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Jaime Lachica Sin’s father, Juan Sin, was a prosperous merchant of Chinese origin and his mother, Maxima Reyes Lachica, a very devout Catholic Filipino. Jamie, sometimes known as ‘Jim’, was born on August 31, 1928, in the Aklan province of the Philippines. He was the 14th of 16 children, sickly, thin and prone to severe attacks of asthma; known to often sleep with his parents due to his frailty. He was known to be his mother’s favorite; supposedly because she considered him the ugliest and weakest. The mother steered him towards the priesthood, Jamie going onto play preacher using the dinning room table as an altar. At 13 he entered a minor seminary his studies interrupted by his asthma and Japanese occupation of the Philippines. His mother’s last request to her other children was that they look after the sickly Jamie.
Jamie was scheduled to be ordained in 1954, aged 25 but was again laid low and hospitalized with asthma at the start of that yet. He contemplated not becoming a priest because of his asthma. But, after he was ordained in April 1954 his asthma attacks subsided. He, after various assignments away from the bustling capital, became the Archbishop of Manila in 1974, and the de facto Primate of the Philippines (though that title does not exist). On his appointment, the new Archbishop quipped that he was: ‘small town boy lost in the big city’. He was the 3rd native Filipino Archbishop of Manila — many of his predecessors having been Spanish, American or Irish.
He was created a cardinal priest in May 1976, aged 48. He was the youngest cardinal in the College and would remain so until 1983. He was the third from the Philippines to be created, Rufino Jiao Santos in 1960 having been the first.
Jamie Sin was well aware that his new title was a well known dictionary term:
He soon got used to being introduced as: ‘the greatest Sin of all: Cardinal Sin‘. His official residence in Manila was Villa San Miguel. He is well known for greeting visitors there, with a wry smile and: ‘Welcome to the House of Sin‘.
Though he initially had thought that he could intercede with Philippine’s controversial president, Ferdinand Marcos he soon found otherwise and became a strident activist against government excesses and corruption. He feared that his fellow citizens were too complacent and resigned, saying: ‘it is possible we are becoming a nation of sheep‘. Imelda Marcos, of the 500 high-heels, accused him of being a communist homosexual.
Once, at a State Banquet, he had to sit between Ferdinand and Imelda. After the banquet he told friends: ‘I felt like Jesus … crucified between two thieves‘. When Ferdinand Marco died, in exile, he famously said: ‘We got rid of Ali Baba, but the 40 thieves remained‘.
He opposed contraception saying that condoms were only fit for animals. As for the population explosion in the Philippines he opined: ‘the more the merrier‘.