ARAKAN, North Cotabato – Some 500 farmers, Lumads (indigenous peoples), students and churchworkers marched five kilometers from the Our Mother of Perpetual Parish in the poblacion to the Notre Dame of Doroluman Sunday, to bring the remains of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio for the final wake in the town he served for at least 25 years.
On Monday, Arakan’s parish priest and Director of the Diocese of Kidapawan’s Indigenous Peoples’ Program, will be transported to the Our Lady of Mediatrix cathedral in Kidapawan City in preparation for Tuesday’s funeral.
Bearing placards demanding “Justice for Fr. Pops,” the marchers, including Tentorio’s two nephews, left the parish at around 2p.m., made a short march to the town hall and back to the public market before heading to Barangay Doroluman.
Mourners, mostly Lumad women, wailed as the casket bearing Tentorio’s remains was wheeled out of the church into a covered Forward truck.
Tentorio’s elder brother, Felix, sister-in law and a childhood friend, also boarded the truck to accompany Tentorio.
Felix’s sons, Andrew and Matteo, joined the march.
Upon reaching the detachment of the Special Forces, some four kilometers away from the town proper, the caravan stopped and chanted “Justice for Fr. Pops” several times.
Tension filled the air when a soldier in a baseball cap, a handkerchief covering his face, walked out of the camp with a video camera and took footage of the marchers.
Five marchers tried to stop the soldier from filming but they failed. Instead, they took photographs and video of the soldier who eventually returned to camp.
Upon arrival at the Notre Dame campus, Boy Scouts rendered a salute near the gate while a band played as the truck carrying Fr. Tentorio headed towards the covered court.
Tentorio’s brother, Felix, told Mindanews he is overwhelmed by the love and support of the people.
Felix, 61, arrived in Davao City on Saturday afternoon and traveled straight to Arakan along with his wife, two sons and a childhood friend of the slain priest.
School principal Aurora Manojo told MindaNews that they requested for an overnight vigil because Tentorio was the school director.
Manojo said Fr. Tentorio help establish the school in 2002 and the first campus was at the back of the convent in the town proper.
During the first school year, she said, the school offered first year and second year high school only and had 111 students.
The following year, the school offered third and fourth year high school, so they had to move th school to Barangay Doroluman.
Manojo said the school has a dormitory and students were supposed to pay P150 a month. But Tentorio shouldered P100 of the monthly dorm fee of all the students.
The dorm is occupied by 40 students coming from the far-flung barangays of this town and from nearby President Roxas town.
Aside from the dorm fee, Manojo said the priest also donated books computers and laboratory equipment.
“I told him before that I will not retire until he grants my request to build this covered court,” said Manojo.
A mass was held at the jampacked covered court officiated by PIME Regional Superior Giovanni Re and Fr. Tentorio’s assistant parish priest Fr. Giovanni Vettoretto, PIME.
He will be laid to rest near the grave of fellow PIME missionary Fr. Tulio Favali, who was killed in April 11, 1985 in Tulunan town, also in North Cotabato.
Fr. Tentorio was gunned down while about to leave the convent for a clergy meeting in Kidapawan City on October 17.
Police have not established the motive for the killing of the Italian missionary. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)