BASILAN, May 18, 2015 – All his nails plucked out and three gunshot wounds on his back. These are the signs of torture inflicted on Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, CMF who was assassinated on May 3, 2000 by the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan.
Fifteen years after his death, the Claretian Basilan Community together with the different religious leaders in Basilan headed by Bishop Martin Jumoad of the Prelature of Basilan commemorated the martyrdom of Gallardo from May 4 to 5.
Gallardo was one of the Claretian Missionaries in Basilan, who was taken hostage by the terrorist group together with four teachers and 22 students of the Claret School of Tumahabong last March 20, 2000. Three of the teachers and five of the children were killed by the Abu Sayyaf.
Face of a martyr
During an interview with CBCP News, Bro. Nicer Natulla, CMF, project coordinator of the Claret Samal Foundation Inc. said after all these years, the Claretians continue to remember their confrere who gave up his life in the service of the faithful in Basilan.
Jumoad, in his homily, said he went to the morgue after learning about Gallardo’s death and saw how serene his face looked, contrary to the misery and torture he had been through during his captivity.
The prelate said he saw on the young priest’s face a kind of peace that has no trace of the suffering, showing somehow that he had accepted his fate to become a “martyr for peace.”
Reflecting on the theme: “Remembering, Rekindling and Reliving the life of Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, CMF, Martyr for Peace,” the event reminisced the heroic life of the dear Fr. Rhoel in Tumahubong in Basilan.
Since Gallardo’s death anniversary coincided with the Manny Pacquiao – Floyd Mayweather fight, Natulla said they identify with with Pacman, who refused to be knocked out.
“Though we fall, we will rise and rise again. The courage of Fr. Gallardo will be multiplied and our faith will not waver. It’s already 15 years of his martyrdom today and still the cross stands in Basilan. We salute you Fr. Rhoel! Thank you for sharing your life to the Church. Your blood becomes the fountain of inspiration to all of us Christians, especially to the Claretian congregation!” said Natulla.
Natulla refers to the cross that stands until today in the highest peak in Basilan that the Abu Sayyaf wanted to tear down.
On the second day, some of the children, who were held hostage by the terrorist group, were also present and shared their testimonies, recounting the horrors they had been through. Most of them, including the audience had tears in their eyes.
Those who survived the kidnapping recalled how Gallardo encouraged them not to lose hope, asking them to always pray the Holy Rosary despite their difficult situation. They prayed the Rosary discreetly as their captors prohibited them from praying, even forcing them to denounce Christianity.
The Claretians showed their support to existing missionaries assigned in Basilan by attending the said celebration. Fr. Eduardo Apungan, CMF, who represented the Claretian provincial council, was present, along with Claretian lay collaborators from different Claretian organizations in Mindanao. (John Frances C. Fuentes/CBCP News)