Faulted for His Virtues
May Miasco (The Freeman) - December 16, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Bishop Teofilo Camomot had been people’s favorite wherever he was assigned. He cared about people and, in return, people wanted him to be around for them. The bishop’s amiable approach and compassion towards the poor drew adulation from the religious and lay people.

 

One of his close friends, Msgr. Jose B. Buenaflor of La Paz, Iloilo, recalls Bishop Camomot with unmistakable reverence: “He was very obedient to his superior [during his stay as auxiliary bishop in the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral]. He always obeyed whatever was the decision of Archbishop Cuenco.”

“He was a saintly man – devoted to prayer, to meditation, to conversion. [He was] a serious person, even while mingling with other priests... He was very charitable. Every time the poor went to him, he gave with all his heart. He was very charitable especially with priests; he used to say that priests should be helped. [He] was very firm in all his trials as a religious that he remained unshaken. There was no pride from his mouth when he talked and he was not a show-off.”

But admiration was not everything Bishop Camomot got. He had also been given a cold shoulder. And he got it in a most unlikely place.

On June 10, 1958, the Cebuano prelate was transferred from the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral to the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, in northern Mindanao. At the time, the archbishop there was already 70 years old. Bishop Camomot was appointed coadjutor archbishop with the right to succeed Most Rev. James Hayes, SJ.

Along with the appointment, Camomot was given the designation “Titular Archbishop of Marcianopolis.” He became the first and lone Filipino to hold such title which has been passed on since 1678.

But it seemed that the now Archbishop Teofilo Camomot was not welcome in his new assignment. Despite his appointment as coadjutor archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Archbishop Camomot was treated rather coldly there. His nephew, Fr. Oscar Camomot, who spent some time with him in Cagayan de Oro, narrated how his uncle was spurned by Archbishop Hayes and some members of the clergy in the archdiocese:

“[One time] Archbishop Hayes called us for a meeting. I thought [my uncle deserved some respect as he] was a coadjutor archbishop with the right of succession… [But] when we arrived, we were not entertained. We were just made to stay downstairs. I asked [my uncle] if he would allow me to go upstairs and be the one to talk first to Archbishop Hayes. He said ‘No.’ I would have wanted to ask Archbishop Hayes why such was his treatment to a coadjutor archbishop.”

The cold treatment did not end with Archibishop Hayes. “The priests there, especially the educated ones from San Jose, did not give him that kind of treatment which he very much deserved,” Fr. Oscar said. And he had a suspicion:

“I think it was because of Tiyo Lolong’s reputation of being very generous, and that the Jesuits had plenty of possessions at the time. Perhaps, they were apprehensive that the diocese would be depleted of its properties because Tiyo Lolong would give those to the poor.”

TEOFILO CAMOMOT
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