Whenever he was in Cebu City, Monsignor Camomot made it a point to visit his alma mater, the San Carlos Major Seminary. He usually went there on September 27 — feast day of St. Vincent de Paul who was the founder of the congregation that used to run the school before it was turned over to the diocese.Having spent much of his formative years as a young adult under the care of the Vincentians, it is not surprising that his own inclinations towards social justice and love for the poor were galvanized by the example of this saint. In one of his feast day homilies, Monsignor Camomot stressed:These two religious organizations founded by St. Vincent de Paul [Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Congregation of the Mission] comply perfectly [with] the desire of the heart of St. Vincent — to relive the poor of their physical and spiritual needs.
We may have no gift and talent as versatile as those of St. Vincent de Paul; nor can we possibly cover a mission field in the extension that he envisioned in his days. But one thing that likens us to him — we are all children of God. As children of God, we shoulder the responsibility to carry the love of God in our hearts — to love him with all our minds, with all our strength, to love him more than anything the world can offer us. Let us be possessed of a fervent heart that can be easily softened, a heart that can easily feel a love for the Blessed Sacrament, before the Cross and before the Blessed Mother… and charitable to the less privileged and poor.
On that fateful Tuesday — September 27, 1988 — Monsignor Camomot’s mission on earth was destined to reach its completion. As customary, he went to San Carlos Seminary for the annual festivities. After lunch, he decided to head back to Carcar, which was about an hour’s drive away going south. Cardinal Vidal had tried to persuade the elderly bishop to stay on and take an afternoon nap, but Camomot said that he needed to hurry back to celebrate mass at his parish. Besides, he told the cardinal, it shouldn’t be a problem because he brought a driver with him.
By 2pm, the tragic news spread like wildfire throughout the province of Cebu — their beloved “Monsignor Lolong” died in a road mishap along Sitio Magtalisay in Sangat, San Fernando, Cebu. The bishop’s service vehicle rammed against a passenger bus; the driver escaped unharmed but his passenger was killed instantly. Camomot was 74.
The entire province mourned his passing. At his wake, people from all walks of life lined up patiently and reverently to pay their last respects — from the highest officials of the province and the archdiocese, to the farmers and laborers he served and cared for throughout his life. His funeral was one of the biggest anyone in Cebu has ever seen. Thousands of disconsolate mourners lined the streets and flocked to the parish church for the 10 a.m. concelebrated mass led by Cardinal Vidal, along with over a dozen bishops, monsignori and priests of the archdiocese.
Monsignor Teofilo Camomot’s body was laid to rest at the Catholic cemetery at Carcar on October 5, 1988 — a priest for 46 years and of these, a bishop for 33.
Eternity has to begin in the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth,” he once wrote in his diary, “with Christ the Eternal King as our Head, leading us to Heaven. Eternity has to begin in the heart of Man… Be eternal with Christ in your soul.
In life and in death, he performed amazing miracles. (Sirach 48:14)
Soon it became apparent that the memory of Monsignor Camomot’s virtues, his values and his truly wonderful deeds would not be easily forgotten. His body may have passed away but the goodness he had sown remained fresh and alive among those who loved him, like a sparkling stream of water that refreshed their tired and weary souls. Faithful parishioners and followers would flock to his tomb each day, pouring out their worries and anxieties, asking the holy confessor for his intercession, even asking him for miracles of healing or of providing for their everyday needs. In death, as in life, people came to their beloved “Monsignor Lolong” because they knew he would never turn them away or let them leave empty-handed. Death only brought him closer to God, and they felt assured that their prayers would not be in vain.
To those who have experienced the bounty of his love and compassion, Camomot was already a saint. Yet few were prepared for the turn of events that would occur just two decades later.
The year 2009 marked a joyful milestone for the Daughters of Saint Teresa, as it was finally recognized as a religious institute of Pontifical Right on July 16, feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. At the same time, the congregation was poised to celebrate its Golden Jubilee since its original inception as the Carmelite Tertiary of the Blessed Eucharist in 1960. Naturally, the Sisters wanted to share these jubilant occasions with their founder, so they sought permission to transfer his mortal remains to a small mausoleum they had constructed within their convent grounds in Valladolid.
To everyone’s surprise and awe, they found his body still intact!
Twenty-one years after his death, Sr. Esterlita Lauros said they were expecting to transfer the bones of their founder to their convent. They only had a box with them during the proceedings, so they had to hurriedly look for a new casket. Msgr. Garcia, Archdiocesan Commission on Worship chairman, said the remains were transferred to the new casket. “The old casket, we had to certify every piece. Cardinal Vidal had to seal every piece,” he said.
“We had to identify his remains; we had to change his vestments. The coffin was transferred to Carcar where the whole tomb was resealed,” he added.
The coffin of Msgr. Lolong was wrapped in a red cloth, and Cardinal Vidal sealed it using his ring. The burial site is at the Mother House of the Daughters of St. Teresa in Barangay Valladolid in Carcar.
The other contents of the original coffin were collected and are now in the safekeeping of the nuns. These items include the flowers, the dirt and others.
This miraculous discovery, coupled with copious testimonials and his own personal knowledge of the late bishop’s virtuous, prayerful and charitable life, inspired Cardinal Vidal to pursue what was to be one of his last major undertakings before his retirement: he took the initial steps to work towards the beatification of Archbishop Teofilo Bastida Camomot.
A two-page petition prepared by the Daughters of Saint Teresa detailing the account of Camomot’s life, ministry and virtues was personally delivered by Cardinal Vidal to the Vatican and submitted to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. On September 2010, the Archdiocese of Cebu was granted by the Holy See permission (nihil obstat or “no impediments”) to begin the diocesan process for beatification.
The following month, Vidal convened an Archdiocesan Commission that would conduct an investigation into the life and works of Camomot. Its initial members were: retired Bishop Antonio Rañola (Instructor and Episcopal Delegate); Msgr. Dennis Villarojo (Postulator); Msgr. Raul Go (Promotor of Justice); Fr. Jesper John Petralba (Notary); Ms. Trinidad Calleno (Adjunct Notary), and diocesan tribunal members Msgr. Guillermo Gorre, Msgr. Marnell Mejia, and Fr. Patricio Ornopia (Theological Censors); Msgr. Cayetano Gelbolingo, Fr. Marvin Mejia, and Fr. Ramon Fred Ofredo (Historical Experts). Representatives from the Daughters of Saint Teresa were Rev. Mother Esterlita L. Lauros, DST (Liaison Officer) and Sr. Irene C. Macaraya, DST (Secretary of the Commission on Plenary Sessions). Subsequently appointed to the Commission were Fr. Vito Jumao-as Jr., Fr. Reynaldo Cui and Mr. Trizer Mansueto for Historical Matters, and Fr. Glenn Therese Guanzon and Fr. Elvin Miraflor for Theological Matters.
The first Diocesan Inquiry (or Diocesan Tribunal) opened on December 27, 2010. Aside from investigating the merits of Camomot’s life, the tribunal is tasked to seek and authenticate at least one miracle that can be directly and unquestionably attributed to his intercession.