The Fall of a Prince – Bishop Crisostomo Yalung

Before the fall from grace, Bishop Crisostomo Yalung was a rising star, an apple to the eye of the then Bishop Cardinal Sin and a promising successor to the highest Catholic authority in the Philippines. He and Bishop Theodoro Bacani were juggling the prestige under the glow of Cardinal Sin. In fact, Yalung is the only sole rival of Bishop Socrates Villegas to the highest episcopal seat.

Besides being a dearly beloved to the Cardinal, Yalung is charismatic among parishioners, as he was being revered by young priests and seminarians, obviously being a former rector of San Carlos Seminary. Cardinal Sin being sold-out to Yalung’s wit and charisma, entrusted him more crucial church affairs. Yalung became Treasurer of the financial arm of RCAM (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila). He was Board Member of the Bank of Philippine Islands, where the Catholic Church is major stakeholder. And to top a couple more, he was Chairman of the Church owned travel agency Catholic Travel Inc. and Fidelity Insurance Inc; an insurance company also owned by the church.

But it wasn’t long enough till the tide of prestige and fortune go against the bishop’s sailboat. In the span of a year Cardinal Sin lost Bishop Yalung over a searing sexual misconduct fathering two children. 10 months later, Bishop Theodoro Bacani followed the fall, ushered by his sexual misconduct with his former office secretary.

Fire_In_My_Eyes_Sacred_Heart_Parish_Makati
Source: Wikimapia

The Extra-Curriculars

Yalung’s sexually promiscuous extra-curricular stint, as far as known fact is concerned, started in the Sacred Heart Parish In Makati. Parishioners noticed special liaison between him and a rich church patroness who is in her early 50s. Poking eyes cannot deny the woman’s smitten gestures towards the bishop who is in his mid-40s.

Tongues twitched and flapped, “…I think the woman is in love with the bishop, but wasn’t reciprocated, but we have no evidence they have an affair,” one parishioner mentioned.

It wasn’t so long till the sweetness of the so called “friendship” between them turned sour by a drop of a warm body between them, courtesy of a young woman named Christine Rances. She said she met Bishop Yalung during his tenure as parish priest at the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart in San Antonio Village. That was in 2000.

In 2003, during her interview, Rances admitted to sought Yalung’s counseling about her affairs with a priest, consequently, the same priest who solemnized her marriage. It seems that she has certain weakness with men in swaddling clothes.

Rances and Yalung became “text-mates” eventually. Sooner, text-based communications leveled-up into Yalung frequently visiting Rances in her house, chit-chatting and eventually dine-outs with friends of Rances. “He loves to eat; we would go to fancy restaurants. Of course, his treat,” Rances in her interview.

         “When people ask how I am related to Bishop Tom, he would say ‘pamangkin’ or niece.”

Eventually, Rances and Yalung formally engaged in a romantic relationship after a month of dating. She was already separated from her husband and ended her affair with the priest as well. Dine-outs and movie times are done by them solo – without Rances’ collogues.

“I felt secure, and he was so handsome,” Rances said.

They tried to conceal the romance, but their actions say otherwise. Their age gaps would raise an eyebrow – she was 23 and he was 47 that time. “When people ask how I am related to Bishop Tom, he would say ‘pamangkin’ or [niece]. They were wondering why he was so concerned about me,” answered Rances in an interview.

The bishop’s affectionate concern to Rances is so elaborate that in some circumstances he would attend to Rances’ superficial nosebleed, bringing her to a church-run San Juan De Dios Hospital. On her birthday, he would arrange it personally and held it at Hospecio de San Jose, touting “because I love children”, she said.

Fire_In_My_Eyes_Bishop_Yalung_In_Relationship
For illustration purposes - source: DeseretNews

However, the older female smitten with Yalung is getting jealous of their obvious display of affection. But Rances is intolerant of any third-party gate-crashers. So, less than a year in relationship, she mustered the gut to confront the older female rival by the initial FV. She notified FV in front of her face that she and Yalung is into something. FV retorted accordingly with a slap, according to eyewitnesses’ accounts.

FV confronted Yalung about the intrusion. But Yalung shrug his shoulders in favor of love to the younger female. Meanwhile, RCAM and CBCP is getting ranged by the circulating letters about their relationship.

To get even with bashers, Rances threatened to sue those spreading gossip about her affairs with Yalung. She issued a letter to FV saying that FV is the gossip monger who spreads the rumor. In the letter she also claimed that she’s only friends with Yalung.

By October of 2001, Yalung was assigned to the Diocese of Antipolo, third of the richest dioceses in the Philippines – Manila and Cebu being first and second. This assignment gave another feather in the cap of Yalung. But more in particular, gave them respite against the squiggling tongues of the Makati Parishioners.

Double Life Standard

In January 2002, Rances followed Yalung to Antipolo where the two rented a PHP8,000 a month apartment as their love nest. Neighbors noted that their relationship was noisy, underscored by frequent squabbles and arguments. Nevertheless, with Rances’ comely attitude and easy-going personality, she easily fostered friendship with them. She’d even invite some of them for a lunch or dinner.

Rances acknowledged herself as former flight stewardess, and for some she is a commercial model. As her neighbor noticed that she is as well pregnant, she told them that her husband was on overseas worker.
Neighbors can’t also help but notice her frequent visitor, a man in his 50’s. The visitor would refuse to alight from the car while neighbors are still loitering around the compound. Rances satiated the curiosity by telling them that the elderly man was her father. But to others, he was his uncle.

While most of Rances’ neighbors were members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, Yalung’s demeanor never escaped their curious imagination. Yalung would often visit Rances still in his clerical attire, with collar noticeably worn by priests. He would also bring with him goodies packed in a manner that you’d notice as coming from church offerings – fruits, foods and even sacks of rice.

Her friendly ties with her neighbors never lasted when they filed complaints against the two – fostered by their elaborate fights. She apologized, but severed her ties with them. The feeling was mutual, her action was reciprocated.

Perhaps, paranoid by her own shadows, she expelled her maid in suspicion that she was seducing Yalung as well. The maid begged on streets, but sympathetic neighbors gave her temporary shelter.

The Prince Under Siege

Yalung has been in the ranks of those in the noticeable spotlight since adding more feather on his cap. One lay leader admitted that he was duly commissioned by one of the bishops to stalk Yalung. The young bishop (who later become an archbishop) asked the parishioner to take a closer look into the allegations. The parishioner, confused, thought why would he let him spy on Yalung since the young bishop is friends with Yalung as well. Nevertheless, he consented with the mission. He promised to get to the bottom of Yalung’s extra-curricular hubbub.

The probing took several months with his first mission to know Rances’ exact address. But it was not long before he found their love nest.

April 28, 2002, he probed further. He saw a Honda VTEC, which he then recognized as that of Yalung’s. He was even surprised to know that Rances was staying in one of those units. Determined to his call of duty, but still want to give Yalung a fighting chance, thinking he was just visiting her as a relative. He waited long enough till he fell asleep.

         “I asked God why He made me a witness to this awful situation.”

Fire_In_My_Eyes_Bishop_Yalung_Stalking
For illustration purposes - source: Pexels

By around 5 a.m. the next day, he noticed Yalung’s car starting, but noticed even more of Yalung’s presence. In one of the witness’ recounts, he exclaimed, “I asked God why He made me a witness to this awful situation.”

The commissioned detective called up Yalung’s best friend and the then Mayor Joselito Atienza convening to call Yalung’s attention in the right time. But for some odd reason Yalung was made aware of this. Instead, the probing group sent Yalung a letter to explain himself. So far, no reply from the bishop. But Rances, took the role and send the reply rebutting that she and Yalung were not in relationship, but she admitted that she is pregnant.

Spoils of the Trade

As the stink can no longer be obscured, appointed parishioners blasted letters to the immediate church higher-ups – the Papal Nuncio, CBCP and Cardinal Sin. The letter is asking for the investigation of the matter and finally the removal of the bishop from the post. “We are not getting any reply, they kept ignoring us,” said one of the parishioners who is expecting a reply, but did not.

However, the commissioned parishioner would not give-in. In one of the Papal functions, he approached Monsignor Pedro Quitorio. The monsignor retorted that the allegations need to be substantiated with evidence as it was a serious one.

The church listened eventually.

To heed the call for clarity, the RCAM appointed a so called “moderator” (usually a priest or a bishop of high standing) to do some household cleaning in the Antipolo Diocese regarding moral, spiritual, maybe legal but most of all financial issues. This felt as a slap into Yalung’s honor.

Could it be that the church is suspecting Yalung bleeding out the diocese’s coffers for the upkeep of his growing family?

In few of the first-hand testimony, Rances’ maid shared that she’d be into several errands withdrawing money from Yalung’s ATM amounting to PHP50,000 up to PHP70,000. She also mentioned that Rances has a stashed of P4 million pesos on her own account.

Neighbors on the other hand, cannot help but wonder where in the world would she get those luxuries as she is jobless. She even has a Starex van parked at her garage saying that it was given by her “uncle.”

Fire_In_My_Eyes_Bishop_Yalung_Resigned
For illustration purposes - source: Rueters

Allegedly, Bishop Yalung resigned from his post on November 14, 2002, though the website www.catholic-hierachy.org says it’s December 7, 2002. By around November 16, through his superior’s advice, Yalung fled to the United States.

In Rances’ interview with the Newsbreak, she showed documents of what Yalung left her to hold on to. It detailed hefty financial breakdowns for Rances; P4 million deposit, another P1 million, P300,000 and a P16,000 time-deposit – all under the custody of the Standard Chartered Bank in Ortigas.

Mental reflex will make you ask, where was the bishop getting all those spoils?

Parishioners however told the concerned news individuals that they were giving Yalung generous donations. They are however, wondering if those were used for their intended purpose.

Yalung on his end, in few trickles of information taken from him says he, “committed few mistakes, some administrative, others personal or relational.”

A Bishop Father or a Father Bishop

June 7, 2002 Christine Rances gave birth to their first-born child a the then church-operated Cardinal Santos Medical Center (this was taken by a private group later on). This birth might have sealed Bishop Yalung’s extra-curricular expeditions.

To a birth certificate showed by Rances, Yalung has affixed his signature with the father’s occupation as a “religious worker.” The certificate sealed the deal that Yalung fathered a child with Rances. However, some church officials would still try to deny it saying that Yalung’s signature was forged.

Rances, on her end might still be trying to dip his hands a little deeper into Yalung’s pocket by presenting that she gave birth to a twin and that the other still needs to be incubated. But her neighbors are all well aware of her charade.

Cover-Ups

The Catholic Church are obviously trying their best to silence the blare of the panic button on Yalung’s scandals and his eventual resignation. The church brewed an uncanny plan of mitigating the intensity of the sandal by coinciding it with the plan to carve out new diocese out of the Archdiocese of Manila in December of 2002.

The CBCP and the RCAM even presumed that the searing inquisition of the press people will be watered down by Cardinal Sin’s presence and political influence rather than Yalung’s scandals. However, if anyone insisted, the standard answer would be, “…for health reasons,” one source said.

As part of the cover-ups, Monsignor Hernando Coronel, then RCAM Treasurer, spearheaded in the plight to make sure Rances will not blurt out her stories, but she refused to be tamed down. For some time, through Newsbreak, Rances yield for an interview, but backed out several times till she no longer can be contacted.

More hubbub is being done under the Catholic roof to muffle Yalung’s resignation and his exodus to the US. Bishop Socrates Villegas would tell his priests that Yalung was just on leave. On December 11, meeting called out to finally announce that Bishop Gabriel Reyes will be the new bishop of the Diocese of Antipolo.

Bishop Reyes’ installation was abrupt and cold – no fanfare whatsoever. Could it be a cover-up mission?

Parishioners were left hanging in the mid-air gasping for the truth. Yalung’s departure was as murky as a puddle of mud. Yalung is sending mixed and unpalpable signals to his orphaned diocese saying, “he left the diocese not to flee but to let the local church grow and to serve. I love the Church and the God-given vocation to serve her. I gave my best to the Church…I have also committed quite a few mistakes, some administrative, other personal and others relational.”

As for Rances at the period, already pregnant of her second child with Yalung, is actually clueless of his whereabouts. Rances, being persistent, had a chance to meet the Nuncio on December 2002. But was told, “from now on, consider yourself as the father and mother of your child.”

Financial Support out of the Church Coffers

Rances is in the brink of desperation due to a piling financial liability. Her communication with Yalung has stopped. Despair is written all over her face, “I have to feed my child, bring her to the doctors, put something on the table. I have no work.” She might even need to sell her Starex van. She is as well expecting her second child soon. She even has no clue of the whereabouts of her lover.

Her discussion with the Nuncio did not mention about child support. Though the RCAM, from some source, said that it shells out child support to children sired by priests.

Six months later, Bishop Theodoro Bacani was embroiled in his own scandal. Rances, in reflex, went to the Philippine Daily Inquirer to get interviewed and requested the paper to publish her and the child. The newspaper did not oblige for the child, but Rances’ photo only. She believed that the church officials are hiding Yalung.

For illustration purposes - source: Pexels

She asserted further, “Women are always the losers in this kind of game. When we are abused, Church officials condemn us, as if they do not have mothers.” She added that she did not receive any financial remuneration from Yalung or any church related assistance. She’s trying to make ends met through her saving when she was working as a medical representative. She was also a former model telling Newsbreak during her interview with them.

She threatened to file a case to gain some financial assistance. “I want him to come back to help me support our children. But I no longer want us to live as husband and wife under one roof. When he comes to me sick, I am willing to accept him, but not as a lover. I am still young with a future ahead of me. He is already old – and a priest at that. I just want to work and give our children a good life,” finished Rances.

Church Resolution

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio asserted for the church saying that it is not the church’s obligation to shell-out financial support for the erring priests or bishops. Because if she does, it would mean condoning the misdeed. But rather it is on the erring party’s side to bear the burden.

In 2005, CBCP drafted a resolution regarding these matters. A quite late reaction to a long enduring culpability of the church higher-ups and priests.

Yalung in his promised exile

Former Bishop Crisostomo Yalung is living in Sacramento, California. He’s living with his father and mother on a 6-bedroom house he bought for $301,000 in 2002.

To eventually ease-out from the demised episcopal vows, he took classes at the California State University taking up master’s degree in social work. His thesis was titled, “The Contribution and Influence of Spirituality and Religion on Filipino Caregivers’ Motivation and Service.

Yalung is seems back on his feet on different soil. One graduate student told of Yalung’s help, “for his gracious gift of time, sense of humor and spiritual nature,” said Diana Peck.

Several noted journalists, Aries Rufo for this matter, tried to make contact with Yalung for an interview. Obviously, the former bishop obstinately dulled the attempts. On the fourth try by a former journalist, Aldwin Fajardo, Yalung pick-up the phone, “Yes, this is Tom Yalung.” On hearing the interview request, “Sorry, I am respectfully declining the interview.” An request letter containing interview questions was also scratched-out.

The fallen prince is now living normal and “ordinary” life through his own terms.

References: Altar Of Secrets – Sex, Politics and Money In the Philippine Catholic Church – Aries C. Rufo.  Learn More » 

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Author's Corner

Sweet, I blame you not, for mine the fault was, had I not been made of common clay. I had climbed the higher heights unclimbed yet, seen the fuller air, the larger day. From the wildness of my wasted passion I had struck a better, clearer song, Lit some lighter light of freer freedom, battled with some Hydra-headed wrong. – Oscar Wilde

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