Everyone fondly called him “Fr. Candy”—he would always give candies to students during their birthdays and during Mass.
Even now, I still can’t believe he passed away. He died after a cardiac arrest last week a few days after what would be his last Mass. If I list down all the things students, staff, and alumni loved about Father Andy, it wouldn’t fit in this space. It’s no surprise why a few hours after his death, he was No. 6 in the trending topics on Twitter in the Philippines.
I remember being excited to see “Fr. Candy” during our monthly Mass at school, especially in August, my birthday month. With other celebrators, I would be called to receive the St. Benedict medals and candies from him. He would give us Cloud 9 chocolates, Mentos, or XO candies.
He was always there for us, during our First Communion, retreats, confessions, and graduations—he enriched our identity as Christians, and as Bedans.
Through the years, Fr. Andy struggled with diabetes, and soon was on a wheelchair. It was ironic that a man who gave away candies would suffer such illness, but this didn’t deter him from celebrating Mass and giving out candies to students.
He knew how to connect to people, especially children. “Even if he was struggling, he would always say ‘yes’ to celebrate Mass,” says Fr. Gerard De Villa, OSB, at the requiem Mass for Fr. Andy. “It was his way of celebrating life.”
For the homily, he would choose a word relating to the reason we celebrate monthly Masses. Every July, to mark the feast day of our patron St. Benedict, he would give a meaning for every letter. For instance, B was for “Be children of light and not children of darkness.” Then he would let everyone guess the meaning of the next letters. Everyone would participate and would be given candies.
He would give confessions. Students have interesting stories of Fr. Andy, some amusing. The most common was about how Fr. Andy would look like he was napping while a student was confessing; Fr. Andy would wake up only after the confession. Again, we received candies after confession, which made us somehow look forward to confessing our sins.
He was extraordinary, and he was able to soften the hearts of even the most difficult of students.
Most of my batchmates were at the wake, as well as students who hadn’t visited school in a long time. It was like a homecoming, only it was to pay their last respects to their father, mentor, and friend.
His death was hard to accept. I expected to cry during his wake, but when I saw him at rest with a smile on his face, I didn’t feel so sad. I knew he didn’t have to suffer anymore. His pictures reminded me of how much he smiled when he gave us candy.
While we were growing up, he made us value what it is to be a Bedan. “Much of the good in us today was shaped by the fatherly care Fr. Andy lovingly showered us, from the earliest days of our childhood,” Philip Sanvictores, a graduate of San Beda Manila, says in his Facebook. “Fr. Andy helped me see God,” was the banner of most Bedans in their Facebook pages.
He wanted us to be good children, to grow up to become good adults––and while that was not an easy thing to do, he was a huge inspiration to everyone. Fr. Andy reminded us over and over again of the simple things we could do to become what God wanted us to be.
San Beda now has an empty place that will never be filled. He will truly be missed by his family, friends, fellow Benedictines, San Beda staff, students, teachers, and alumni. Fr. Andy will forever be remembered by the people whose lives he has come across.
We love you, Father Andy! We thank God that you came into our lives.