Physician, priest, patriot and, God willing, saint

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RICARDO SALUDO

DR. Romeo Jocson Intengan got his nickname from colleagues at the Philippine General Hospital. They called him “Archbishop” for spearheading religious activities at PGH.

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While the name shortened to Archie, the faith work stretched throughout his life. Eventually, the physician became priest, inspired by the hospital’s Jesuit chaplains.

That was the first among several turns in the life of Fr. Archie, which ended around six on Tuesday morning in the ambulance rushing him from the Ateneo de Manila University campus. He was pronounced dead on arrival at The Medical City, from cardiac arrest at age 75.

Thus, Fr. Archie entered the heaven he looked forward to in mealtime banter with fellow Jesuits. He’d say he could then read all the books he didn’t have time for, recounted Fr. Vic de Jesus, his fellow professor at the Loyola School of Theology (LST).

Not to mention, surely, far greater rewards from our Lord for Fr. Archie’s selfless, tireless giving of himself to the sick, the poor, the oppressed, the nation, and the faith.

That generous outpouring gushed till his dying day. On Monday he still visited an elder Jesuit, Fr. Nicasio Cruz, film professor and censor, as Fr. Archie did regularly for other senior clergy.

His long day also included his ethics class at LST, and a meeting on one of his many undertakings. All that for a septuagenarian with stage-4 prostate cancer and heart ailments, including a threatened aorta aneurysm.

But that was Fr. Archie, running empty on gas but full of grace, since after all, as the late Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe said, we have eternity to rest after life’s toils. And what a toil-filled life Fr. Archie’s was.

From doctor to priest, from democratic patriot in Sabah to moral theologian in Spain and the Philippines, and political advocate and counter-insurgency adviser — Fr. Archie lived a succession of lives in dedicated, selfless, even life-threatening service to God, nation, and neighbor. (For his own telling, see http://pcij.org/blog/wp-files/podcasts/Archie.mp3).

Jungle doctor, chaplain and ideologue
After topping his elementary and high school classes in Iloilo City and San Juan, the Cauayan, Negros Occidental, native took pre-med at the University of the Philippines Iloilo and medicine at UP Manila. With excellent studies, he became a UP College of Medicine instructor at 25, and a PGH physician before 30.

But the Lord called, and he entered the Jesuit order in July 1970, finishing bachelor’s degrees in philosophy at the Ateneo, then in sacred theology at LST, where he began teaching in 1978.

Then, another big shift: Hunted as co-founder of the Partido Demokratiko-Sosyalista ng Pilipinas, which had taken up arms against the Marcos regime in 1973, Fr. Archie fled to Sabah with PDSP co-founder Norberto Gonzales in 1980.

“You provide the theory; I’ll provide the action,” said Gonzales, national security adviser and defense secretary decades later in the Arroyo administration. Heading PDSP’s education department, Fr. Archie crafted its democratic ideology opposing both Marcos autocracy and communist insurgency.

In Sabah, he did more medical work than ever, while serving as political officer and chaplain. He cared for countless poor people sailing from as far away as Basilan and Zamboanga to a camp of the Moro National Liberation Front, fighting for Muslim independence.

In 1982, however, Kuala Lumpur could no longer ignore Manila’s accusations of harboring Filipino rebels. Fr. Archie and Gonzales left Sabah, eventually settling in Spain, under aliases “Fr. Durban” and “Alberto Cruz”.

During the wake at the Loyola House of Studies (LHS) Oratory of St. Ignatius chapel, Gonzales recalled their scrimping exile, even sharing blocks of cheese from Fr, Archie’s meals at the Jesuit house in Madrid. There he earned his licentiate in sacred theology, specializing in morality and ethics, at the Jesuit-run Comillas Pontifical University.

Gonzales himself got help from fellow anti-Marcos activist Raul Daza in New York. And he remembered fondly the one time he and Fr. Archie saw movies in four years abroad, at a marathon European festival screening.

Teaching and advancing God’s Kingdom
After the 1986 uprising, both men returned home, and Fr. Archie took up professorial, medical and superior duties at LHS in the Ateneo, where priests and seminarians lived while taking or teaching theology and philosophy.

In 1998, he was named provincial, heading the Society of Jesus in the country, and fellow Jesuits remember his meticulous assessments.

That attention, even passion for detailed, intelligent exposition also marked Fr. Archie’s medical bulletins and class examinations, even to his last days. Another former provincial, Fr. Danny Huang, remarked that even his exam instructions tested intelligence and presence of mind.

This writer saw firsthand that thorough knowledge and committed nationalism in Fr. Archie’s security and development briefing for then-President Gloria Arroyo and her Cabinet. He was a valued resource on counter-insurgency, under military guard against NPA threats. (He justified counter-violence against rebels in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISLAm9Yfr58.)

His politics spawned conflict even with fellow Jesuits. When this writer spoke on the 2004 elections in universities, agencies, embassies, and military bases, to show that Arroyo truly won, Fr. Archie arranged a presentation at LHS, even if the Jesuit provincial then had joined other religious superiors demanding her resignation.

At the wake, leading theologian Fr. Catalino Arevalo said Fr. Archie saw his priestly mission in political activity, unlike most clergy of his time. He certainly did much work for social reform and justice, becoming a key figure in many advocacies, including the National Transformation Council and Tanggulang Demokrasya in his final years before grave illness.

Yet despite such activities, he still devoted much time, thought and energy ministering to the ailing, counseling the pondering, and deepening moral and ideological thinking.

He is in heaven now, no doubt savoring tomes he never had time for, having expended every moment for God, country, and fellowmen. Mabuhay ka, Fr. Archie, habang buhay!

(The funeral mass for Fr. Intengan is at 8 a.m. today at the Church of the Gesu, Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City.)

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