By URIEL C. QUILINGUING,
INSTEAD of offering flowers at the grave of environmentalist priest Fr. Nerilito Satur on his 28th death anniversary on Monday, Roman Catholics in Bukidnon planted fast-growing and fruit tree saplings to pursue the martyred priest’s passion to restore and protect the province’s remaining forest cover.
“We’re into planting and growing trees on this day of every year, as well as the entire year since we are celebrating our golden jubilee,” said Bishop Jose Cabantan, whose Bukidnon diocese was established on April 25, 1969.
Cabantan said thatin previous years since 2010, the “greening” activities were done by deanery or a cluster of three to five parishes, of the 54 parishes in the entire diocese.
“And since there are 13 deaneries, the diocese could have planted about 4,000 propagation materials last Monday, since every deanery is capable of at least 300 each,” said Father Venancio Balansag Jr. of the San Ignacio de Loyola Parish.
Balansag, who is based in Barangay Kalasungay, Malaybalay City, said the deanery which he was part of, planted more than 300 propagating materials in barangay Can-ayan where a Diocesan Ecological Center will soon rise.
Balansag said his parishioners were joined in by Msgrs. Toto Pedrigosa of San Isidro Cathedral, and Fr. Jojo Sumastre of the Medalla Melagrosa Parish (Landing) of Old Airport and their respective church members.
Planted in the envisioned three-hectare ecological center were coconut seedlings, abaca shoots and saplings of golden shower, lauan, molave (tugas), and narra tree species.
Twelve other deaneries had their separate greening activities—all intended to reforest denuded areas of land-lock Bukidnon province that serves as the vital headwater of major river systems in Mindanao.
The Kalasungay-based priest said Pulangi River, which cuts across central Bukidnon and eventually becomes the Rio Grande in Central Mindanao region, is traceable to the Kalabugao mountain ranges, Cagayan River originates from tributaries in Mount Kitanglad of Baungon and Talakag towns, while Tagoloan River in Misamis Oriental comes from Silo-o and Anange rivers from Malitbog town in the eastern side of Bukidnon.
Through a provincial board resolution, Oct. 14 of every year is Fr. Satur’s Day in the entire Bukidnon since 2010, and the day was also “Greening Day” in Valencia City based on City Ordinance 58-2015.
These legislative measures were in recognition of the heroism of a 30-year-old priest who, aside from his religious duties, put his life on the line as one the deputized forest guards of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The whole of Bukidnon was placed under a logging moratorium in 1988, and Satur came to the province a year later and was the assistant priest of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Guinoyuran.
Even with the ban on the cutting of trees, logging activities went on in Guinoyoran and Lourdes of Valencia town (not a city then) due to the Philippine Army’s 26th Infantry Batallion that provided protection to Higaonon tribal members.
Nine months after his deputization, Satur seized about 7,000 board feet of lumber that were supposed to be delivered to three sawmills operating illegally in Valencia.
About 2 pm on Oct. 14, 1991, while the priest was riding on a motorcycle, after offering mass earlier in Guinoyuran fiesta, when he was waylaid by three gunmen. A female assistant was riding with him then.
One of three assailants fired 15 rounds of ammunition from an M16 rifle, seven of which hit Satur’s body and one was on his head. Not contented, one of his killers hit his head thrice, the rifle’s stock broke into pieces on the last and third blow. His aide, however, was shot in the leg but was spared.
The assailants were identified but they were just restricted from their base and no one was prosecuted for the crime.
Satur’s remains were laid to rest at Malaybalay City Catholic cemetery.
Monday’s masses in all parishes in Bukidnon diocese were offered to God for him.