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Poland honors Franciscan missionary in Philippines

Polish embassy launches book on historian Cantius Kobak's work in the Visayas region

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Poland honors Franciscan missionary in Philippines

Jarosław Szczepankiewicz (right), chargé d’affaires at the Polish embassy in Manila, is seen here at the book launch on Nov. 27. (Photo supplied)

The Polish government has published a book to commemorate the life and work of a Polish Franciscan missionary who spent decades serving people on the Philippine island of Samar in the Visayas region.

The 34-page book titled The Extraordinary Life and Work of Father Cantius Kobak: A Polish Priest and Historian in the Philippines details Father Kobak’s converting Filipinos to Catholicism while writing the nation’s history.

Father Kobak was born in 1930 in Torun, Poland, before joining the Franciscans in the United States.

After his ordination in 1957, he went to the Philippines and served as teacher and chaplain in Franciscan schools in the Visayas region.

Father Kobak’s passion for the local culture led him to study Philippine history and establish Christ the King Archeological Museum in Calbayog City, Samar province.

The museum was later named the Cantius Kobak Museum to honor him.

In 1998, Father Kobak returned to the US, where he died in 2004 from cancer.

Polish chargé d’affaires Jarosław Szczepankiewicz said Father Kobak played a key role in fostering ties between Poland and the Philippines.

“Father Kobak was a bridge between Poland and the Philippines even during the times the countries did not have any formal relations,” Szczepankiewicz said at the book launch on Nov. 27 at the Polish embassy in Manila.

“Father Kobak … made the presence of Poland felt here in the Philippines.” 

The Polish diplomat called Father Kobak “the best friend Filipinos could wish for” due to his kind and welcoming nature.

Franciscan archivist Father Jonald Banatao read out a message from the book’s author Carl Bordeos, at the launch as he could not fly to Manila due to quarantine restrictions.

Bordeos works as a curator of the Samar Archeological Museum and as director of the Cantius Kobak Research Center in the Visayas region.

He described Father Kobak as a “giant” when it came to the preservation of Samar and Visayan history.

“Through the years, Father Kobak instilled in me the need to love and serve our heritage,” Bordeos wrote in his message.

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