There are only two things that can prompt a man to defy the most brutal of all tyrants and dismiss the threat of death as a flimsy possibility or as a much-awaited moment of personal epiphany: the first is the feeling of reckless heroism and the second is the sense of profound altruism and self-abnegation. The first refers to the youth-like desire to expand one’s personal horizons at all cost and to enlist this feeling of invincibility in the service of a higher purpose and a far more noble goal. The latter on the other hand, is the paragon of self-sacrifice that is so common among the Christian folk, giving a part of one’s self to the indigent and the spiritually needy so that one may carry his or her cross and become whole.
In retrospect, Father Rudy Romano was a fusion of these two. A Redemptorist priest, Rudy was the perfect follower of St. Alphonsus de Liguori, ministering to the destitute and most hapless of Christ and St. Peter’s flock. But being a product of his times, Fr. Rudy was also one of the harshest critics of Martial Law and the conjugal dictatorship then residing in Malacañang.
It is perhaps this unsettling site of a much-respected Catholic, in all his dazzling religious garments, marching in anti-Marcos rallies that has so infuriated the military and the powers-that-be. For on the afternoon of July 11, 1985, Fr. Rudy was abducted by alleged elements of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) in Labangon, Cebu presumably to silence a man who has long acknowledged the nature of his calling by living and dying in behalf of God’s brethren.
Abducted together with student activist Levi Ybañez, Fr. Rudy’s disappearance and that of the other 1,716 similar cases that have been reported spanning five administrations reflect our capacity for heroism and a wounding reminder of our callousness and national affliction. While some light a candle so as not to curse in the dark, others seek refuge in the bleakness believing that they shall neither be blinded by the radiance nor be burned by the flickering flame.
Sixteen years has elapsed since then; and neither his fate nor his whereabouts has been divulged by his abductors or by the authorities. It is perhaps truly ironic that a people that prides itself in being the sole Christian nation in the Far East has allowed the disappearance of a Catholic priest along with other Filipino desaparecidos, with most of the case remaining unresolved after more than decade of scrutiny and investigation. Worse, this very same people have elected to the Senate a man who has been allegedly involved in the abduction. Either the Filipino is a people of hypocrites or a nation afflicted with a pervading sense of amnesia. In much the same way, the Good Book not only narrates how Christ asked his disciples to forgive seventy times seven times; but He also speaks of the need for repentance for the sinner to be forgiven. Before there can be forgiveness, there must first be justice.
“He who would be a leader of his people”, says Ninoy Aquino, “must learn to forgive them.” That is easier said than done.
MARY AILEEN BACALSO
FATHER ROSALEO “Rudy” ROMANO
Date of Birth: September 26, 1940
Place of Birth: Manila, Philipines
Name of Father: Gaudencio Romano
Name of Mother: Adelaida
Profession: Catholic Priest, CSsR
Date of Abduction: July 11, 1985
Time of Disappearance: 3:45 PM
Place of Abduction: Tisa, Labangon, Cebu
Status: Still missing
Suspects: Military Intelligence Group (MIG) of the Philippine Army,
under the leadership of Corporal Wilfredo “Boy” Dagatan