A song for Father Rey

The song was the scholars’ tribute to “Father Rey” or “Tatay Rey” who spent at least ten years in Tabawan and who, according to Father Ramon Bernabe, provincial of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI)  during the mass for the dead Tuesday night at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral here,  “was prepared, was ready to stay there for more years.”

Bernabe celebrated the mass with Bishop Angelito Lampon of the Vicariate of Jolo and 26 other priests.

Father Roda, killed evening of January 15 in Tabawan,  Tawi-tawi while resisting being taken away by armed men, will be buried at the OMI cemetery at the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan, after the 8 a.m. mass at the cathedral Wednesday (January 23).

The song talks about how Fr. Roda helped the people of Tabawan.  “Ito ang salaysay/ ng mahihirap na Sama Tabawan/ kung hindi dahil sa iyo, walang pangarap, walang pagbabago” ( This is the story of the poor Sama Tabawan. If not for you, we’d have no dreams, no changes),” the scholars and the Notre Dame of Tabawan Oscar Pulay, Sr., said.

Students, nuns, parishioners lined up to view the remains of Fr. Roda on the left side near the altar after the mass.

The missionary lived among an estimated 20,000 residents, according to Pulay, only about 30 of whom, he said, are Catholics.

A week after the killing of Father Roda, Notre Dame teacher Omar Taup, whom the armed men took with them that night, has remained missing.

Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, regional police chief in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) told MindaNews Tuesday night that “one of the suspects, Salvador, former Bantay Dagat  member, surrendered yesterday to Governor Sahali of Tawi-tawi, but claimed innocence in the abduction with murder of  Fr. Roda.”

Goltiao said the suspect was “placed under the custody of the Philippine marines because of the ongoing pursuit operations by joint PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

In a “Manifesto of Solidarity with  the Oblate Community and the Family of the late
Rev. Fr. Reynaldo Jesus Roda, O.M.I.,” the Interreligious Solidarity Movement for Peace in Zamboanga City said they had taken the circumstances of Father Roda’s death “with many questions on what it must mean to work for peace  and for the poor the way he did.”

“Tawi-Tawi has, for us, been a picture of tranquility amidst the turmoil in many places within the ARMM.  Its peacefulness has in fact been the pride of the local leaders and people.  For the killing of a Catholic priest to happen here,  it  does raise great concerns for the lovers of  peace and justice in many Muslim and Christian communities in Tawi-Tawi, in the ARMM, and the rest of  Mindanao.  Yet, for them,  Fr. Rey’s death  must both inspire and  lead them on to continue even as he, in his own sphere of work, continued walking the steps of  martyrdom,  following  his brothers, Bishop Ben de Jesus and  Fr. Ben Inocencio,” the statement read.

“We turn to ourselves and our communities in Mindanao,  pondering the conflicts that continue to enkindle the fires of violence that  victimize all  of us.  On the other hand we are moved by  people like Fr. Rey  whose work  will continue to be an inspiration to pursue the dream  of  a  peace  that is still truly possible for  Mindanao.  Let Fr. Rey be a shining example of the courage we need to help assure others of a caring place where the dignity of life is pursued as a birthright of all,” the statement read.

Father Roda’s remains were brought to the capital town of Bongao, Tawi-tawi, some eight hours away by boat but less than two hours on  the governor’s speedboat, from Tabawan morning of January 16 and was flown from Bongao, Tawi-tawi on Philippine Air Force Huey helicopters afternoon of January 18, to Jolo for refueling en route to Zamboanga City where the body was brought to a funeral parlor for embalment, and where it stayed for an overnight vigil at the Zamboanga City cathedral. At 6 a.m. on January 19, Father Roda’s remains were again flown on a helicopter to Cotabato City via Pagadian.

From January 19 to January 22 afternoon, Fr. Roda’s wake was at the OMI’s Postulancy House in Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan.

His remains were again transferred to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral afternoon of January 22 for an overnight vigil. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)