How does one capture the life of a great man in a single article? Perhaps it is best to start at the beginning, with my first encounter with Fr. Anscar Chupungco.
When I first met Fr. Anscar, I had already known his name and face. Of course, as a high-school student of San Beda College Alabang (SBCA), where he was the rector-president at the time, it was the norm to be aware of the names and faces of the administrators of our school.
However, Fr. Anscar was far from the norm. With his shock of white hair and formal stance, he was set apart from the rest, and easy to spot even in crowded areas.
He was also set apart by his methods. As the rector-president, he had asked each student club as well as the parent-teacher councils to present their plans and programs for the school year.
This came as a surprise to us students, since teachers and administrators who were not our club moderators never usually asked about our plans.
Thus, we were pressured by the sudden request to prepare a presentation worthy of the rector-president.
But when the time to present came, we discovered that we had nothing to be nervous about. Fr. Anscar listened quietly and kindly, even chuckling at several funny and happy pictures of club members.
After everyone had finished presenting, he explained that it was his goal to be aware of our plans so he would know how to support us. He also shared his vision of every department, club and council supporting each other, building a single united community within the SBCA.
Such was his hands-on approach as the rector-president of SBCA. Under his administration, the school flourished in various areas. He was also the prime mover in the unification of the student councils and publications of three Bedan colleges: San Beda Mendiola’s College of Arts and Sciences, their College of Nursing, and San Beda Alabang’s College of Arts and Sciences.
A special area was set in the SBCA College of Arts and Sciences and dubbed Plaza ’SangBedista in honor of the collaboration among the three.
Besides these contributions to the campus, he could always be found supporting the Bedans themselves. At the cheerleading competitions of my sister’s varsity team, we would always find Fr. Anscar in Bedan colors, his white hair contrasting with his vibrant red shirt. Members of the team would line up to ask for his blessing and make mano. He also kept his office open, welcoming any student, parent or personnel who would seek him out for advice or a chat.
In 2008, we bade him goodbye as he returned to Malaybalay, Bukidnon. There he revived the Paul VI Institute of Liturgy, a liturgical school he had founded in 1993. He spent his last years working on liturgical formation there, as well as writing books, facilitating retreats and conducting seminars.
On the dawn of Jan. 9, Fr. Anscar passed away after a heart attack. He was said to have been found ready to leave to celebrate the 5 a.m. mass at the Transfiguration Monastery Church.
Fr. Anscar Chupungco, OSB, born Jose Herminio J. Chupungco on Nov. 10, 1939, took the name Anscar when he became a monk of the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat. At the age of 26, he was ordained priest and had already earned his licentiate in philosophy and theology (finishing magna cum laude for both) from the University of Santo Tomas, before going on to pursue further studies in Rome and becoming a prominent liturgist of international recognition. Despite all of his accomplishments, he busied himself with celebrating the liturgy and giving service to the community until his last hour.
How does one capture the life of a great man in a single article? To echo the sentiments shown by a fellow Bedan at Fr. Anscar’s necrological service, it is an impossible task to sum up the life of Fr. Anscar in one message, one article or even one book.
Fr. Anscar’s life extends beyond his recorded achievements and awards, going on to every student he mentored, to every friend he supported, and to every person he inspired. Every life he touched is an extension of his, and it would take hundreds of books to capture his life in full.
Rest in peace, Fr. Anscar. The earth’s loss is heaven’s gain.