A framed piece of wood, taken out from the floor where Bishop Alberto Ramento’s lifeless body was found lying 13 years ago, occupies the left corner of the church altar.
At the end of Bishop Ramento’s martyrdom anniversary commemoration service, Bishop Dindo Ranojo and the clergy of the Diocese of Tarlac gathered around the mural of the slain Bishop to offer their prayers.
Painted on the mural is a silhouette of the Bishop’s face, with his words ”I know they’re going to kill me next, but I will never abandon my ministry and duty to God’s people.”
“The painting keeps him alive,” said Bishop Ranojo, “but most importantly, through following the way Bishop Ramento had lived-out his faith to obtain justice for the poor and oppressed.”
Bishop Alberto Ramento was the Iglesia Filipina Independiente’s (IFI) 9th Obispo Maximo from 1993-1999. When he ended his term, he took Tarlac for his diocese. He stayed in the Parish of San Sebastian in Tarlac City which soon became known as a “sanctuary” for peasants, workers, market vendors, and street children.
On October 3, 2006, Bishop Ramento was found dead inside his rectory with seven fatal stab wounds in his body. The police immediately ruled out his case as robbery with homicide. The Iglesia Filipina Independiente believed otherwise, and suspected the killing to be politically motivated.
The commemoration, held at San Sebastian parish in Tarlac City on October 5, 2019, was attended by the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Tarlac, Hacienda Luisita farm workers, trade union activists, and members of the Ayta communities from around Tarlac province.
Bishop Ramento’s son Altres shared a recollection of his father. “Bishop Ramento was a father who never told us what to do or say or believe. Instead, he instructed us by way he lived his life,” Altres recalled.
Altres hopes to follow his father’s vocation. He recently finished his formation and studies at Aglipay Central Theological Seminary (ACTS) in April.
Ramento Project for Rights Defenders (RPRD) executive director Fr. Jonash Joyohoy asked those at the ceremony to not only commemorate Bishop Ramento’s death but to celebrate his exemplary life as they remember him.
“The most fitting way to pay tribute to Bishop Ramento’s unique life of servanthood is to let our lives be like his, offered as a voice for the voiceless,” Fr. Joyohoy said.
“Let us keep his legacy alive by making his battle for social justice our own battle. Let us spread his message that God’s righteousness will overcome all the injustice and inhumanity in our world,” the priest added.
Highlighting the commemoration was the formal launching of the Diocese of Tarlac’s Ayta Ministry, an accompaniment program which offers support to indigenous communities in the province of Tarlac.
Representatives of Ayta communities joined Bishop Ranojo and Fr. Joyohoy in unveiling the project’s official logo. “We honor Bishop Ramento with this ministry for the marginalized cultural minority of Tarlac,” declared Bishop Ranojo.
The Ayta Ministry is an ongoing diocesan initiative which started in 2017. The partnership between the Diocese of Tarlac and RPRD is hoped to strengthen the program’s capacity to effectively address the needs of Ayta communities as they assert their rights against the corporatization of their land.
“This ministry embodies the Diocese of Tarlac’s pilgrimage together with the Ayta people as they fight for the recognition of their rights,” Bishop Ranojo said. “We pray for this modest endeavor to grow and expand its reach beyond the Ayta communities of Tarlac that suffer the same burden of military instrusions and development aggression,” the Bishop added.