“Matayog ang kanyang pagkatao,” says Dr. Co of Fr. Fermin. At the start of our class yesterday, Dr. Co asked us to pause in silence and to prayerfully remember Fr. Fermin – then he continued to reminisce. Fr. Fermin, he said, was a noble Dominican. He exudes an air of royalty in character and nobility in countenance. He did not mince his words, but he was a gentleman. He was so elevated says, Dr. Co. Fr. Fermin’s manners were so refined that whenever he forgets to say thank you in person he would send it via a handwritten note or by phone call, to anyone who answered his invitation to attend a function or affair; this was especially so when he served as rector of the UST Central Seminary. Dr. Co shared that one of the frequent guests of Fr. Fermin was Nick Joaquin – a friend of theirs.
A Convert to Catholicism
Fr. Fermin was a diplomat. He served as Dutch ambassador to Hong Kong and was then a Calvinist Protestant. According to the story, the young ambassador was smitten by the beautiful liturgical celebrations of the Dominicans in a chapel in Hong Kong and soon converted to Catholicism. He entered the Dominican Order in Rosaryhill in Hong Kong in 1954. A few years before, in 1947, Nick Joaquin was also in the same place contemplating a religious life, but soon left. They may have not met there but they would soon be very good friends.
Learning of His Death
I met Fr. Fermin in Baguio in a retreat house behind the convent of the Siena Sisters. He was always calm and arrived on time. When he spoke he spoke with clarity and ease, you could write down his words on paper and find out how well constructed they were. I remember, one evening, he spoke about Christ. The way he talked about him left me longing for more. I have never met a man who spoke of Christ with care. Christ was like a man so close him, like a dear friend who did him a favor he could never forget. Yesterday I called up my sister to tell her Fr. Fermin died. I said there will be a mass in UST at 2 PM on October 29 and that his ashes will be brought to Santuario de Santo Domingo in Quezon City.
Fr. Fermin was born on January 15, 1924 and a native of Nijmegen, The Netherlands. He was ordained to the priesthood on June – July 22, 1960. A Dutch-born naturalized Filipino citizen he was one of the first non-Filipino by birth to join the Dominican Province of the Philippines. On the Decree of the Establishment of the Dominican Province of the Philippines his name appears under the section, Novae provincae Philippinarum membra sunt omnes fratres qui fruuntur iure civitatis Philippae, nempe, as Fr. Fredericus Fermin. Paalam po Padre.