Abito Series: When God’s plan prevails

The journey to the priesthood of Rev. Fr. Rodrigo “Ric” Eguia

For many priests I know, becoming a priest has always been a childhood dream or a vision in their younger years. But not with Rev. Fr. Rodrigo “Ric” Eguia, parish priest of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Rodriguez (Montalban), Rizal.

His becoming a priest was never a dream. In fact, he as a child wasn’t even in his mother’s plans, he had other plans as well, but God clearly had a better plan for him.

“My ‘real’ dream was to raise my own family. I didn’t expect that one day, God will call me to the priesthood. I wanted to be an engineer so I finished Electrical Engineering in college. After college, I got a job and had a girlfriend,” shared Eguia.

While he attended regular Sunday masses, that’s about it. He even studied in a Catholic School for Boys ran by priests, but was never attracted to becoming a priest himself. He wasn’t even active in his parish.

The recurring dream

It was when Eguia was 25 years old when he started having short, recurring, but interrelated dreams.

In his first dream, he saw a mysterious man dressed like a shepherd. He was alone sitting on a big, white living rock. He looked sad and in deep thoughts. In his second dream, he saw the man again, calling other men, but Eguia ignored him. In his third dream, he saw the man again, sitting on the white, living rock and talking to other men who’ve probably responded to his call.

“I became curious about what the man was saying as I can hear his loud voice even from afar. He was telling the other men that ‘the world is so sad today. Many people are lost without someone shepherding them’,” said Eguia.

In his fourth dream, Eguia was walking this time, when he saw the man again. He tried avoiding him by going the other way, but the man followed him. When he could no longer avoid him, the latter approached him, ‘Do you want to become one of my shepherds?”

“I was speechless. I thought of what he said so I asked him, ‘Why me? I’m one of the lost sheep who also needed a shepherd.’ But the man didn’t answer and just smiled at me,” said Eguia.

He never discovered who the man was. He didn’t even bother to ask who he was in his dream. All he could remember was that man was a shepherd and he was asking him if he wanted to become one of his shepherds.

After that, he never saw the man again in his dreams. Eguia didn’t believe in the meaning of dreams, but he felt something was different in them.

Avoiding the call

Eguia admitted that he tried forgetting about his dreams, but as time went by, it bothered him so much that it was already affecting him. It felt like a calling that he didn’t like to respond to.

When he can’t avoid it any longer, he decided to consult a priest to find out the meaning of his dreams. The latter told him that maybe was being called to the priesthood.

“I got scared at what he told me. I couldn’t believe it. It’s impossible! I’m a sinner. No one will believe me if I become a priest,” he said.

So he ignored the calling again and tried to disregard what the priest told him. He tried to run and hide. And worst, to show God he’s not worthy of becoming a priest, Eguia got a second girlfriend and went on doing sinful things.

“My friends and I went to see this live show called, ‘Toro’ where we would watch one couple (girl and boy) make love in front of us. But while we’re drinking beers and watching, I heard the voice of God asking me, ‘Is this the life you want?’. I felt very ashamed to God that no matter how hard I try to hide or how badly I sin, He didn’t leave me,” said Eguia.

Surrendering to God

Eguia felt more confused like he’s going out of his mind. He couldn’t focus now on his job so he decided to take a vacation and visited his province. It was Sunday so he went to church and fell in line to receive the Holy Eucharist.

“While I was in line approaching the altar, I was staring at this huge image of Christ in the crucifix. I talked to him and said, ‘Lord, I’m tired of running away. I don’t know where to hide anymore. If you’re calling me, let your will be done. Show me the way’,” he said.

He started crying to the point of wailing after receiving the holy communion. People started staring at him wondering what’s happening to him, even as he was left alone inside the church, he continued crying.

“I couldn’t believe I said, ‘yes’ to God’s call. After crying, I felt relief. I felt like a newborn baby who just came out of his mother’s womb,” said Eguia.

That unexpected phone call

When he got back to work a few days after, he received an unexpected call from a college friend with whom he hadn’t talked in years.

His friend was apparently asking him if he could accompany him to Tagaytay as he was interested to enter the seminary. He was startled because this friend knew nothing about his dreams. He then wondered if this was God’s answer to his plea to show him the way.

Eguia gladly accompanied his friend to Tagaytay and to his surprise when they arrived he couldn’t believe what he saw, the name of the seminary was ‘Tahanan ng Mabuting Pastol’ (Home of the Good Shepherd).

“I felt the shivers ran down through my spine. I heard God telling me, ‘You have to be here.’ The truth is, I didn’t want to leave the place anymore. That’s the first time I felt peace inside me,” said Eguia.

Apparently, after inquiring on how to enter the seminary, his friend decided right there and then that he wasn’t ready yet and had to think it over. Eguia thought it was such a waste if his friend won’t enter the seminary, so he told him he will enter instead.

“My friend thought I was joking. What I didn’t tell him was I actually went back to the seminary and applied. The Rector then was Fr. Chito Tagle (now Cardinal Tagle of the Archdiocese of Manila) gave me a chance and told me to report to the seminary once a month for vocation direction,” said Eguia.

After a few monthly sessions, the Rector told him to wait for a letter that will tell him if he got accepted or not. But after several months, no letter came. Wondering, Eguia went back to the seminary to personally ask for the results. When the Rector saw him, he was asked what took him so long. They’ve sent three letters already — he got accepted!

Eguia felt mixed emotions after hearing those words the Rector’s mouth. He didn’t know whether to feel happy or sad. He started having second thoughts so the Rector gave him time to think it over.

Joining the parish ministries

While discerning, Eguia was directed to join parish groups. He then joined a prayer group, choir, and lectors. He also volunteered to organize the chapel and take charge of the sound system.

Eguia felt happy serving the church that he started assessing his intentions to become a priest. He felt satisfied already serving as a layperson. But one day while praying, it’s as if God talked to him again saying: “The problem with you is you want to serve me your way and not my way.”

 “I felt ashamed again with God. He’s right, I want to serve him the way it’s convenient for me,” he admitted.

From Tagaytay, he went back home and while on his way, he began wondering why he didn’t receive any letters. Is it possible that someone hid them from him? When he reached home, he asked his mother and that’s when he discovered something.

The culprit

Apparently, his mother had been hiding the letters from him all along. Someone told her that he was visiting a seminary in Tagaytay so she’s been waiting for him to tell her personally.

“Is it true that you want to become a priest,” her mother asked him.

He couldn’t answer. He saw the anger and the feeling of being betrayed in her mother’s face.

“You wasted all our sacrifices just to let you finish college. Had I known you want to become a priest, you should’ve told us earlier. Remember this, don’t expect a single cent from us,” she said.

“My mother was heartbroken. She cried and turned her back on me. She avoided and refused to talk to me for close to a month. She didn’t even prepare breakfast before I went to work. Sadness was felt all over the house as if someone died,” said Eguia.

But he was really determined to enter the seminary. This time, no one can stop him. He’s old enough so he won’t be needing any parental consent. Fortunately, his father and sister supported his plans. But because he’s closest to his mother, he knew that she was very affected by his decision.

“My mother’s dream was for me to get married and raise a family. My mother felt I’m not fit to become a priest and I won’t be happy there. She thought I’m a very sociable person who loves attending parties and social events,” said Eguia.

Letting go

To prove that he’s serious about his decision to enter the seminary, Eguia broke up with his two girlfriends but withheld the real reason. He just said he just needed ‘space’ to think, and while they didn’t want to let him go, they didn’t have a choice.

 Eguia also resigned from his job. He submitted a resignation letter stating the reason: “Because I will enter the seminary to become a priest.”

His manager tried talking to him, even asking him if he’s out of his mind. He was even threatened that he can’t come back to his job anymore once he changed his mind. The manager went as far as posting his resignation letter at the bulletin board for everyone to read.

“Many people didn’t believe me. I looked like a joke to everyone. They even made a bet I won’t last a year inside the seminary. But I ignored everyone and left,” said Eguia.

The ‘menopause baby’

After a year in the seminary, Eguia never thought about going out. But during the first two years inside, he would always remember his mother talking him out of leaving the seminary and just serve God as a layperson, but he stayed.

After two years, when his mother saw that he’s really happy inside the seminary, she would now tell him not to go out anymore for fear of people behind their backs.

“I felt very happy and at peace inside the seminary. Looking back at my life, my happiest and peaceful years are inside the seminary,” revealed Eguia.

Young Fr. Ric

Six years have gone by so fast, Eguia finally finished his studies inside the seminary. He became a Deacon in December 1990, and the following year, Eguia was finally ordained to the priesthood at the Antipolo Cathedral on November 9, 1991.

When he became a priest, Eguia’s mother finally revealed a secret about her plan to abort him before because he was a ‘menopause baby’. Her mother was in her menopausal stage and thought of not having him as it will be very dangerous already.

Many people also advised her not to push through with it as there will be high chances of having an abnormal baby. But being a God-fearing person, his mother thought hard not to do it, because there’s already a life inside her.

“Had I aborted you, I would have killed a child who would later become a priest.  You’re not in my plan, but God has a plan for you,” Eguia fondly remembered his mother’s words.

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