I already had the opportunity to introduce you His Excellency Bishop Enrique Figaredo Alvargonzalez, that we all call “Father Kiké” in Cambodia.
Having heard so much about Him, I was looking forward to my first encounter with such a special character and that was done on November 26th, 2014. It was a rainy evening and Father Kiké asked me to wait for him at the Jesuit Curia in Rome, near the Vatican. From there, I went with the Jesuit Bishop to my favourite « trattoria » Da Luigi, where we discussed a lot about Cambodia, the Catholic Church in Battambang, etc…
Very impressed by such a charismatic and interesting personality, I promised to myself that, as soon as it would be possible, I will pay a visit to Father Kiké in Battambang. It is my Dear Friends, Olivier and Edwige Michon, who gave me this lucky opportunity last February. We have decided for a long time that we would go back to Cambodia to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary and they found it a very good idea to go to Battambang as well.
On February 21st and 22nd of this year, we were greeted in Battambang with a big hot storm, which made us appreciate even more the swimming-pool of Princess Marie’s La Villa, a charming little boutique hotel in the heart of Battambang historical centre, directed by the very kind and dynamic Corinne Darquey. We invited Father Kiké to have dinner there with us and he invited us to participate the day after in the Sunday Holy Mass celebration at the Apostolic Prefecture in Battambang, better known by locals as « Pet Yeay Chi » or Nuns’Hospital. We were absolutely enchanted all along that very Sunday : first, the Mass which was a very particular moment of joy and faith, with all these young girls and boys, singing and smiling at us. Then, we met Father Totet Banaynal, the vicar who is from the Philippines and speaks perfect Khmer, as well as Father Kiké by the way…
Afterwards, both of them made us visit their little world, with the school rooms for the handicaped girls and boys they are taking care of. Some of them arrived to be introduced to us and we had many opportunities to talk and laugh altogether. We even went to disturb the young fellows who are living there and attending the university of Battambang, the proof that Jesuits, even in Cambodia, are always careful to maintain the high study level for their pupils.
After these very moving moments shared with all the young ones, Father Kiké led us to have lunch in a very specific place, The Lonely Tree Café. What a surprise to be welcomed in Battambang with a delicious fresh Gazpacho, followed by tasty Tortillas and the whole, drinking such a good red wine from Rioja !!! Of course, we also had the Cambodian traditional « Loc Lac » Beef. Before going back to Siem Reap, Father Kiké gave each of us a magnificent cotton krama and made us promise to come back as soon as possible.
Needless to say that each of us was deeply touched by all we saw and felt on that blessed Sunday, but above all, love and kindness were always present. We actually lived what Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux has taught us :
“Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.”
“Where charity and love are, God is there.”
Thank you Father Kiké for all you did, do and will do for all of us, your Cambodian children, brothers and sisters !
If you want to know more about the Lonely Tree Café, here is their website : http://thelonelytreecafe.com/Lonely_Tree_Cafe/Home.html