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The fall of the rising star

It was a special friendship that eventually turned sour after another woman, who was in her late 20s, entered the picture. The woman was Christine Rances.

Rances said she met the bishop sometime in November 2000, at the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart in San Antonio Village, Makati, where he was the parish priest.

In an interview in 2003, Rances told us she had sought out Yalung to confess. But other sources said she sought counseling about her ongoing affair with a priest. Indeed, Rances was having an affair with the priest who solemnized her marriage. “She has a certain weakness for men [of the] cloth,” the Makati parishioner who staked out Rances said.

Soon after, she and Yalung became “text-mates.” Texting was eventually replaced with Yalung making visits to her parents’ home in Pasay where they “would talk.” Soon, they would go out, in the company of friends and her brother. “He loves to eat. We would go to fancy restaurants. Of course, his treat,” Rances said in that interview.

Evidently, Rances, who was already separated from her husband by the time she was dating Yalung and who had apparently ended her affair with the previous priest, was smitten with the bishop. They would later go out alone, watching movies or dining out. “I felt secure. And he was so handsome,” Rances recalled.

Rances, who was in her mid-20s at the time, was not a stunning beauty. But she was charming and wily, in a way. It was just a matter of time before she, the vamp, and Yalung, the strict disciplinarian, would have an affair. After a month of dating, she and Yalung were officially “on.” At that time, Yalung was on his sixth year as bishop.

It was an affair that the two tried to keep a secret but their actions were giving them away. She would be in the constant company of Yalung. Their age difference — she was 23 and he was 47 — raised eyebrows. “When people ask how I am related to Bishop Tom, he would say ‘pamangkin’ [niece]. They were wondering why he was so concerned about me,” Rances said.

The older female Makati parishioner, in the meantime, was getting jealous of the blossoming “friendship” between Yalung and Rances. For Rances, the feeling was mutual — she would not tolerate any rival for Yalung’s affections.

Less than a year after the affair started, Rances confronted the older female parishioner if she and Yalung had an affair. Not contented, she told the older female that she and Yalung were an item. “She got a slap from FV [initials of the older female],” a witness said.

Still, they did not believe Rances, thinking she was delusional. FV informed Yalung about the encounter to warn him, but the bishop appeared blinded by love. Meanwhile, unsigned letters began circulating in Makati about the supposed affair. It also reached the doorsteps of the CBCP and the RCAM.

Following the slapping incident and her own admission, Rances threatened to file legal charges against those spreading gossip about her affair with Yalung. She sent a letter to FV, accusing her of spreading the rumors.  In that letter, she backtracked, claiming she and Yalung were only friends.

About a year into the affair, on October 2001, Yalung, then 48, added another feather to his cap after he was appointed to the third richest diocese in the Philippines — the diocese of Antipolo. (The first two are Manila and Cebu.) It was a relief in more ways than one. The promotion also allowed the secret lovers a welcome respite from the talks in Makati. 

* * *

I sent a letter to Yalung at his residence in Sacramento, California, requesting an interview. He did not reply. Former journalist Aldwin Fajardo, who was living in Sacramento, called Yalung’s office on my behalf, also requesting for an interview. Fajardo left 3 messages in his voice mail, but did not get any return messages.

On Fajardo’s fourth try, Yalung finally picked up the phone. When Fajardo told the other person on the line that he was looking for Bishop Crisostomo Yalung, he answered: “Yes, this is Tom Yalung.” When told about the request for an interview, Yalung said, “Sorry, I am respectfully declining the interview.” He also rejected a request to send him a letter with our questions. – Rappler.com