MSGR. Rodolfo “Rudy” Villanueva, a Thomasian priest who was also a prize-winning literary writer and a celebrated icon in Philippine liturgical music, passed away on May 23. He was 83. 

His death was announced by the Archdiocese of Cebu in a Facebook post.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of one of the pillars of seminary formation in the Archdiocese of Cebu, an award-winning and prolific literary writer,” it read. 

Villanueva was a fictionist whose novels were recognized by award-giving bodies, and a renowned composer who specialized in producing choral and solo vocal music.

He took up philosophy and theology at San Carlos Seminary in Cebu and was ordained a priest in 1963. 

Villanueva pursued further studies at UST, where he earned his master’s degree in English, and at State University in Minnesota, where he studied music in piano and music composition. 

The Thomasian priest contributed to the cause of Cebuano saint Pedro Calungsod through his music, crafting devotional pieces such as “Way Sukod man ang Pagmahal,” “By the Power of Your Giving,” and “Gozos of Saint Pedro Calungsod.”

His liturgical compositions, including “Cancionero Cebuano,” “Twenty-Four Masses,” “Salterio Cebuano,” and the three-volume “Festive Series,” are widely used in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Villanueva  published under his pen name “Renato Madrid.” He wrote novels that merged the themes of sociology and religion, such as “Devil Wings” and “Mass for the Death of an Enemy.”

He won the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature and the National Book Award for his collection of stories, “Southern Harvest.” 

Villanueva was feted with the Umpil Gawad Alagad ni Balagtas in 2003 and the Order of Rajah Humabon Award, the highest accolade bestowed by the city government of Cebu, in 2022. 

Recognizing his immense contribution to Philippine literature, the Varsitarian awarded Villanueva with the Parangal Hagbong, the lifetime achievement prize given to UST alumni in letters, in 2018. He was recognized alongside the late philosophy pedagogue Emerita Quito. 

Villanueva’s wake was held at Martins of Lisieux Chapel of San Carlos Seminary College in Cebu.

A requiem Mass was held on June 4 at the Carmelite Monastery, where he had been boarding after retiring from teaching. His remains were laid to rest after a funeral Mass at Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.


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