samar Avenue with whom I had long nights of conversation on religious issues. I had thought that this lady should marry a preacher; and marrying Mardonio was one of the best decisions she must have made. I however was not there to wish them luck at their wedding.

Our paths—Mardonio’s and mine—would again cross because of one circumstance. He too knew Samuel Montoyo, because they both worked in the same bank—the PCI Bank. What brought them close was the fact that both were Christians. I knew Mar being a classmate of his for a long time, but I knew Sammy like I knew the palm of my hand.  It was Sammy’s father, Eduardo Montoyo Sr. who converted me.

Churches in Metro Manila who had both Mar and Lina as members knew both as good assets and a great help in the Lord’s kingdom. While some of us have chosen to work full time in the kingdom being supported by the churches we are working with, Mar chose to work for a church and supported it. “Tent-making preacher” was a term Mar and I and the rest of the PBC students had first heard from Ezequiel Sandalo lecturing at Clark Lectureship. Mar practiced the craft; in his own small way, he was preaching while “making tents”—working in a bank.

It is too bad that a life like Mar’s had been snuffed short while he was at his early fifties. He could have done more. When I say it’s “too bad,” it is the human in me saying that, but it is the Lord’s will and wish that Mar should now leave this earth and claim his inheritance in the heavenlies. Mar had done the best he could while with us. While we who are alive are still struggling to be victorious, Mar is ALREADY victorious. He has just gone ahead and is seeing now what our eyes will yet see, and experiencing now what our bodies will yet experience.

Let me close this short post with a hope and prayer for the loved ones whom Mar had left behind.  They too will fare well and good. It is a godly promise anyone in Christ can always bank on, can always count on, can always hope for.  God bless them.

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