MUSINGS FROM TEXAS: Being vulnerable: the Apostolate of the Marawi Prelature

HOUSTON, Texas (MindaNews/ 04 June) — Being vulnerable.

Very simply, this sums up the framework of the apostolate of the Catholic’s Marawi Prelature since it was established in 1976.

This was the very same vulnerability that made possible for the easy abduction of Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub last May 23. He is Vicar General of the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians, most popularly known as St. Mary’s Church in Marawi City.

This was the same vulnerability that allowed Maranao bandits to enter the mostly wooden-made convent of the contemplative Carmelites uphill in Marawi in 1986. The bandits took ten nuns as hostages. A month earlier, French Missioner, Fr. Michel de Gigord was taken from the Catholic Chaplaincy inside the campus of the Mindanao State University.

I learned all about these when I began to enter into a close relationship with the prelature’s first bishop, Msgr. Bienvenido Tudtud in the summer of 1986 shortly after meeting him during the intensive summer sessions on Mindanao and Sulu Cultures of the Peter Gowing Memorial Research Center of Dansalan College. He was speaker on Muslim-Christian dialogue.

He told me it was Fr. Michael Diamond, the prelature’s first chancellor, who defined the nature of their presence among Muslims when he ordered the destruction of the concrete five-foot fence constructed around the Catholic convent and the church.

Since then, what he calls as the Apostolate of Presence among Muslims in vulnerability, has been tested and challenged through the years.

I saw that first hand during the hostage-taking of the Carmelite sisters.

Bishop Tudtud remained at the center of the ongoing negotiations, mostly played by powerful politicians who may have wanted to score points with the Corazon Aquino administration. All of them were aware of Aquino’s kinship with the Carmelites Order.

He just smiled and nodded his head whenever spoken to. Up close, he even managed to crack jokes between the sundown saying of the rosary, supper and three games of dart. That is, when I was able to join him that evening at his convent, while shuttling between Marawi and Iligan to telephone dictate my stories to the Manila newsdesk.

In 1994, Lydia Macas, the Prelature’s Media Director, was killed while watching television when hit by grenade shrapnels after it exploded at the convent’s rooftop.

Lydia was our “bosing” when I joined the Prelature’s media team together with Bishop Tudtud and radio broadcaster Carl Zafra. We made values productions for radio at his studio inside his convent.

We would be writing scripts for the value spot “Bido Lala” and record the bishop’s 10-minute monologue known as “Balyakag” where he started popularizing the phrase “Maayong Good Morning (Good, good morning).”  Bishop Benny was known in Cebu City’s DYRF Radio as writer-director of the popular drama, “Introibo Ad Altare Dei” in the early 1970s.

Tatay Bido as we fondly called him, explained that being vulnerable is reflective of how Jesus Christ (Nabi Isa to Muslims) lived his life while here on earth.

He may have walked on water, calmed the raging storm, made the blind man see and lame to walk, and brought life to his dead friend Lazarus. But it was his decision to live a life of vulnerability that allowed His enemies to arrest, mock, torture, and nail Him to a cross. It was that vulnerability that made it possible for Him to bear all of mankind’s past, present and future sins so that all of those who believe in Him will not perish, but can have everlasting life.

I am certain these are not mere rhetorics for Fr. Chito, and the rest of those who are with him who are followers of Isa. There is such a third day. There is such as the Resurrection Sunday.

And if need be, one can even be bold in saying with St. Paul, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” St. Peter did. And so with many Isa followers in Iraq, Somalia and Egypt, among others. (Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries or their thoughts on what is happening in the country of their birth. Merpu Roa of Ozamiz City, one of the founding members of MindaNews, is presently based in Texas, USA and is president of the Philippine American Chamber Commerce of Texas, Rio Grande Valley)

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