MANILA (UCAN): Father Teresito “Chito” Suganob, who became a national figure during the five-month siege in 2017 of Marawi in Lanao del Sur province, Mindanao, died after suffering a heart attack at his home in South Cotabato in Mindanao, the Philippines, on July 22. He was 59-years-old.
Father Suganob was taken hostage along with 23 others by Maute militants affiliated to the Islamic State who burned the city’s Saint Mary’s Cathedral in May 2017 (Sunday Examiner, 23 May 2017; 18 June 2017; 24 September 2017).
“It is with great sadness that we make this announcement on behalf of the Prelature of Marawi … Please include him in your prayers,” Bishop Edwin Dela Peña of Marawi, said in a statement.
Philippine armed forces rescued Father Suganob and his companions after 117 days being held in a mosque during operations to retake the city.
“Because I was a hostage, I would do whatever they would tell me to do. I was no longer afraid to die because I already considered myself dead psychologically,” he said in an interview shortly after his release on 17 September 2017.
He also said that there were times when he questioned the wisdom and the power of God during his captivity.
“I found myself questioning God’s love. Why did he allow all this suffering and violence to happen if God loves his people? But at the end of the day, I would go back praying to God silently or with the ISIS group, relying on God’s mercy,” he added.
Father Suganob said that he thanked Filipino churchgoers and lay organisations for praying for his release.
On 29 March 2018, then archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle washed Father Suganob’s feet during the Washing of the Feet ritual on Holy Thursday. The cardinal also touched Father Suganob’s head with his forehead as sign of the Church’s communion in his suffering.
The Diocese of Marawi has yet to announce the wake and funeral arrangements.