The dreaded coronavirus pandemic has taken another notable person who is a pillar of contemporary Filhispanic poetry as well as a vanguard of rare Catholic poetry.
Fr. Gilbert Luis R. Centina III, O.S.A. (19 May 1947–1 May 2020), was a rarity. An award-winning friar-poet, he has authored several books of poetry as well as other writings in four languages: English, Spanish, Tagálog, and Hiligaynón. He entered the Augustinian Monastery in Intramuros and graduated cum laude in each of his four ecclesiastical degrees from the University of Santo Tomás (BA classical, Ph.B., STB, and STL). He later earned an MA in comparative literature at the University of the Philippines and briefly served as a missionary in Perú after his ordination where he taught literature as a professorial lecturer. He also served as a school chaplain for many years and as pastor of a parish church in Manhattan, New York.
Throughout all his priestly and administrative tasks, Fr. Centina still found time to edit a scholarly journal on Saint Augustine and write hundreds of newspaper columns, magazine articles, and verses in four languages. When he was still in Filipinas, he wrote maintained a column for the now-defunct Newsday under the pen name Jorge Seurat. He also delved on history. Many years ago, he maintained a column in People’s Tonight. I wrote him two reaction letters which he published in full (I was then in my early 20s). I am forever grateful for that.
His final years were spent in Spain, one of the hardest hit countries of the ongoing pandemic. He succumbed to COVID-19 on Labor Day. His death is a big blow to Filhispanic poetry which is suffering from a dearth of writers.
I am now sharing to you one of his poems, “Myself I wash for another wake”, which was included from his collection of poetry “Glass of Liquid Truths” (Bayanihan Books, 1979). This poem somehow eerily echoes his exaunt yesterday (Yesterday has died, today is | Dying; tomorrow will soon be dead) as well as a reflection on today’s global crisis (This world explodes with daily wakers).
Que descanse en paz eterna, Padre Gilbert. Vaya con Dios.