MANILA — The Filipino cardinal, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, once worked as a “muchacho” (servant) in the United States.
Like many of his fellow Filipinos working abroad, Tagle had to take a menial job when his scholarship fund dried up while he was studying in the United States in the early 1990s.
Tagle ran out of funds when Fr. Carl Peter, a prominent American theologian who had secured the scholarship for him, died during his last year ofgraduate studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington.
He applied for and got a job as an assistant at the university’s library, according to Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, the “dean of Filipino theologians” and a friend of Tagle.
Arevalo said that because Tagle did not introduce himself as a priest, he was assigned to do “dirty work.”
“He did not tell anybody, and he started working as a “muchacho” in the library. He applied for a job as a working student and he was carrying books, doing dirty work there until they found out that he was a priest,” Arevalo said in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“He introduced himself as a student and they gave him a job. [When] they found out he was a priest, he continued working. But they stopped making him carry boxes and things like that,” Arevalo said.
“When his mother found out, she cried. The Tagles are not very wealthy but they have some money. Both mother and father worked for Equitable Bank.
They could have sent him more money, or his brother who was working [in the United States] could have, but Chito (Tagle’s nickname) did not tell his brother,” Arevalo said.
“He did his work quietly. He did not want to burden other people. Later on, while I was talking with him, he said he found it quite hard doing his studies while trying to earn the money he needed. This is the kind of person he is,” Arevalo said of the Prince of the Church Eleven years later, the once lowly “muchacho” became one of the six newest “princes” of the Roman Catholic Church. Later, Pope Benedict XVI elevated Tagle and five other churchmen to the College of Cardinals, the body that will elect the next Pope.
Tagle completed his doctoral studies in theology and graduated summa cum laude from Catholic University of America in 1991. He is now an internationally recognized theologian and is considered a rising star in the Catholic Church in Asia.
“As archbishop of Manila, he’s very intelligent, but without any ego. Somebody else who is as intelligent and who has the credentials that he has would have had an ego and so on, but he is a man of great intelligence [and] great simplicity and humility,” Arevalo said.
“Very few other bishops in the Philippines have that kind of competence, which is internationally recognized.
It’s not just us here in the Philippines [who are] saying he’s a great theologian,” he added.