Thoughts of Engr. Camilo Dacanay, PAS Board Chairman, during the wake of Fr. Victor Badillo - PAS Founder, PAS President for more than 20 years, and Father of Philippine Astronomy.
On his wake . . .
FR. VICTOR BADILLO
“ As Simple As An Electron, As Massive As A Nucleus”
In 2003 during the time I was conducting my research work on electron degeneracy in a dying star, I dropped by the Manila Observatory to apply for membership in the Philippine Astronomical Society.
I was thinking that by doing so, a lot would be added to my database through discussions with other members who might be very knowledgeable or at least have the same interest as mine.
As I introduced myself to everyone, I noticed someone moving so gentle and slow, not because of his age but apparently listening to what I was saying. At once he was out of my sight that drove me to a strange curiosity while explaining to everyone my purpose of joining. And then, all of a sudden he appeared again from my back pulling a chair, asking me silently to “please sit down”.
As I pulled the chair and sat, I remember looking at the faces of people around and noticed that the old man was already sitting at the other end of the table telling me “just call me Father Vic”. Nobody knew but it gave me shriver that evening instead of getting my attention to a brand new 8” Dobsonian telescope being shown by another member.
Fr. Vic moves so slow and yet as far as my sight sensitivity (or failure to attune my response to the speed of light) on that evening is concerned, he just disappears but he’s there and everywhere seemingly at once!
Upon hearing this story during Fr. Vic’s 80th birthday celebration at Manila Observatory, Fr. Dan Mcnamara was quick to quip “Fr. Vic is like an electron, he’s everywhere!”.
If I must assess the period between the first time I met Fr. Vic until the time he had to undergo two major medical operations, our organization which he founded was almost at its “lowest energy” level so to speak. Everyone in PAS was in fear that the time might be coming too soon for Fr. Vic when in fact we were not ready yet nor so prepared to carry on. But everyone stayed on with Fr. Vic in unity in spirit even when he was already weak and bedridden.
To top it all, it then appeared to me it was PAS undergoing degeneracy (as in my research) coupled with Fr. Vic’s health crisis. But with Fr. Vic and the rest of us who stayed on, PAS refused to collapse nor be compressed by the circumstances any further.
More than 10 years had passed, Fr. Vic gave us more than enough time till he finally passed away. But he left a legacy with us.
PAS now is like an “electron” just like him before - it’s everywhere. His dreams of “bringing down heaven” to Filipinos through astronomy education is truly widespread reaching Filipinos everywhere.
PAS is in the “Cordilleras” to as far south as Lake Cebu in South Cotabato and to the hidden corners of the country like in Dilasag, Aurora.
In the last few months on one of my personal visit to Fr. Vic, our discussion from the usual updates about PAS activities took a turn for a while to a subject not to be casually taken in a condition such as his. It was about the geometry of the universe.
He remembered and just stated to me a quotation – “God is like a circle whose circumference is everywhere and with its center to nowhere”.
For hearing the words “everywhere” and “nowhere” made me think again about my early days in PAS and that stubborn electron. But that at the same time caught me to a sudden surprise when he asked – “Can you measure that?’.
I was almost running out of splash from my memory what to answer but I was probably quite inspired and lucky enough to remember the one and only quote I know that once in one of my very few email attracted him most – “The shortest distance between you and God is your knee and the floor”. He smiled as he looked straight to my eyes. At that time I guess both of us had got the comfort on that very short visit – it was time to go.
But it gave me a puzzle and an answer upon seeing Fr. Vic on his wake– my curiosity about electron had the answer from the very beginning in another way.
Fr. Vic Badillo is a great loss. For what Philippine Astronomy today is we owe it all to him. An electron no more. But his deeds and memories will serve as the nucleus for everyone to unite in pursuing and in advancing further the field of astronomy in our country.
God bless Fr. Vic!
God bless us all!