Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

A man who learned to give it all

FAITH LINKS - Arthur Regis Barrit -

“Nemo dat quod non habet”, (You cannot give what you do not have) so the Latin maxim goes but it defies the character and nature of a well-loved servant of God. In his lifetime, he could not say no to a request for help. His generosity and concern to the poor and his undying love for them was his way of radical discipleship to Christ.

This man was born in Cogon, Carcar (now a city) on March 3, 1914. His father, Luis Camomot, was a church cantor in the Carcar parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria while his mother, Angela Bastida, was a simple housewife from Talisay, Cebu (now also a city). His father was first married to Saturnina and raised two children – Diosdado who later became a priest and Otilla. Two years after the death of Saturnina, his father remarried and Teofilo (Lolong to relatives and friends) was one of the eight children of the second wife. He stopped schooling after his elementary years to help his parents in their small farm. It was his stepbrother Fr. Dado, a parish priest of Moalboal, who invited Lolong to enter the seminary.

Born not a saint

Lolong was not “born” a saint. Not that he had wild years during his youth, like St. Augutine. He was an ordinary seminarian with no special intellectual interest. He finished his theology in the diocesan seminary administered by the Vicentian Fathers or the Padres Paules. At the height of the second World War, he was ordained priest. He was not an eloquent preacher nor a convincing speaker. But his aura could reach out to almost everyone in and around the parish wherever he was assigned. Before and after celebrating Mass, he would be in the confessional box waiting for penitents.

Tirelessly making visitations to his parishioners as part of his pastoral activities, he persisted on these strenuous undertakings, according to his nephew Fr. Dennis Baricuatro. He focused on those in abject poverty in the hinterlands and far-flung barangays of his parish. But those poor and less fortunate parishioners – clear to his relatives and friends – most of the time hoodwinked him. A “captured group of beggars” in his parish would go to him almost everyday begging. At times, when his priest or sacristan would remind him of some deception, Archbishop Teofilo Camomot would reply: Ang mangingilad ka usa ra mangilad. Ug ang tawo dili mangilad pirmi.

There were two instances that Ricardo Cardinal Vidal noticed Archbishop Camomot not wearing his Pectoral cross (a cross that a Bishop wears on his breast) and his Episcopal ring. Curiously, Cardinal Vidal asked Archbishop Camomot whether he pawned it again and as always Cardinal Vidal would just get a non-committal reply. Cardinal Vidal would later learn that indeed Archbishop Camomot had pawned his cross and ring because somebody needed help. The Cardinal would give him a new Pectoral cross and a ring and forbade Archbishop Camomot not to give these away.

A noted event with Archbishop Camomot was when he was waylaid by highway robbers in Mindanao. Coming from one of the towns in Bukidnon where he had administered a confirmation rite, he was on his way back to Cagayan de Oro City. Maybe the robbers had advance information that he was carrying a big amount of cash because of the stipend he received. But he did not get any money as he gave everything to the parish where he administred the confirmation rite. The robbers released him but Archbishop Camomot told his driver to go back to the robbers and give them his pair of shoes, twenty pesos in his wallet, and his gold Episcopal ring. The Episcopal ring was later turned over by the owner of the pawnshop to Archbishop Camomot.

Love and paternal understanding for priests

The pious Archbishop was famous for his paternal understanding and mercy to wayward priests. Due to his virtuous life, Archbishop Camomot would have a premonition on a priest’s death. According to the account of Fr. Fulton Varga, his long-time companion in Carcar parish rectory, Archbishop Camomot would be visited by a dead priest for confession. The death announcement would come later by telegram, informing other priests in the Diocese to offer Mass for the soul of the departed priest.

The affirmative vote of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in September 2010 on the Archbishop Emeritus of Cagayan de Oro, Archbishop Camomot, who died on September 27, 1988, could begin the process of beatification. He was a man of prayer and contemplation, at times waking-up at 2:00 o’clock dawn to start his morning prayers, reading his Breviary and then, meditation. On several occasions according to witnesses’ accounts, he levitated and did headstands while meditating. He had the gift of bilocation (in two different places at the same time while on errands of mercy, as experienced in the lives of saints) in several instances, to include Cardinal Vidal’s own account. He was seen in sitio Canal, Bolinawan, Carcar on September 27, 1985 and at the same time in sitio Inislagan, Guadalupe, Carcar. On simultaneous instances, Archbishop Camomot was on sick calls. When confronted of the events, the Archbishop would just smile.

Life of simplicity and love

He was a man who lived a simple and austere life. His simplicity and love for the poor made him special. At one time when he went to a mountain barangay in Carcar for a sick call and confession, he saw a tuba gatherer on top of the coconut tree with tattered pants. He called the man to come own, and to the man’s surprise, he gave his own pants. The good Archbishop Camomot wherever he went always wore his priestly habit.

Corollary to this was the account of Cardinal Vidal immediately after Archbishop Camomot’s fateful road accident. He went immediately to Carcar after receiving news from then Governor Lito Osmeña on the death of the Archbishop. At the sacristy of the parish, Cardinal Vidal instructed some church workers to prepare the body to be laid into the coffin. Then he noticed that Archbishop Camomot’s shoes were worn-out and most of his vestments at the Convento were tattered. Cardinal Vidal came back to the city to buy a new pair of shoes and managed to find proper vestments in his aparador that would fit the late Archbishop.

Were it not for the recent pronouncement of Cardinal Vidal in connection with the granting of the “Nihil Obstat” (No Impediments/Objection) by the Vatican, this great servant of God, yoga practitioner, founder of the Daughters of St. Teresa of Avila and one the 12 elevated by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints would have remained virtually unknown to most Cebuanos. He died a Bishop and a Confessor.

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