While searching for news about Filipino Catholicism online, I inadvertently discovered that the great Catholic apologist, Fr. Gerardo “Gerry” Tapiador, passed away five years ago. Fr. Gerry made regular TV guestings on shows where Catholic viewpoints were needed. The last time I saw him was on GMA Network with broadcast journalist Howie Severino. They were discussing the beatification of Pope John Pall II. Fr. Gerry also had a radio show in the 90’s that I listened to intermittently. He had that distinct unhurried and mild voice that listeners could easily distinguish and appreciate despite the gravity of his expertise which is Catholic Apologetics.
I attended a public school frequented by born again Christians. They conducted regular Bible studies. We also had Catechism, but the Born Again Christians were far more vigorous. They brought snacks and toys to entice us children to join them. We also happen to have relatives who left the Church and became active in this Christian sect. It is during this time that my curiosity was stirred about certain Catholic practices. I started reading about what other religions were saying.
Many, many years ago, Kabayan Noli de Castro’s defunct “Magandang Gabi Bayan” showed a religious debate among different religious sects. Fr. Gerry represented the Catholic Church. De Castro inquired about the Bible versions his guests were using; everyone had their own modern and translated versions of it, but Fr. Gerry had the Septuagint (LXX) version. The earliest existing Greek translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew. He was fluent in Greek and Hebrew. There was no doubt who was the real Bible authority among the panelists.
I was probably 13 years old when I met Fr. Gerry in person. It happened at St Paul’s Library in Makati. We lived next door to it. In fact, the bookstore’s raised parking space was our play area. Our eldest brother attended the adjacent Saint Paul Seminary (SPS). During that meeting, I asked him what book would best answer inquiries other religions make about the Church. Upon hearing my inquiry, I could then tell that he was a bit perplexed, perhaps because of my young age. He suggested this booklet, “The Catholic Church Has The Answer,” by Paul Whitcomb. After having acquired a copy of my own, I had read it repeatedly from cover to cover. It kept me Catholic. In fact, I never owned any other books on Catholic apologetics after that. I no longer have the original yellow booklet that I bought that day. It was lost when we moved out of Makati (a copy of it in digital form is now available in EWTN’s website).
Part of his introduction in the Diocese of Novaliches’ website reads, “Fr. Gerry was born in Rome, Italy. He graduated at San Carlos Seminary (Batch 1981) and was sent to Rome and Jerusalem for further biblical studies. He was the first Filipino to deliver a valedictory speech in Hebrew at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem… a devoted lover and servant of the Word of God, he served as Regional Director of the National Capital Region for the Episcopal Commission on the Biblical Apostolate in the Philippines. He is also an active member of the Philippine Bible Society (PBS) whose Bible Museum at its Headquarters in U.N. Avenue, Manila is embellished by his contributions. He has also published several materials to aid people in appreciating and studying the Word of God; they include among others The Mysterious Seed: A Simplified Manual on the Tools and the Principles of Interpreting the Bible (1993), The Roman Catholic Faith and the Bible, Hark the Herald: How the Bible Tells Us When Jesus Was Born (2005).”
The last time I met Fr. Gerry was during the wake of a love one, Doña Amparo Keyser, in Súcat, Parañaque. After the requiem Mass, I approached him and retold the story I shared here. How did it turn out?, he asked. I’m still Catholic, I said. We both laughed. We had a very brief exchange, but I doubt he remembered that boy from some 20 years before, knowing him as a busy man. I thanked him for what he did and his work in general. I felt that was important. There are no longer a lot of priests around like Fr. Gerry.
Descanse en paz, Padre Gerardo.