MANILA, Philippines – "Puwede ba kunin mo na ako dito, Lord?" (Can you take me now, Lord?)
Father Teresito "Chito" Soganub, the Marawi priest once held hostage by the terrorist Maute Group, opened up on Friday, March 23, about his "test of faith" during his 116 days in captivity.
In a rare public appearance in Manila, Soganub explained that his life as a hostage tested his "spiritual sanity." It was living while thinking he could die anytime.
Soganub however said: "Dinala ko na lang lahat dahil pari ako, kaya kailangan maging totoo ako doon sa my faith before God. There's no other way except to strengthen that faith and to believe that nandoon siya, nakikita niya, at alam niya at naririnig niya ano man ang nasa loob ko."
(I just bore everything because I am a priest, that's why I need to be true to my faith in God. There's no other way except to strengthen that faith and to believe that God was there, He was seeing everything, and He knew and He was hearing whatever was in my heart.)
Soganub also said that while his captivity was difficult, it was also a privilege to join the Lord in suffering. He broke into tears several times in Friday's press conference as he recounted his ordeal.
"I was leaning on the fact that, perhaps, this is the time that the Lord wants me to join the Sorrowful Mystery. The Lord wants me to join the Stations of the Cross. The Lord wants me to join the Seven Last Words," Soganub said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Soganub was rescued on September 16, 2017, after he was captured by the Maute Group, terrorists who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), on May 23, 2017. He is now undergoing psychological healing. (READ: Chito Soganub: Hostage-priest in Marawi often mistaken for a Muslim)
Read a portion of the press conference with Soganub below:
Photo by Angie de Silva
JOURNALIST JUN VENERACION: Total nagkuwento na po kayo bahabahagya, Father, puwede ba namin malaman kung doon sa 116 days 'nyo, ano po ba 'yung pinakamahirap na bahagi noon?
FATHER CHITO SOGANUB: Ang pinakamahirap na bahagi sa buhay at sa pananampalataya, 'yung pamumuhay na nasa ilalim ka ng bala palagi. Malapit ka sa tama ng airstrike, malapit ka sa tama ng bala ng kanyon, 'yun ang pinakamahirap, dahil kahit magdasal ka, nahihirapan ka.
At saka kahit 'yung sa prayers mo, nahihirapan din 'yung spiritual sanity mo. Nahihirapan ka na kung ano'ng gagawin mo at ano ang ipagdarasal mo. "Puwede ba kunin mo na ako dito, Lord? Alam mo na hindi ka makukuha diyan." "Puwede ba tamaan mo na lang ako, Lord? Kung tatamaan, diretso na akong mamamatay." So maraming parang hindi mo na maintindihan.
So 'yung dalawang bagay, 'yung personality mo, 'yung person mo, at saka 'yung spirituality mo, mahirap. Siguro ang sagot doon, extraordinary situation at saka very special situation, na iba talaga kung nasa ilalim ka ng giyera. Nasa kamay ka pa ng hindi mo kilala, nasa kamay ka pa ng marami sila at may baril sila, at nandiyan naman humaharap ang malalakas na puwersa ng Armed Forces of the Philippines. 'Yun ang pinakamahirap.
VENERACION: Father Chito, papa'no 'nyo nilabanan 'yon, 'yung takot na 'yon?
SOGANUB: Dinala ko na lang lahat dahil pari ako, kaya kailangan maging totoo ako doon sa my faith before God. There's no other way except to strengthen that faith and to believe that nandoon siya, nakikita niya, at alam niya, at naririnig niya ano man ang sa loob ko.
Alam niya hindi ko kaya. Pero for me it's a test of my faith, na hanggang buhay ka pa, kayanin mo with the Lord. Kung ako lang, hindi ko talaga makaya, at saka hindi ko na kaya, suko na ako. But habang buhay pa, dahil pari ako, kakayanin ko ang lahat kasama ang Panginoon.
Ang sinasandigan ko lang siguro, ito ang time na the Lord wants me to join the Sorrowful Mystery. The Lord wants me to join the Stations of the Cross. The Lord wants me to join the Seven Last Words.
Mahirap at hindi ko gusto. On the other hand, parang privilege din ito na napagbigyan ka ng Panginoon ng ganoong privilege – hindi mo kaya pero kakayanin mo. It's a test – a final test of your faith. So 'yun lang. Between my life and my faith, kailangan kong i-strengthen. No other means.
Mas mahirap. Marami kaming hostages, 120, pero kung pari ka, normal 'yun na mas mahirap sa 'yo dahil 'yung pari, at all situations, ikaw ang Father, kaya kung anong pangyayari. Pero kung in terms of difficult situations, ikaw pa rin ang pinakamatinding paghihirap, sa 'yo pa rin. Kasi kung halimbawa may disaster sa 'yong parokya o may masamang nangyayari, naga-sorrow ka, 'no, nasasaktan ka. So gano'n din. Maraming mga hostages. While I pity myself, naaawa pa rin ako sa kanila kung paano nila i-survive ito.
Ang sagot doon, bakit ko nakaya, na kung ako lang hindi ko talaga kaya. Kung ano man 'yon, it's because I believe doon ang presence of God, kay Lord. Lagi kong hinihingi: hindi ko talaga kaya. At kung ano man 'yon, bigyan mo ako ng lakas, makaya ko at sa hindi, na'ndito ka lang, huwag mo lang ako iwanan. At alam ko hindi mo ako iiwanan.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.