“On May 3, 2000, the Claretian Rhoel Galardo, a quiet, simple missionary priest died in a crossfire between the Abu Sayyaf group who had him among its hostages and the Philippine military forces trying to rescue the kidnapped. Rhoel had been held in captivity from March 20 that year, together with some professors of a Catholic school in the locality of Tumahubong, in the Province of Basilan (…)”.
This is an extract of the history of Fr. Rhoel Gallardo CMF, written by the reporter of ucanews.com Joe Torres for the book ‘Witness: Mission Stories of Basilan’ edited by Claretian Communications Foundation.
“(…) For four days and five nights they walked, without eating. They forged their way downhill and then up again, avoiding the sharp rocks and the open roots. They marched in the dark, the rough stones cutting into their feet, the thorns penetrating their clothes, the mosquitos and leeches feasting on their blood.
They rested during the day, to avoid being spotted by the pursuing soldiers, and they marched the whole night, as though wild animals were chasing them.
“Walk, Father, walk. Rest will come soon,” a bandit prodded Father Rhoel from behind tugging at the rope that was tied around his waist (…).”
The book was presented by its editors in the “Bulwagang Claret” of Manila, last May 23, commemorating the 15th anniversary of the bloody death of Fr. Rhoel Gallardo. Joe Torres describes the missionaries of Basilan as “witnesses” committed to walk with the people in the midst of all the difficulties and threats to their lives. The Claretians have sealed with blood the option for a pastoral praxis inculturated in the circumstances typical to the zone, trustfully assuming the risk of the free dialogue with the indigenous Muslim culture.