At a quaint commune in Lianga, province of Surigao del Sur, one finds DAVISOL, short for Divine Arc Victory Instituted in Sion Omnipotent in this Latter Days of Christ, a community presided over by its spiritual leader, Godofredo Retuerto.
Retuerto is otherwise better known as Pater Fred. He once kept seven wives and is believed to have sired 41 children.
Pater Fred explains: “At the time I ascended to the leadership as a datu of a tribal group in Cagayan de Oro City, in a previous time, it was a group that believed a strong leader is one who has many wives.”
His original wife was said to have a hand in choosing his other wives.
From seven wives, though, the number has since whittled to five, because of the death of the first wife and the departure of another.
Pater relates that, at the start, it wasn’t all smooth sailing: “There was the inevitable issue of jealousy. This started when they learned to love and cherish me. At first, there was not much emotional investment, and we were just going about our mundane chores as part of living.”
His wives lived in separate homes, with each abiding by a scheme of division of labor, attending to such needs as taking care of health, and education. There is harmony, they point out, “because they were OK with the arrangements,” said Aires, the seventh wife.
The first wife had set up the “system” and gave each of them their respective assignments. They would look after Pater Fred on rotation basis every two days. “So there is no conflict, and we would not have to put up with problems,” said one of the current wives.
“We feel love for each other,” said Flor, the fifth wife. “When a child gets sick, the other Mamas would pitch in and take care of the unwell child.”
Fishing and making wood handicraft from the Magkono tree constitute a large part of the economic activity in the DAVISOL commune. They are also at work fashioning a cave into their temple, which they hope would attract visitors, an idea that sits well with municipal authorities because of the tourism potential.
One sore point they have to live with, however, is that there are people who consider them a cult, which they deny.
But Pater Fred would rather treat that as a survival challenge to their way of life.