DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 May) — Dawn of September 16, 2017, Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla received a phone call from a priest-friend in Nigeria that hostaged priest Teresito “Chito” Soganub would be freed that day.
The retired archbishop narrated the story to Soganub over coffee at the dining room of his residence on May 18, when Soganub paid him a quick visit.
A visibly surprised Soganub asked: “Bishop, how did he know?”
Capalla, who had just arrived on September 13 from a two-week visit to Nigeria, said he was awakened by the call at dawn of the Nigerian priest three days later. He recalled asking the priest how he could say it was Soganub’s day of freedom. The priest replied: “The Lord told me” and “because you asked me to pray for him.
He described the Nigerian as a “very holy man,” a founder of a congregation of priests and nuns, a university and shrine.
Soganub and a male teacher escaped from the IS-inspired Maute Group midnight of September 16, ending 117 days in captivity.
They found their way to where soldiers were stationed, some 10 minutes later, on September 17, Soganub said.
He told MindaNews after visiting the bishop that he felt even more blessed while listening to Capalla’s story.
“Actually, until now, my inner being preoccupies it. God made me special,” he said.
Soganub was Vicar-General of the Prelature of Marawi and chaplain of the Mindanao State University. He was among the hostages taken by the IS-inspired Maute Group and its allies on May 23, 2017, Day 1 of the Marawi Siege.
It was the first time the Archbishop and Soganub met after nearly two years.
A few weeks after Soganub regained his freedom last year, Capalla described Soganub before a gathering of Mindanao bishops, priests, nuns and lay workers, as “the martyr of dialogue today.”
It was Capalla, then Bishop of Iligan and Administrator of the Prelature of Marawi, who sent the then 27-year old Soganub back to the seminary in 1988, with inter-religious dialogue in Marawi, the country’s lone Islamic city, as his future assignment.
Soganub would stay in Marawi, the only area he had been assigned to in his 23 years as priest — until he escaped from the Maute Group in mid-September.
A month later, on October 17, President Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence,” a day after the Maute Group’s Omar Maute and the Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon, said to be the Emir of the ISIS in Southeast Asia, were killed.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ordered the termination of all combat operations in Marawi City on October 23, exactly five months after the siege started. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)