The Diary of a Young Priest
Here I am in Tacloban undergoing the pastoral year program. There are three newly-ordained Redemptorists doing it: Claro, Pasky and myself. Fr. Pat Reynolds is our director. We actually started the other month and I spent the first two months learning the Waray language, doing sacramental work: celebrating the Eucharist, preaching, hearing confessions, solemnizing marriages, baptizing babies, visiting the sick and conducting funerals. This is what we will mostly be doing until October when we begin our mission work.
I still have to get used to being called Father and behaving as a priest. I've
met new acquaintances. There are a
number of family friends that I regularly visit for dinner (the Marmitas and the Pedrozas).
I've met a number of attractive women but I am trying to avoid any deep
involvement -- I wouldn't want to have a crisis in vocation right at the
beginning of my ministry. I got to know a winsome young woman who regularly
reads in church. She always wears blue jeans and walks with a regal bearing.
She has deep expressive eyes and a captivating smile. Her name is G. I sometimes have a chat with her in the
sacristy after the
Today is the feast of our holy founder St. Alphonsus. Beato, our cook, prepared a banquet for the community. This evening after dinner we had the usual gaudeamus and card games. Everyone is crazy about the game of canasta.
A typical Sunday in Tacloban. I woke up at around in the morning and jogged around the city for one hour and 30 minutes. When I came back I skipped breakfast and did my morning meditation. Afterwards I made the final preparation of my homily and celebrated mass at Lunch at and siesta until two in the afternoon. Then I went over to the house of Mana Ono to play the piano. I came back by . I celebrated the mass and the evening mass at six. Three masses in a Sunday! At least no canasta of masses this time. We had supper with Flor Marmita's sister in V&G subdvision.
In spite of the rain I jogged for 45 minutes. As I ran , I could feel the rain in my face. I felt so alive that I wanted to run forever.
I just finished writing this poem about being a celibate -- a eunuch for the kingdom:
What a life ‑‑‑
waking up in the middle
of a cold, cold night
with no one beside me
except an unresponsive pillow.
What a life ‑‑‑
waking up every morning
alone in my bed
with no one to greet me
with a smile or a kiss.
I will never hear
the sigh of a woman
in the middle of the night
on my bed.
I will never hear
the cry of a child
in the middle of the night
in my room.
Is this the price
I have to pay
night after night
morning after morning
for the freedom to proclaim
(these wings are too heavy
but they can make me fly,
I hope I won't fall from the sky).
I can feel what every human being needs -- the need for intimacy, for a deeper relationship with someone, the need for love and affection. Do I have to give up all of these for the sake of the kingdom? A eunuch for God's kingdom. That's what I am and will always be -- I hope. Easier said. Living out my vow of chastity and remaining faithful to it will surely be a struggle for me. I know that I am a person who is very passionate and romantic -- who can easily be attracted to someone who is kind and beautiful. Like men of my age I long to have a wife and a child. Alas, this is a desire that cannot be fulfilled if I am to be faithful to my vows. I just hope that in the process of trying to remain celibate I don't turn out to be a cranky old bachelor.
Lord, help me to become a man who is capable of loving others, especially those I personally encounter in the road of life. Let me not become a cold, lonely, unfeeling priest.
I've been meditating on Matthew's account of Jesus walking on water and Peter wanting to walk towards him. I can easily identify myself with Peter in the scene -- impetuous and above all, a "man of little faith."
At present, I find it difficult to feel the presence of God in my life and to see his hand in my life. Once again, He has become to me the "silent and absent God." My prayers are dry and sterile. I am plagued with doubts about the relevance and necessity of the ministerial priesthood. I am even finding it difficult to believe that the host and wine I am consecrating during mass are indeed turning to be the body and blood of Christ. I find it difficult to believe that my words of absolution can really effect healing and forgiveness. This is a terrible feeling. Me, a priest, having all these doubts.
I have reached the point where I have to make a leap of faith, a leap in the dark -- or to plunge into the water like Peter. I have to reach out to Christ, hoping that his outstretched arms will hold me even as I am sinking and I do not see him clearly.
This is something that I am become more aware of: that my faith and vocation can not be taken for granted anymore. God can not be taken for granted. Once again I need to go back to the basic, to what is fundamental -- to try to understand more deeply the meaning of my faith.
What I know is, that the storms in my life are opportunities for my faith to grow strong and deep.
"Courage, it is I, do not be afraid"
Early this morning I jogged from Tacloban to the other end of the long and winding San Juanico bridge and back. It took me 2 hours and 45 minutes to run the 30 km distance.
While reading Henri Nouwen the following passage made a very deep impression on me:
We can now see that celibacy has a very important place in the world. The celibate makes his life into a visible witness for the priority of God in our lives ... We belong to God ... Celibates are people who, by not attaching themselves to any particular person, remind us that the relationship with God is the beginning, the source and the goal of all human relationships.
I fully agree with Nouwen. Celibacy is the sign that I am totally committed to God. Yet I find it hard to consider other persons as blocks or hindrances to my getting closer to God.
At , I celebrated a funeral mass. After the mass, I felt so alone and empty. Since there was no one to talk to, I went out for a walk along the scenic Magsaysay boulevard which has a good view of the sea. I saw several couples walking and holding hands. I gazed at them with envy. I was probably the only one walking without any companion. When I came back to the monastery at six in the evening, I saw G. and Charry near the parish office. My heart lifted up when I saw G.’s smile. I sat down with them and we talked for almost an hour. The terrible loneliness was gone.
I admire G. very much. There is something extraordinary about her. It’s not just her beauty. She strikes me as someone who is deeply religious – someone whose faith is probably stronger than mine. I wish we can become close friends, but I regret there is very little time and opportunity for this. I'll have to maintain a safe distance.
There is a passage in Anthony Bloom’s book which I find very striking:
God is there at the point of greatest tension, at the breaking, at the center of the storm .... The day when God is absent, when he is silent -- that is the beginning of prayer. Not when we have a lot to say, but when we say to God "I can't live without you, why are you so cruel, so silent."
The more deeply I feel God's silence and absence, the more deeply my heart moves "Godwards." It is said that "absence makes the heart grow fonder." It is when we begin to miss someone that we realize how significant that someone is in our life.
This afternoon, Pasky and I went to Utap to celebrate the Eucharist with the people. The bamboo chapel was in the middle of the rice fields. The people were late and it was almost dark when we started. Then the rains came and the wind was blowing fiercely. Pasky desperately protected the small gas lamps from the wind with his hands. The chapel was full but only a handful received communion.
This is the kind of life I want to live – to work among the poor. I just don't want to spend most of my time in the monastery or in my room, going out only when it is time to celebrate the sacraments.
gave a talk on "liberation theology" to a class in University of the
Philippines-Tacloban this morning. These college students were interested about
this theology emerging from
is the first day of a series of recollections that I am giving to students here
For the first part of the recollection, I asked the students to share their experiences of God's presence in their life. They broke into small groups and then a member of each group reported the contents of their sharing to the whole class. I was touched by the sharing of a girl who had experienced so much hardship and suffering since her childhood. She admitted that she found it hard to believe in God's goodness.
Well, how do you explain to people like her that God loves her?
I am feeling tired after conducting today's recollection. There was very poor participation in the sharing session in the morning but it improved in the afternoon. I sometimes wonder whether God and religion really mean much to these kids at all. They have so many pressing concerns and interests: studies, relationship with their parents, boyfriends and girlfriends, etc. Again the question: how real is God in their lives? That is a question that even I myself cannot easily answer. The blind leading the blind.
After trying very hard to convince the students about the reality of God's love and existence, I realized that deep within, I was the one trying to convince myself about it.
One of the exercises I introduced this morning was the prayer-writing session. This meant giving them time to pray and to put their prayer into writing and later share it with others. While waiting for the college students to finish writing their prayers in the Church, I noticed four little girls kneeling in the front pews. Then they went up to the altar and knelt in front of the cross. The faith of the little children.
The theme for today's recollection for the third year college students: “love and service.”
These are some insights that I shared after reading Matthew's account of the last judgment. When the time comes for us to give an account of ourselves before God, we will be judged by how much we have loved and served the least of our brethren. The question that we will have to answer is: did I fill the world with love? (that's a very familiar song). According to St. Teresa, in the evening of our lives we will be judged by our love. We will be condemned not only for our evil acts but also for the things we have failed to do for others -- for our lack of love, care and concern for those who are in need, for our indifference.
Love and service are at the heart of Christian life. Religion is not only about adhering to some truths about the faith. It is not only a matter of prayer and rituals. It is also about concrete expressions of love and service.
During today's recollection, I stressed to the students the need to avoid and reject the three-fold temptation: the drive for wealth, power and glory. These tend to dominate our lives and they can become the driving force of our lives. Much of what is wrong in society (suffering, injustice, oppression, violence, corruption, etc.) can be attributed to these. The businessmen, politicians and even the dictator are motivated by the drive for wealth, power and glory. I believe that all of us are subject to one or all of these three-fold temptations. It is important to find out which is the dominant temptation in our life.
Well, tomorrow is the last day of the recollection and I will be going back to Tacloban the following day. I don't know how much difference this recollection makes on the life and the faith of these students. One can't expect much from these brief encounters. I just hope that this had made the Christian faith more meaningful and relevant to them. At least for me this has been a process of evangelizing not only the students but also myself.
I heard confession early this morning before the novena. Many of those who came haven't made a confession for a long time. It was very touching listening to these repentant persons being reconciled with God and with the Church after living sinful lives. I reminded them of God's loving mercy -- that no matter how sinful they may have been, God is always ready to forgive them.
Encountering sinners in the confessional always remind me of my own weakness and sinfulness. I remember the biblical text in my ordination card:
"Since he was himself tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are tempted. He is able to deal patiently with erring sinners for he himself is beset by weakness." (Heb 5:2)
The awareness of my own sinfulness makes me aware of God's loving mercy. It also makes me more understanding and sympathetic to the repentant sinners who come to bare the secrets of their souls and ask for God's forgiveness.
"Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was with you ... You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness..."
This passage reminds me of my late friend, Magno. He was able to identify with Augustine's story. This helped him in his process of conversion. How I wish I could have a similar religious experience.
While looking for homily materials in the library I came upon this poem which I found very striking:
I was hungry, and you formed a humanitarian club to discuss my hunger. Thank you.
I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel in the cellar and prayed for my release.
I was naked, and in your mind debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick, and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless, and you left me alone to pray.
You seem so holy, so close to God.
But I am still hungry, and lonely, and cold.
So where have your prayers gone?
What does it profit a man to page through his book of prayers, when the rest of the world is hungry and crying for help?
Responding to the basic and deepest needs of the poor and most abandoned -- this is how my life as a priest is to be spent. There will always be time for prayer -- in fact, it is an essential part of my life -- but it should not be made as an excuse for not responding to the urgent needs of the people I have been called to serve.
Tomorrow we will begin the second stage of our pastoral year program: the mission experience. This will last for six months. During the first three months we will be giving missions in the areas within the Redemptorist parish here in Tacloban. After this we will be going another three months in a remote area in the Tanauan parish. I've been looking forward to this experience. This means we will be out in the barrios – working and living among the poor. Since the beginning of our pastoral year we have spent most of our time in church work administering the sacraments. I have not found this experience too exciting. We spent most of our time in the monastery and the church and our contact with the people has been minimal. This is not the kind of ministry I want to engage in. The missions would be more interesting and exciting. For the first part of the mission experience I will be conducting a mission in a nearby barangay – Utap -- which is 15 minutes walking distance from the monastery. This means I don't have to live in the area. I will be working there during the day and come back late at night. I will have the experience of total immersion and living in the barrios in our next mission area.
Opening mass of the Utap mission. Many members of this community came to attend the Eucharist. The readings I chose and preached on were: Acts 2:42-47 (The life of the early community) and Matthew 13:1-9 (Parable of the Sower). I explained to the people the purpose of the mission which is to help build the Basic Christian Community in Utap following the model of the early Christian community in Acts. It will be a community where the members are united by the word of God, the Eucharist, and by their loving service towards one another -- a prophetic, priestly and servant community. I told them that the mission is a time for sowing and that I hope that Utap will be like the good soil in the gospel. After the mass, I had the opportunity to meet the officers of the chapel organization. I asked for their help in making a survey of the area and in scheduling the home visitation. The next ten days will be spent going around the area, getting to know the place and the people.
Dely and Mana Lucring accompanied me to the
I started the home visitation with Mana Dely today. I was able to meet the following persons: Doming and Basyon (Zone 6), the barangay captain Julian and his wife Lily, Gloria (Zone 6), Berting and Narda Martinez, and Lucring.
I was able to get a general view of Utap. Most of the inhabitants of Zones 4, 5, and 6 are farmers. They are usually in their farms from early morning to late afternoon (). Some residents of Zones 6 and 3 are manangguite (tuba gatherers). Most of those living in Zones 2 and 1 are government employees, teachers, carpenters and workers. This means that during the day there are very few people in these zones and they are at home only in the evenings and on weekends. I am beginning to realize how heterogeneous this community is. There are parts that are still rural and parts that are already urbanized. I think this is going to be a very difficult area to missionize. It will not be possible to visit people in their homes during the weekdays since they will be in their farms or in their places of work.
Early this morning, I ran the 24-km route (San Juanico and back) in two hours flat. Well, it seems that I am getting faster.
I spent the morning preparing for tomorrow's homily. Later in the afternoon I joined the music practice of the youth in Utap. They were mostly teenage girls (Eva, Ethel, Nana, Evangeline, Emy and others). Such a lively group. I taught them some of the songs we will be using during the mission. I believe that one of the most effective ways of getting the mission message across is through songs.
I celebrated mass in Utap at this morning. The chapel was full of people. We had a lively sharing and discussion on what the eucharist means for them. I already know the names of many of the people who attended the mass since I have met them on my home visits. They were amazed when I called many of them by name and asked them to share their reflections. After the mass I stayed on in the chapel for a while and talked to some of the people.
new persons I met this morning: Sayong Diaz, Daday, Siok, Efe, Daming, Piang,
I did six 1-km speed interval runs this morning. I was able to average four minutes and one second per kilometer. I’m getting faster. The fastest I could run before was per kilometer.
I went around zones 3 and 4 this afternoon visiting the homes of the people. It seems that my ability to remember names is improving. Maybe it's because I'm more interested in people I meet. Calling them by their names helps deepen my relationship with these people.
I had supper with Siok, Daday and their children. We had steamed vegetable, rice, fish and tuba. They are very poor and simple people and I feel at home with them. We talked a lot about their life, experiences, worries and hopes. I will be expecting more invitation for lunch and dinner from different people in this area.
Happy birthday to me. Today I am 27 years old.
I woke up at in the morning and listened to the song “Morning has broken.” As I meditated in the dark prayer room, I became intensely aware of myself and all that I am and have as a gift from God. My life, my existence, my faith, my religious vocation, my talents, everything is gift from God. I was filled with a feeling of gratitude and I gave thanks to God.
It was still raining at in the morning. Nevertheless, I went out for my morning run (17 km today). As the sweat and the rain soaked my body, I felt a warm and tingling sensation. My whole body became very light and I increased my speed. There was great joy in my heart. I wanted to run forever.
I decided to take a day off and spend the day in recollection. Beato, our cook, prepared a special dinner for the Redemptorist community in honor of my birthday.
Despite the heavy rain, I set out for Utap this afternoon. I met Dading, the wife of Joe. She complained about the cheap price of copra. I went to Angel and Tining's house but they were not there. I met instead Libby, Tinoy, Frank and Anastacio. I proceeded to Zone 4 and met Mano Faustino and his wife Alipia. Faustino told me that very few are now planting rice in Utap due to the expensive rate of hiring a carabao and the ineffective irrigation system. I was planning to go farther across the rice paddies but Faustino advised me not to because of the rain and the mud. As it was getting dark, I proceeded to the house of Elding and Sayong. I met them and their children (Eric, Elvin, Nenet, Ethel, Nene, Claro and Ruel). I had supper with them. On my way back to the monastery, I dropped by Lucring's hut and met her husband, Mando. It was already 10 in the evening when I got back to the monastery.
It has been over two months since I made an entry on this journal. I've been very busy in my mission work. The month of October was spent mostly in integration and social investigation. This period was spent getting to know the people and the place. This meant visiting their homes, talking with them, eating and drinking with them, celebrating with them the Eucharist every Sunday in their chapel. For many of these people this was the first time that they have been visited by a priest. This was the first time that they have eaten and drank with a priest. They made me feel welcome despite their poverty.
I spend the first half of November giving mission seminars in the area. During the first week, I gave the seminar to the urbanized section of Utap. The seminar for the rural section was given during the second week. Each mission seminar lasted for five nights. The people gathered in the chapel from to . Each evening had a particular theme: God, The Human Person, Christ, The Church and the Basic Christian Community, and Mary. The process included workshops, small group discussion, and deepening/input. The seminar gave the people the opportunity to interact as a community and to deepen their understanding of the basic Christian message and teachings.
The second half of November was spent in leadership training sessions. A leadership seminar was conducted on the last week of November. Last week I brought the leaders to the beach for a day of recollection. At present 10 good leaders (seven men and three women) have emerged. The mission in Utap will end by Christmas time. I realized that three months is not really enough to help build a strong and viable Basic Christian Community. I only hope that the leaders left behind will continue the task of building the community and the parish will follow up what has been started. As for me, the mission has been an experience of grace. I have become very close to these people. I know them by name. I have become a member of every family. It will be very difficult and painful to leave them. The most significant grace that I have received during this mission is the strengthening of my faith. I came to evangelize and missionize the people. But it was their deep and simple faith that has strengthened my wavering faith.
arrived here in
Mama wrote me recently that she is worried about Myrna who has joined the Reformed Baptist Church. Of course, I share her concern but I am not that alarmed. She has freely made her decision and she is convinced that this is the best way for her to live as a Christian. I don't think there is anything I can do now to change her mind. My feelings for her have not changed. She is still my sister and I continue to be fond of her. I only hope that the religious difference won't keep us from loving each other. Now I'll have to promote ecumenism within the family.
I am back in
I'm glad that we are finally reflecting about faith and ideology. This is a very sensitive and relevant topic. We live in a period when ideologies are influencing the way we live our faith and religious commitment. There are ideological groups and movements struggling to transform society. We often encounter them in the course of our work and perhaps some of our confreres have contacts with them. The question that confronts us is how do we deal with these ideologies and movements? It is extremely important to openly and honestly discuss this question. I have heard stories about other religious communities that have been divided over the ideological question. There are also communities, congregations and Church institutions that are being influenced or dominated by ideological groups. I hope this won't happen to us.
Second day of the Faith and Ideology Seminar. Mr. Alejandro Lichauco gave a presentation of his analysis of the contemporary situation. He painted a bleak picture of Philippine society. I think he is right. We live in a time of political and economic crisis. More and more people are suffering from poverty, injustice and oppression. The economic policies of the Marcos dictatorial regime – which were prescribed by the International Monetary Fund -- have failed to improve the lives of the people. A revolutionary upheaval is inevitable. The resistance to the dictatorial regime is growing.
I believe we have to critically reflect on the ideological alternatives that compete for the people's support and allegiance. It is not enough that we support any movement that is fighting the present regime. We have to ask whether the alternative future they are proposing can lead to real freedom, liberation and development. We have to question whether the means that are being used to transform society are really appropriate and effective.
Today two priests from two major ideological movements presented their respective programs. Fr. Ed dela Torre, SVD spoke about National Democracy (Natdem) and Fr. Alex Benedicto, SJ spoke about Social Democracy (Socdem).
Fr. Ed dela Torre founded the Christians for National Liberation in 1971. He went underground when martial law was declared and helped organize the National Democratic Front. He was arrested in 1976 and was recently released.
Alex Benedicto is a Jesuit who is identified with the Democratic Socialist Party of the Phililippines.
I don't like the ideological rivalry and sectarianism. It can be very divisive. Yet we have to accept the reality that there
is a pluralism of ideological options.
I only hope that these different groups can come together and unite in
bringing down the dictatorship and in building a more democratic, just and free
society. Of course, I still prefer a
more human and democratic form of socialism which is the ultimate goal of
social democracy. Unfortunately it does
not have many adherents and mass base at present. The National Democratic program is very
attractive and it has a lot of similarities with the social democratic
program. The NDF is the largest and most
organized movement today. My only
reservation is that National Democracy is only a transition stage. What comes after it? Perhaps only the Communist Party of the
Fourth Day of the Faith and Ideology Seminar. Fr. Brendan Lovett presented his theological reflection on this topic. What follows is my own response and reflection to what he presented.
There are some who say that faith should never have anything to do with ideology. Others say that faith without ideology is dead. I don't agree with both statements. I think we have to recognize the distinction between faith and ideology. Faith is not ideology and ideology should not be equated with faith. Faith is our response to God's self-revelation. It is a religious conviction, an act of trust, and a commitment. Faith is both personal and communitarian. It is celebrated, confessed and expressed concretely in deeds of love and service. Faith must therefore lead to praxis. It has to be verified, to be made true in one's daily life and struggles. Faith is the fruit of personal conversion. It can also lead one to participate in social transformation. While faith must be concretely expressed in liberating praxis, it does not provide a method for social analysis or a concrete program of transforming society. Neither does it provide a concrete model for an alternative future. This is what an ideology can provide. Thus, we may adopt an ideology to concretely live out our faith. In doing so we must maintain a critical outlook towards an ideology. While it is provisional in character it tends to make absolutist claims. Thus, we should never allow an ideology to become a dogma or an object of faith. It is an imperfect tool. It should be revised or discarded if in practice it proves to be inadequate in explaining reality, or if it turns out to be inhuman and oppressive instead of liberating. The greatest danger that should be avoided is allowing an ideology to take over the way we articulate our faith. Ideology should not become an idol, neither should faith be ideologized. Whoever said that "faith without ideology is dead" is probably someone who would like to ideologize faith. An ideological option is optional and one should not be pressured to adopt one.
Last day of the Faith and Ideology Seminar. Day of reflection/sharing.
We were encouraged to share our experiences and reflections regarding the topic. There was an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. I shared my experiences about grappling with my faith and religious vocation vis-a-vis the democratic socialist ideology and movement. Afterwards, I received a lot of affirmation and congratulations from my confreres. God, how fortunate I am to be a Redemptorist. I don't have to fear that we might be divided by ideological struggle or rivalry within the vice-Province.
Well, the seminar's over and tomorrow I go back to Tacloban.
this morning I went on a 40 km time-trial run.
I went beyond San Juanico bridge to Sta. Rita,
For the last four days I have been giving recollection to four different sections of the high school graduating class here at the St. Peter's College, Ormoc. The theme of the recollection: "Growing Up Towards Human and Christian Maturity." The response of the young students has been very good. I gave them time to share their reflections on their experiences of growing up. I emphasized to them the aspect of growing in freedom and responsibility and in the capacity for loving and serving others.
Working with young people is not that easy. One needs to understand what they are going through and to be patient with them.
I was able to meet four prospective vocation boys (Raffy, Rod, Timmy and Gerry). I hope some of them will enter our seminary.
As I got back to Tacloban this evening, I saw a poor couple and their children sleeping in front of the monastery door. They looked so helpless and miserable. I felt so sad and guilty as I went up to my comfortable room. What could I do for them? I am powerless to alleviate their poverty. I don't think taking care of the victims of this unjust society is enough. Society has to be changed so there will be no more people who will be poor and hungry and homeless. And yet the victims also need immediate help.
afternoon I boarded MV Marilyn which will take me to
Yesterday, I had lunch at Ann Segura’s place. Cynthia was also there. She introduced me to her husband, Tony, and her son A.G. I was so happy to see her. It has been a long time since we last saw each other. We had our conversation in the kitchen while I was cooking spaghetti. After lunch, Cynthia left with Tony and A.G. while I stayed on for a while and talked with Ann.
this morning, I participated in the Manila International Marathon. The starting
gun was fired by General Fidel Ramos. We
ran along the
So in the evening I went to the presidential palace with the other top runners and we had dinner with President Marcos. I just felt weird. So this was where my running has brought me -- a dinner with the dictator at Malacańang. After hearing his after dinner speech about the sports program of the New Society, we received our medals.
Finally I have met the dictator himself -- the man who is responsible for the perpetuation of poverty, oppression and injustice in this country. Obviously he didn't know that I was one of his former political prisoners.
got back here in Tacloban the other day.
My vacation is over and tomorrow I begin my mission work in a remote
I went to the mission area for the first time, accompanied by Alex, a lay volunteer worker. We crossed the river via the hanging bridge and waded through the muddy rice field. We were welcomed at the house of Mano Kardo and Mana Paeng. Their son, Kardo, is the husband of Stella, our parish secretary in Tacloban. They told me that we were welcome to stay with them for the duration of the mission. They had already reserved a room for us. So Alex and I decided that we can use their house as our mission base. We can keep our things here, we will normally sleep here at night, but we can have our meals with other families in different homes.
We immediately got to work by asking the couple some information about the barrio, making a list of the names of the residents in the area and making a spot map. Late in the afternoon, I went around the neighborhood to meet the people.
I went around the area for an ocular survey. In the afternoon, we celebrated the opening mass of the mission at the chapel. There was a very good attendance. I explained to the people the purpose of the mission. After the mass, the barangay captain, Mr. Soyusa, invited me for supper. I met his wife and daughter. We had long conversation while drinking bahalina -- the local fermented coconut wine. As it was already very late, they invited me to sleep in their house. I gladly accepted.
Despite the heavy rain, I ran to Tanauan poblacion and back (18 kms). It was a real cross-country run. The road was very muddy and some parts were even under water. After breakfast, I continued making the spot map and identifying the owners of houses. In the afternoon, I celebrated the children's mass in the chapel.
This morning, I crossed over to Sitio Kiloon. The road was flooded, knee-deep. I had to wear rubber boots. I visited 15 families. The people here are very poor. The houses are very small and most are made of bamboo and thatched nipa. A family invited me for lunch. We only had boiled papaya and rice.
Later in the afternoon, I left for Tacloban via Balilit road. It took me two hours and 37 minutes to run the 30 km route. After supper, I went to see a movie with Fr. Noel.
Tomorrow is my weekly rest and relaxation day. I always consider this day very important. I need it to recharge myself. Without this, I don't think I will be able to persevere and remain effective in the mission. I believe that one has to rest and to take time out in order to be able to "last the distance." This is also the principle of training and running the marathon.
I got back to the mission area yesterday morning. I spent the rest of the day in Sitio Malabog doing an ocular survey and making a spot map.
At this morning, the people came together for the aurora dawn procession. It was a very lively affair. The people brought the statues of their saints, candles and their lamps and sang hymns to the Blessed Mother as they went around the barrio. Even the children accompanied their parents. The procession ended in the chapel and we celebrated the Sunday Eucharist at six in the morning. After breakfast, I went around the barrio doing house visitation. Later in the afternoon I jogged to the Tanauan poblacion. I was caught by the rain midway. I stayed at the parish rectory and in the evening, I went over to the Mercy sister's convent to celebrate Valentine's day with them.
I woke up early this morning, I felt some fever and colds. So I stayed in bed the rest of the morning to
recover. I felt much better and had lunch at the sisters' convent. I played the piano after lunch. In the afternoon, I jogged back to
There was another aurora dawn procession this morning and we celebrated a novena Mass in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. I preached to the people about the meaning of our devotion to the Blessed Mother. Two processions within a week! These people enjoy waking up early in the morning and walking around the barrio with their statues and lamps singing hymns to our Mother Mary. This is, indeed, a manifestation of popular religiosity. I don't think we can do away with this traditional and popular expression of their faith. I believe it is through these popular religious practices that the community is built up.
I had lunch with Maning Badana's family. They treated me to a simple meal of rice and vegetables. I felt groggy after drinking several glasses of tuba. Later in the afternoon, I played basketball with the teenagers. It was a very good game. They were surprised to see a priest play basketball well. After the game I had a long conversation with them. I felt becoming close to these young people.
During the home visitation this morning I met Mana Lucring. She has been bedridden for the last three months. She has a breast cancer. I prayed with her for a long time. It seems to me that she has lost the will to live. She felt very helpless. I, too, felt helpless. I didn't know what to do -- to pray very hard for her healing or to prepare her for death. I wished that like Jesus I could just lay my hand on her and she would get well. But I don't even believe that such kind of healing is really possible nowadays.
This morning we had a meeting in the parish rectory with Fr. Silas, Pasky, Claro, Pat Reynolds, Alex and myself. We each gave a report of the initial phase of the mission (integration and social investigation). We tried to discuss what we can realistically achieve during the three-month mission in our respective areas. The main priority is to initiate the process of building up the Basic Christian Community, conduct a mission-evangelization seminar and spot/develop potential leaders who will be responsible for the ongoing growth of the local Christian Community.
In the afternoon I went home to the Tacloban monastery for Rest & Recreation. I went out for a haircut and later went to see a movie alone. When I got back to the monastery I was delighted to see G. and Charry. We talked for a while and we went together to the hospital to visit Mano Bentong – a lay minister who met an accident recently. I really enjoyed being with them -- especially G. I have often looked forward to seeing her but there's been very little opportunity to meet her often.
Yesterday, when I woke up I felt I had a fever and colds. I decided to stay in bed. Late in the afternoon I felt much better and so I ran back to the mission area.
This morning, I woke up at dawn to join the aurora procession. I heard confessions before the mass. I gave a homily based on the parable of the sower. These people who are mostly farmers find the parable easy to understand and to apply to their life. The gospel is becoming alive to them. I jogged to Tanauan this afternoon and celebrated the mass at the parish church. I had supper with the Mercy sisters and afterwards I gave Sr. Maria a lesson on how to play the piano by ear (improvisation).
We had our first interhouse bible-reflection at Malibago Uno after lunch. The neighbors gathered in one of the houses to reflect on the Word of God and on their life. At around 3 in the afternoon we went over to Kiloon for another bible-reflection. In the evening, we had a bible-reflection in Malibago Dos. We had to cross the muddy rice paddies.
I am deeply impressed by the faith of these poor and simple people. I have come to evangelize them but it appears that they, too, are evangelizing me as I listen to their reflections on the Word of God. It is the Word that gathers them together, that deepens their relationship and that builds them up as a Christian community.
Ash Wednesday. We woke up early for the dawn procession and the mass. I preached on the need for conversion and penance as a preparation for the celebration of Christ's paschal mystery. I emphasized that conversion means turning away from sin and from selfishness. It is also the process of turning back to God and to the neighbor in loving service.
I fasted the whole day. I only took water yet I didn't feel any hunger. Fasting seems to heighten my awareness and to lead me to an "altered state of consciousness." It is an aid to contemplation.
heard over the radio about the NPA attack of a military detachment in
Taut and firm figure
formed by the forest and the elements,
hardened by the raids and ambuscades.
wary, fiery eyes
parched, incapable of tears
having seen so much red‑‑
gushing, blazing, escalating.
not for rocking the cradle
but for rocking the system
For you it's no longer a matter
of bringing forth life
but of terminating the enemy's life
how you have metamorphosed
from a kitten to a tiger,
your courage and commitment
inspire awe and admiration,
yet i shudder in your presence
for something has been lost.
(is it really necessary
to become less human
to make this world more human?)
There is something attractive about the armed struggle. Yet I don't think I am ready at this time to engage in it. I have some doubts whether it is the most appropriate way to transform Philippine society. Violence tends to destroy not only the enemy but oneself. It can bring out the beast in me. It could turn me into a ruthless killing machine. The question is, do I have to become less human to make this world more human?
Recollection at the beach with the mission team -- Pasky, Clark, Alex, Pat and myself. While reflecting about the mission experience I realized how my faith has been deepened. It seems that the doubts regarding my faith that plagued me during the early part of the pastoral year have been resolved. I see the hand of God in the effect the mission has on the people in the area and its impact on me.
Yesterday morning, Mana Lucring, the woman with cancer whom I anointed last week died. When I went to their house, her husband was crying. I put my hand on his shoulder. I blessed the body and celebrated a requiem mass for her in the chapel later in the afternoon. In the evening I joined the neighbors and the relatives for the wake.
This morning I went over to Belen's hut to hear her confession. She is fourteen years old but she looks like she is only ten. She is so thin and sickly. She has beri-beri and her parents think that she is dying. When I saw her I was filled with pity and compassion for her. I tenderly placed my hands on her head and prayed over her and asked God to pour out his healing grace over her.
I encounter so many sick people in this remote barrio. One of the effects of poverty is that the poor can easily get sick and they cannot afford to go to the hospital and to pay for medicine. I wished I could help them but I am not a doctor. I wish that like Jesus I could just heal the sick with my touch and my prayers. But I am not Jesus and I don't even believe in faith-healing.
Day in the desert. I spent the whole day in prayer, fasting and study. I finalized the preparation for the mission seminar.
Belen died early this morning. I went over to her hut to bless her body. I tried to console her parents. They are so poor. It is so difficult to say "blessed are the poor, blessed are those who mourn." They can only be blessed when the kingdom becomes a reality -- when there will be no more poor, no more hunger, no more mourning, etc.
I met the young people in the chapel this evening to practice the songs for the mass and the seminar.
Today we began the mission seminar which will last for eight days (Sunday to Sunday). We decided to have two sessions each day -- the morning session for women and the afternoon session for men. Originally, I was planning to have only one session each day for both the men and the women but I thought that it would be better to separate them to encourage the men to participate. I know that it is difficult to get the men to attend the seminar.
There were thirty-five women who came for the morning session and twenty-five men who attended the afternoon session. The men suggested that it would be better to hold their session in the evening so that more could attend.
The second day of the mission seminar. There were forty women who came this morning and sixty men who attended the evening session. Finally, the men have outnumbered the women! It’s a miracle! Actually, somebody told me that the wives pressured their husbands to join the mission-seminar. Before entering the chapel, the men left their bolos outside. The bolo is like a sword for these men. They wouldn’t leave home without it.
There was a very lively discussion about their understanding about who and what God is. I asked them to share their own experience of God's presence in their lives. Many of them shared that they become aware of God's presence during the time of planting and harvesting. Others also shared that it is during the time of need and when their prayers are answered that they become aware of God's providence.
We then reflected on the texts from Genesis (God as creator), Exodus (God as liberator), and 1 John 4 (God is love). I focused on the idea of God who is love and who expresses his love concretely in his work of creation and his liberating deeds in history. He is above all the God who hears the cry of the poor and the oppressed and whose will is their liberation. I also told them that poverty, sickness, oppression and injustice are not willed by God. What God wills is that they be freed from all these concrete manifestations of sin and evil in society. This, I believe, is the good news.
Third day of the mission seminar. The attendance continued to increase: more than 50 women in the afternoon and over 60 men in the evening. The topic for today: Theological Anthropology. We reflected on what it means for human beings to be made in the image and likeness of God. I emphasized the following points: human dignity and human rights, the vocation of human beings to be co-creators and co-liberators. This means participating in God's work of creation in the world by means of their labor and other creative activities, and cooperating in the task of freeing and liberating people from all forms of sin and evil (injustice, oppression, poverty, violence, etc).
Fourth day of the mission seminar. Today's topic: Christology. The main text for reflection was Luke 4:16-18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and to announce the year of God's favor." I started talking about the liberating mission of Christ, of how his message is Good News to the poor and the oppressed, etc. However, I had to ask Alex to continue with the session because of an emergency. We brought a boy to the hospital. He was accidentally shot when a drunk fired his pistol at a crowd who were watching a cockfight. I keep praying for him as we rushed him to the hospital. When we got there we had to secure blood and medicines. I was so glad when the doctor told me later that he will live.
March 11, 1982
Fifth day of the mission seminar. The theme for today was "Christian discipleship." The people were asked to share their reflections on what it means to be followers of Christ. The text that they reflected on was Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35. During the deepening I emphasized that faith and discipleship must be lived in community and not just expressed individually. They need to build a community of disciples. This community must be a worshipping, witnessing and serving community. Following Jesus, therefore, means that as a community they have to hear and proclaim his Word, celebrate his Word and sacraments, and lovingly serve others.
March 12, 1982
Sixth day of the mission seminar. Today we discussed further the theme on building Basic Christian Communities (BCCs). I emphasized the ecclesiality of the BCCs, that they are the concrete expression and experience of the Church. The Church can truly be experienced as a community in the BCCs. I also stressed the responsibility of the BCCs to address the basic problems that they face -- such as poverty, injustice and oppression. They have to participate in the struggle for social transformation.
I regret that there is very little time and opportunity during the mission to concretely address the basic problems of the people. We are not able to set up structures and programs that could respond to their basic needs. My heart bleeds seeing the state of poverty and misery of these people. I have seen the effect of this system on the life of the poor: insecurity, hunger, sickness, helplessness, ignorance and oppression. I am more fully convinced of the need for a radical transformation of society.
March 13, 1982
Seventh day of the mission seminar. Theme: Active participation within the BCC. Instead of the usual group discussion, we had the participants do role playing and dramatizing of three different kinds of communities. The first community is one in which the leader exercises an authoritarian role while the members were just passive and dependent. The second community is one where the leader exercises a laissez-faire role. The third type is the community where the leaders exercise a more consultative and democratic style and the members actively participate in the decision making process and in the community activities. What made it fun was that instead of performing human roles we let them imagine that they were communities of animals (rats or monkeys) facing a crisis. During the group discussion and sharing they were able to understand what active participation really means. They also became more critical of the dominant types of leadership (authoritarian and laizzez-faire).
I believe we should make use of drama and role-playing in communicating our message. It is more fun and more effective.
March 14, 1982
The mission-evangelization seminar ended today. The final theme we discussed was about the Kingdom of God. I emphasized to the people that the Kingdom of God is our ultimate goal and destiny. It was inaugurated by Jesus, it is already present in some form and yet it still has to be fully realized in the end of time. The kingdom may be presently experienced in so far as they live as a community where love, freedom, justice and peace prevail. It is in the BCC that the message of the Kingdom can be proclaimed, witnessed and celebrated.
Well, the seminar is over. This week has been an experience of grace, of hearing and sharing the basic Christian message. It has also been an intense experience of community. I hope that what has been planted will grow and bear fruit.
March 16, 1982
I'm taking a break after the mission seminar. Yesterday I went to a see a movie entitled "True Confessions." Robert De Niro plays the role of a priest who has been corrupted by the drive for ecclesiastical power, wealth and prestige. As I reflected on his character I told myself that this is not the kind of life that I will live. I know that there are priests and bishops whose main preoccupation center around these three-fold temptations. As for me, I will always remain a lowly and simple priest committed to the poor and not be obsessed with power, wealth or prestige.
THE LOST SHEPHERD
Like a sheep without a shepherd
we cry out to you.
We have been scattered,
our homes demolished,
our sons and daughters slaughtered
by wolves in uniform.
Like a flock forgotten by its shepherd
we wait for you.
But you're too busy worrying
about your image, influence
you do not even know us.
As we wander in this valley
of terror, hunger and death
we long to see your face
and hear your voice
calling us by name.
But you have wandered
from your flock
and from the Good Shepherd
you promised to follow.
You have succumbed to the
temptation in the desert.
Yours is the power, the glory
and the wealth.
Like a flock in search of a shepherd
we call out to you,
be our shepherd.
Leave everything you have
and lead us in our journey
to the promised land.
March 18, 1982
I left for Ormoc early this morning. I went to St. Peter's to follow up the vocation boys. I was disappointed to find out that none of them has decided to enter the seminary. Well, that's the frustration of these vocation campaigns. After meeting the boys I went to the music room and played the piano for the rest of the morning and the afternoon. In the evening, I took the boat MV Ormoc for Cebu.
March 21, 1982
Here I am back in Davao for the first time after my ordination. I am here to climb Mt. Apo with Fr. Manny Cabajar and to attend the ordination of Senen and Edwin. This evening I was the celebrant of the Eucharist at our newly-built parish church. This was my first time. The gospel reading (John 3:14 - "God so loved the world ...") reminded me of Magno (God rest his soul). This was his favorite passage. After the mass I met Sceny and we talked briefly. I was so glad to see her. I regret we had very little time for conversation, I had to entertain other friends and acquaintances who greeted me.
March 22, 1982
Early this morning I ran to Magsaysay Park. I covered the four kilometer distance in 17:09 (that's 4 minutes 17 seconds per kilometer pace). Coming back, I covered the same distance in 16:42 (4 minutes 10 seconds per kilometer pace). It was a very smooth and fast run.
Manny, Ben Japson (a seminarian) and myself set out for our Mt. Apo expedition this afternoon. We first went to Kidapawan and stayed with the Marist Brothers for the night. I'm so excited about this expedition. Mt. Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines. I climbed it three years ago. But this time we will be going up without any guide. There had been cases in the past when climbers got lost and some died due to exposure and hunger. This is why the authorities have made it obligatory for climbers to have a local guide. However, Manny said we will just find the way ourselves. That's part of the challenge.
March 23, 1982
We began the ascent to Mt. Apo early this morning. It seemed to be easy at first, the trail was easy to find and the hills were gentle. After a few hours, my pack seemed to get heavier. We reached Marbol around noontime after walking for more than six hours. We decided to set up camp and cook our meal. We just rested after lunch and celebrated the Eucharist later in the afternoon. I am enjoying this whole experience. I just feel so alive climbing the mountain and camping out in the forest. I feel so at home here. I was just imagining that the life of the NPA guerrillas would be like this. I wonder if they are nearby.
March 24, 1982
We continued our ascent early this morning. The mountain became steeper and the forest thicker. After several hours, I felt a sharp pain in my back and my leg. The most difficult and dangerous part was climbing a route with an 87 degree angle. It was a vertical climb rather than a steep slope. Ben almost fell. It was good thing he was able to cling to some roots of a tree. We reached Lake Venado at around noon time and we pitched our tent again. Manny informed us that the lake is named after the deers that used to abound here.
I am enjoying every moment of this experience. The pleasure comes from the whole process of climbing the mountain and all the discomforts, the challenges and the risks. It is not just a matter of reaching the peak. Being in the forest and the mountain makes me aware of the sacred. It reminds me of Abraham who went up to Mount Horeb, or Moses at Mount Sinai, and Jesus who went up to the mount of Olives. The mountain has often been considered one the sacred spaces, the place of encounter with God.
March 25, 1982
Early this morning, we continued our ascent. The trees seemed to get smaller and smaller as we got higher and higher. After several hours, we finally reached the peak of Mount Apo. Well it was literally a peak experience. It was not so much being on top of the mountain but of reaching the top of the mountain. What a beautiful sight! We had a panoramic view of the provinces of Cotabato and Davao. We didn't stay very long. After taking pictures, we started our descent. We spent the whole day going down. We reached Agco late in the afternoon. We slept in the large cabin.
March 26, 1982
After lunch, we made the final descent to Barrio Ilomavis. We were fetched by the Toyota Tamaraw and we proceeded immediately to Davao. Back to civilization.
We met the confreres from all over Visayas and Mindanao who came to attend the ordination of Senen Javier and Edwin Bacaltos.
March 27, 1982
After the ordination, I met Rolly, one of the leaders of the Democratic Socialist Party in the region. He gave me an update of what's happening within the movement, the Sandigan (the military wing) , and the efforts of the cadres to help build up the Pilipino Democratic Party (PDP). He said that they were able to formalize the alliance with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and set up the training camp in Sabah. Arvin and the other cadres from Davao are there already.
The relationship between the Democratic Socialist Party and the Communist Party remains antagonistic. I think the problem is that there is a mutual distrust and competition between these two camps. The SocDems would like to provide an ideological alternative to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology. The NatDems on the other hand believe that the SocDems are being sponsored by the Jesuits, the CIA, etc. The NatDems would like to present a black and white alternative: either you are with the Marcos regime or you are with the Marxist revolutionary movement. They reject the idea of a middle-way or a third force. I think the Marcos Regime also looks at it the same way: it is a struggle between the government which he claims is democratic and the communists which he accuses of trying to set up a totalitarian regime. Thus, for Marcos, anyone who criticizes and opposes his dictatorial rule must be a communist or at least a tool of the communists. I believe that reality is much more complex. It is not only the CPP and the NPA who are fighting this regime. There are different groups and movements struggling against the dictatorial regime with their own strategy and programs. They must learn to respect each other and work together.
April 1, 1982
I got back here in San Isidro yesterday. This morning I anointed Nemencio. He is a blind man who has been bedridden for more than a week. He seemed very depressed. I felt so helpless not being able to do anything to heal him.
Mano Benito and Mana Juana invited me for supper. They are an old couple -- probably in their 70s. They were so lively and I enjoyed dinner and conversation with them. Later in the evening, I went over to a nearby house where the young people had gathered and were making "pilipig" -- a delicacy made of rice. They had invited me earlier to join them but I told them I would come after supper. There was great fun and bantering among the teen-age boys and girls. I enjoyed their company.
April 2, 1982
This is supposed to be my day of fasting but I called it off because there were three invitations for lunch! It was difficult to say no. I had to go to the three families who invited me (the first lunch was at 11, the second at noon, and the third at 1 o'clock). There was so much food and drink that I got so full and groggy. I didn't take supper anymore. This “table- fellowship” seems to be getting out of hand. I deserve to be called a glutton and a drunkard. But what can I do when every family wants me to eat with them and I have very little time left. Most often they give the invitation at the eleventh hour. I do value eating with these people. It is a sign and an expression of communion and friendship. It justifies suspending my fast.
This evening, I had a meeting with the leaders who had recently been chosen by the community. There were 12 who attended. We discussed the plans for the Holy Week activities. They all participated with enthusiasm in the process of decision-making and planning. After the meeting, I dropped by Antonia's house where a number of young people were making linubihan -- another delicacy made of ground rice and coconut.
April 4, 1982
Palm Sunday. Everybody turned up in the chapel bringing with them their palm leaves. We had a procession around the barrio plaza and I blessed the palm leaves that they kept on waving. I told the people that the blessed palm leaves are not talismans that they can use as good luck charm for farming or business. These are symbols of that remind them of the welcome the people gave to Christ as he entered Jerusalem. His entrance to Jerusalem and the cleansing of the temple marked the beginning of his passion since it became the final confrontation between Jesus and the powers-that-be. Jerusalem and the temple was not on the center of religion. It was also the center of the economic and political power. The Good News of the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed was a threat to the status quo.
April 5, 1982
I gave a recollection at the Tanauan Parish church this evening. The theme that I was asked to talk about was sin. I stressed that sin is not only personal but it also has a social dimension. The social aspect of sin is most evident in the oppressive and unjust political-economic system. Thus, it is necessary to recognize the sinful situation brought about by selfishness and greed. Sin is evident in the insatiable drive for wealth, power and glory (which is the three-fold diabolical temptation). Whenever sin permeates the social structures, so many people suffer and die. It is not surprising that the prophets in the Old Testament denounced the political and economic systems that were unjust and oppressive. The prophets condemned the rich and powerful elite who exploited the poor -- the widows and the orphans. Jesus also confronted the sinful structures of his time. The cleansing of the temple was a symbolic act directed at the heart of the oppressive religious-political-economic system. It was for this that the powers-that-be crucified him. Jesus was the victim of a sinful system. The salvation that Jesus brought is one that saves humanity from sin and from its social and structural manifestation.
April 7, 1982
The members of the community in San Isidro gathered today at the chapel for recollection. The theme that we focused on was "conversion." The text that we reflected on was from Isaiah 1:16-17
"Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings before my eyes;
cease to do evil, learn to do good;
seek justice, correct oppression;
defend the fatherless, plead for the widow."
I pointed out that conversion requires a negative act (ceasing to do evil) and a positive act (learning to do good, seeking justice, correcting oppression, defending the fatherless, pleading for the widow). I also stressed the need for both personal conversion and social transformation. Personal repentance and conversion are not enough. The sinful, unjust and oppressive system in society needs to be changed and transformed.
April 8, 1982
Holy Thursday. I fasted the whole day. I only took water. In the afternoon I celebrated the mass of the Last Supper with the San Isidro community. The theme of the liturgy was: Service and the Eucharist. In my homily, I explained to the people that Christ's words "do this in memory of me," have two implications for us. It means celebrating the Eucharist. It also means that like Christ we should offer our life for others in loving service. We too should be ready to offer our body and blood -- our life -- for the sake of others.
Whenever I repeat these word of consecration during mass I am always reminded of this dangerous implication -- that I should live my life in loving service and I should be ready to take up my cross and die for others.
April 9, 1982
Good Friday. Second day of my fast. This morning, we had the Way of the Cross around the barrio. We started the Good Friday service at 2:00 pm. After the reading of the passion narrative, the young people presented a passion drama: "The Passion of Christ and the Suffering of the Poor today." They interwove the scenes of Christ's passion and the contemporary scenes of the sufferings of the poor. Many were deeply touched by the drama and I could see tears in the eyes of many people. I think they were able to identify the passion of Christ with their own suffering.
I've often wondered why we Filipinos tend to focus our attention on Good Friday or on the suffering Christ. I think one of the reasons is that for many of us, especially the poor, life is a Good Friday -- it is full of suffering and death (we are still a Good Friday people waiting for our resurrection). When we meditate on the suffering of Christ, we are able to keep in touch with our pain, our suffering, our grief. We are able to identify with Jesus. The cross can also remind us of the extent of Christ's love for humanity. The cross is the greatest expression of Christ's love - "no greater love a man has than to lay down his life for his friends."
April 10, 1982
I broke my fast this morning. I didn't feel hungry during last two days of fasting even if I only took water. At ten this evening we had the vigil mass of the resurrection in the barrio chapel. The ceremony of light was creative. Everybody held a lighted candle and the chapel became very bright even without any electric light. I reminded the people that the Easter candle signifies the risen Christ as the light of the world. His resurrection is an assurance of the victory of light over darkness, of life over death, and of the good over the forces of sin and evil. The Easter candle is the symbol of hope -- a symbol of liberation that Christ has brought into the world.
April 11, 1982
Easter Sunday. At four o'clock dawn the people came together for the salubong (encounter). It started with a procession around the barrio. The women followed the statue of the sorrowful mother while the men followed the statue of the risen Christ. When the two statues met, the black veil that covered the face of the Blessed Mother was lifted and the sorrowful mood was suddenly transformed into a joyful atmosphere.
At 11 in the morning we gathered in the schoolhouse for the festive communal celebration of Easter. Each family brought along food and drinks which we all shared. It was indeed a fiesta. After lunch, I left for our monastery in Tacloban. Easter dinner with my Redemptorist confreres.
April 14, 1982
I had a meeting with the 12 leaders of the community of San Isidro this evening. We discussed the following agenda: 1) the role of the leaders during the mission follow-up, 2) the regular Sunday bible-service, 3) the seminar for the facilitators of the interhouse bible-reflection. The local leaders have a very important role in the mission follow up. They will continue the task of evangelization and the building up of the Basic Christian Community. The regular Sunday bible-service is one of the essential activities that can bring together the community to celebrate the word of God. The interhouse bible-reflection is also an opportunity for the neighborhood community to come together regularly to reflect on the word of God and on their situation. The leaders have to be trained to conduct and facilitate the bible-reflection.
April 17, 1982
Last night, we began the bible-seminar for the leaders and the catechists. We also spent the whole day today discussing the bible and the interhouse bible reflection. I stressed that it is the word of God that gathers the community together and builds them up as a Christian community. I also emphasized the dynamic interaction between the Christian community, the word of God and the concrete situation. The community has to read and reflect on the word of God and its relevance to their situation. They also have to see and judge their situation in the light of the word of God. In the last part of the seminar I taught them the skills for facilitating the bible-reflection.
April 20, 1982
I gave a pre-Cana seminar to those who will be married this coming Thursday. They are actually mancibados -- couples who have been living for a long time without the sacrament of matrimony. This is very common in remote barrios that are seldom visited by the parish priest. Validating marriages is part of the task of the traditional Redemptorist missions. I'm sure my old confreres would be glad to know that we are still doing it even in this "modern" era.
April 21, 1982
I got two invitations for lunch and two invitations for supper. Of course, it's so difficult to refuse these invitations -- they are expressions of communion with these people. So I had to go to all of them. I'm becoming overweight.
Many of the people I meet and eat with here in San Isidro keep telling me that they'll miss me when I'm gone. I have become part of their life and their story. I, too, will surely miss them. I have grown closer to them and I can call each one of them by name. They have become part of my life. Saying goodbye is going to be painful.
April 22, 1982
Wedding for the mancibados. There were 22 couples who celebrated the sacrament of marriage. The oldest couple were in their 70s. Their children and grandchildren were delighted to see them get married. It was a very lively and joyful affair. Afterwards, there was a common reception/lunch in the school building. Immediately after lunch, I went to rest. I'm not feeling well. I think I have the colds and the fever.
April 23, 1982
I stayed in bed the whole day. One of the blessings of being sick is that I can give myself a break. I think I've been working too hard and my body has finally forced me to stop and rest. Sorry, Brother Body.
April 24, 1982
First anniversary of my ordination. I celebrated my anniversary in bed. I managed to get up in the evening and go to the chapel to give a seminar on "planning and evaluation" to the leaders. I taught them the techniques in planning the activities of the community and how they can evaluate these. In the planning process I emphasized the different elements: analysis of a specific need or problem, the goals and objectives, the means to achieve these, the distribution of roles and tasks, the programming and scheduling, etc. These concrete elements will be the basis for evaluation. I reminded the leaders of the need for a regular meeting where they can plan and evaluate the community activities.
April 25, 1982
The leaders conducted the first bible- service in the chapel. They did very well. I hope they will be able to continue this every Sunday after I am gone. The people became a bit sentimental when they realized that I will be leaving them a few days from now.
April 27, 1982
What a day! Three invitations for lunch and three invitations for supper. This is too much but what can I do? They know that I am leaving and they won't see me again. It is their way of saying goodbye.
In the evening, the young people and even the adults gathered at the barrio plaza for a despedida dance. Everyone danced -- except me. I just watched them. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. I actually wanted to dance with the young ladies but I didn't want to scandalize the older people. Besides, I was just waiting for someone to pick me up and drag me to the dance floor but nobody dared. This dance was organized in my honor -- another way of saying goodbye.
April 29, 1982
Today the mission in San Isidro formally ended. We had a big celebration. The main celebrant was Bishop Urgel. The parish priest of Tanauan, Silas, also concelebrated. My Redemptorist confreres were also around -- Pat Reynolds, Claro and Pasky. After the mass, we planted the mission cross and then we had a festive meal. I quietly slipped away after the celebration. Saying goodbye was just too difficult, especially when I had become too close to the people. I could still see the mist in their eyes as I looked at them for the last time.
This is going to be the pattern of my life as a Redemptorist missionary. I come to a place and live and work with the people for a time, they welcome me, I become very close to them, and then I have to say goodbye and move on. It is probably less painful if I do not become too close to the people.
Well, I have helped plant the seed. I don't know if it will grow and bear fruit. Will San Isidro grow as a community that is truly Christian? Much depends on the leaders that are left behind and the follow up of the parish priest.
May 3, 1982
After the evaluation of the Tanauan mission, I rushed back to Tacloban and boarded the boat, MV Marilyn, for Manila. I'm going to have a intensive psycho-therapy/ counselling session with Ben.
Antipolo, May 14, 1982
For the last ten days, I have been meeting Ben everyday for psycho-therapy session. This is an unusual arrangement because normally, it has to be done once a week for a period of time. I asked for this intensive method because I don't have much time. Ben had reservations whether this would work but I told him that we'll just try it.
The problem is very complex. For the last few years after my experience of torture and imprisonment, I have been suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder. The recurring nightmare is one of the symptoms. I may have survived the prison ordeal but in the process I have been hardened. I am not usually in touch with my emotions. There is deep anger and pain that I don't acknowledge. I find it difficult to be tender and affectionate. It is hard for me to relate deeply with others. Thank God, a healing process has begun but I cannot say that I am fully healed. It will probably take time. At least I know what the problem is.
Busay, May 18, 1982
Yesterday I took the plane from Manila to Cebu. I then jogged up to this beautiful mountain to join the retreat. Pasky, Claro and Pat Reynolds are here with me. Dave Bourton is our retreat master. This will be our last pastoral year activity and then we will say goodbye to Tacloban and go to our respective assignments.
This morning, Dave gave a short talk and then we spent the rest of the time in personal reflection. Dave said something that struck a responsive chord in my heart: "What matters most is how you live what you believe." It is not only what I believe but how I live that is important. Faith is not only a matter of assenting to revealed truths or doctrines, it must be lived and concretely expressed in praxis -- in loving service.
During siesta, I had a nightmare that had an unusual ending. It started with the usual feeling of being fully awake yet feeling helpless and unable to move. I felt the same hands all over my body and creeping towards my neck and strangling me. I was filled with terror and had difficulty breathing. I wanted to scream. But instead of trying to struggle I just surrendered and gave in. Suddenly the hands became tender, they felt like the hands of a woman. I was not being strangled but rather I was being embraced tenderly. It became an act of love rather than a violent act. And we kissed for a long time. I and the woman became one. The feeling of helplessness and fear were gone. What remained was a deep sense of peace, love and tenderness. When I woke up I realized that something significant had happened deep within me. No longer will my nightmare terrify me for it can be transformed into a beautiful dream.
morning, I ran across the Kan-irag mountain.
The terrain was rugged and steep.
I reached a point where I could see the whole of
This is the third day of our retreat. As I reflected on the vow of poverty, I became deeply aware that it can be fully understood and lived out in the context of our missionary and apostolic life. As I think back of my own mission experience -- my vow of poverty became real when I lived among the poor. I have entered the world of the poor. I have to live simply. I carried only a back pack and I could not accumulate anything for I have to travel light. I didn't have my own home -- yet I was welcomed in every home. I was dependent on the generosity of others. If nobody invited me for lunch or dinner then I went hungry (but this seldom happens). I didn't carry money with me. If I had to go to other places I just ran or walked. The mission forces me to adopt a poor and simple lifestyle. I cannot live like a rich man in the midst of the poor. Of course, evangelical poverty must be inner poverty -- the emptying of one's self, the awareness of total dependence of God's providence, and the overcoming of greed and selfishness. But poverty in spirit is meaningless if it is not accompanied by a simple lifestyle.
We spent the whole day evaluating the pastoral year. In the evening I went over to the Briones' residence and had supper with Magno's mother and sisters (Fe, Mayet and Sarah). It's Magno's anniversary of profession. Her mother seems to have recovered from her grief over Magno's death.
we received our new assignments for the next three years. Claro is going to
I visited Fr. Pat Nulty in the hospital. He is more than 80 years old now. He is getting weaker because of old age. He cannot even jog anymore. I gave him this poem which I had written. He asked me to read it to him. He was so delighted that he hugged me afterwards.
(For Fr. Pat Nulty, CSsR)
You cannot go back home
to the land you left long ago.
There's no one to go back to anymore.
No family, no friends.
Only relations and confreres
who have become nameless
And now you'll have to spend your twilight
in the land where you have labored
throughout your life,
among confreres and friends
who really care
and in the silent presence of Him
for whom you left everything.
You cannot go back home
to that green and distant isle
for you are truly home.
I got back here last week. I'm just packing my things and saying goodbye to friends. I already had a series of despedida celebration with the Marmitas, the Pedrozas and with Mabel. I wanted to see G. but she wasn't around. I regret I was not able to say goodbye to her. No, nothing happened between us. She remains someone I admire from a distance. Will we ever see each other again?
It was only a brief encounter
yet everytime I whisper your name to the wind
and remember your elusive image
I am reminded of the emptiness within.
You remain a mystery to me
but you have awakened feelings
that have lain dormant for ages
and I feel so alive.
My only regret is:
time and fear would not allow us
to unveil the mystery of our being.
Perhaps it was safer that way.
No risks, no heartbreaks
and the parting was easy.
But now I go on living a celibate existence
haunted by that fleeting moment.
A chapter of my life has ended and a new one is about to begin. The pastoral year is like a honeymoon period of my priesthood. I have experienced and understood what it means to be a priest. I look forward to years of fruitful work in my new assignment.