Marawi hostage survivors pay tribute to Fr. Chito Soganub

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ILIGAN CITY – Two of hundreds of survivors of the Marawi siege faced the public here on Saturday to pay tribute to Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub, the Filipino priest who survived four-month captivity in the hands of the Maute-ISIS in 2017.

The Pakigdait, Inc., VSO Philippines, and other civil society organizations and religious organizations in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, and Marawi City held a tribute and birthday celebration for Soganub who was supposed to turn 60 years old on August 1.

The priest succumbed to cardiac arrest last July 22 at his home town in Norala, South Cotabato.

No lost hope

Roger Patendol, a 43-year-old fisherman who was also held captive by the Maute group, left his fishing boat in Barangay Buruun to attend the tribute with his wife.

He said he wanted to share about Soganub, even if they did not become the best of friends.

Patendol said he only met the priest on June 4, 2017, two days after he was captured. The siege started on May 23. 

“We did not have the chance to have a long talk because we were forbidden to have a chat with our fellow hostages. We have different assignments. But there was only one line that I cannot forget about him when he said ‘we should not lose our hope and faith to God whom we believe who can help us get out from that situation’. That made me realize to hang on to God and never lose hope,” Patendol narrated.

He said he was assigned as a cook for the terrorists.

In previous interviews, Soganub said he was assigned to help in making improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

“I only have few words for Fr. Chito. ‘My big salute to you, Father!’ he did not lose hope despite the situation we had during the siege. The last time I saw him during the siege was when I went out of the toilet, he was also from the other side when heard the planes coming and we know it would drop bombs again. We only talked with our eyes saying, ‘let’s hide!’,” Patendol said.

While Soganub escaped and was eventually rescued by the military on September 17 that year, Patendol did the same on October 3, after a failed escape attempt on June 30.

“I attempted to escape through the lake on June 30 but the ISIS saw me, I was shot by their sniper. This is why I am a PWD (person with a disability) now,” Patendol, who uses crutches to walk, said.

Kindness, humility, patience

Noeleta Cosap, another siege survivor, said she met Fr. Soganub only when they were captured on the night of May 23.

“I asked him ‘Father, what do you think of this situation?’ and he answered, ‘We Christians and Muslims are praying to the same God’. His answer made me think he is the person who possesses kindness, humility, and patience,” Cosap said, referring to the situation when she was captured by the armed group led by her former students, the Maute brothers.

She said she only met Soganub once but the answer of the priest to her question struck her and made her appreciate life, the reason she strived so hard to survive the captivity.

Hundreds of civilians were taken hostage by the terrorists during the five-month war in Marawi City. Some of them survived but many died during the airstrikes and exchanges of fire. 

Abel Moya, director of Pakigdait, said they decided to hold the tribute for Soganub on Saturday because they could not attend the last night of wake and burial on Monday (Aug. 3) due to the imposed strict health protocols.

The priest is scheduled to be buried at a public cemetery in Norala.

“The Pakigdait board decided to send a team to Norala to attend the wake and the burial but because of the strict health protocols, it was canceled. We were told that once we enter Norala, we will undergo the 14-day quarantine. That would defeat our purpose of going there because we cannot still attend the burial,” Moya said.

“Nakakadurog ng puso. Hindi na nga namin siya nakita during the last days of his life, hindi na nga kami makapaglamay, hindi pa namin siya mahatid sa kanyang libing (It is heartbreaking. We have not seen him during the last days of his life, we cannot attend his wake and his burial), he said.

Moya said, Soganub had been a “pillar” of Pakigdait for 15 years and became the chairman after the Marawi siege. -PNA

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