30 years after: martyred priest remembered

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/16 April) – Thirty years ago, on April 13, 1981 to be exact, five unidentified men, two armed with revolvers and three others masked with handkerchiefs, entered the rectory of the Immaculate Conception Church in Kibawe, Bukidnon and shot Fr. Godofredo Alingal in the chest.

Alingal died at 58 and 13 years after serving the parish both as priest and as director of the Stella Matutina Academy.

In a reunion among at least 1,400 church lay ministers or alagad, Fr. Mat Sanchez of Miarayon, Talakag town reminded them of the meaning of the life and death of his fellow Jesuit priest in time for the 30th anniversary of his death.

Sanchez said Alingal is best remembered for choosing the path of “active non-violence” and defending the rights of poor farmers during the Martial Law years earning the ire of political leaders and military officials.

“He opted for active non-violent ways instead of resorting to violence, or not doing anything at all,” Sanchez added.

In his homily during the mass on the second day of the lay ministers’ gathering, Sanchez said Alingal showed the way to peace by not supporting armed struggle as an alternative to the despotic regime of President Ferdinand Marcos.

He said Alingal was seen as a threat to those who abused the people during Martial Law.

Sanchez reflected on the “Empty Tomb in Kibawe,” a piece written by the late Bukidnon bishop Francisco Claver on Alingal’s death.

Claver was referring to the tomb built by the parishioners for their slain priest but which was never used because Alingal’s remains was buried in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, his hometown, upon his mother’s request.

The late bishop likened Kibawe’s empty tomb for Alingal to Christ’s empty tomb during the resurrection.

“There was no wondrous rising from the dead in Kibawe, true, but the promise was there, and the faith in that promise,” Claver added, as quoted by Sanchez.

Sanchez said Alingal was in a way resurrected because his death inspired people to gain courage in fighting the abuses during Martial Law by both the military and the rebels.

“It was sort of an early form of people power back in 1981,” he said.

Hermogenes Cadiz, a farmer and a lay minister in Kibawe since Alingal’s time, recalled that the priest earned the ire of some businessmen who were affected by the church’s campaign against loan sharks and anomalous business practices like using inaccurate weighing scales in buying and selling grains.

But he clarified that the killers could either be persons hired by those who were offended by his campaign or the rebels.

“It was clear that Fr. Alingal was following the church’s teachings on peace and non-violence. He fought against oppressors, both in uniform and the rebels,” Cadiz said.

The Sojourners magazine reported that about 4,000 local farmers and their families attended Alingal’s funeral despite lingering fears of more repression.

“Some of them even organized a procession to the funeral with banners, including one that read, ‘Is death the answer for speaking for justice?’”

Claver said Alingal could have avoided death had he chosen to remain silent.

“He could have closed his eyes to the evils he saw around him. He could have given in to fear, yielding to threats in his life, abandoning his flock to the ravening wolves. But no,” he said. “He was for justice, actively, uncompromisingly. He was also against violence, just as actively, just as uncompromisingly,” Claver said in his piece written a week after Alingal’s funeral. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)