ALINGAL, Godofredo B.

alingal, godofredo 2Born in the “Jesuit country” that was northern Mindanao, it was perhaps inevitable for this son of the soil and the sea to become a Jesuit priest.

Godofredo Alingal, called Fr. Ling by his flock, was ordained to the priesthood in 1953 in Woodstock, Maryland (USA). He was first assigned to the province of Bukidnon, then to Ateneo de Naga, Cagayan de Oro City, and in 1968, back to Bukidnon.

The Catholic Church was seeing dramatic changes as an aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. The Gospel was henceforth to be preached beyond the walls of the church, in the fields, market places, the hills, and lived as a witness to give people back their dignity and their rights. Alingal embraced these new teachings.

Bukidnon was a land of great social divisions. Politics was rough, and bullets counted more than ballots. Peasants were oppressed by landlords, usurers and middlemen, and power was in the hands of a few. Conflicts simmered between the indigenous tribes, the settlers from the Visayas, and the ranchers and loggers who extracted the area’s rich natural resources.

Alingal helped farmers start a credit union and a grains marketing cooperative. He helped organize the local chapter of the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) in Kibawe, Bukidnon.

With the repression and militarization that characterized the martial law regime, Alingal redoubled his efforts in behalf of poor people. He started a community organization program, aimed at organizing farmers, vendors and mothers to protest abuses and defend their rights.

The gentle and soft-spoken priest nevertheless spoke out against electoral fraud, threats and harassments by the military, denouncing these from the pulpit and through the prelature newsletter Bandilyo. In 1977, the martial law government closed down the prelature’s radio station DXBB, but Alingal started a Blackboard News Service instead. It was popularly known as “Kibawe Budyong.” He built a giant blackboard in front of his church, broadcasting news that was otherwise being suppressed and denouncing official abuses. The blackboard was repeatedly vandalized, but he merely put up another one to replace it.

Alingal started getting anonymous threats. “Stop using the pulpit for politics…. your days are numbered,” went one. But, “what else is there to do—the priesthood is not a safe vocation,” he said.

He had just gotten orders for reassignment to another parish when he was assassinated in 1981.

In the early evening of April 13, 1981, five men (three of them wearing masks) arrived at the convent in Kibawe, and demanded to see the parish priest. Alingal, who was in his room reading, opened the door; he was met by a bullet fired from a .45 caliber automatic handgun. The assailants then all fled on motorbikes. A physician living nearby heard the shot and rushed to Alingal’s side. The murdered priest died in his arms.

At his funeral mass, two bishops and about 70 priests concelebrated. Thousands joined the funeral march, coming from the town proper and the surrounding barrios and towns.

Many brought with them placards painted with the angry query: “Hain ang justicia? (Where is justice?)” Alingal’s killers were never charged.