My Close Encounter with Fr. Chito Soganub

Fr. Chito Soganub died peacefully in his sleep on July 22, 2020 at his residence in Norala, South Cotabato.

My Close Encounter with Fr. Chito Soganub

Fr. Rex

 by Fr. Rex Rocamora 

Fr. Chito Soganub died peacefully in his sleep on July 22, 2020 at his residence in Norala, South Cotabato.  I saw the post on his Facebook account about his peaceful passing. A picture showed his body lying on the bed. He looked at peace. Bishop Edwin de la Peña sought for clearance to go to his hometown to officiate the funeral mass. During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, it was difficult to move around and I could only wish that I would be able to witness the funeral mass online.

I had my first get-to-know encounter with Fr. Chito Soganub in our Columban House in Singalong on the occasion of our Regional Assembly on February 18th 2020. This was five months prior to his death. He was our guest speaker. He told us Columbans the story of his abduction during the siege of Marawi in 2017. We enjoyed his storytelling.


Fr. Chito Soganub 

One of Father Chito’s former professors at St Mary’s Theologate in Gango, Ozamis, Fr. Brendan Lovett, was with the rest of us. Father Chito made a joke to Father Brendan, “Life is like that, it’s an ongoing education… sometimes you become a student of your student.” His humor was very much in his way of telling his story. “Part of me is a Columban,” he said. “I don’t blame anyone, but I inherited my ‘English’ from the Columbans.” He worked with many Columbans at St Mary’s Prelature in Marawi. He also went to St Mary’s Theologate (Gango seminary) which was supported by the Columbans in its early stage and where they taught theology while the local priests took care of the formation of the seminarians.

After dinner, Father Chito came over to where Father Brendan and I were seated. I decided to stay with them instead of watching the movie, ‘The Two Popes’, being shown at the conference hall next door. “So, the student gave honor to his ‘professor’. I did not run away from my captors because of what I learned from your class,” Father Chito said to Father Brendan. When I asked for confirmation from Father Brendan, he said that indeed in his younger years in Mindanao as a priest, his reflection on the suffering and death of Jesus was ever prominent in his mind. Father Chito added that it was only during his abduction that he finally understood the lesson about “the way of the cross” taught in Father Brendan’s class. Later, Fr. John Leydon joined our table. After a while, Father Chito made an important point, “We need to put more emphasis on the Cross in our catechesis.”

I regretted that Father Chito died soon. We just got started to know each other. He was a man who kept on reading to update himself. After his abduction, he was not sleeping well. “I am war shocked”, he confided. I taught him the Wim Hof breathing technique and he slept midway before completing the full cycle. When he came out of it, he said, “I felt the relaxation.” The following day, he told me that he slept better. He invited me to join him in his next meeting with his dialogue & peace group in Mindanao.

But that was all we had. Even though, I first heard him told his story in 2018 at a conference on Peace held at Balay Mindanao in Cagayan de Oro, it was only this time that we got to sit down and talk. And before long, the news spread that the priest who was abducted in the 2017 Marawi Siege had just died. The man who experienced a thousand ‘deaths’ without dying and who would have been my companion in the interreligious dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters in Mindanao has finally rested in peace.