Sunday Mar, 03 2024 03:09:39 PM

Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI (1948-2021)

OMI Philippine Province • 20:15 PM Sun May 23, 2021
Edwin O. Fernandez
Image from his FB page and IAG

COTABATO CITY - "We are deeply saddened to share that our beloved Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, passed away earlier today. Fr. Jun was a religious leader and teacher who impacted countless individuals and communities around the world. He was a cherished brother, uncle, and great uncle to many. We are grateful for all your support, prayers, and tributes during this most difficult time."

These were word from Fr. Juns niece, Rita Mercado now based in the US.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr, who died of cardiac arrest on Sunday, May 23, was to celebrate his 73rd birthday five days from now, or on May 29.  He was born on 1948 in Obando, Bulacan and arrived in Maguindanao in 1965.

He was to celebrate this year his 54th anniversary as OMI priest.

His parents are Eliseo Mercado Sr and Anita dela Rosa, both deceased. All his brothers and sisters are in the US and he was left alone in the Philippines to continue his missionary works.

His father was one of the Filipino pilots trained by the Americans and became an aviator.

He joined the OMI seminary in 1964.

Politician that never was 

“I did not want to become a priest I wanted to be a politician,” he said in a documentary.

“I joined the OMI because it is the only Catholic religious (having) presence in Mindanao and Sulu…I was attracted with the sultanates and the challenging work among the Muslims so my vocation is really tied to Islam, that is the reason why I jointed the Oblates and that’s the reason why I deviated from my career path as a politician,” he said.

He was assigned in various parishes in mainland Mindananao and Sulu.

During the pandemic, even pre-pandemic period, he teaches on local autonomy and governance for San Beda College through online courses.

He maintains a column at The Mindanao Cross.

Among Muslims and Christians in Mindanao he was “Bapa Jun Mercado,” as endearment name. In fact, Bapa Jun Mercado has been a household name in Central Mindanao.

His contribution to Peace Process in Mindanao and for inspiring many individuals will always be remembered.

Among the Oblates and many peace advocates in Mindanao and the country, he is known as an expert and played roles in Islam in the Philippines and the Mindanao peace process.

Aside from his regular assignments as missionary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Fr. Mercado played major roles in the government peace process with all Moro rebel groups in southern Philippines.

He once led the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) in Muslim Mindanao as well as chair of Independent ceasefire monitoring body at the height of peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Among the non government organizations he joined include Mindanao Task Force on Poverty Alleviation, the Social Reform Agenda (SRA) Council for Central Mindanao, the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor for Central Mindanao (1995-1998).

As a young priest assigned in conflict affected towns in Maguindanao, Fr. Mercado was sent by the OMIs to Egypt to take Islamic studies.

A holder of doctorate in divinity and humanity and an Master of Arts in both theology and philosophy, Fr. Mercado also earned degree in Islamic Studies and Arabic Studies at the Gregorian University in Rome and the Oriental Institute in Cairo, respectively.

After serving as president of the Oblate run Notre Dame University in Cotabato City, he kept himself busy in Mindanao peace process and giving lectures in various schools here and abroad.

The Institute of Spirituality in Asia said he lectured in Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Singapore), the University of Sains Malaya (Kuala Lumpur), and at the Ateneo de Manila University’s East Asian Pastoral Institute.  His papers on Islam & Mindanao have been featured in leading publications in the Philippines and overseas.

Repeatedly misundertood

The long list of his involvement in the Mindanao peace process was unfortunately repeatedly misunderstood, even by the Roman Catholics of Mindanao, calling him “Fr. JUN, OMILF,” the tag he just laughed then.

Fr. Mercado was a towering figure of Muslim-Christian Dialogues championing such program as “Duyog Ramadhan” where he gathers Muslim and non-Muslim leaders to talk about peace.

Engr. Zamzamin Ampatuan, Department of Agriculture undersecretary, described Fr. Mercado as “a priest with a big heart for Muslims.”

He said Fr. Mercado was a good friend of Moro secessionist leaders and very well engaged with the Muslim religious leaders.

“I take his death personally as he had been a fatherly figure for me since my high school days and up until now,” Ampatuan said.  “I love this spiritual father of mine, with whom I became so comfortable with Christianity as much as he had so much respect of Islam.”

Until he was rushed to the CRMC, he was busy discussing social and spiritual issues through his FB page.

Missionary works

Fr. Mercado had his first vow on June 15, 1967 in Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, and his perpetual vows three years later on June 15 1970.

He was ordained priest on August 25, 1974 in his hometown in Obando, Bulacan.

He graduated AB Classics and Philosophy both at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila.

He eaerned masters degree in Theology and Missiology, both in Gregorian University in Rome, Diplomate in Islamic Studies in Rome and Special Studies on Islamic Archeology in Oriental Institute in Cairo, Egypt.

He was a Fulbright Fellow of the Georgetown University in Washington DC.

His parish and other assignments include: parish vicar of Tacurong parish (1974), parish vicar of Midsayap (1975), parish priest Datu Piang (May 1976), parish priest Kabacan (1976), study in Rome (1980), parish priest Datu Piang (1982), director Notre Dame of Greater Manila (1989), president Notre Dame University (1992), went to Rome in 2003, director of OMI Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation in Rome, returned to OMI provincial house to pursue his peace advocacy program and in charge of Oblate Communications, founded the Institute for Autonomy and Governance and his last assignment prior to his death was spiritual director of OMI Postulancy. (Edwin O. Fernandez)

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