Fr. Chito Soganub, Marawi siege survivor, laid to rest

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 03 August) — Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub, who was held captive for 117 days by Islamic State-inspired militants during the Marawi siege in 2017, was laid to rest on Monday in his hometown Norala, South Cotabato.

He was buried at the town’s public cemetery two days after he would have turned 60 years old.

Soganub died of cardiac arrest on July 22 at the family’s ancestral home.

The Vicar General of the Prelature of Marawi was buried as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to rage in the country.

Owing to health protocols, the Immaculate Conception Parish church was not filled to the brim, with only the family members, close friends and few other mourners allowed inside, a video footage shared by one of the priest’s siblings, Boyet Soganub, showed.

Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peńa presided over the funeral mass.

As part of his healing process, Soganub, who served the Marawi prelature for 23 years, went home on November 28, 2017 to a rousing welcome by his townmates.

Clad in all-black slacks, long sleeves and a hat, he was paraded around the poblacion area in a motorcade organized by the local government unit.

An estimated 500 residents, including students of private and public schools in the bucolic town, gathered at an open gymnasium where the priest detailed his ordeal that began on May 23, 2017 after the Maute Group abducted him and five others from the Marawi church compound.

“The aerial bombings, the artillery fires, the machine guns that we heard were so terrifying. It’s like a scene you can see only in a (war) movie,” Soganub told the crowd in the vernacular then.

“As hostages, death stared us on the face because of the fierce clashes between the two sides…Fortunately, I was able to escape towards the government troops,” he added.

Soganub had said “he was angry with God for putting him in a nightmare.”

“However, my faith in God did not diminish a bit while I was in captivity, in fact I even deepened my trust on Him,” he added.

The priest was recovered by government troops on September 27, 2017 after escaping from his captors.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law hours after the Maute Group laid siege on Marawi on May 23, 2017 for 60 days. Congress, upon the requests of Duterte, extended martial law three times until December 31, 2019.

Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi from the Maute Group on October 17, 2017 even if fighting still continued there. The declaration came a day after Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the designated Islamic State emir in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute were killed by government troops.

The government terminated military operations in Marawi on October 23, 2017, exactly five months after the crisis erupted that displaced over 350,000 civilians.

At least 1,100 individuals, mostly Islamic militants, were killed in the five-month war that left the core of Marawi in shambles, mostly due to the aerial bombings and artillery fires from government forces.

As of June 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that 25,367 families or 126,835 individuals displaced by the Marawi siege have yet to return home.