REMEMBERING SR. REMEDIOS, R.A.
A Tribute of love from Fr. Favie V. Faldas SDB
HOMILY for the FUNERAL MASS of Sr. Remedios Carmen Valencia Locsin R.A. Assumption – Makati, January 25, 2023
Way back 2016 when I was still Rector of Don Bosco Canlubang, Sr. Remy passed by my office enroute to her nephew’s place in Canlubang. I was of course honored to be visited by her as I recognized her when I was still saying Masses here for the school during the years when I was still at the Provincial house. And she said: “Father, my first spiritual director was so and so, a Jesuit, but he already died. Then I had this second director, who also died. Father, can you be my spiritual director?” I almost died. I think it should have been the other way around. To think that she is 62 years as a religious is actually my age. But she insisted. And so, every time she would go to Andy’s house, she would drop by and we would have our spiritual chitchat. That was from 2016-2017 until she went for her second missionary journey to Japan. Thus, my knowledge of Sr. Remy is limited to these friendly chats which I could count with my fingers. And so to give justice to this homily I looked for other sources and thank God I have his pink book, a letter sent in April 2017 when she left for Japan, and an email reply when I greeted her also in April but two years after her letter. I also asked some information from the Sisters here and from another Salesian.
Since she returned from Japan I was able to meet her twice, already with her Takayasu arteritis getting worse, first at the ICU in Makati Med last December 4 and the last time I saw her was when she was back here last December 29. The Sisters, especially Sr. Barbara, may have recounted to so many people her last hours. But at this point, how she died may not be as important as how she lived.
Carmen Francisca Valencia Locsin was born in Silay City, Negros Occidental to Guillermo Unson Locsin and Remedios Valencia in June 4, 1940, to a family of 4 boys and 3 girls of which she was the second youngest. (I hope I got my facts right!) She left Negros to pursue her college here in Assumption, probably as an “interna”. But during her second year, she decided to enter the convent and was then sent to Paris for her initial formation. On May 13, 1961, she made her first profession as a Religious of the Assumption. “Vita vestra abscondita est cum Christo in Deo.” (“Your life is hidden with Christ in God” from Colossians 3: 3} summed up her consecration, to a life no longer of prominence and earthly securities but the spiritual life, the “hidden life,” having its source in God and secured by Christ such that no thief especially the devil can take away. Thus, she has taken the religious name Sr. Remedios Carmen de la Vie Cachee (Sr. Remedios Carmen of the Hidden way).
As gleaned from her “pink” book “A Missionary’s Journey”, it was St. Paul VI who visited the Philippines in 1970 and awakened in her the missionary vocation. Sr. Remy wrote: “I remember what Pope Paul VI said in one of his speeches addressing the Filipino people when he visited the Philippines. He urged Filipinos not to keep their faith to themselves but to share this with their Asian brothers, since the Philippines is the only Catholic country…. That sermon of Pope Paul VI gave me the desire to be a missionary.” Sr. Remy may not have been stricken from a horse like Saul in today’s readings but this was probably Sr. Remy’s point of conversion as she was determined to go to the missions just like Paul, particularly to Japan.
But why Japan? We can only surmise or guess, but, as Sr. Remy puts it, God writes straight with crooked lines. But her going there was serendipitous as Filipina entertainers started to come in in the 1970’s, increasing rapidly in the 80s, and expanding even further in the 90s. Its notoriety coined the term “Japayuki”. It was in 1974 that Sr. Remy left for Japan first to study the language for two years and then the culture for some more years until a Japanese sister sought her help in 1984 while she was teaching in your school in Osaka. This was the start of God’s particular work for Sr. Remy: with Filipina migrant workers caught between human trafficking, prostitution and the Japanese underworld. It was a dangerous work; and yet Sr. Remy never gave up. She providentially always had helpers and benefactors that would emerge at difficult times, indicating that this must truly be God’s work meant for her.
I asked an eyewitness from Japan to recount his experiences with Sr. Remy. Fr. Bob Zarate SDB worked with Sr. Remy for some time especially when the Salesians were helping in their youth camps, this was his testimony: “I met her in Japan when she was already in her 60s, already proud to say that she was more than 30 years already in Japan … First impression? Sosyal but down-to-earth. I later on learned she was the younger sister of the national artist. Yet, she was always that simple Assumption sister, living in a simple house-convent in the suburbs of Tokyo, consistently working for the welfare of the Filipinos there — not to make them rich or proud, but to make them value their faith, have confidence in themselves and be generous to give their time for the church.”
He added: “If there is anything that really stuck in my heart when I think of Sr. Remy, I would say it would be her calm way of dealing with people. That is how I saw her in the way she dealt with the Filipinas who are the usual laughing-out-loud, love-to-eat-together, emotionally-charged types. But Sr. Remy was always so calm in dealing with them. Perhaps it was the calmness that drove her point into their hearts. They loved her. They looked up to her as a mother, a grandma, an ‘ate’.”
Another facet that I noticed from the writing of Sr. Remy is that she also continued to foster that missionary spirit, that missionary vocation, that willingness to serve among those she ministered. Fr. Bob concurs when he wrote to me: “Sr. Remy can be proud of having Filipinas under her become part of the backbone of their parishes as pastoral council members despite the fact that they were not really schooled in Japanese. They taught, they animated the young and led other Japanese and English-speaking Catholics to be part of the parish.” “Lastly, there are active lay missionaries in the Archdiocese of Tokyo because Sr. Remy pursued having lay missionaries of the AMA (Associate Missionaries of the Assumption) come to Tokyo. These very talented and deep women were the ones who spearheaded the spirit and activity of our present active Filipino communities in the Archdiocese.” Such a seemingly fragile sister was able to initiate a movement of “missionaries”.
Sr. Remy must have returned to the Philippines probably around 2014, but her eight-day retreat in 2016 re-enkindled the fire to return to Japan which she dialogued with her superiors and with me, until in 2017 finally she was allowed to return this time to the last remaining Assumption community where she was never assigned to, Takamatsu City of Kagawa Prefecture.
But by the middle of last year 2022, she was compelled to go back this time for good, because of a bad fall. When she returned from Japan she was still walking but another fall end of the year may probably have aggravated her arteritis condition in which she had to be hospitalized in December until the Lord claimed her for His own. As Saul fell from his horse and was transformed to become the great missionary, St. Paul, si Sr. Remy mahilig din ma-fall. She fell for the Lord when she gave herself to a hidden life with Christ in God. She fell for the call of Pope St. Paul VI to the missions. She fell for the cries of our Filipina women in Japan and lived up to her name to be their Remedios, their remedy in their time of need. She fell in love with Love Himself and now Love consumes and welcomes her into His Kingdom.
If our computations are correct that Sr. Remy spent 45 of her 83 years of life in Japan, that means that she spent more of her life there than here. In fact, she looked so Japanese, moved like a prim and proper Japanese and even had a Japanese-named disease. She was so Japanese in all things hasta nag-Ilonggo siya. (dakpan gid!) We here are fortunate to have her, but think of all the Filipinas she had saved, the children they have begotten and are Fil-Japs, the parishes and schools she had served, they have even more reasons to mourn for her but are not as fortunate to have her. Now we are bound by the spirit of Sr. Remy, and ours is the responsibility born of solidarity to continue in whatever way what Sr. Remy had started especially for oppressed Filipina women in Japan which continues until today. May the missionary work she had started not go for naught. As we say good bye to Sr. Remy, she continues to help in a higher plane by interceding for us.
Towards the end of her book, Sr. Remy quoted God’s words to Abraham: “Leave your family, your homeland, for the land that I will show you … and I will bless you … and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1) Today at the end of her book of life, we bring Sr. Remy back to her true homeland for she was indeed a blessing. Amen.