Marawi siege survivor and former Maute terror group hostage Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub will focus on his advocacy work for inter-religious dialogue as he embarked on a temporary respite from formal religious duties.
Soganub finally returned home to Norala town in South Cotabato on Monday, more than two months after enduring a nearly four-month ordeal in the hands of the Islamic State-inspired terror group.
He said he is taking some time off from his mission for a much-needed rest and spend quality time with his family and friends.
“(But) I will still work and pray for inter-religious dialogue. For better understanding between Muslims and Christians,” he said.
The priest was vicar general of Marawi City when he was taken hostage by Maute members along with some parishioners at the start of the siege on May 23.
He was able to break free from his captors and eventually rescued by government forces along with a fellow hostage on Sept. 16.
Soganub said he “did not expect to survive (his ordeal) because of the gravity of the war (in Marawi).”
“I just kept praying before the Lord. I prayed so hard, so intense,” he said.
“Mahirap ang pinagawa ni Lord to be an instrument of miracle. Up to now I cannot believe that I survived,” the priest added.
After arriving via a commercial flight at the city airport here, Soganub proceeded to the parish of Sto. Nino town in South Cotabato to spend some time with close friends and fellow priests.
He was reunited with his family Monday afternoon in neighboring hometown Norala.
On Tuesday morning, residents and municipal officials of Norala held a motorcade and a thanksgiving mass for Fr. Soganub at the municipal gymnasium.
“I really missed home. This is home sweet home for me,” he said.
He expressed gratefulness to people of various religious faiths who prayed for his safety and freedom from the Maute terrorists.
Soganub specifically cited the Roman Catholic faithful, Christian evangelicals and the Muslims.
“Our bishops, fellow priests, religious sisters, students, our schools – they all prayed so much (for me),” he said.
For his part, the priest’s younger brother Roqueto said they are very much relieved after finally seeing him very much alive and well.
If given a choice, he said they would not want Fr. Soganub to return to his mission in Marawi City and wish he could be reassigned in South Cotabato.
“But if it’s for the Lord’s service and he wants to do it, we will fully support him,” he said. (PNA)