We, the people of Sarrat, have a new reason to be very proud and feel blessed nowadays. Why? Because of the recent elevation to Cardinal of our very own Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, DD. At present, he is the Archbishop of Cotabato. His family roots are from Sarrat. He is the youngest child of Mr. Zosimo Quevedo and Mrs. Ursula Beltran Quevedo, both of Barangay No. 2, this town. Both were teachers, and the young Orlando was aged 8, when the family migrated to Mindanao in 1947.
The Archbishop was born in Laoag, Ilocos Norte because the parents were then living in Laoag where they were teaching at the Shamrock Elementary School in 1939. Later, he went to grade school at the Sarrat Central School.
For the record, he will be the first Ilocano Cardinal of the Catholic Church The newspaper Daily Inquirer, in announcing the appointment of the new Cardinal by Pope Francis, said he is “God’s gift to Mindanao.” He is God’s gift to Ilocandia, nay the entire country, as well.
Archbishop Quevedo belongs to the eminent Ramon Racela clan that owned the property where the new Presidencia or municipal hall is located. His cousins, whom we see from time to time, include retired Justice of the Court of Appeals Jose Racela Jr., Mrs. Betty Factora Merritt of the Board of Nursing, Atty. Teodoro Quevedo Pena, who was former Minister of Natural Resources during the administration of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, and Mr. Max J. Edralin Jr., an icon in the public relations industry. He has a sister, Nelly, and two brothers, Vincent and Zosimo Jr., who now live in Manila.
We remember that during the year 2000, the municipality of Sarrat, together with the Sarrat National High School Alumni Association, honored the Archbishop with the Millennium Role Model Award citing him as outstanding Sarrateno at the turn of the century during the town fiesta celebration. The last time he visited Sarrat was two years ago when he attended the inauguration of the Diocesan Museum located at the ruins of the old convent. Among those who graced the occasion with him were the former First Lady, now Congresswoman Imelda R. Marcos and Archbishop of Lingayen Socrates Villegas, current president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
The announcement of Archbishop Quevedo’s elevation to Cardinal was greeted as a most welcome development in the Catholic church. He is described as brilliant and courageous, and an intellectual giant who is expected to hasten the peace process in Mindanao and contribute to a more cordial collaboration between the church and state in advancing the material and spiritual well-being of the people. He is known to be working behind the scenes to help the negotiations being held in Malaysia for the establishment of a new Bangsamoro autonomous region.
We are told that the appointment of Archbishop Quevedo was not expected. He was already preparing for his retirement at 75 on March 11. Relatives have been preparing to go Cotabato for the celebration. He only learned about his elevation to Cardinal on television news. When Mr. Max Edralin congratulated him after reading his new appointment in the newspapers, the new Cardinal replied on his cellular phone saying “Maraming Salamat Manong. God’s love is double-edged, totally surprising and humbling.” Archbishop Quevedo is due for retirement but by tradition, he can stay as a Cardinal until aged 80, it was learned.
Church record showed that the young Orlando studied at the Oblate College in Washington, DC and was ordained priest there at age 25 in 1964. He went to the Catholic University in America for his MA and to the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila for his doctorate degree. He took up Theology of Religious Life at St. Louis University in Missouri.
He has a distinguished career. He became a bishop at the age of 41 and then was appointed as the first Filipino president of the University of Notre Dame in Mindanao where, 20 years earlier, he studied and finished high school there. Owing to his impressive contributions to reforms in the educational system, he received the TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men) award for education. Later , he was reassigned to Vigan, Ilocos Sur in 1986 and served as Archbishop of Nueva Segovia for 12 years before becoming Archbishop of Cotabato in 1998. As president of CBCP from 1999 to 2003, it was learned, that he himself prepared all pastoral letters and statements of the CBCP.
Archbishop Quevedo also served two terms as Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops. Former Senator Francisco Tatad, a devout Opus Dei, recalled that Archbishop Quevedo had high regards of him by his brethren in the College of Bishops. So in 1994, he got the highest number of votes in the selection of regional representatives to sit in the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. One story in that meeting is that, in the writing of the vision of the Synod in several languages, Archbishop Quevedo was selected to write the English version.
Archbishop Quevedo will be one of the two active Cardinals in the Philippines.The other one is Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila. The two other Cardinals – Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and Ricardo Cardinal Vidal are now both retired.
Archbishop Quevedo is scheduled to go to Rome for his installation by Pope Francis on February 22. Viva Cardinal Quevedo ! Viva Sarrat !