Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila
Updated: July 23, 2020 06:19 AM GMT
Father Teresito Suganob, who was taken hostage by terrorist gunmen in the southern Philippine city of Marawi on May 23, 2017, has died at age 59. (Photo from Father Soganub's Facebook page)
A Catholic priest who became famous after being taken hostage by Islamist militants in the southern Philippines in 2017 has died.
Father Teresito “Chito” Suganob, 59, reportedly died after suffering a heart attack at his home in South Cotabato in Mindanao on July 22.
“It is with great sadness that we make this announcement on behalf of the Prelature of Marawi … Please include him in your prayers,” Marawi Bishop Edwin Dela Peña said in a statement.
Father Suganob became a national figure during a five-month siege of Marawi in Lanao del Sur province, Mindanao, that started in May 2017 when militants affiliated to the Islamic State group attacked the city in a bid to establish a caliphate.
During the attack the extremists burned the city’s Saint Mary’s Cathedral and took Father Suganob and several churchgoers hostage for 117 days.
Philippine armed forces rescued Father Suganob and the parishioners in a mosque during operations to retake the city.
Several days after his release, Father Suganob shared his experiences as a captive.
“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.
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 organizations for praying for his release.
“Right now, I am in the process of healing physically and psychologically, for the trauma of being a hostage is really deep. It’s hard, really hard, to fathom. Every now and then, I have to see a doctor for the psychiatric and psychological side because, as I understand, I am really devastated inside of me, as I was held hostage by ISIS for 117 days,” the priest said in a 2018 interview.
On March 29, former Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle washed Father Suganob’s feet during the Washing of the Feet ritual on Holy Thursday.
Father Suganob cried as he remembered Christ’s love during the Marawi siege. Cardinal Tagle also touched Father Suganob’s head with his forehead as sign of the Church’s communion in his suffering.
Marawi Diocese has yet to announce the wake and funeral arrangements for Father Suganob.