FR. Romeo “Archie” Intengan, S.J., 75, was laid to rest at the Jesuit Cemetery in Novaliches, Quezon City, on Saturday morning amidst a huge outpouring of prayers, praise, affection and thanksgiving from all sorts of people for the priest, physician, patriot, political thinker, social reformer and friend of the poor whose work had touched countless lives and sought to bring meaningful change to the nation.
Some 65 Jesuit priests and three Jesuit-trained bishops—Bishop Pablo David of Caloocan, Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian of Bangued, and Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches—concelebrated the 8 a.m. funeral mass, presided over by the Provincial Superior Fr. Antonio F. Moreno, S. J. at Ateneo de Manila’s Church of the Gesu. This concluded four days of wake masses celebrated by individual Jesuits at the Oratory of St. Ignatius in the Loyola House of Studies.
Fr. Moreno and Fr. William Abbott, S.J., executive assistant to the provincial, offered the final tributes to Fr. Archie. Abbott as homilist painted an intimate portrait of the medical doctor who was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1977 and became the Society’s provincial in 1998. He was “a man who walked with God,” Abbott said; a priest whom Jesus himself might have considered “the Father’s gift to him.”
Because Fr. Archie embraced a mission larger than life, it’s but natural that it should continue beyond the grave, the homilist suggested. He quoted St. Therese of Lisieux as saying her real work “begins after her death.”
Similar tributes had earlier come from fellow Jesuits, including Fr. Catalino Arevalo, S.J., the well-known theologian; former provincial Fr. Danny Huang; Fr. Jose M. Cruz; Fr. Noel Vasquez; former Ateneo University president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, who particularly recalled Fr. Archie’s political opposition to martial law and his extensive work among the poor.
At the eulogy service on Friday evening, Nina Intengan, Fr. Archie’s sister-in-law, led a panel of speakers that included friends from the Partido Demokratiko-Sosyalista ng Pilipinas, the party he founded with his bosom friend Norberto Gonzales in 1973, and the National Transformation Council, which had counted on him for moral and political guidance. Protestant Bishop Arthur Corpuz and I spoke for the NTC, while urban poor representative Fernan Gana spoke for PDSP, and Bert Gonzales spoke both as PDSP co-founder and as NTC member.
Gonzales revealed many untold stories about Fr. Archie’s self-exile, but the most important revelation involved the doctor-priest ministering to so many sick people while he was supposedly in hiding. It was quite apparent that Fr. Archie did far more than what our national hero did as a medical doctor while he was in exile in Dapitan.
For my part, I tried to underline Fr. Archie’s irreplaceable role in framing our agenda for national transformation. Below is the full text of my short remarks:
God’s priest and friend
Fr. “Archie” joined us for dinner at home on October 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, which was also my 78th birthday. We were just a small group of friends. He turned in early, to prepare for the next day, which was going to be a very busy day, as was each one of his days. That was the last time we spoke.
On October 10, the first text message I got on my phone was from former Defense Secretary Bert Gonzales. It said, “Fr. Archie Intengan was DOA (dead on arrival)… at Quirino Hospital at 6:30 a.m. today. I asked doctor to stop the CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), applied 10 times already, after consulting Fr. Tex Paurom. May he rest in peace.”
Nothing had prepared me for it. I knew Fr. Archie was fighting cancer, and I feared he might eventually lose that fight, but I never knew he had a heart problem too. Like a real thief in the night, I said to myself, remembering what Scripture says of death.
With all the pain and anguish in my heart, I tried to suppress my tears, and pray. But in that hour of shock and grief I did not know what to say to God. Lord, teach me what to pray for, I prayed. Finally, I saw some light. I gave thanks to the Lord for the quick and (hopefully) painless death through which He took into his bosom his faithful friend and priest.
A martyr’s reward
Fr. Archie did not die a martyr’s death. But through his many sufferings in defense of God, human life, the family, and country, of freedom, patriotism and national honor, he lived a martyr’s life. I thought his kind of dying was probably his martyr’s reward. He was God’s friend and faithful priest. And because he was unconditionally God’s, he also became unconditionally our own.
In John 15:15, Jesus our Lord tells us that he has called us his friends because everything he had learned from his Father, he has made known to us. Fr. Archie was that same kind of friend: everything he ever learned from the Church, from his own life, and from his books, he tried to share with us—with others.
He tried to share with us not only the depths of human knowledge, but above all himself. Christ, the greatest of all teachers, gave us not only a set of teachings; he gave us himself.
My one regret is that I did not have the good fortune of knowing Fr. Archie well enough and long enough to make a greater claim to his friendship. But the little that I came to know of him permits me to say he allowed me to share so much of what he was.
In search of being
I am no longer young. But in our youth, the vagaries of politics put Fr. Archie and myself on opposing sides. I was the government’s youngest and probably most controversial minister who read to the nation the proclamation of martial law on September 23, 1972, which Fr. Archie as a fiery UP campus activist and later as a young Jesuit priest opposed with courage and vehemence. We did not know each other then, but the ideological divide was deep and wide. We were to connect very much later, in our senior years, no longer as political antagonists, but as fellow Christians in search not only of meaning, as Victor Frankl has put it, but above all of being.
Did we become real friends? I believe we did. How? Through the good offices of mutual friends, and by being in love with the same truths, the same transcendental truths, as C.S. Lewis puts it. A Christian must live for Christ, with Christ and in Christ, and this should transcend all political, social, economic, and cultural contracts and relationships. Our common search for being, as Christians, led us —I’d like to believe—to an intimate friendship in Christ.
At the National Transformation Council, we dreamed of a highly competent constitutional and human order under an authentic Christian moral leadership. Fr. Archie, in the company of Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu, Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao, Archbishop Emeritus Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan, Protestant Bishop Arthur Corpuz, and some Muslim religious leaders, became a primary moral and intellectual resource.
Through the various NTC assemblies from 2014 onwards—from Lipa, to Cebu, to Butuan, to General Santos, to Angeles and Clark, to Davao, and back to Lipa again—Fr. Archie and I collaborated closely to give flesh to the spirit of the various assemblies. My assigned task was to draft all the Declarations, while Fr. Archie gave the nihil obstat, or the imprimatur.
A perfect gentleman
Fr. Archie always provided an authoritative reading of the various political, economic and social situations, especially in relation to the social teachings of the Church. His critique was always sharp and precise, but never unfair nor harsh to anyone. He was ever the perfect gentleman. I gave him the highest marks for this, but I counted ourselves most blessed and fortunate for the unwavering friendship and generosity of this Jesuit priest.
I have long learned from my faith that the Holy Mass is the most important thing that ever happens in the world, and that every priest is another Christ, an alter Christus, if not indeed an ipse Christus, as St. Josemaria so joyfully puts it. To the priest has been given a power that has not been given to the angels, or even to our Blessed Mother—the power to utter the words of transubstantiation that transform the species of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.
An adorable human being
Thus, it is always a blessing to have a priest in our midst, and a hundred-fold blessing to have a priest in whom the theological virtues are made more manifest than in others. In Fr. Archie the human virtues were also joined to these theological virtues, and these made him such a delightful, adorable and kind-hearted human being. His text messages always read like diplomatic notes, courteous, coherent, complete, with no misspellings or abbreviated words or sentences. He was always punctual to a fault: if he said he wanted a meeting at 8:15 p.m., he meant 8:15 p.m., not 8:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. One solid proof that he had never been married.
It was always a pleasure to be his guest or his host. In any meeting, he always raised his hand in order to be recognized before he spoke, and he never overspoke nor repeated himself unless absolutely needed. When presiding over a meeting, he made sure everyone understood what the meeting would cover before getting started. During meals, he always made sure that all the drivers, orderlies and little people were fed along with everybody else. He never took any details for granted.
Building our own Ark
Fr. Archie would have turned 75 on the 18th of this month, if his sudden change of address did not take place. The birthday celebration will now be in some upper room somewhere rather than anywhere down here; and the under-populated NTC will be one senior and wiser member less. But we shall soldier on, Fr. Archie, as if you had never left. For we know you’ll be watching over us.
We take heart in what we read in Genesis about one of our great patriarchs. When Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. On his 600th year, his family and all the living creatures with them survived the Great Floods. In between, Noah and his children labored to build the Great Ark.
At 78, I have no intention of waiting another 422 years to start building our own Ark. The next great floods are coming, we must build our own Ark now. I have no doubt Fr. Archie will be praying for us.
I have one additional message to read.
Archbishop Capalla, former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, was stricken by malaria on his recent visit to Nigeria. He is now fully recovered in Davao, but he has been advised by his doctor to avoid air travel for the time being. He has therefore asked me to read his message:
“One admirable trait of Fr. Archie is his inspiring grasp of the country’s social-economic-political situation, especially his not-so-easily understood spectrum of leftist groups aligned with the National Democratic Front. Equally inspiring is his proposal for a comprehensive system of change through a peaceful revolutionary process grounded on moral principles. He loved the Church, our country, the poor, and his Jesuit vocation. I will miss his sincere friendship and friendly camaraderie. May he rest in peace with our Father in heaven.”
Thank you all very much.