TULUNAN , North Cotabato (MindaNews/12 April) – About a hundred people gathered at Km. 125 in Barangay La Ezperanza here on Thursday to commemorate the brutal murder of Italian missionary Tulio Favali, who was killed on April 11, 1985 or 28 years ago.
The parishioners also celebrated the “27th Year Commemoration of the Day of Martyrs,” an annual diocesan event to honor church workers and community leaders who were murdered in the diocesan territory since the 1980s.
In his homily, Italian missionary Peter Geremia, of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME), reminded the parishioners of the sacrifices of the martyrs of the diocese in their fight for justice and peace.
“What kind of faith do the martyrs have? It’s like Jesus Christ, he was crucified in spreading the good news of God,” Geremia said of the martyrs.
The priest also reminded the parishioners of the request of Norberto Manero to be called “Nonoy” instead of Commander Bucay, his then notorious moniker.
Manero, his brothers Edilberto and Elpidio, and several followers in the dreaded vigilante group Ilaga have been convicted for the murder of Favali in 1985.
Manero was freed in 2008 after 23 years in jail.
“I don’t know if he’s around, or you might see him going around somewhere right now. He is asking for forgiveness and wanted to be called Nonoy now,” Geremia said during the mass held at the San Ramon Nonato chapel, which is about 100 meters away from the marker where Favali was killed.
In February 2008, Manero, who visited the grave of Favali, reportedly said in a closed-door conference with representatives of the Diocese of Kidapawan that “Kumander Bukay is dead. Nonoy is very much alive.”
Geremia said he had forgiven Manero for what he did. “Forgiveness is not condoning but to free that person of the complex of having been a killing machine,” Geremia said on the 20th death anniversary of Favali on April 11, 2005.
The priest earlier said that Manero wants to be called Nonoy than Kumander Bukay because the “latter is a closed chapter of his life already.”
Geremia was the principal target for liquidation then by Manero’s group.
After the mass, the priests and parishioners held a short prayer at the marker.
“It’s special to hold the commemoration here because many of my colleagues in the community, especially Favali, were killed in Tulunan,” the 74-year old missionary said.
Aside from Geremia, Fr. Ed Pedregosa of Carmen parish, also in North Cotabato; Fr. Jun Lapas, this town’s parish priest; and Fr. Jessie Esparagosa, vicar of the Diocese of Kidapawan, were present in the commemoration.
In an interview with MindaNews, Diocese of Kidapawan Bishop Romulo dela Cruz said: “We hope that this history (of the diocese) could draw the attention of future generations that people did not only offer their lives in the early part of the Church of God and for spreading the good news, but up until today.”
Dela Cruz, who arrived after the mass, expressed hopes that the future generation could learn lessons from this history.
The mass was also offered for the 50th year of Geremia’s priesthood.
Lawyer Gregorio Andolana told MindaNews that he skipped campaigning in the second district to attend the commemoration in this town, which is now part of the newly-carved third district of the province.
“For me, it’s mission accomplished as a lawyer,” he said, adding that the struggle of the people and the killing of Favali in this town had inspired him as a lawyer
“If the killing of Favali was not given justice, how much more [for] the poor people,” said Andolana, who is now running again for the congressional seat in the province’s second district.
“The martyrs of Tulunan and the works of Fr. Peter, his mission for liberation, has inspired me as a lawyer and as a congressman,” Andolana stressed.
Andolana recalled that he was 38 when he served as lawyer of the diocese in the Favali case.
Now at 60, Andolana is also one of the legal counsels for another murdered Italian missionary, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, who was killed on October 17, 2011 in Arakan town, also in North Cotabato, inside the parish compound.
Aside from Andolana, North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza and board member Pingping Tejada, who hails from M’lang town, were also present during the mass. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)