Outraged by Human Greed
by Fr Rex Rocamora, Columban Interreligious Dialogue Coordinator
I was in line at the Polymedic Clinic in Limketkai for the X-Ray (or ECG) procedure when my phone rang . Nita, our secretary has texted me earlier to say that Cres, a retired teacher from Malabang came to the house in Patag to inform us that Fr. Yrap Nazareno will officiate the mass on the 27th of August to celebrate the death anniversary of Fr. Rufus “Popong” Halley.
“Father Yrap told me to coordinate with the Columbans about the mass tomorrow at the cemetery. It wil be held one day earlier because the priests will be busy on August 28 due to the fiesta of Cagayan de Oro,” Cres explained over the phone.
On Saturday, around 9:45 am, Joseph Garam Jin, one of the First Mission Assignment (FMA) students and I arrived at the Divine Shepherd Memorial Garden. We joined the group of people from Malabang and the other Columbans near Fr. Rufus Halley’s flat grave marker. We brought a bunch of flowers and laid it on the grave with the other groups of flowers already there.
Joseph Garam Jin and Fr Rex Rocamora
I started setting up the camera while Cres was cleaning the headstones. Fr. Yrap Nazareno and Fr. Ramon Torres arrived at the same time. The altar was set up according to schedule, but more people kept arriving, so the mass was moved to 11 am.
It was a beautiful celebration, the ‘santa mesa’ followed by ‘la mesa’. Father Yrap officiated the mass and d inspired us with his personal journey with Islam that led to his friendship with Father Popong. It felt as if we were being sanctified while listening to his stories about Father Popong. Before the final blessing, Father Ramon and I were asked to talk. He represented the Prelature of St Mary’s of Marawi and I represented the Columbans.
I talked about how Popong had advocated against greed. His little brother wrote how he lost a cookie after asking Rufus for another one and he was strongly reprimanded for it. I came to realize about how much outrage Popong has against greed when Father Yrap shared that Popong ‘did not want to give a penny’ to anyone who might profit from kidnapping him. There are many other stories and details about Popong’s death shared after the mass, while we were having lunch together.
I was very impressed with Popong’s friends who travelled all the way from Cotabato to Cagayan de Oro in order to attend the celebration. Some of them are teachers from different schools. Many of them used to live in Malabang but have since transferred to Cagayan de Oro or other neighboring cities.
Friends of Fr. Rufus Halley
I offered them an invitation to join the Columban Mission Partners to continue Popong’s mission of bridging Muslims and Christians in Marawi and beyond. Father Yrap has incorporated the invitation in his homily and after the mass, he gave to the Columbans the collected ‘offering’. “It is symbolic,” Father Yrap said. Annalyn Perocho, a police officer who is organizing a trip to her Claveria resort assured me that she is joining the Columban Mission Partners.
Before the day ended, Father Ramon reminded us that we should include and continue to support the prelature of St Mary’s in Marawi. I agreed.
Fathers Ramon Torres, Yrap Nazareno, and Rex Rocamora, SSC with Joseph Garam Jin