On Saturday, January 19, at around 3 p.m., he faced what he called “a new birth to Eternity”, as he succumbed to massive cardiac arrest at the Mindanao Heart Center. He was 68.
Until his death, Father Cunanan was the director-curator of the Archdiocesan Church Cultural Heritage Commission (ACCHC) and held the said agency located at San Pedro Cathedral Parish compound since 2004.
Born on June 3, 1939 to Ildefonsa Donayre and Blas Cunanan, Fr. Paul, as he is fondly called by brother priests and friends, is the fourth of nine siblings, and an older brother of Dr. Gerardo Cunanan, Davao Medical Center's Chief of Hospital who passed away last November 27, 2007, also of cardiac arrest at the same center.
One of the two “most senior” Davao clergy – the other one is Msgr. Edgar Rodriguez, presently the chaplain of Sto. Niño Shrine – Fr. Paul was ordained priest on May 1, 1966 and would have celebrated his 42nd anniversary this year.
In his more than 40 years in the priesthood, Fr. Paul has been assigned either as vicar or as parish priest in a total of 9 parishes of the archdiocese, including the parishes of Sto. Rosario (Malita, 1966-67) and Immaculate Conception (Bansalan, 1967-68).
He was the former parish priest of St. Jude Parish (1974-76) and San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish (1978-83), during which term his pet project was the Comprehensive Resettlement Program (CRD) in Talomo area.
In 1969, he founded Operation Build-Up (OBU), a movement which aims to develop Christian leadership and citizenship in the young people. It was an off-shoot of his 7-year stint as the director of the Archdiocesan Social Action Center (ASAC) of Davao from 1967-1974.
He was also the founder of 4L (Love Life Live Love) Mission Foundation, Inc., an advocacy that promotes family and life, community services and scholarship programs.
Since 1977, Fr. Paul was the chaplain of the Sta. Ana Multipurpose Cooperative and likewise a member of the Board of Directors. His love for cooperatives must be undoubtedly deep for he founded the San Lorenzo Development Cooperative of Talomo in 1985.
A Datu Bago awardee in 1990, Fr. Paul was also a national recipient of the San Lorenzo for Peace and Unity Awards in 1991.
In 1998, he became a delegate of the Church to the City Government’s Peace & Order Council. He was also involved in the Philippine National Red Cross as board member since 1989. He was also involved in farmers and workers apostolate from 1967 to 1974 and a member of the Association of Voluntary Arbitrators in the Philippines for 10 years (1989-1999).
A master’s degree holder in Oriental Religion and a licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila, Fr. Paul showed his passion for interreligious dialogue and ecumenism when he was appointed director of the Archdiocesan Center for Ecumenical & Interreligious Dialogue (ACEID) from 1996-2000.
On Friday, January 19, Fr. Paul went to the doctor for a check-up. Confined to be scheduled for a heart operation, he gave in after struggling with a cardiac arrest at around 3:00 PM.
His remains lie at the Chapel of the Saints of San Pedro Cathedral, San Pedro St., Davao City. Requiem masses are offered daily from January 21 to 28, at 5:30 p.m.
Friends and relatives may also participate in the novena prayers during the wake from January 20 to 28 at 8 p.m. Necrological Services are set on January 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Funeral Mass will be on January 29 at 2 p.m. at the San Pedro Cathedral. Interment follows at the Roman Catholic Cemetery, Father Selga St., Davao City.
A week before his death, in an interview for the “Know your shepherd” column of the Davao Catholic Herald, Fr. Paul quipped, “My heart plans my way, but my Lord directs my steps.”
Truly, the Lord has directed the plans of Fr. Paul’s heart “to live and love” until he comes to what he calls “a new birth to Eternity.” (Davao Catholic Herald)