Book on Polish priest’s ‘extraordinary life and work’ in PH released

Book on Polish priest’s ‘extraordinary life and work’ in PH released

Cover page of the new book titled “Extraordinary Life and Work of Fr. Cantius Kobak: A Polish Priest and Historian in the Philippines” launched on Nov. 27.

By CBCP News

November 27, 2020

Manila, Philippines

A biography on the life and times of a Polish Franciscan missionary, who is widely known in the academic community as “historian of Samar”, was launched in Manila on Friday.

Titled “Extraordinary Life and Work of Fr. Cantius Kobak: A Polish Priest and Historian in the Philippines,” the book is written by Carl Jamie Simple S. Bordeos and published by the Poland Embassy in Manila.

The book also contains some pictures of the priest’s missionary works and his archaeological expeditions.

Commenting on the biography, Jarosław Szczepankiewicz, chargé d’affaires of the Polish Embassy in Manila said the Poland-Philippine special bonds grow from Fr. Kobak’s endeavors in Samar and Leyte.

“Cantius Kobak was the best friend the Filipinos could wish for,” Szczepankiewicz said.

Sixteen years after the priest’s death, he said the new book aims to preserve for the next generations “what this extraordinary priest-missionary has achieved in the Philippines”.

Also in attendance were some dignitaries, including Ambassador Titanilla Toth from Embassy of Hungary, and Fr. Jonald Banatao, the archivist of the Franciscan Archives in Quezon City.

A ‘giant’ in Samar history

Born Zdzislaw (Jesse) Kobak in Chelmoniec, Poland in 1930, he migrated to the US in 1937. In 1949, he became a Franciscan and was ordained priest in 1957.

Fr. Kobak was a missionary to the Philippines for 40 years. He began his mission as a teacher at Christ the King College (CKC) upon his arrival in Calbayog in 1959.

The priest’s fascination with the Philippine culture led him to do extensive research on the local history.

Fr. Jonald Banatao, the archivist of the Franciscan Archives in Quezon City, and Jarosław Szczepankiewicz, chargé d’affaires of the Polish Embassy in Manila, at the book launch. PHOTO BY JOE TORRES/LICAS.NEWS

His findings spurred him to establish CKC Archeological Museum and initiate the Samar-Leyte Research Center where he was foremost etymologist.

In 1970, Fr. Kobak was transferred to Manila where he took several assignments but he continued his writings on Samar history and culture.

He was the foremost authority on the “Sumuroy Rebellion” in Samar in 1649 that spread across the southern part of the country.

His greatest scholarly achievements was tracing from different museums and archives in Europe and America and translating from Spanish to English the manuscripts of Jesuit Fr. Francisco Ignacio Alcina’s “Historia de las Islas e Indios de Bisayas… 1668”.

Bordeos, who works at CKC as curator of the Samar Archaeological Museum and Director of the Cantius Kobak Research Center, described Fr. Kobak as a “giant when it comes to the preservation of Samar and Bisayan’s history”.

Legacy

In 1989, Fr. Kobak returned to the US and served much of his time at the Mission Office of his Franciscan Province in Wisconsin.

He was last assigned as chaplain of St. Anne’s Nursing Home in 1998 in Milwaukee, where he also continued his research and writing on Samar history, which he expanded to Leyte.

Fr. Kobak died of cancer of the lymph glands on Aug. 15, 2004 at the age of 74.

Bordeos, who is a contributor of CBCP News, said that the priest left precious items from Samar’s past that he recovered from his archaeological trips, some from ancient burial sites on the island.

“Fr Kobak left us a beautiful legacy. It is up to us now to continue what he has started. May his memory live on,” he said.

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