Nahseb kelli madwar disgha jew tmien snin meta l-ewwel niftakar nisma u nara lil Fr. Peter jitkellem. Zgur kien dak iz-zmien ghax konna ghadna nghixu ir-Rabat (igifieri qabel is-snin disghin) izda l-gazzetti kienu diga bil-kulur (allura wara l-1987).
Kien xi programm ta’ diskussjoni fuq Television Malta; na niftakarx l-isem ezattament ghalkemm ghandi amment li kien ta Lou Bondí. Forsi Pjazza Tlieta?
Dak iz-zmien konna nkunu ta spiss flimkien id-dar filghaxijiet naraw it-television wara l-ikla tal-familja. Hafna drabi dan kien jinvolvi xi Varietá fuq ir-RAI jew Canale 5 u fil-weekend dejjem issibna naraw Cinema in Famiglia u Domenica In. Pero ommi w missieri dejjem kienu jinsistu li naraw l-ahbarijiet fuq TVM u meta bdew jixxandru dawn il-programmi ta diskussjoni malajr saru parti mir-ritwal taghna. Allura ta tfal kont imdorri nisma, nara u “niddiskuti” grajjiet kurrenti u politika.
Izda f’dak il-programm rajt xi haga gdida. Dan ir-ragel li kien qieghed jitkellem b’mod differenti hafna mill-politici li naraw issoltu kellu caption mhux tas-soltu li kienet tghid “Hassieb u filosofu”. Sa dak inhar ma kontx naf li dak kien titlu li wiehed seta jaspira ghalih b’mod realistiku. B’dak il-mod stramb li certi memorji tat-tfulija jibqghu ittimbrati f’mohhok, dik l-istampa baqghet f’tieghi. Meta aktar tard f’hajti xi buffu (jew tnejn) qaluli “U ajma, mela int tista tkun XYZ”, dik l-istampa kienet tigi quddiem wicci u tghamilli l-qalb.
Izda lejn l-ahhar tal-programm smajt xi haga hafna aktar straordinarja. Il-Prezentatur saqsa lil Father Peter “Kieku kellek taghmel xi haga ohra b’hajtek x’kont taghzel?” Kwazi minghajr hsieb huwa rrisponda “Kont inkun buffu.”
Buffu? Father Peter elabora.
“Il-Buffu huwa dak ir-ragel jew mara li xogholu huwa li jdahhak in-nies. Mhux bil-bravura tieghu izda bl-inkompetenza. Dejjem lest li johrog fuq il-palk fejn xi hadd iehor ser jghaddi z-zmien bih. U dejjem jghamel dan b’dahka fuq wiccu anke jekk forsi m’ghandux dahka gewwa fih. Jista jkun li kellu gimgha hazina, li forsi ggieled ma xi habib jew tilef lil xi hadd li jhobb izda dan ma jzommux lura milli jpingi wicc ta ferh biex jaqdi dmiru lejn l-udjenza tieghu. Izda fuq kollox, il-Buffu, jaqa kemm kemm il-darba jaqa, wiccu fit-trab u fit-tajn, dejjem jerga jqum fuq saqajh u jkompli b’dak li kien qieghed jipprova jaghmel.”
Ghalkemm Father Peter ma kienx buffu ghex hajtu b’dan il-mod li ddeskriva tant snin ilu. Karriera bhal tieghu ma tigix b’xejn. U zgur ma ssehx jekk dak li jkun jaqta qalbu ma l-ewwel intopp.
Kwazi ghaxar snin wara kelli l-opportunita li niltaqa mieghu regolarment bhala ir-rapprezentant ta’ l-istudenti fuq il-Bord tal-Junior College. Fil ftit diskussjonijiet li kellna sibt fih li mhux talli kien ragel ta intellett kbir izda ta umilta kbira wkoll. Ta sittax il-sena min jaf kemm kont nghid, minghajr ma ndur mal-lewza, cucati. Izda dejjem tani wicc u sema x’kelli nghid bl-akbar serjeta u attenzjoni.
Nies bhalu, u bhall-Professur de Marco ma tantx kellna, jew ghandna, Malta. Nies li lesti jiddedikaw ruhhom ghal-hsieb, il-filosofija u kburija umli. Nispera li l-Maltin li kienu jafuh ma jinsewx l-ezempju tieghu u li fil-gejjieni ikollna aktar politici, akkademici, kittieba u hassieba li jgibu ruhhom bl-istess mod.
U nispera li Father Peter, skond it-twemmin tieghu, jerga jqum, ifarfar it-trab u jkompli jispira lill-istudenti Maltin.
Father Peter, the Clown
I must have been around eight or nine years old when I first saw Father Peter talking on TV. I’m not sure of the exact dates but it must have been around that time because we still lived in Rabat (making it late eighties) but newspapers were already being printed in colour (so post-1987).
It was definitely some discussion programme on TVM; although I don’t quite remember which one. It might have been Lou Bondí’s “Pjazza Tlieta”.
At that time our family used to often be gathered around TV of an evening after supper. More often than not we’d be watching Italian TV. My parents however were quite adamant on watching the local news and as these sort of programmes became more commonplace they also became part of our daily life. As a result my childhood tended to include political and current affairs “discussion” on a fairly regular basis.
However in this particular episode I experienced something new. This man, who spoke in a manner quite different to your average politician, had an unusual caption to his name. It read: “Thinker and philosopher”. I wasn’t aware until that point that that was a job title one could realistically aspire to in Malta. That image stuck with me in the way some childhood memories are wont to do and came back to me later in life at those points in time in which certain people would skeptically say that certain dreams are out of reach or just plain ridiculous.
Towards the end of the show I heard something else which struck me, at the time, as being even more unusual. The interviewer ask Father Peter “If you had to start over and pick a different career what might that be?” Without hesitation he replied “I’d be a clown.”
Seriously? A clown?
“You see, a clown is somebody whose job it is to make people laugh. However not through his cleverness but by his incompetence. He makes people feel good about themselves. He’s always prepared to go on stage where somebody else will be making fun of him. And he does this with a huge grin on his face, night after night, even if he’s possibly not laughing so much inside. But most of all, however many times the Clown may fall down flat on his face, he will always get back up, grin, and continue with the job at hand: giving his audience what they came for.”
Now Father Peter was no clown but he certainly tried to follow his own advice in this regard. A career such as his does not come about lightly after all; and certainly not if one gives up at the first hurdle.
Around ten years later I was lucky enough to run into him on a regular basis in my role of student rep at sixth form. In the few conversations we had I found him to be not only a clever man but a humble one too. At the age of sixteen God only knows how naive I must have been, especially when discussing student “politics” and college policy. He never once disregarded me and always made me feel like what I said was valuable to him.
People like him are rare in the world, even more so in Malta. People who are both deep thinkers yet in touch with life’s practical challenges. I hope that Malta doesn’t forget him too quickly and that those who knew him personally or were taught by him continue to be inspired by his work and ethos.
Above all I hope that he will get back up on his feet, grin and continue to inspire Maltese students now and in the future.