In his burial, Fr. Soganub hailed as a martyr
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Fr. Teresito Soganub, who survived 117 days in captivity by Islamic State militants during the Marawi war, was buried on Monday (Aug. 3) as a martyr for peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims.
Soganub, buried in his hometown in Norala, South Cotabato province, is well known for his work in bridging the gap between peoples of the two faiths.
He was buried 10 days after he died in his sleep last July 22. He would have turned 60 on Aug. 1.
Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Pena, unusually garbed in red vestment, celebrated Mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Norala, where Soganub was ordained almost 25 years ago.
Dela Pena, in his homily, explained why he wore red. It was for Soganub, he said. “He was a martyr. He died a martyr,” said Dela Pena.
“In the work that was given to him, he put his life on the line,” said the Marawi bishop.
“He did not shirk from his responsibilities. In fact, he went beyond the line of duty just to be able to reach out to the people who needed his services,” Dela Peña said.
Soganub began his service for the Marawi prelature in 1994 as assistant to Fr. Rodulfo Galenzoga, a pillar of inter-religious dialogue in the Lanao area. This started his journey into the work of reaching out to Muslims and followers of other faiths.
Prior to his abduction in 2017, he was chancellor and vicar general of the prelature and chaplain of the Mindanao State University.
In addition to his church duties, Soganub was also active in civil society initiatives for Mindanao peace-building, inter-faith and Muslim-Christian dialogue, and in supporting Maranao groups advocating for clean elections and good governance.
Dela Peña also said Soganub was also helping “liberate people who have been victims of human trafficking” and brought to Lanao del Sur.
“In the middle of the night, he would drive them off to their homes,” said Dela Pena of Soganub’s commitment to help trafficking victims return to their communities to Compostela Valley and Zamboanga Sibugay. Compostela Valley is now Davao de Oro province.
Despite the horrors he faced as an IS hostage, Soganub “became even more passionate and forceful in promoting inter-religious dialogue because this is the only way to peace,” Dela Peña said.
His captivity, according to the bishop, “formed Fr. Chito so much that he had become a living embodiment of inter-religious dialogue.”
Dela Peña also paid tribute to Soganub’s tenacity in pursuing his advocacies “even if, on the surface, it is not bearing fruit.”
“We have come to bury Fr. Chito but we have not come to bury his dreams,” Dela Peña said. “We have come to pledge our resolve to continue the work that he did, and offer our lives for the kind of work that we truly believe in,” he added.
Soganub’s colleagues in the peace and inter-faith movement in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur were unable to attend his funeral because of a lockdown in Norala.
Dela Peña said he was allowed entry by local authorities only upon the request of Cardinal Orlando Quevedo.
Abelardo Moya, director of peace building group Pakigdait, said Soganub had shown how relating with other faiths could strengthen one’s own.
“He was a man of his word. Sincere. You don’t even think of him as a Christian but a real human being,” Maranao woman leader Samira Gutoc said of Soganub.
Gutoc thanked Soganub for narrating his ordeal during the Marawi war, as a way “to give a lesson to other people that hatred is not the solution.”
Maranao youth leader Tirmizy Abdullah said Soganub’s life “is evidence that inter-faith friendship is possible, that people of various faiths can be friends.”
Abdullah recalled how the bearded Soganub inspired the formation of an interfaith movement among the youth of Mindanao.
“He went beyond the normal notion of evangelization,” Abdullah said. “He was out to understand the deeper side of one’s faith.”
Addressing Soganub, Dr. Damolabi Bula, a retired academician, said: “We are here. We will continue the work that we have been doing.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.