July 13, 2024

In two weeks, we will mark the first death anniversary of Bishop Emeritus Carlito J. Cenzon on June 26. The first Filipino CICM bishop and the first bishop of the Diocese of Baguio, Bishop Otto was a servant of the people. He is dearly missed and greatly loved by many.

At one time in 2011, Bishop Otto received kidnapping threats which he brushed off nonchalantly. He had given strict instructions to the Diocese priests that no ransom would be given for his safe return. He was prepared to die.

Reflections on the time reveal that former President Benigno S. Aquino III had come to the city and visited bishop to ask how he could help. As a result, then President Aquino had granted the bishop funding in the amount of P25 million for the fencing of Burnham Park covering the area of Baguio City National High School, Lion’s Club House, Kisad Road to the City Library.

The mainstream media announced the donation of the Office of the President and some minds thought that BishopOtto had the cold cash lying around in his office.

Unknown to the imaginative elements, the P25 million came in tranches from the Department of Public Works and Highways for the completion of work in that perimeter of Burnham Park and the bishop never saw the shadow of the money except for the fences that were erected for the amount.

The fencing of Burnham Park began in 2008, the year before the city’s centennial celebration. The completion of the project took 11 years and it was finally turned over to the city in January 2019 to then Mayor Mauricio Domogan. This is a lasting legacy left behind by Bishop Otto.

In 2001 during his first few years as bishop of the Diocese of Baguio, he approached his childhood friend, Victorino Agcaoili, regarding ways to raise funds for the building of the Diocese churches.

That year, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Church in Abatan, Buguias, Benguet needed reconstruction because the number of members had grown and even the school needed more classrooms.

Golf became the means to raise funds after avid golfers – General Nelson Eslao and James Alviar brought Bishop Otto to the driving range and on to the golf course. He was a natural golfer.

Banker Rolando de Guzman was called to complete the five pillars of the Bishop’s Cup in 2002 which later became the Bishop Carlito J. Cenzon Foundation, Inc. in 2009 with other founders like the late lawyer Ed Quiano, Dennis Sy, Rudy Asiatico, Romy Tio, Danny Galang, Rudy Sumineg, Willie Hernandez, Ed Camacho, and Boy Rillo.

In 2007, the ladies joined the organizing committee of the Bishop’s Cup “golf for-a-cause.”

The list of churches built since are the Abatan Church or Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Church in Abatan, Buguias, which also houses the San Isidro High School – 2003 to 2009; Bakun Church or Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish Church – 2010 – to 2012; Cabuyao Chapel or Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Chapel, Cabuyao, Tuba, Benguet – 2010; Pasdong Chapel or St. John the Evangelist Gimong Chapel, Atok, Benguet – 2010; La Trinidad Church or San Jose Parish Church, La Trinidad, Benguet – 2010 to  2019; Atab Church or Divine Mercy Parish Church, Suello Village, Baguio City – 2012  to 2019; Our Lady of The Way, Twin Peaks, Tuba, Benguet – 2015; and Christ the King Quasi-Parish of Bad-ayan, Buguias – 2019.

Because Bishop Otto listened to children too, a boy once asked him when he would repair the swings and see-saws at the Children’s Park. This inspired the repair and repainting of the Children’s Park facility in 2007.

The swings were restored and painted. The see-saws were functional and the other equipment repaired for the safety of the children. These were among the community projects supported by the golf funds which paved the way for the other community projects that included the SLU Boys High reunions – 2010, 2011; St Louis Girls High School reunion – 2012; Baguio City National High School homecoming – 2013; Burnham Park Orchidarium toilets – 2010; Burnham Park lighting in partnership with the Department of Energy and President Aquino; POSD traffic signs – 2008; LTO uniforms – 2009; Alternative Learning Systems (ALS) with Burnham Park gardeners – 2010 to 2011); ALS with Baguio City Jail – 2012 to 2018; Seranata – 2012; Baguio Oinkster – 2013; Typhoon Yolanda disaster fund – 2013; and Writ of Kalikasanover Mount Sto. Tomas – 2014 to date.

Others included financial assistance and sports events sponsorships that include thepre-Centennial Golf Tournament in 2008; BLOGA Tournament in 2009, 2013, and 2019; Nanoy Ilusorio Cup in 2009, 2010, and 2011; and Panagbenga tournament in 2010 and 2013.

But memories of the man that Bishop Otto was are in the hearts of many people, especially the children who spent their afternoons in his house. The child in him was awakened as he ate with them and drew with them in his last days as the Bishop of the Diocese of Baguio.

A year without him leaves a wish to listen to his stories again or to hear him sing his favorites with the karaoke.

For us, we miss fishing tilapia and pangasius with him in Caryana. We missed his birthday this year but we know he is in a better pain free world with his Father in Heaven.