December 15, 1955, a Thursday, was perhaps the most dramatic and most momentous day in the whole history of Xavier School. For the fateful deadline had arrived and Father Desautels and his friends were still hopelessly short of the 100,000 pesos needed by 5:00 p.m. that day. They had been working hard the whole week, wearing out the soles of their shoes going from store to store and from office to office in Chinatown, and had collected many pledges, but all the cash they had was 41,000 pesos. At 10:30 in the morning a telephone call produced some significant results: Yu Khe-thai was persuaded to advance 20,000 on his January 100,000-peso commitment. They had 61,000 pesos: 39,000 pesos short of the target.
Father Desautels in his Notes describes his psychological condition:
There they were that day, the three of them, Father Desautels, Ambrose Chiu, and Basilio King, tired and downcast, eating a frugal lugaw lunch in the office of Ambrose’s Panciteria Moderna at 1:30 in the afternoon. Looking at each other they kept asking again and again the one and only question, “What do we do?” Should they abandon the project? Was there some other place they hadn’t visited yet, some person they had overlooked?
But Basilio kept repeating, “The money is there, I know it. When a Chinese businessman takes a commitment he will honor it. The money will come sooner or later, we can count on it. If only we could borrow some money for a few weeks, we could repay it as the pledges come in. But where can we borrow 39,000 pesos before the five o’clock deadline?”
They could only think of one man who could perhaps help them, their good friend and former mentor, Father Willmann. He had connections with people who were kind and powerful. Perhaps he could suggest some name, endorse a recommendation to someone. Just a telephone call to one of his friends could work a miracle. It was 2:00 p.m. when they agreed, as a last resort, to go and see Father Willmann. As they were about to leave, Father Desautels received a telephone call he had been dreading the whole day. It was Atty. Ayala.
“So, what’s the news?” asked the attorney. “Are we going ahead with the deal?”
“Most certainly,” replied Father Desautels. “We will meet at 4:30 today right on the property. Bring the contract along.”
He was either bluffing or trusting blindly in Divine Providence. For he certainly was in no position to honor his commitment. At least not yet.
Good, saintly Father Willmann, God rest his soul, gave them no names, offered no suggestion. But he did make a telephone call. He had a savings account belonging to the Knights of Columbus, did not know how much, but he could find out. He phoned his bank and asked, “How much money do I have in my account?” “A bit over twenty-eight-thousand pesos,” was the manager’s reply.
Right then and there, Father Willmann pulled out his checkbook and wrote out a check for 28,000 pesos as an interest-free loan payable in three months.
The three men saw the heavens open. It was the miracle they had been praying for. Basilio pulled out his own checkbook and made out a postdated check for 28,000 pesos that he gave to Father Willmann as a guarantee for his loan. He also took out from his pocket a roll of bills and gave 2,000 pesos to Father Desautels in P20-denomination bills. They already had 30,000. Only 9,000 pesos to go.
Father Desautels then phoned his relative, the parish priest of Mary the Queen, Father Beauregard, and asked him how much parish money he could make available to him. The reply was that there was in the Mary the Queen account about 9,000 pesos. He needed immediately about 3,000 for salaries and the month’s expenses. The balance of 6,000 was available. That brought the funds to 36,000 pesos, 3,000 to go. Ambrose looked at his checkbook. At that time Ambrose, too, was still struggling financially. He had 1,200-something in his bank account. He said he would borrow 1,800 from his mother, which added to his own would make 3,000.
Bingo! It was 3:30 in the afternoon and Father Desautels and his friends had finally made it: they had the 100,000 pesos they needed to make the first payment and acquire the rights to the property.
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