Governor Fr. Eddie PanlilioCITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines Proclaimed Pampanga Governor Fr. Eddie Panlilio said the white spots on his face, hands and feet should not be a cause for worry.Vitiligo, or the partial loss of pigment, was how his doctors called his skin disorder. Its also called the Michael Jackson Disease.
It is not contagious, so our constituents need not fear coming near me or shaking my hands, said the 56-year-old Catholic priest on Thursday.
Vitiligo is not a life-threatening ailment, according to Panlilio, and is not serious enough to stop him from doing his duties as a public official until June 2010. He is the first priest to be elected governor in Pampanga in 96 years, capitol records showed.
It has not affected my bodys vital organs, he said.
The white spots first appeared on his forehead in 2003 when he was in his fourth year of assignment at the St. James Parish in Betis, Guagua.
The doctors said it could be hereditary or caused by a virus from the environment or due to tension, Panlilio said.
His mothers cousin had the same skin problem, he said.
A different look
When the de-coloration spread around his lips and below the cheeks, he said he started feeling insecure.
Menaliwa ku itsura (There was a change in the way I look), said Panlilio. His closest bradz (brother-priests) swore he was handsome during his younger years in the ministry.
The cure to his skin disorder, he said, was taxing.
I was made to go under the sun for 30 minutes between six and nine in the morning, apply (medicated) lotion then go under the sun again for another 30 minutes, he said.
But he gave up, saying, How can I do this with all the activities in the parish?
No time to brood
Guagua is a town of more than 100,000 people who are mostly Catholics. Aside from attending to their spiritual needs through the celebration of the sacraments, Panlilio organized basic ecclesiastical communities and spent more time organizing the youth.
The church also draws tourists, being one of 10 churches in the country declared as national treasures.
Built in the early 1700s, the church in Guagua was repaired several times throughout the 1800s.
The retablo (main alter) has ornate carvings and images of saints. The paintings on the ceiling have been compared to those in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican
Instead of brooding about his looks, Panlilio said, I just accepted it.
But then, the white spots also drew the attention of some people, who gave him curious stares. At one point, he went to see Geli Jingco, a parishioner in her late 20s who also has the same skin disorder.
She counseled me. Geli said I should not be bothered by it. That girl has lots of self-confidence, Panlilio said.
He is not bothered anymore because when youre older, substance, not physical appearance, should be the real worth of a person, he said. It does not mean anything to me anymore.
During the electoral campaign, however, his critics made an issue of his skin disorder. A flyer claimed it was a manifestation of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), which causes the dreaded AIDS. He could not tell which of his rivals spread that false information.
During the motorcades in 20 towns and in this city, his doctor sprayed his extremities with a medicated lotion to protect him from the harsh sun.
By his doctors reckoning, Panlilios health is OK.
Loads of laughter
This was not the case before he threw himself into the race in response to the clamor of Catholic lay people, who pushed him to run because they wanted an alternative to then reelectionist Gov. Mark Lapid and Pampanga Board Member Lilia Pineda.
In March just before the race, his uric acid was over the limit and his cholesterol level shot up to 286.
He has since lost 20 pounds from the hustings and now packs 192 pounds in his 5-foot-11-and-a-half frame.
Panlilio plans to resume playing tennis to keep fit. He rates his proficiency in the game as AB. In his vocabulary, that means always beginning.
Panlilio also misses playing basketball with the young men in Betis. But he has loads of laughter, which his doctors call the best medicine.
By Tonette Orejas
Last updated 01:06am (Mla time) 05/27/2007