Scholars, teachers remember legacy of slain Italian priest 11 months after brutal killing

Sep. 18, 2012

On the 11th month following his brutal death, Italian missionary Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio is remembered by his scholars and teachers

Davao Today

ARAKAN, North Cotabato, Philippines — Bernadith Ceubal, a 39-year old mom from the Tinananon-Manobo tribe, still remembers how timid and reserved she was many years ago.  So shy was she that she was afraid to speak about her dream of becoming a teacher.

“Tatay Pops helped me realized that dream,” Ceubal said referring to the slain Italian missionary Father Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio who was killed 11 months ago, on October 17 inside the church compound.

Now a local day care teacher, Ceubal remembered, with both fondness and sadness, the legacy of Fr. Tentorio.

Back in 1992, Fr. Tentorio introduced a functional literacy program for adults.  Two years later, the priest established day care centers for children.  To date, his basic literacy program had set up 35 Day Care centers in this town, in nearby Magpet town and Bukidnon province.

The well-loved priest also supported more than 1,500 elementary, high school and college scholars, one of whom included Ceubal and nearly 400 others.

She’s now on her seventh year as a Day Care teacher.  One of her two high school children is also a recipient of the late missionary’s scholarship program.

Teary-eyed, Ceubal reminisced how their Tatay Pops persevered to integrate with them and managed to withstand the cultural barriers.

Siya ang naningkamot molambigit sa amoa (He tried his best to connect with us),” she said.

Gemma Araneta, a staff supervising the Literacy Program for the last 18 years, described Father Pops as a “teacher beyond compare.”

She still remembered Father Pops saying that “ang pagtudlo kinahanglan nakabase sa reyalidad (teaching should be based on realities).”  She added, it was the fallen priest who taught them how to integrate community experiences and the importance of using the native tongue in their literacy modules.

Aside from the literacy and scholarship programs, Father Pops also maintained a pool of community health volunteers doing direct medical and dental work.  He supported farmers’ group Arakan Progressive Farmers Organization and the Tinananon, Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa for the indigenous peoples.

“He was our fallen Tatay, but his teachings are already part of us,” Araneta told Davao Today.  She said, it was the priest who taught them of “unconditional service to the people” in his preaching on human dignity and human rights.

“His approach of service and teaching was holistic,” Araneta said.

Father Pops’ teachings were also the source of inspiration for Isabel Indao, 15, a scholar of Father Pops and now a third year high school student.  “Tatay Pops told me once that I should strive hard to finish my studies.  He also taught me to be proud of 0ur tribe,” she said.

Father Pops was also noted for his human rights advocacy.  Leoncio Lubiano, a parish personnel told Davao Today that Father Pops taught them how to defend their rights.

“He made sure that we are all capacitated to continue his advocacies,” Lubiano said.

Fr. Tentorio had strengthened his parish’s Quick Reaction Team and facilitated workshops on para-legal and other pertinent skills training for his team.  To date, Arakan Parish is one of the most reliable sources of first-hand documentation on human rights violations and even environmental cases.

Ceubal, Araneta, Indao and Lubiano said that while the case against Fr. Tentorio’s killers has been slow, they are “not losing hope that justice will truly be served.”

And as they wait for that moment, these followers of Father Pops vow to continue his teachings and his selfless service to the people.  (Danilda L. Fusilero/

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