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Protesters led by the then Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Jesus Tuquib (center) take to the streets during one of the rallies organized to pressure the then President Joseph Estrada to step down in early 2001. Tuquib, who died on Thursday, was also responsible in keeping the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. off Cagayan de Oro which has remained Pagcor casino-free to this day. (photo by Froilan Gallardo)

Oro’s first Filipino bishop, a ‘fighter’

By NITZ ARANCON
Correspondent
with FROILAN GALLARDO
Special Correspondent .

THE first Filipino archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, who organized and led thousands of Roman Catholics in opposing the government’s attempt to operate a casino in the city in the early ’90s and who drummed up public support for a campaign to pressure a plundering President into stepping down, had battled with his deteriorating health for years. On late Thursday afternoon, he succumbed to acute hemorrhage resulting from a cerebrovascular disease at the age of 89 years.

His successor, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, said Archbishop Emeritus Jesus Tuquib “passed away quietly” the other afternoon. 

Tuquib would be laid to rest at the back of the St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral, near the graves of the late archbishops James Thomas Hayes, an American, and Patrick Cronin, an Irish, after a mass to be officiated by Archbishop Ledesma on Wednesday morning.

Tuquib was the third archbishop of Cagayan de Oro.

“Si Bishop Tuquib naa nay iyang  gihimo nga pantiyon duol sa ‘Gallery of Saints’ sa luyo sa San Agustin Cathedral,” said Msgr. Perseus Cabunoc, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.

Tuquib had been in an out of the Maria Reyna-Xavier University Hospital since his retirement in 2006, according to Msgr. Cabunoc.

Death came three days after the retired archbishop fell into a coma following a stroke inside St. Patrick House, his retirement home, at Camaman-an Hill near the San Jose Seminary.

Msgr. Cabunoc said Tuquib was rushed to the hospital after he fell ill and started vomiting inside his retirement home.

Cabunoc quoted doctors at the Maria Reyna as saying “nag-bleeding na ang iyang otok.”

He added: “Adto dayong panahona nga nadiskobre nga mi-awas ang  dugo sa iyang otok. Nag-coma na dayon siya.”

Cabunoc described Tuquib as a “fighter.” He said, “Sa dugay’ng panahon nagmasakiton siya, apan fighter gyud kaayo nga obispo, kay gihogon-hogon na nga mobiya siya sa kalibutan niadto pang mi-aging tuig, apan karon pa gyud siya nakapahulay sa iyang kalibutanon nga kinabuhi.”

But the archbishop emeritus also fought many battles in his life, among which were the campaign to pressure the then President Joseph Estrada to resign due to plunder, and the attempt of the Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. (Pagcor) to operate a casino at the now Pryce Plaza hotel on top of Carmen Hill during the Ramos administration.

Cabunoc said Tuquib played a key role in Pagcor’s decision to stop the casino operations and withdraw from Cagayan de Oro when Fidel Ramos was President in the early ’90s.

It was Tuquib who mobilized some 45 parishes, including Roman Catholic schools, under the local archdiocese to oppose the casino operations.

Together with the then mayor Pablo Magtajas, the then congressman Erasmo Damasing and most members of the city council, the archdiocese organized the “People’s Alliance Against the Casino,” and spearheaded a series of street demonstrations and nightly vigils at the foot of Pryce Plaza to pressure Pagcor and the Ramos administration not to operate a casino in the city.

One of the biggest anti-casino rallies they staged was on June 15, 1993 near a private road leading to Pryce Plaza. The rally had at least 15 thousand participants, mostly Catholics from various parishes.

Tuquib had sent a letter to Ramos on behalf of 45 parishes under the archdiocese and stated that their position was that a casino “will gradually and surely destroy many of our positive and moral values.”

“We want to express in very strong terms our conviction that the spirit of restraint and dedication to honest work is still the fundamental dimension of human existence,” reads part of Tuquib’s letter quoted by Union of Catholic Asian News. “While we recognize the benefits of casino-raised money to help civic and social projects, we too recognize, that in Cagayan de Oro there is a different and better way of raising this money.”

Tuquib, who had served as archbishop of Cagayan de Oro for 18 years or from 1988 to March 4, 2006, was born in Clarin, Bohol, on June 27, 1930. He had also served as bishop of Pagadian starting on May 29, 1973.

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