KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 27 Sept) – Fr. Peter Geremia, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) and parish priest of Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, has assumed the parish in Arakan, North Cotabato left behind by slain priest Fausto Tentorio.
Fellow PIME priest Giancarlo Bossi, who became known when he was kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay in 2007 and freed over a month later, was supposed to take over the Arakan parish. Unfortunately, he died in Milan, Italy last Sunday due to lung cancer.
Geremia said he is still coordinator of the Tribal Filipinos Apostolate of the Diocese of Kidapawan.
Geremia said that after the PIME’s assembly in Manila last February, they had decided to assign Bossi to Arakan.
“He was ready to go to Arakan. He had a checkup but it was found out that he had cancer. Then he was advised to go to Italy for treatment,” the priest said of Bossi. “But before he (Bossi) died, he already informed us that he could no longer go to Arakan,” he added.
When Tentorio was gunned down October last year, Bossi, who was then in Italy, immediately visited Tentorio’s family. He had even volunteered to join Fr. Giovanni Vettoretto, Tentorio’s young assistant parish priest, in Arakan.
Bossi was kidnapped in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay on June 10, 2007 and was freed the following month in Sultan Naga Dimaporo (formerly Karomatan), Lanao del Norte. His captors identified themselves as Abu Sayyaf members.
Geremia said that with Tentorio’s passing, no other priest in the diocese is familiar with the slain priest’s programs, as well as issues in Arakan.
“So I volunteered to go to Arakan,” said the 73-year-old missionary, who had helped in organizing the lumads in Arakan in the early 1980s even before Tentorio was assigned there.
Tentorio was actually with him in Columbio, Geremia revealed, but Tentorio was eventually transferred to Arakan.
Geremia, along with other missionaries and lumad leaders, founded the then Tribal Filipino Program in 1984.
Geremia was already temporarily assigned to Arakan, from May 20 to August 20, when Vettoretto went to Italy for vacation.
The flock he left behind in Columbio are apparently not happy with his transfer to Arakan, according to Lory Obal, executive director of the Intercultural Organizations Network for Solidarity and Peace in Columbio. “But it’s his decision, he wants to work in Arakan,” she added. Obal had worked with Geremia since 1980.
Geremia has been in the Philippines for four decades. His first mission work was in Tondo in Manila in 1972.
Geremia served as parish priest of Tulunan in North Cotabato from 1980 to 1985 but also served Columbio as part of his mission work.
“As young as I used to be, I will try to continue what Fr. Fausto has started,” vowed Geremia. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)