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If numerology is considered, Fr. Francisco T. Estepa’s life story is replete with the principle of the third. He is the third child in the family, HNU is his third presidential assignment and he is the third in a row of presidents since this institution assumed a university status in 2001. Even his installation fell on the date of triple 8s – August 8, 2008 – August being the eight month of the year.

The persistent pattern of the third in Fr. Estepa’s life is an added feature of his life en route to the presidency. These coincidences sparked in the members of the HNU family some sort of heightened excitement because the number three is associated with good luck.

Fr. Estepa’s installation was held within the Eucharistic Celebration at the Saint Joseph’s Cathedral at 5:00pm. The mass was well attended by priests, nuns, guests from Manila and the cities of Tacloban, Legazpi, and Cebu, representatives from private and public offices, alumni and the members of the HNU family.

During the installation rites, Fr. Generoso Rebayla, Jr. SVD-Acting Chair of the HNU Board of Trustees-presented the university mace to Fr. Estepa. Fr. Ernesto Lagura, SVD, the second HNU president and Fr. Estepa’s predecessor, donned the Presidential Collar on the new president. Fr. Heinz Kulueke, SVD, Provincial Superior of the SVD Southern Province, presented the Bible and the Crucifix and Dr. Enrique P. Grecia administered the oath of office. Mrs. Josephine Cimeni served as the commentator/annotator.

With his academic doctorate toga, Fr. Estepa took the podium to deliver his inaugural address that sparkled with fond memories, joy and optimism. He said that after his assignment as young priest in the then Divine Word College of Tagbilaran, his honeymoon was over because subsequently he was assigned to more challenging administrative tasks.

Predecessor’s Accomplishments Hailed. The new HNU President recognized the great contributions of his predecessors to the growth of HNU. He commended Fr. Teodoro Gapuz’s initiative of sealing the purchase of the Dampas lot which has become home to the sprawling HNU-Janssen Heights Campus; Fr. Romeo Bancale for opening the College of Nursing; Fr. Florante Camacho for the attainment of the university status and Fr. Ernesto Lagura for the improvement of the quality of instruction and the realization of the HNU WATERSS, a water testing laboratory partly funded by the Australian government.

Strategic Directions. Fr. Estepa, having attended the University’s Planning Workshop even before he assumed the presidency disclosed that he had no intention of deviating from the direction specified in the University’s Strategic Plan. What he would do is to work for the realization of the goals such as making every college Center of Excellence, attainment of Level 2 accreditation of the College of Engineering strengthening linkages with institutions in Asia, Europe and the United States, continuing development of human resources by expanding the scholarship grants to Academic Non-Teaching (ANTEP) and Non-Academic Personnel and Building Christian communities.

Nostalgic Memories. The new President’s voice rang with nostalgia as he expressed how he wished his parents were alive so that they could witness one of the most important events in his life. He said, “Surely, they will be happy.” He also expressed his gratitude to all who joined him in one of the greatest events in his life. In all humility, Fr. Estepa stressed that he might have a track record of being a good leader but he still needs everybody’s prayer.

The Testimonial Dinner in honor of the new president was held at the Bohol Tropics Resort at 7:00pm. The spacious Dagohoy Hall swelled with guests and visitors. The words of welcome of Fr. Romeo P. Bancale, SVD, the University’s President for Academics, evoked humor as he started to recall the memories that reminded those who have been in the system for long that they were no longer getting any younger.

Everybody appreciated the powerful performances of the members of the Diwanag, the official dance troupe of HNU; the songs of the Divine Divas – Mrs. Rosalie Bojos, Mrs. Geraldine Efondol and Mrs. Marie Fe Evelyn Tampos. The guests enjoyed watching the members of the HNU family singing the HNU Jingle and the Holy Name March with profound gusto. For six minutes, everyone’s attention had been glued on the wide screen to watch the video presentation of Fr. Estepa’s life highlights. The Testimonial Dinner Program was directed by Mr. Marianito Luspo. Dr. Roque Bongcac was the master of ceremony.

Fr. Estepa, in his response, reiterated his gratitude to all who had made his inaugural an event to remember.

Now that Fr. Estepa has formally taken his presidential seat, probably a good number of the HNU Family members expect the luck that goes with the persistent pattern of the principle of the third. But the presidency is not only the rule of the third it is the rule of the first and the last. In terms of risk taking, the president is the first to face the possible head-on collision and should be the last to surrender. In times of failures, the president is the first to claim lapses in action and judgment; in times of success, he should be the last to claim recognition.

With Fr. Estepa’s character, competence and commitment, the HNU is in good hands and it can soar highest even without the luck associated with the principle of the third.

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