Here I am in
Iligan. I am glad to be assigned to my
own hometown. The monastery is just a
block away from our home. However, this will just be my base. I will be spending most of
my time in the missions in the different parts of
Today is the 30th wedding anniversary of Papa and Mama. They attended the morning mass which I celebrated. In the afternoon I went with Papa and Tingting to see a movie. We went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered pansit afterwards. Mama came home late because she had to help out in the polling center (The regional election was held today). So we had the dinner-celebration at past eight.
I'm so glad to be based here in Iligan. At least I can have more time with my family whenever I am around. My brothers and sisters have really grown up. Nonie is already married. She is working in the chemical department of the Iligan Cement Corporation. Dodong has just finished his degree in Architecture. Sammy has also finished his degree in Civil Engineering. Myrna is starting her course in medicine. Mely is studying architecture, Cely is taking physical theraphy and Tingting is in high school. How time flies. They grew up when I was away in the seminary and we only met during Christmas vacation and the summer. I feel like a stranger to my own brothers and sisters.
I had supper with my sister Nonie and her husband Plenio. My nephew, John Paul, has just learned to walk and even run. I like to pick him up and hug him. He is a bundle of activity and mischief. Nonie is expecting another baby this December. I hope it will be a girl. Well, now I understand why priests are proud of their nephews and nieces. They are reminded of the children they will never have.
The whole family went on an excursion to the Samburon beach. Tingting and I jogged the 14-kilometer distance while the rest rode on the family Volkswagen. When we arrived in the beach house, everyone, except Mama, was swimming. By noontime we were all gathered for a lunch of lechon, chicken adobo and broiled fish. It reminded me of our family excursions to Samburon when we were small.
Supper at home. I had a heart-to-heart talk with Mama and Papa after dinner. They shared with me their problems and anxieties. Their main problem is my younger brother Dodong. They cannot get along well with him. He is giving them the silent treatment. They expect him to help out financially but he doesn't seem to care. I do not know how I can help them solve this problem. Probably I need to become closer to Dodong before I can give him a brotherly advice. Unfortunately, I have not been a big brother to him.
I find it amazing. The more I get older the more I become closer and affectionate to Papa and Mama. Someday I hope Dodong will grew into maturity and get closer to my parents.
Redemptorist community meeting. The members of the community are Ramon Fruto, Eddie Creamer, Paddy Martin and myself. I was appointed second consultor and the local vocation promoter. Ramon and myself will be working full time in the mission. Paddy has been working in the Jimenez mission but since I am here already, he will spend most of his time manning the house and the shrine church with Eddie.
I find it amusing
that once again I am with Ramon. He was
my director when I entered the minor seminary in 1968. When I went to the Novitiate in 1975, he was
my novice-master for a while. In 1977
when I went to the
This morning, Ramon and myself set out for Jimenez -- our mission area. We arrived in the afternoon and had a meeting with the members of the mission team. After the meeting which ended at 10 in the evening, Popoy and myself went to Cagay-anon. It is a fishing village where Popoy is assigned as a lay missioner. We met Peter, Sergio and some of the leaders. They were mostly fishermen and they had just come in with a fresh catch of fish. We had San Miguel beer and kinilaw (raw fish) with them.
Jimenez town fiesta. I was the main celebrant at the first mass and the preacher in the second mass. The fiesta mass was celebrated by Bishop Jesus Dosado. There was great participation and creativity in the liturgy. The people from the barrios and Basic Christian Communities (BCCs) actively participated in the symbolic offering, the drama and the prayer of petition. During his homily the bishop reiterated his support for the mission. It seems that some people from the upper class who felt threatened by the mission had been sending anonymous letters to the bishop complaining about the method and message of the mission.
After the mass, I went with Popoy and Mayang (another lay missioner) to Tagoo and Tagaytay for lunch. We crossed a knee-deep swamp before we could enjoy a sumptuous meal. In the evening, I had supper at Nang Nita's. I met several women from Taraka who are actively involved in the mission (Mercy, Perla, Meding, Mamer et al.)
An ex-Franciscan seminarian whom I met in
The BCCs in Zone 3 were having their liturgy evaluation today in Matugas Bajo. I dropped in to meet the leaders from the different areas. In the evening I went with Alex, a lay missioner, to Corales for the area evaluation. The mission team has been training the leaders and members of the BCCs to participate actively in the planning, celebrating and evaluating their liturgy. The skills that they acquire in planning, implementing and evaluating will hopefully be used in other areas of community life -- especially in confronting the problems of the BCCs.
I had lunch with the leaders in Cagay-anon. Afterwards we proceeded to Tagaytay for the Zone 2 evaluation of the fiesta novena liturgy. We had to wade through a swamp and marshland in going to the place. Representatives from five BCCs came for the meeting. I was impressed by at the way they went through the evaluation process. They were very systematic. Popoy has really done a good job in training these new breed of leaders from the grassroots.
In the evening, I went with Sergio and his companions to catch frogs in the swamp. They told me that this is what they usually do whenever they can't go fishing due to bad weather and there is nothing to eat. We waded through the muddy swamp carrying gas lamps, plastic buckets and bolos. It was actually very easy and fun. After two hours, we were able to fill the bucket with frogs. We cleaned and skinned the frogs by the side of the creek and later cooked them. We had a very delicious meal. Afterwards we went to the beach for fresh air and a drink of tuba. We talked about so many things, especially about the mission and how their lives and community have been transformed. I slept at the house of Ani (one of the leaders).
Cagay-anon fiesta. I concelebrated the Eucharist with Fr. Fred Malalis, the assistant parish priest. The liturgy was very creative. There was a lot of dancing and the offering of symbols. The members of the community had prepared the liturgy. After the mass we had a lavish banquet. Yes, the kingdom of heaven is like a fiesta.
The fiesta is at the core of popular religiosity. It is also a celebration of the community. It expresses and deepens the sense of solidarity in the community. For the mission team, the preparation for the fiesta celebration is the occasion for organizing the BCC, training the members to actively participate in the planning, celebrating and evaluation. It is easier to mobilize people for the fiesta. They are more enthusiastic. More than a month before the fiesta the community meets to plan for the preparation. Activities such as the nine-day novena are scheduled. The liturgy for the fiesta celebration is also planned. The theme for the liturgy is selected. Ideas about how to make the liturgy creative and participative are brainstormed. This may mean dramatizing the message of the Gospel, choreography, symbolic offering, etc. Prayers that reflect the aspiration of the people will also be composed. A seminar on the life and virtues of the patron saint is also scheduled. In the course of the preparation, the new leaders usually emerge. There is also a deepening of their relationship as the members of the community meet often for the various activities.
Early this morning, I jogged around the plaza and proceeded to Mialin. After an hour I was back in the convento for breakfast.
I attended the area evaluation in Rizal. It was attended by 15 active members of the BCC.
This evening, I came
across a poem written by Bishop Pedro Casaldaliga on Bishop Oscar Romero -- the bishop and martyr
I had supper with Mercedes and Perla. They are school teachers in their early 30s who are active in their BCC. They are very wonderful persons -- I immediately felt at home with them. They remind me of Martha and Mary. I jokingly told them that I have an uncle who is a bachelor and who is looking for a wife. After supper, we attended the area evaluation of Taraka.
Today is my day off. I am spending the whole day alone in the beach for rest and reflection. I would like to clarify and put down into writing my personal resolutions, promises and hopes for a lifetime. This is my personal vision and mission statement -- the ideals that I would like to live by:
1. I will always be faithful to my religious commitment to Christ and to his people as a Redemptorist priest.
The driving force of my life will always be love and service --
a love that is selfless, compassionate, chaste,
effective, non-exclusive and non-possessive.
I will always live a simple and humble life in solidarity with the poor
living and working with them
sharing with them my time, talents and resources
making their suffering, hopes, dreams and struggle my own.
I will constantly listen to God's voice and obey His will as I encounter Him
in his Word and in the world, in His people, the Church, the Christian community,
in my religious community, in the cries of the poor, in the depths of my heart.
Never will I allow myself to be enslaved by the drive
for wealth, material possessions and pleasure,
for power and position of authority in the congregation, the Church or society,
for prestige and glory.
2. My primary preference is to live out my entire religious life as a missioner
preaching the Gospel to the poor and oppressed
and helping build Basic Christian Communities.
Should I be given other assignments, I will always maintain some form of involvement with the missions or the Christian communities at the grassroots.
I will always exercise a prophetic-critical function in the present and future society,
denouncing all forms of evil -- oppression, exploitation, injustice, tyranny,
imperialism, dictatorship, violation of human rights,
announcing the Good News of Salvation and Liberation
helping build a more free, just and human society
accepting all the consequences in carrying out this task --
inconvenience, humiliation, arrest, torture, imprisonment and even death.
I adhere to the principles of nationalism and democracy
and favor the democratic and humanist form of socialism.
However, I will never allow myself to become subservient to any party or ideology.
Neither will I involve myself directly in partisan and sectarian politics.
I will always be open to dialogue and critical collaboration with persons and groups regardless of ideology, creed, class, or religion as long as they are genuinely concerned with the plight of the poor and oppressed, and are working to build a better world based on justice, freedom and the respect for human dignity and human rights. The prophetic and critical function will also govern this relationship with these groups.
Never will I resort to terrorism and violence in carrying out this task. I will practice and promote Satyagraha -- the path of active non-violence.
3. Prayer and contemplation will always be an integral part of my life.
I will strive to develop the contemplative and ascetical dimension of my life
making it a part of the rhythm of my life.
I will set aside space and time for this encounter with myself and with God
spending an hour daily for prayer and meditation
observing a weekly "day in the desert" -- a day of prayer, silence, solitude,
fasting and penance,
finding time for scripture reading, spiritual reading and praying the rosary daily.
My life is centered on the Eucharist. I will constantly strive to make the celebration of the Eucharist meaningful and relevant. I will make my whole life a "eucharistic life" --
a life of communion with Christ and with my fellowmen,
a life of listening to the Word of God and the voice of the people,
a life of service and love, of self-sacrifice and self-giving,
a life of thanksgiving.
I will actively participate in the spiritual and liturgical activities of my religious community.
I will seriously live out the traditional ideal of being both an apostle and a contemplative. There will be periods in my life when I will withdraw from my apostolic labors and live as a hermit.
The rhythm of action and contemplation will be practiced daily, weekly, monthly, annually, triannually and every ten years.
4. I will maintain the habit of ongoing personal study, research and reflection,
updating constantly my knowledge in the field of social sciences and in theology
reading books and writing theological reflections.
From this I hope to develop a theology from the grassroots.
I will write booklets and pamphlets on scriptures, morals and dogma that will respond to the needs of the people in the mission area.
I don't intend to pursue higher studies abroad. It will be done in the
my classrooms: the vast mission areas and the hermitage,
my teachers: the people, the Word of God, my pastoral experience and the works of other theologians.
I will set aside time for reading, research and reflection (daily, weekly, monthly, and annually).
5. I will strive to be more personal and warm in my relationship with others, more kind, compassionate and affectionate.
I will continue to develop and cultivate deep and lasting friendships with others --
within my family, within my religious community and congregation, with the people I work with in the apostolate, and with the significant others that I will encounter on the road of life.
I will maintain regular contact or correspondence with my friends and loved ones.
I will make it a point to be present for my parents' wedding anniversary and for other big family events (e.g. reunions, weddings, etc.).
6. Music, poetry and art will always be an important part of my life.
I will set aside regular time to play the piano, the organ, the guitar and harmonica. I will learn to play new instruments (e.g. violin, flute).
I will continute to write poetry and publish my works someday.
Someday I hope to compose hymns and songs that can be used in the liturgy and in the missions.
I will strive to develop my talents in drawing, painting, script-writing and directing of liturgical plays and drama.
All my musical, artistic and literary talents will be used in the service of the Church, the congregation, and the people especially the poor. My works will express the life, the suffering, the struggles, the hopes and dreams of God's people.
7. I will try to be physically fit at all times so that I may be more effective and long lasting in my work and enjoy life more fully.
I will avoid harmful vices -- such as smoking and drinking. I will only drink as means of integration with the people.
I will jog daily and play basketball regularly.
I will join the marathon once a year and will do so even up to my 80s.
I will go mountain climbing at least once every three years.
Someday, I will go to distant places on a bicycle (Iligan-Davao, across
I will develop my skills in Karate for physical fitness, as self-defense, as an art.
8. Every year I will spend at least two weeks in the hermitage that I will build in Busay. This will be a time for solitude, silence, contemplation, prayer, study and reflection. This will be a time for evaluating my life during the past year and plan for the coming year.
I will be cooking my own meals. There will also be days for fasting.
This will also be a time for writing poetry, a time for running across the mountains and trails -- a good preparation for the marathon.
This period will be followed by a week's vacation, preferably in
Every three years of my priestly life I will take a two-month sabbatical. This will be spent in the Busay Hermitage. This will be a period of solitude, silence, prayer and reflection. I will reflect on and evaluate the past three years and look forward to the next triennium. There will be more time for study, research, writing theological reflections, articles, booklets and poetry. This could also be the time for composing hymns and painting. As usual, I will do my own cooking and also go on extended fasting.
Every 10 years of my priestly life I will take a one year sabbatical. Seven months will be spent as a hermit in the Busay. The next three months will be spent on a renewal course and the last two months for vacation.
9. This is the basic path and direction that I will follow throughout my life. The concrete and specific ways of living this out may change but the basic commitment will remain.
I hope to be doing all these things - living out my vows, giving missions, being in solidarity with the poor in their struggle for justice and peace, meditating, living as an occasional hermit, theologizing from the grassroots, writing poetry, running marathons, cultivating deep relationships, etc. -- throughout my whole life, even in my old age. I pray and hope that when I celebrate my golden and diamond jubilee of profession and ordination, I will still be doing these things, God willing.
I am aware of my weaknesses, sinfulness and limitations.
I might stumble and fall along the way.
I might become unfaithful to my vows, promises and commitments.
I might give in to the temptations of the flesh, wealth, power and glory.
I might become selfish, greedy and ambitious.
I might become blind, deaf, mute to the suffering of the poor and oppressed.
I might stop praying and reflecting, and spurn silence and solitude.
I might become cold, cruel, uncaring, inhuman.
I might fall in love and be tempted to follow another path.
If ever these unfortunately happen to me, I will never lose hope. I will not despair.
I will never give up and abandon all my commitments.
Confident in God's loving mercy and forgiveness and relying on his strength
I will stand up again and renew myself and continue along the path I have taken.
My life will be a process of constant renewal, conversion and purification.
10. I will live life to the full.
I will strive to become fully alive, fully human,
continually growing up as human being and as a Christian.
I will live out the demands of the Gospel in a radical manner so that Christ and his Gospel may become incarnate in my life.
After the morning mass, I attended the parish
council meeting. It was very rowdy. The
heads of the mandated organizations most of whom belong to the upper class were
there. I tried to keep my cool when they started to criticize the mission. There were ridiculous resolutions they tried
to pass such as ejecting the women lay missioners from the convento, suspending
the mission activities until the parish priest, Fr. O'Donnell, comes back from
Well, we expected to get such reaction wherever we go. The rich and powerful who have dominated the parish are usually threatened by the mission and they react with fury. The conservative and traditionalist elements in the parish are also alarmed by the changes taking place in the Church. With the emergence of the Basic Christian Communities and the consequent empowerment of the poor, the rich and the powerful suddenly lose their control of the Church. The BCCs have even demanded representation in the parish council and because of this the elite are losing their dominance in the parish. Even in the liturgies in the parish church, the poor are taking an active part. In many of these liturgies, especially in the creative dramatics and in the prayers, the message that is proclaimed is justice and liberation. The elite who control the religious, economic and political life of the town are naturally threatened. They are accusing us of being subversives.
I went to Carmen this morning. It is a very remote barrio. I rode the motorbike up to Matugas Alto and then walked for an hour through a very rough and mountainous terrain. When I got there, the people were having their Katilingbanong Pag-ampo, the weekly liturgical celebration of the BCC. I had lunch with some members of the community. Carmen is one of the least developed areas. After 10 months of mission organizing, the results leave much to be desired. What has made it difficult to build up the BCC is the presence of the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) -- local paramilitary armed unit organized by the military to secure the barrio against the threat of the New People’s Army (NPA). The CHDF continue to harass the BCC.
This evening, I went with Ben and Rolly to give a seminar to the BCC in Corales. The theme: Panaghiusa (Unity). It was well attended. The people shared their understanding and experience of unity and then I gave the deepening and input afterwards.
There can never be
unity for its own sake. Unity is not an
end in itself. We can never tolerate
evil, injustice, oppression just to maintain a semblance of unity. The question is: Unity for whom? for what? The poor
and oppressed can unite among themselves to attain justice and freedom. Can the oppressed unite with their
oppressors? The basis for unity is a
common vision and aspiration -- the building up of a truly just, free and human
society that approximates the
The BCC can strive to be one heart and one mind -- to be a community of brothers and sisters, a community of friends united by their Christian faith, united by the Word of God, united by their mission to work for the kingdom of justice and peace. If this unity is truly experienced, the Eucharist becomes its most meaningful sign and celebration.
I attended the charismatic prayer meeting in the church this evening. The church was full. I read the Gospel and then gave a brief sharing. The text that I chose was Luke 4:16-20: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, therefore he has anointed me. He sent me to proclaim the Good News to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of the sight to the blind and to set free the oppressed...
The Charismatics often talk about life in the Spirit. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? One of the signs that we are living in the Spirit is, if like Jesus, we are able to proclaim the Good News of salvation and liberation to the poor and oppressed. Being filled with the Spirit does not merely mean being able to say "praise the Lord" or to speak in tongues. Besides a fervent prayer life, the quality of our love and service to the poor and the oppressed is the most important indicator of living in the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is to be empowered to fulfill our prophetic mission.
After the morning mass, I practiced some pieces on the organ for a while. I then went with Cedes, Eyeng and Ben to Claudia's home for breakfast. It is her birthday.
I had lunch with the Sisters of Mercy (Sisters Linda, Paz, and Suzanne). I had supper at Nang Naneng's house. After supper I facilitated the bible-study session in Corales. The members of the BCC are becoming more interested in the bible. Besides the bible-reflection, they want a more systematic bible-study session. I talked to them about the formation of the bible and the rules of interpretation. I think this is necessary otherwise, they might interpret the bible like the fundamentalists.
This evening I attended the bible-study session in Taraka. Twenty-nine members of the BCC turned up. There was a very lively discussion. We focused on two texts: Lk 16:19-31 (The Rich Man and Lazarus) and Mt 25:31-46 (The Last Judgment). The texts imply that the basis of God's judgment on each one is our love and service. We will be judged according to how we have responded to the needs of the very least of our brothers and sisters-- the poor and the needy. Oftentimes it is our selfishness and greed that prevents us from seeing the suffering of others and from hearing their cry for help.
I left for Iligan after breakfast. When I arrived, I heard the news that Val had
left the priesthood and gotten married in
Papa and I dropped by Mama's office in Saray. She is now an assistant Supervisor in the Public Schools. I saw my old school and met my former teachers in the elementary (Mrs. Villacrucis, Mrs. Lalu and Mrs. Resabal). We reminisced about the past -- they reminded me how I spent most of my time drawing my teachers, or climbing the roof of the schoolhouse.
I had supper at home with Mama, Papa and my brothers and sisters. After chatting with Papa and Mama, I played the piano. Mama sat beside me and started singing her old favorite songs (I'm in the mood for love, I saw the harbor lights, It's a sin to tell a lie) while I accompanied her on the piano. Papa was delighted to listen to her and jokingly told her that lizards were falling from the ceiling.
I came back to Jimenez early this morning. I attended the parish-wide evaluation of the fiesta activity. The leaders of the BCCs and the parish organizations participated in the meeting. After the reporting and evaluation, I was asked to give the ecclesiological orientation. I just stressed that a lot of changes have taken place since the Vatican II. One of these is the understanding of the Church as the people of God. This implies the right and duty of every baptized member to actively participate in the life and mission of the Church -- in the preaching of the Good News, in the liturgical celebrations, and in working for the kingdom -- which implies struggling for justice and peace. The Sacrosanctum Concilium emphasizes the need for full and active participation in the liturgical celebration on the part of the lay. This is what they have been doing in their BCCs and in the parish.
In spite of the rain I jogged up to Matugas Bajo late this afternoon. It's a barrio up in the mountain seven kilometers from the poblacion. I put my malong and extra clothes in my backpack. I stayed in Nong Ayot and Nang Bening's house. Some members of the BCC came and we had a chat over a gallon of tuba (the coconut wine). We had a delicious dish for supper. I asked them what it was. There was silence and then somebody barked and laughed. Poor doggie.
After our table-fellowship we started the bible-reflection. Since there was no electricity we gathered around a gas lamp. Many shared their reflections and prayers. When the bible-sharing ended, the people stayed on and we had a singing session. We did not only sing religious hymns but also love songs. When they asked me to sing, I sang two Cebuano love songs, Ang Gugmang Gibati Ko and Usahay, accompanying myself with the guitar. It was already very late when they went home and I fell asleep on the floor (there's no bed in the barrio).
I jogged back early this morning to the
poblacion. The road was very muddy. At , we began the joint
Parish Staff and Mission Team meeting. The Parish Staff is composed of Fr. Fred
Malalis, Ben, Rolly, Weng-weng and Luz. The
I was assigned to coordinate Subteam 1 (Poblacion) and to take care of two BCCs -- Taraka and Naga. I will be working with Mayang, Alex and Ben. Organizing the BCCs in the poblacion is more difficult than organizing them in the barrios. The poblacion is urbanized. The communities are more heterogeneous. There are many organizations and movements that we have to contend with. Most of the opposition to the mission comes from the poblacion.
After ten months of mission work, the team has decided to continue for another four months. The BCCs in the mountain barrios and fishing villages are already well organized. The clusters of BCCs have been formed into Zones. There are now BCC representation in the parish council. What needs to be done is to train the leaders that have emerged and to build up the BCCs in the poblacion.
Popoy and I went to Cagay-anon after the meeting last night. We went fishing with Peter and his companions. It was a moonless night and the sea was calm. There were four fishing boats. They cast the nets into the sea and waited for a long time. We started talking about Jesus and his disciples going out fishing in the sea of Galilee. Jesus' followers were mostly fishermen including Peter. We were hoping that we too would have a large catch of fish. At in the morning the nets became heavy and we hauled them up. Our prayers were answered. So we headed back to the shore. We gathered at Ani's house and drank tuba. We also had kinilaw and broiled the fish. It is in moments like this that the Gospel becomes alive.
Last night, I had dinner in Nong Momeng's house in Naga. He is the leader of the BCC and also an officer of the Knights of Columbus. He is very active in the mission activities. We talked for a long time about the parish and his community. Since it was already late, I slept in his home.
This morning, I took
over the social science class at
After class I had a long chat with Nora about the mission and the charismatic movement. She is one of the leaders of the Charismatics. She acknowledged that there had been tension between the mission team and some leaders of the movement. We were discussing how the charismatic movement can contribute towards the building up of the BCCs.
I think we cannot just ignore or reject the charismatic movement. It is one of the movements in the Church that has grown rapidly and has changed the lives of many people. Some priests are allergic to it because Charismatics tend to be conservative theologically and politically. I believe we can reorient the movement so that its members will be more concerned about the present situation and will be open the Church's message of justice, peace, liberation and the option for the poor. This is what we have been trying to do in our mission. There are many mission leaders and members of the BCCs who are Charismatics. We have been able to broaden their understanding of Christian life -- that it is not just a matter of praying and praising the Lord but also caring for the poor and the needy and working for justice.
I joined the bible-sharing session in Taraka this evening. It was faciliated by one of the leaders of the BCC. The word of God brings people together and forms them into a community of faith. In the process the community becomes an evangelized and evangelizing community -- a prophetic community that announces the message of salvation and denounces the sinful and oppressive situation.
Subteam meeting this morning (with Mayang, Alex and Ben). We assessed the developments in our areas and the level of mission-organizing. After the reporting and evaluation, we did some planning for the coming weeks.
I am impressed by the commitment and
dedication of these lay missioners. We,
Redemptorists, are now depending on them.
There was a time when the missioners were mostly foreign priests. Now, the majority are Filipinos and
lay. We depend on them to organize and
evangelize the BCCs and train the leaders.
They are the ones who do the hard work. We priests coordinate or supervise them and preside over the
sacramental/liturgical celebration of the BCCs.
Endeng – a faculty of the Religious
Training Course(RTC) in Oroquieta – arrived this
morning with a news . They are going to
hold a hunger strike starting tomorrow.
She said that the bishop and the FMM superiors had decided to close down
the RTC -- which is the training center for catechists and future parish
The representatives of the BCCs in Zone 1 met today. Around 40 attended. They discussed the area sponsorship of the first and second mass in the parish church every Sunday. The BCCs in the Zone will take turns in sponsoring these masses. This means that a BCC will prepare the liturgy for a particular mass. The members will meet and reflect on the readings and will choose a theme. They will make the introduction, the penitential prayers, the prayers of the faithful and the thanksgiving prayer. They will also plan how to make the liturgy creative (symbolic offering, drama, choreography, etc.). The mass-sponsorship is one of the ways of enabling full and active participation in the liturgy. It also facilitates the building up of the BCCs in the poblacion and links them with the parish.
I had lunch at Mercedes' house -- it's the birthday of her father. I had dinner at Nono and Eyeng's house -- it's the birthday of their daughter, Kathleen. My problem is losing weight and keeping trim. But what can I do when I keep getting these invitations for lunch or dinner? Can't complain. It's the most effective way to get close to people. Table-fellowship. The bond is created, deepened and celebrated around the table. That's what the Eucharist is all about.
I preached this morning about the need for time-out in our life -- the need for moments of rest, relaxation and prayerful reflection. Without it we can easily burn out. This is what Jesus constantly did.
After the mass, I anointed Nong Ompoy -- a very sickly old man. He seems to be already in the pre-departure area. I often wonder what anointing means for these people. Is it the sacrament for the dying or the sacrament of healing for the sick? In the past it has often been considered as the last rite -- a rite of passage to the next life. I prefer to look at it as the sacrament of Christ's healing presence. It is a personal encounter with Christ the healer.
I went to Oroquieta this afternoon to express my solidarity with the RTC students who have been on a protest-fast the last two days. They looked pale to me. I was the main celebrant of the mass while Ramon and Fred concelebrated.
Morning prayer with Ramon. Afterwards, we talked about our women lay missioners (especially Fe and Mila) and how committed they are. We hope that someday they will form a new type of lay institute or religious congregation composed of women who will commit their whole life to the evangelization of the poor and the building up of BCCs. They will work hand in hand with the Redemptorists in the parish and mission apostolates. They will be a sort of active "Redemptoristines." Well, it's a dream but it could come true especially that there are many more women who are working as parish workers and lay missioners. Some of them might make this their lifetime vocation rather than a temporary employment.
I had lunch with one of our active mission leaders -- Nene. He happens to be a policeman. This is a bit unusual. Nowadays, policemen and military men do not normally get involved with the mission or the BCCs. They are often antagonistic to us and brand us as subversives. But Nene is different. He is very religious and upright. He is not abusive or corrupt.
Went on house visitation in the afternoon. I had supper with Pepe -- the barangay chairman and at the same time an active mission leader. I continued making house visitation after dinner. I slept in Momeng's house.
I joined a charismatic small prayer group meeting this evening in Naga. It was very lively. I joined in the singing and dancing. After reading John 6:1-5, I shared with them my reflection. I stressed the need to integrate prayer and service to others, especially the poor and the needy. It is not enough to praise the Lord, we need to serve our neighbor, we need to be aware of the suffering of others. What is important is not speaking in tongues but being full of love and compassion.
I have often wondered what makes the Charismatic movement click. Why is it attracting so many people? Some say it is a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. That may be true. I can also point out several factors: the emphasis on personal conversion, being aware of presence of the powerful Spirit that transforms their lives, the very lively prayer meetings -- with the singing and dancing, the healing sessions, the crying, the sense of the miraculous, the testimony -- the sharing of each other's faith-story, the small-group centeredness and the sense of solidarity. All these can appeal to the Filipino mentality and is akin to popular religiosity. What needs to be emphasized is its integration with social concerns otherwise it will just be an opium of the people.
Parish Staff/Mission Team Recollection Day in Carmen. I jogged the 13-km distance, through a very rough and hilly terrain, crossing three rivers. We occupied a large house made of bamboo and nipa. We spent part of the morning in individual reflection and later had sharing in the big group. We had the closing eucharistic liturgy at around 3 in the afternoon. Then each went back to the barrios where they are assigned. I ran back to the poblacion.
I started my house visitation early this morning. Nene invited me for breakfast. I went to see Koykoy and Conching to ask them to help facilitate the bible-sharing next week.
In the afternoon, I accompanied Ramon to Oroquieta to celebrate mass with the RTC students. They have been on hunger strike the last five days. They looked weak yet their morale was still high. It was a very moving eucharistic celebration for these people who hunger for justice. They were very grateful for expressing our support and solidarity with them. It seems that they will be ending their fast. They are reaching an agreement that the RTC will be moved to Butuan instead of being closed down for good.
Tomorrow, Ramon and myself will leave early in the morning for Iligan. We are celebrating the feast of St. Alphonsus and the following day we will begin the three-day community bi-annual meeting.
This evening a man who was drunk came and threw stones at the rectory. He was shouting that we were subversives. He challenged us to a fist fight. Not far from him were four men who were cheering him. They seemed to be his companions.
It seems that the harrassment has begun. Earlier, we received reports that those who are opposed to the mission, most of whom belong to the local elite, recently held a secret meeting in Mr. B's house. They were looking for ways to stop us from continuing with our work. One of their tactic is to spread word that we are subversives. I am wondering if tonight's incident is related to the anti-mission plan.
I am not suprised at this opposition and harrassment. I fully realize that the Good News of salvation is good news to the poor and oppressed. It is bad news to those who profit from the status quo-- to those who wield power and wealth, the oppressors and exploiters of the poor.
The passage that we reflected on during our bible-sharing in Taraka can either be a source of joy or a source of anger:
He has shown the strength of his arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit,
He cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He filled the hungry with good things
and the rich he sent away empty.
The gospel can be quite subversive. It cannot be good news to the rich, the proud and the mighty. This is why they will try to suppress those who will proclaim the good news of liberation. Jesus himself was arrested and put death by those who felt threatened by his prophetic message and praxis. He was condemned and executed as a subversive.
We continue Christ's prophetic mission. I am aware of the consequence of announcing the good news and denouncing the sinful and oppressive situation. It means following the way of cross. The possibility of rejection, arrest, torture, imprisonment and even death is becoming more real. After what I have experienced in prison nine years ago, I think I can bear anything. I wouldn't mind going through the same ordeal for the sake of the Gospel.
This is one of those moments when I feel myself being drawn closer to Christ.
This afternoon, I attended a charismatic prayer meeting in the church. In the evening, I attended another one in Taraka. I was touched by the atmosphere -- the praising, the praying and especially the sharing of their stories and reflection. I can sense a development in the prayers groups -- charismatic in form, liberational in content. Some are beginning to share and pray about the situation of poverty and injustice. They are becoming aware of their responsibility toward others, especially the poor and the needy. They are getting involved in the building up of the BCCs. Of course, there are some leaders of the charismatic movement who feel threatened by this development. But we have to be patient with them. There's no use antagonizing them.
I believe our experience in dealing with the Charismatics here in Jimenez is very valuable. This will be helpful in our future missions.
Today is my 28th birthday. Nobody knew and I didn't announce it. So I celebrated it quietly. I started the day by waking up early. After my meditation and mass, I went for an-18 kilometer run. Later in the morning, I had a meeting with Popoy and Nonoy for the final preparation for the BCC leadership seminar tomorrow. I was planning to go to the beach in the afternoon for rest and reflection but it rained. In the evening I went to Nacional for the bible-study. Afterwards I dropped by at Nang Andits house to play the piano.
Well, I am getting old. Thanks, Lord for the gift of life.
For the past two days we conducted a leadership seminar for the leaders of the BCCs in the parish. More than 80 attended. The seminar was divided into three parts:
(1) Christian leadership - the basic values (e.g. humble service, self-sacrifice, etc,)
(2) Styles of leadership - authoritarian, laissez faire, democratic
(3) Leadership skills – facilitating, systematic planning, evaluation, etc.
In the second part (styles of leadership) we formed three groups. We gave each group a basic story line for dramatization. The first group was to dramatize a community of gorillas facing a crisis (no more bananas). In this community, the gorilla king was to act as a dictator -- making all the decisions, imposing commands and decrees for his subjects to follow (e.g. family planning, rationing, etc), and not allowing the members to speak out. The second group dramatized another community of orangutans facing a similar problem. The leader acted out the laissez faire style -- a negligent and often absent leader, who does not exercise real leadership and let his members fend for themselves. The third group dramatized a community of monkeys facing the same problem (banana crisis) and exercising a democratic and participative type of leadership. It was a very funny experience. They all enjoyed it. When the time came for them to analyze each group and the type of leadership that they observed, they were able to understand easily what each style means. They were even able to say that the gorilla king is like Marcos -- the dictator.
For the sessions on systematic planning and evaluation, one of the practicum was to plan for the closing activities of the mission which will take place on the last week of October.
Cagayan de Oro. I joined the 20-km Milo Marathon this
morning. I did it in one hour 31 minutes
and 40 seconds. This is a personal best for me.
My previous record was
1:36.26 in Tacloban. In my first Milo
There are probably some people who find it difficult to understand why I participate in these races without even the hope of winning. Well, I don't really run to win the race. I don't even race against other runners. What matters most is joining the race and reaching the finish line. It reminds me of life. Life is not a 100-meter sprint, it is a marathon. The race belongs not to the swift but to those who endure. What is important in life, as in the marathon, is to persevere in whatever we do.
I'm looking forward to the next marathon in February -- the Manila International Marathon. This time it will be the full 42.2 km distance.
I heard over the radio the news about the death of Fr. Zacarias Agatep. He was reportedly killed in an encounter with government troops somewhere in Ilocos. I've never met him personally but his death saddened me. I spent the whole day writing this poem:
The Last Mass of Zacarias
(in memoriam Fr. Zacarias Agatep)
In a roofless and wall-less cathedral
you celebrated the ultimate sacrifice.
The fields, the hills and forests
have become your boundless altar.
The host, your bullet-pierced body.
The wine, your warm and crimson blood.
The Lord has always been with you
and you have always been with him.
You met him in their farms and villages.
You ate with him in their nipa huts.
You listened to him and they shared with you
their agony and grief, their vision and dreams.
You became one with him as you struggled with them
to build a new society
where there will be no more dictators
who will terrorize our nation,
where there will be no more imperialists
who will control our destiny,
where the riches of the earth will be shared by all
and the kingdom of justice, peace and freedom will become a reality.
You finally sealed your covenant with him
when you offered your life for them
the ultimate sacrament of your love.
Go in peace, father and brother Zacarias
your mass has finally ended
but ours will go on.
We will continue to love and serve the Lord
in the least of our brethren -- the poor and oppressed,
to make ourselves true and living sacrifice
of bread and wine, our own body and blood
in the memory of the risen Lord
and in your memory.
The time has come to move on again. Our mission in Jimenez has ended. But the people and the BCCs will continue their mission. We have organized and evangelized the BCCs. New structures have been set up from the BCC level to the zone level up to the parish level. We have assisted in the formation of the leaders. The BCCs are now represented in the parish council. We have trained the parish staff and the full time volunteer workers. Now it is up to those who are left behind to sustain and develop what we have started. The parish priest's follow-up is very crucial during the post-mission period.