BalikBayani République | Tony Alabastro
On his 41st birthday December 10, 2020, Manilenyo Zani Pacanza says: “Having Covid will make me stronger. I guess God still has a mission for me on earth.”
He falls sick early November when he spends 15 days in hospital, eight in Intensive Care Unit (ICU), in America.
He celebrates mass online, wears mask, follows social distancing in church. He goes on a wine tour Novovember 2; hikes 3.5 kilometers to see, 30 minutes out of Portland, Oregon, the 611-foot Multnomah Twin Falls icy water cascade November 4.
“I thought I have simple flu. When my aches turned to chills and fever, I have hard time breathing. My nurse-friend drives me to his hospital’s emergency room, in the nick of time.
“Three days later, I am told to rest and isolate after a positive result.
“I inform parishioners on Facebook. There is no outbreak in church. I didn’t get it in the parish. In the vineyard or hike trail, people wear masks, some don’t.
“I am a priest. I don’t have a family, wife or kids. I told God that if someone was supposed to die, I was willing for Him to take me instead of someone with a family.
“There was darkness in my soul. I felt helpless. They look at me as a pillar of faith and strength. They come to me for advice and guidance. But this experience has absolutely changed me spiritually.
“Hooked to a respirator in an ICU private room, I pray on Day3: “All my life I tried to be a good person, to love you and my neighbors. If you want to take now, do so quietly so I not suffer.
“When the Hospital Spiritual Chaplain Hailey O’Keef learned I had prepared a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order, she tells me on Day4 ‘not to give up’.
“Facebook messages from people I have not heard of in years prayed for me, wishing me well. They make me realize, emotionally, I have a spiritual family.
“November 19, Covid Day15, ICU Day 7: They let me walk again! I need to work out my legs.
“November 20: They send me home today! I’m still weak, need to quarantine and have oxygen.
“This December 14 weekend, instead of just one mass, I am able to do three masses, including the Feast of Guadalupe.
“My Christmas message: We have reason for joy. This, too, will pass. That alone is a sign of hope.
“This first day of 2021, I’m celebrating three masses: Filipino, English, and Spanish. I feel I’m leading a United Nations conference.
“Now I wake up and give thanks that I’m alive. All of us take that for granted. I give thanks for just waking up.
“Tom Hallman, Jr., Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, writes on The Oregonian about my Covid story and how faith played a crucial role in it.”
Ordained overseas, Father Zani celebrated his first Philippine mass June 10, 2017 at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Multinational Village, Paranaque.