Words for his flock were Fr. Pops’ last will and testament

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/19 Oct) – While most people’s last will and testament talks about the transfer of their wealth or properties on this Earth to other people, there’s no such mention in the case of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, the Italian missionary who was killed in Arakan in North Cotabato about a year ago.

Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME, said  his fallen comrade’s last will and testament revealed his true personality. Mindanews Photo by Keith Bacongco
Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME, said his fallen comrade’s last will and testament revealed his true personality. Mindanews Photo by Keith Bacongco

What he left instead were words to guide his flock, according to Fr. Peter Geremia, Fr. Pops’ colleague in the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).

Fr. Pops’ instruction, Geremia said, was to have a verse from the Prophet Mica written on his tombstone: “You were told, O Man, what is good and what God requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” His wish was carried out.

These words, Geremia said in his homily for the first year anniversary mass here last Wednesday, revealed his fallen comrade’s true personality.

But there were more than just Prophet Mica’s words in Fr. Pops’ handwritten last will and testament. Geremia said Fr. Pops added a few lines in Cebuano: “Ang imong pangandoy, akong pangandoy, and imong pakigbisog, akong pakigbisog: Busa kaw ug ako usa ra. Kauban sa pagpanday sa ginharian sa Dios” (Your dream is my dream. Your struggle is my struggle. Therefore, You and I are one: companions in building the Kingdom of God).

Geremia, who was temporarily reassigned to Arakan last May, said Fr. Pops’ parishioners were already familiar with these words, but they did not have a clue the wise words would actually be in the slain priests’ last will and testament.

“Tentorio does not usually express so much about his feelings. This is how I knew him,” the priest said in his homily.

The priest added he discovered his colleague’s last will and testament a day after he was killed. Tentorio reportedly wrote it in 2004 and addressed to the PIME superior.

On September 3, Geremia, who used to be assigned as parish priest in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, was permanently assigned in Arakan as assistant parish priest of the Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish.

Fellow Italian Giovanni Vettorreto, who used to be Tentorio’s assistant priest, is now the parish priest.

Geremia also assumed Tentorio’s post as the coordinator of the Tribal Filipino Apostolate of the Diocese of Kidapawan.

Both priests have worked together since the 1980s when they helped organize the indigenous peoples in Arakan, Tulunan (also in North Cotabato) and Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat.

True personality

Geremia said in his homily that everybody knew Tentorio as a priest who served the poor, the farmers and especially the Lumads.

But he added that these are just external things that the people would usually see of Fr. Pops. “Like wearing a tubaw, traditional bracelets, with beard and sometimes bald.”

Geremia said not everyone knew Tentorio’s true personality until they discovered the last will and testament , which revealed the true personality of the late priest.

“A servant and a comrade, who had dreams for his people. A partner in the struggle, a struggle for the people. And a companion in building the Kingdom of God,” said the 73-year-old missionary.

Like Moses

Geremia also likened Tentorio to Moses, who was herding his sheep  and would never leave the mountains. “But when a fire appeared on the bushes, he heard the voice of God saying: Hear the cry of the people.” And Moses became an instrument to the liberation of the slaves, he added.

“And Pops too, became an instrument to liberate his people from the slaves of the society today,” Geremia pointed out.

Tentorio is known for his advocacy for defending the ancestral domain of the indigenous peoples against the entry of large-scale plantations, mining and illegal logging.

On Wednesday, at least 1,500 people, mostly indigenous peoples from Arakan, gathered at the Diocese of Kidapawan compound to commemorate the first death anniversary of Tentorio. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)