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Hulog ng Langit? 6-year-old Heart Disease Survivor Hopes to Become a Priest
PHOTO BY courtesy of Bianca Halili
  • Ask any child what he wants to become when he grows up, and he'll likely reply with one of these: an engineer, doctor, lawyer, a pilot, or maybe even the President of the Philippines. These professions are popular and highly-regarded, and such an achievement brings pride and honor to a person and his family.

    Kindergartener Jose Rafael "Rafa" Halili, however, begs to differ. At six years old, the little boy wishes to become a priest.

    Rafa's unusual interest has caught his parents Christian and Bianca by surprise because they started noticing it at an early age. 

    "At 3 years old, he would always ask us to let him watch Holy Mass on YouTube. We believe it has something to do with his exposure in school (he studies in an international Catholic school)," says Bianca.

    Or, it may be that Rafa is just truly heaven-sent.

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    Bianca reveals that when Rafa was born, he suffered from a congenital heart disease, and underwent open heart surgery at only 5 months old.

    Needless to say, Rafa's childhood was quite extraordinary. "His early childhood was not a walk in the park. A lot of prayers were said for him, and so it is with joy that we see him grow up to be a child of faith," says Bianca.

    "At present, he is healthy and has no restrictions whatsoever. But he still does regular therapies to develop his motor and speech," she adds.

    Thankfully, that episode in Rafa's young life has not dampened his spirit. Save for his uncommon fascination for the Holy Mass, he is just like any regular preschooler.


    "He is full of energy and joy, and is the life of his classroom. His classmates and teachers love and care for him. He loves to imitate his older brother, Kuya Gabby, play with his cousins, and go biking around the village. And of course, go to Mass whenever he can."

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    Children of faith

    Teaching kids about faith does not just happen. In their case, Bianca says they began introducing the concept to their kids before they turned 3 years old.

    "We would pray together before meals, and before we go to sleep. We go to Mass every Sunday and holy days of obligation. As a family, we also participate in the Block Rosary of our village and when the image of Mama Mary visits our home." 

    Rafa with the Church laymen. "He prefers to sit with them in Mass than with us," says his mom.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Bianca Halili
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    So keen is Rafa on going to Sunday Mass that his parents use it as leverage to get him to do something. 

    "Before the evening Mass, we would ask him to take an afternoon nap. But, because he is a kid, he would continue to play. While other parents would tell their kids, 'Sleep first, or else no ice cream or no TV,' ang panakot namin kay Rafa is, 'Sleep first, or we won't go to Mass.' Only then will he follow," says Bianca.

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    Some kids need convincing to hear Mass with their parents, but Rafa is quite the opposite. "He would always want to sit where he can see the altar, so we would normally take the front pews. 

    "He prefers to sit next to the lay ministers instead of with us. He actively participates in the Mass by singing and responding aloud. He knows when to sit, stand, or kneel.

    "When he watches the Holy Mass on YouTube, he would imitate the priest. He would ask for a book (the "Bible"), a cup (the "Eucharist"), and wear the vestments that the priests wear."

    Miracle baby

    The Halilis are beyond grateful for the blessing that is Rafa, never forgetting that they could have lost him to an illness when he was just a few months old.

    Christian and Bianca say raising kids of faith has to start early — in their case, even before their boys Gabby and Rafa turned three years old.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Bianca Halili

    "Rafa is our miracle baby... our constant and living reminder of the Lord's faithfulness," she adds.

    Should Rafa pursue his interests and become a priest someday, would they let him?

    "Of course," Bianca affirms. "We would be very happy."

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