A Priest for All
May Miasco (The Freeman) - October 28, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  In 1943, Fr. Teofilo Camomot was appointed parish priest of Sta. Teresa de Avila Parish in Talisay. He was 29 years old then. Upon arriving in Talisay, he was met by the sight of several structures leveled to the ground from the bombings in the raging war.

 

The young parish priest had to do something to make sure that the parishioners’ spirit was not as crushed. He had to do physical reconstruction, as well. His first task was to rebuild the church building and its rectory.

On March 26, 1945, the returning American troops made their historic landing on the shores of Talisay City and paved the way for the eventual surrender of Japanese soldiers. The episode marked the end of the Japanese reign in Cebu.

It was very hard, for sure. Many people were mourning the loss of loved ones, while others were in utter quandary on how to go on with their lives amid the vast destruction.  Fr. Camomot, with his kind and amiable character, won the hearts of his parishioners – he gave a reason to hold on, the will to rise from the rubble.

During the 12 years he spent at the Santa Teresa Parish, Fr. Camomot immersed himself in reaching out to people through pastoral and evangelical works. A number of individuals in Talisay City had converted to the Philippine Independent Church after the revolution against Spain. Fr. Camomot was instrumental in drawing many of them back to the Catholic Church. 

Instead of staying within the confines of the convent, he went around in order to know his parishioners personally. He wanted to know how he could assist them, in any way. He visited every family within the parish. He traveled to the villages on his bicycle, to hear confession and to administer Holy Communion to the sick.

He later on got a motorcycle, which he used in bringing food, medicine, and even nipa sheets to people who needed help. He taught children how to pray, and convinced people that praying alone at home was not enough. His constant encounter with people drew lapsed Catholics back to the Church.

Laura Alcodia, a retired principal from Carcar and one of Fr. Camomot’s parishioners recalled, “He knew almost all the people in his parish because he visited even those who were living far away, to think that he was alone doing all the parish work.”

Similarly, Lourdes Villahermosa, an active church volunteer in Talisay, described the then young priest as like a caring father who selflessly looked after the flock entrusted to Him by the Lord. “He was so humble that he lived a life of hard work and service to all people,” she said. “He was very much concerned about the spiritual and physical welfare of all, to the point of depriving and sacrificing himself [in favor of] others... He gave direction to the spiritual life of many persons in all the parishes where he was assigned. He brought in new dimensions of Christian charity by revitalizing the doctrine of love for neighbors.”

Villahermosa added that Fr. Camomot was “fearless and with a living faith, he shook the conscience of those who counted themselves as belonging to the social strata of distinction, who apparently showed no concern for the lowly... He emphasized that it is in the poor that Jesus wants to be loved and served.” (FREEMAN)

TEOFILO CAMOMOT
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