I wrote this for Philippine Online Chronicles.
No trace of Fr. Rudy Romano’s body has been found until the present, twenty nine years after his abduction by alleged military agents in Cebu City on July 11, 1985. But Fr. Romano’s legacy remains in the hearts of many who were touched by his courageous stand for justice against the abuses inflicted by the Ferdinand Marcos regime on the Filipino people.
A holy mass commemorated the anniversary of Fr. Romano’s disappearance at the Cebu Redemptorist Church in the afternoon of July 11. Candles were lit in his memory after the mass which was headed by Bishop Ireneo Amantillo.
Fr. Romano was a Redemptorist missionary hailing from Villareal, Samar then assigned in Cebu. Witnessing the plight of the poor and the horrors of dictatorial rule, Fr. Romano served the poor and fought against various injustices during the dark years of Martial Law. He followed the example of Jesus Christ and took up the cause of the oppressed and the dispossessed.
Fr. Romano frequented protests, pickets, and barricades of workers striking for higher wages and humane working conditions, farmers clamoring for genuine land reform, and urban poor residents defending their homes against demolition. He was vice-chair of the newly formed regional chapter of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan at the time of his disappearance.
Unfortunately, his active involvement in the struggles of the marginalized sectors and instrumental role in forging unity in the anti-dictatorship struggle in Cebu made him a target of the Marcos dictatorship. A prominent and relentless critic of the Marcos regime, Fr. Romano also became one of the countless victims of military rule under the dictator. There were over 3,200 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 cases of torture, and 70,000 political detainees recorded during Martial Law. This regime of terror sought to repress people’s resistance against ruling regime’s massive corruption and brazen concentration of wealth and power to the ruling family and its cronies.
With many of the same evils during Fr. Romano’s times still haunting the present, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma in a pastoral statement encouraged Christians to emulate Fr. Romano. “Fr. Rudy Romano took to heart the challenge posed by many of the Church’s social encyclicals, namely, to take the side of the poor while denouncing injustice and social inequality,” said Archbishop Palma.
The prelate said that Fr. Romano’s example of wholehearted service to the oppressed continues to be relevant today with the persistence of systemic corruption and poverty affecting the Filipino people in spite of the supposed rapid growth of the economy. Archbishop Palma cited the high unemployment, low wages of workers, the increasing number of beggars in the streets, intensifying landlessness among farmers in the countryside, and the ballooning of urban poor communities in Cebu City as glaring indicators of poverty.
A series of activities will be held to drumbeat the thirtieth anniversary of Fr. Romano’s disappearance next year July, beginning with the Golden Anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood December of this year. Fr. Romano’s compassion for the less fortunate and firm conviction for genuine freedom and social justice remains a shining example for today’s generation.