The Murder of Father Thomas Rocks SJ, Claveria, Mis. Or.
But not all soldiers heeded the call to surrender, and not all American citizens were captured. Many retreated into the hills and jungle fastness of Mindanao, and stayed and waited for hostilities to cease. Among them was Father Thomas Rocks, who evaded capture in order to minister to the American and Filipino refugees’ spiritual needs. It has been weeks since the USAFFE surrendered, and He was in the hills of Claveria, Misamis Oriental, visiting a couple of American stragglers when the event happened.
He was suffering from dysentery, and has been staying there for awhile as he was too weak to travel. On June 4, 1942, the feast of Corpus Christi, he was vesting for Mass when a threatening group of armed men appeared across a small river. One of the Americans, Pvt. Clyde Marion Abbott (6553635) of the 19th Bombardment Group was lightly armed with a .45 caliber M1917 revolver thought they would not stand a chance against the threat,“let’s get out fast,” they agreed.“You go” said Father Rocks. “I’ll stay and guard our things. Filipinos will not harm a priest. I’ll talk to them.” Two long-haired filthy fellows, much darker than the ordinary Filipinos, climbed the ladder to the house. After much discussion they left, apparently satisfied. Father Rocks went on vesting for Mass. Once below, the bandits shot up through the bamboo floor killing Father Rocks instantly. They then went back up the house and hacked up the body, sacked the house and left. The robbers were a band of Magahats, pagans of the mountains. They had gotten their guns by treacherously murdering Filipino Soldiers who had sought refuge among them. No Christian Filipino would have broken the sacredness of hospitality. The Americans came back and buried Father Tommy Rocks there in the mountains of Claveria.
“We did the best we could,” Abbott told Father James Edward Haggerty. “I am not a Catholic, but we loved Father Rocks, and we put his robes on him before we buried him.” When Father Haggerty heard the story, he wrote in his diary:
“Few of us here may live to see America return, Father Rocks is fortunate. When I have to go I hope it will be beautiful like that, a quick, painless end, clothed in vestments, standing before the altar.”
(excerpts from the book: Guerrilla Padre in Mindanao) Father Rocks was 37 years old. He was survived by two brothers, Hugh of Waynesboro, and Edward J. of New Castle, and a sister, Ms. Ellen of Mercer, Pennsylvania (http://obs.stparchive.com/Archive/OBS/OBS03281943p02.php) Kerwin Salvador P. CaragosPost Script:
According to Anthropologist Dr. Antonio J. Roa Montalvan, the indigenous people in the area of Claveria, Mis. Or. belonged to the ethnolinguistic group of the Higaunon people, who like the Manobo had their own version of “Magahat” warriors And yet, “The Higaunon and Manobo people are totally different ethnolinguistic groups. simply put: they do not live together, they can’t co-exist and each one doesn’t like the other.”