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Chapter  Nine

A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF A PRIEST IN A "WAR ZONE"

                                                                                   

 

The mission team was invited by Fr. Frank Olvis to give a  mission in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur.  The  mission began in December 1982. During this period, Surigao  had become a battle-ground between the army and the NPA guerrillas.  Several towns were raided by the NPA.  The military conducted counter-insurgency operations in the barrios. Because of this, we decided to begin our mission in the poblacion – the town center—and later move out to the barrios when the situation would calm down .  The goal of the mission was to evangelize and build up the  basic Christian communities (BCCs).

Right at the start, we knew we would have difficulty. The military and the local government were antagonistic to the parish priest and the mission team. They spread word that we were communists. So the  people were afraid to attend  the mission activities. Because of the repressive situation and the climate of fear, we decided to  make the liturgy  the focal point for evangelizing,  organizing and mobilizing the BCCs. There were two seasonal activities we focused on: Christmas and Holy Week. For Christmas, the communities took turns in preparing the liturgies of the nine-day Misa-Aguinaldo and Christmas. This gave the mission team the opportunity to gather the communities and to conduct advent reflection sessions. The communities also learned how to plan the creative liturgies and evaluate them. After the Christmas season, we introduced the bible-reflection sessions to the community. By February and March, we prepared the communities for the celebration of Holy Week. We gave Lenten reflections to the communities and planned with them the liturgies of the Holy Week.   Most of the liturgies that they prepared were creative. There were dance and drama integrated within the liturgy.  The liturgy enabled the people to reflect on Christ’s suffering and their own suffering. The Easter liturgy gave them hope as they were reminded that the light which the risen Christ brought to the world will ultimately triumph over the forces of evil and darkness. After the Easter season, we introduced the system of mass-sponsoring the town. The BCCs  took turns in preparing the Sunday liturgy in the parish church. Since we thought that the BCCs in the town were now developed, we were planning to move out to the barrio by July.   

However, the situation worsened. In July 1983, the military accused Fr. Olvis and Fr. Frank Navarro of organizing an anti-government rally in Tandag during the first week of that month. A subversion case was filed against them and there were reports that  the warrant of arrest had already been issued. Fr. Navarro went underground and later joined the NPA.  Fr. Olvis decided to stay on. Thus, at the end of July, Lieutenant Francisco Villaroman and a truckload of armed constabulary soldiers arrived in Hinatuan.  Even before they entered  the town the church bells were already ringing as a sign that they were coming. Thousands of people gathered around the church and the parish rectory. When Lt.  Villaroman served the warrant of arrest and brought Fr. Olvis out, the people barricaded the rectory with their bodies and would not let them pass through. Finally, Fr. Olvis addressed the people, “There is a warrant of arrest for me here. I don’t want to resist arrest. Please allow, Lt. Villaroman and his soldiers to bring me to their camp. But before I go, let us all go inside the church and celebrate the Holy Mass.

During the mass, Fr. Olvis gave a homily. He told the people that the charges against him were false. He never organized the anti-government really. He just went there to attend it. Besides, there was nothing wrong with expressing his criticism against the government. This is a basic right of all citizens. His arrest was part of the government’s effort to persecute the church. This is what happens when we courageously proclaim the Gospel.

After the mass, truckloads of people accompanied Fr. Olvis and the arresting officers to the PC company headquarters in Tagongon. A few days later, he was transferred to Tandag. We mobilized several truckloads of people from Hinatuan to Tandag and staged a march-rally together with priests, religious and other church people  to protest the arrest of Fr. Olvis.

   In August 21, 1983, Ninoy Aquino was assassinated.  Many people believed that this was ordered  by the dictator Marcos.  Consequently, the resistance to the dictatorial regime grew.  The NPA increased their armed offensive. The military responded by conducting more operations in the countryside. 

Due to these developments, there were concerns within the team about the effectivity of the mission and the security of the members. Fr. Fruto and all the lay missioners decided to pull out.  By September 1983,   only Fr. Manny Cabajar and I remained to continue the mission. We decided to operate not only in the town but also in the barrios. We ended our mission  in December 1983 after Fr. Olvis returned to the parish. I was not able to keep a regular journal during the whole period.  However, I was able to keep a one-week diary during November.

 

Sunday. November 13, 1983

It was still dawn when I woke up this morning. As usual, I sat on my favorite rocking chair on the veranda of the rectory and I started morning prayer and meditation. As I looked out on my left, I could recognize  the fishermen on their fishing boats coming in with their haul of fish.  On my right I could see the municipal building where the CHDF militias and some soldiers of the 28th Infantry Batallion sat behind the sandbags waiting anxiously for daybreak after a sleepless night. Half an hour later, the bell tolled calling the people to mass.

The six o'clock mass was sponsored by the Basic Christian Community (BCC) of Zone 2. The members of the zone had prepared the liturgy beforehand. The theme they chose was: "Perseverance in Faith amidst Difficulties and Persecution." This is a very appropriate theme for Hinatuan where many are afraid to even attend the bible-reflection and the mass. During the prayers of the faithful, the people prayed for their parish priest, Fr. Olvis, that the military may stop persecuting him and that he may be allowed to return to the parish. They also prayed for peace and justice in the land.


Olot, the kaabag (BCC liturgical leader) of Agsaban, came to the rectory after the mass and related to us the recent happenings in the barrios. He said the kaabag of Dreamland, Omping, has been arrested and detained. The military accused him of being the general secretary of the secret organization in his barrio organized by the New People’s Army (NPA). Berto, the catechist of New Dumoy, was also arrested for allegedly helping the NPA burn the PICOP bulldozers and other equipment. There is a rumor that the NPA guerrillas are planning to raid Hinatuan within this month. Last week, five former members of the NPA semi-legal team surrendered to the military and two of them are now acting as guides during the military operations against the NPA.

I felt helpless after hearing these. We couldn't do anything to help the BCC leaders who had been arrested. The Task Force Detainees in this area has not been functioning and we ourselves are under suspicion of being linked with the rebels. It has become more difficult to carry on our mission work under this situation. No wonder that the mission team decided to pull out last September after realizing the futility of the whole thing. Only  Manny  and I are left behind to do some kind of follow-up and to take care of the parish in the absence of the parish priest, Fr. Olvis, who was arrested and detained last July on charges of subversion. We have mobilized the parishioners to visit him in prison and ask for his release. Last September, he was finally freed but he has not returned to the parish because of the new warrant of arrest that was recently issued. So we are stuck in this nightmare.

At around half past eleven, I went to Pising and Masing's hut for lunch. Some of the BCC leaders  of Zone 3 also came -- Sonia, Jayme, Nating and Paciencia. We shared the broiled fish and vegetables, and of course,  the tuba -- the coconut wine.  We talked about the bible-reflection and the forthcoming mass that their zone will sponsor.

Later in the afternoon, I jogged for six kilometers around the poblacion. I can say that jogging regularly  has kept me sane and calm in this tense situation. It's an effective relaxant and tranquilizer.

In the evening, I attended the bible-reflection in Purok 2. It was facilitated by Sonia. There were 15 members of the neighborhood community who attended. They reflected on the text from Matthew 10:16-22 (the coming hardships and persecutions) and its relation to their life-situation.  Many shared their difficulties, their fears and apprehension especially with the worsening peace and order condition and the repression. They felt that we are in a time of persecution -- many of the kaabags have been arrested and imprisoned, one of the parish workers was abducted and tortured, and even the parish priest himself was imprisoned. One of the members expressed how difficult it is to be a Christian today:

"It takes courage just to even attend the meetings and the bible-reflection.  We are constantly under surveillance. Just a few weeks ago we were surprised why the dogs were furiously barking outside while we were having a bible-reflection.  When we looked out, we saw CHDF militias encircling the house.


One commented that there is persecution because of our witness to the Gospel message of love, justice and liberation in a society where there is selfishness, injustice and oppression. During the prayer of petition we prayed for Fr. Olvis, Momeng, the kaabags and all those victims of repression and persecution. Many also prayed for the strength and courage to continue in their Christian faith and commitment.

It was almost 10 o'clock when the bible-reflection ended. I hurried back to the rectory because of the curfew. (Just before the fiesta, the military imposed a curfew in the poblacion: 8 o'clock for children and the youth, 10 o'clock for adults).

 

Monday. November 14, 1983

After the morning mass, I accompanied  Manny, Danny (the parish secretary) and three other parishioners to Bislig. That's around 80 kilometers from Hinatuan. We attended the trial of Momeng -- the parish worker who was abducted, tortured and detained last April. The prosecution was unable to produce any witness. The Fiscal offered a compromise: if Momeng pleads guilty to being a member of a subversive organization, the charges against him would be modified and he would be released immediately since he had been detained for almost seven months. This means that instead of being charged as a leader of a subversive organization which carries a maximum sentence, Momeng would only be charged as a member which has the minimum sentence of six months. Momeng was given a few minutes to confer with his lawyer. So we went outside the courthouse with Momeng and Atty. Paredes to discuss this new development. We were in a quandary. If we pursue the case, it would eventually be dismissed due to lack of evidence and witnesses. But the case could drag on for months which means the continued detention of Momeng. On the other hand, if Momeng pleads guilty to a crime he never committed, he would be released immediately. This means that we will have to condone the illegality and immorality of his arrest, torture and detention. In either case, we could never expect justice from this regime. Momeng told us that he could not take it any more. He didn't want to go back to prison. So we finally returned to the courtroom and Momeng pleaded guilty. The judge convicted him and sentenced him to six months imprisonment. An order was given for his immediate release since he had over-served his sentence. That's what you call justice under the New Society.

We had lunch with Fr. Art Langit, the parish priest of Bislig who had been following up Momeng's case. I bought some ice cream to celebrate Momeng's release. Before we left Art asked me if I could give a recollection to the lay leaders and parish workers in his parish at the end of the month. I told him I'd be available.


On our way back to Hinatuan, Momeng pointed  the place where the CIB soldiers brought him to help them identify Fr. Olvis' car so that they could ambush him. It was an ideal ambush site -- a winding road sandwiched by wooded hills. Momeng told us that after his arrest, the CIB received an intelligence report that Fr. Olvis was coming to Bislig to follow up his case. They immediately planned to ambush Olvis and put the blame on the NPA. It was providential that when the car was about to pass them and when they asked Momeng whether this was the one, he told them that it was different. Nang Lucia, Momeng's mother was on that car. When the CIB found out later that they had been deceived, they brought back Momeng to the safehouse for further torture.

When we reached Hinatuan, we celebrated a thanksgiving mass for Momeng.

Momeng's experience reminds me of my own experience of torture and imprisonment. I have tried to forget what happened  but the nightmares keep recurring. I can understand how a person like Momeng  can implicate Fr. Olvis in order to stop the torture. That's what I did  ten years ago when I implicated Tina and it has haunted me ever since. I have kept it a secret but it has bothered my conscience.  A few months ago I sent her a letter asking for her forgiveness and I got her response recently:

 

Dear Fr. Amado,

            I was really touched to receive your most unexpected letter. It is true I was really furious how a "man of God" could so easily damage a comrade to protect his friends. And I wondered (as I am still wondering now), why me?  I didn't know you then. I still don't.

            Although I was told you implicated me as the source of your documents, I was also told you later retracted your statement after seeing me. I sensed then that you must have regretted your statement after realizing it resulted in my arrest. Even, then I already partially forgave you.

            Amado, I understand  how you feel and I truly forgive you. Your letter sounds like an outpouring of the soul, and I feel you must have suffered more than I did from your statement. Perhaps with Kahlil Gibran I could say, "how shall you punish someone whose remorse is greater than his misdeed? Is not remorse the very justice of the law you would fain serve?"

            I am sure you agree the most important thing is not what we did in the past, but what we are doing and what we resolve to do in the future. I hear your work as a priest in the rural areas has been enlightening. Don't you think your work at present more than compensate for whatever negative things you may have done in the past?

            Please accept my forgiveness and my deepest respect.

                                                                                                Sincerely,

                                                                                                            Tina

 

Tuesday. November 15, 1983

Misa-Pamalandong (Mass-Reflection) in two sitios today. Manny went to Tarusan and I proceeded to Kapilayan which is about 11 kilometers from Hinatuan.

When I arrived  in the chapel there were 35 people waiting for me. Their faces lift up when I entered. It has been a long time since they saw a priest. Some of the mothers brought along their babies. One installed a hammock at the corner of the chapel and place her baby on it. She kept on swinging the hammock as we began the whole-day Mass-reflection at 9:30 in the morning. Beside the chapel, a man put up a big pot filled with rice and built a fire.

            We started by singing the opening hymn. After greeting them, I explained to the people the purpose and the process of the misa-pamalandong. We proceeded to the penitential service and the opening prayer.

We then moved to the Liturgy of the Word. I asked the people to sit and relax as the background music was played. I invited them to reflect on the following questions:

     (1) what has been happening in your community?

     2) what are your thoughts and feelings about your situation?

After  15 minutes of silent reflection, I ask the people to divide themselves into five small groups. Each group selected its own moderator and secretary. Each member of the group shared his/her reflection.  I noticed how enthusiastic these people were in sharing their thoughts and feelings with one another. After 30 minutes of sharing, each group was asked to report. I jotted down their answers on the blackboard. The following is the summary of their reflection and sharing:

The basic reality that the people are experiencing is the worsening economic condition and the growing militarization. The military has stepped up their operations. They often arrive in the sitio during unholy hours (late at night or early in the morning). They searched and ransacked  the homes. They arrested and tortured people without any basis. The first ones that the military looked for were the Kaabags and the catechists. The military had branded the priests, lay workers and lay leaders as subversives. As a consequence, the activities of the BCCs have been suspended. The people feel helpless and desperate. The dominant feeling is fear. They are afraid to join the religious activities of the community. The arrest of Fr. Olvis, their parish priest, has affected them and heightened their fear and anxiety.

After the reports from the group, the Kaabag read the first reading which was taken from Acts 12:1-5 (the persecution of the early Christian Community, the execution of James and the arrest and imprisonment of Peter). Then I read the Gospel from Matthew 10:16-22 (the coming hardships and the persecution of the followers of Christ).

After  a brief silent reflection, I asked the people to share their interpretation of the readings in relation to their situation. Many answered that they have a similar situation and experience. Some noticed the fact that inspite of the persecutions, the early Christians continued to proclaim and witness the Gospel. A few pointed out the role of the Holy Spirit in strengthening and guiding the community in periods of crisis.

After listening to their sharing I gave my homily. I emphasized the reality of the cross in the life of the followers of Christ. There will be periods in the history of the Christian community when it will undergo hardships, trials and persecutions. This will become inevitable when Christians faithfully proclaim the Gospel message of love, service, justice and liberation in a society where there is so much selfishness, greed, injustice and oppression. That is why many Christians today are branded as subversives and many are victims of repression and persecu­tion. This is the period of testing the faith and commitment of every Christian. There will be many who will compromise their faith and cease to carry out their mission to proclaim the Gospel message, to serve the poor and oppressed, and to praise and worship God in solidarity with their fellow Christians. This is the time to measure how authentic and deep one's faith is. Christ has promised the Holy Spirit to his followers who will guide and strengthen them during their tribulations.

It was already noon when I finished my homily. So, we moved to the next part: table-fellowship. I told the people that the Eucharist during the early Christian period was celebrated in the context of a meal. The sharing of food expressed and symbol­ized the unity of the Christian community. We put a table at the center of the chapel and put several banana leaves on it. The people placed the rice, vegetables, dried fish and fried chicken on the table. After saying the blessing, we all ate from the one table.

After the meal another round of reflection followed. The question that the people reflected on this time was: "What can we do as a Christian Community to face this crisis?" Once again the people broke into 5 small groups and shared their reflections. After 30 minutes, the different groups reported the summary of their sharing. This  is  a summary of the responses:

We must build up and strengthen our community in order to face this crisis. We cannot face the crisis individually. In spite of the repression, we will continue to persevere in our faith and commitment. This means we will continue to gather together regularly in order to pray, to reflect on the Word of God, and to discuss the various issues and problems affecting our community, and to come out with concrete plan of action.

After summing up the responses I read from Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35. I used this as a basis for my sharing on what it means to continue living as a Basic Christian Community under the present circumstances.


After my sharing, I gave the people time for silent reflection and make their own prayers of petition based on what they have reflected on and shared during the day.

Many shared their prayers of petition. I was very impressed by the concrete­ness and relevance of their prayers. These prayers contained their sufferings, worries, fears, resolutions, hopes and aspirations.

We proceeded to the preparation of the gifts. Before the eucharistic prayer I reminded the people of the significance of the consecration: this is the moment of the mass when the bread and wine become for us the body and blood of Christ. During this moment we are reminded of Christ's love which He expressed by giving up His life for us. "This is my body which will be given up for you... This is my blood which will be shed for you... Do this in memory of me." We are also reminded that like Christ, we too, should be ready to sacrifice our body and blood, our whole life for the sake of others. Like Christ we must be prepared  to take up our own cross - suffering, persecutions, even death.

The people received communion in both species. After communion, there was a pause for silent reflection. Then they were invited to share their prayers of thanksgiving. Finally, I reminded the people to make their whole life a Eucharist -- a life of sacrifice for the sake of others, a life of thanksgiving for God's liberating grace. Then I gave the final blessing and we sang the final hymn. Thus ended the whole day celebration of the Word and the Eucharist.

It was already past four in the afternoon when I headed back to Hinatuan. Manny and Sitoy were waiting for me in the next barrio with a sack of peanuts that was offered during the mass.

 

Wednesday. November 16, 1983


Early this morning I went out for a long-distance run with Manny. This was one of our occasional "running-meeting" -- mixing meeting and exercise -- a good preparation for the difficult times ahead when we will always be on the run. The agenda: (1) reports and developments in our areas, (2) planning for the forthcoming seminar of the Inter-zone Liturgy Committee. After 13 kilometers, Manny headed back to Hinatuan while I continued running to Tagongon before turning back. It was a beautiful run across the rough and mountainous terrain and passing through a cliff overlooking the winding Hinatuan river.  I could smell the sweet aroma of the pines from the nearby forest. The soft breeze behind me was so refreshing. I felt one with nature and with creation. I became aware of God's presence. I felt I could run forever. The words of Isaiah crossed my mind: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary." I was able to run 40 kilometers in 3 hours and 40 minutes. I think I'm ready for the Third Manila International Marathon.

For me the religious and missionary life is like a marathon. What is important in not the speed but the endurance and perseverance. To sprint or to run hard all the time can easily burn out the runner and he may not reach the finish line. The runner needs to know himself -- his capacity, potentials and limitations. The pace in which one runs the marathon must be based on these factors. The more relaxed the runner, the faster he can run and the longer he will endure. In the marathon, the runner does not run against others. He runs with others. In the process, he discovers his full potential and ultimate limits. In the end, what is most important is to run the full distance and reach the finish line (despite the discouragement, the cramps, and the exhaustion). St. Paul, who must have been a runner in his youth, wrote:

 

"But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of the preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God. As for me, the hour has come for me to be sacrificed; the time is here for me to leave this life. I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim 4:5-7)

 

I hope this text  will be etched on my tomb as my epitaph when I am gone.

The meeting of the Zone 3 Liturgy Committee and the participants of the sponsored mass was postponed to Friday evening in the area. It was supposed to be held in the rectory this afternoon but very few were available. They were late in preparing the liturgy. They were supposed to do it one or two weeks before like the other areas. Well, it takes a long time to get rid of the "eleventh hour" habit. These people have not yet internalized the mission process. Patience and perseverance are  very much needed here. I have learned not to be frustrated in the face of frustrating situations. Once again I was reminded of the marathon. A runner should not expect others to run his pace because it might be too fast for them. I have realized that a missioner should always respect the people's pace and rhythm of life and not expect them to adjust to his pace of work. He should start from where the people are.


This evening, I asked Danny not to cook supper. I gave him a break and took over the kitchen. Tonight's menu: spaghetti a la picx. Nang Bebing came over to see if I was doing all right. Daday and Fighter also came to sample my cooking.

 

Thursday. November 17, 1983

I woke up at 4:30 for morning prayer and meditation. By 5:30 I was already on the road jogging. It suddenly rained so I only ran 8 kilometers.

After breakfast, I proceeded by motorbike to Pagtiguian for the Misa-Pamalandong. The chapel was empty when I arrived. We  were able to start by 9:30. There were only 28 adults and 8 schoolchildren who turned up. Carmelito, the kaabag, told me that many people are still afraid to attend the chapel activities. In fact, there has been no weekly bible-service in this barrio for the past nine months. Carmelito  lost his credibility after he hid the consecrated hosts in the toilet out of fear that the soldiers who were conducting military operations would desecrate these. Like in the other barrios and sitios, there is an atmosphere of fear in Pagtiguian.

During the reflection and sharing, I asked the schoolchildren to form their own group. When reporting time came, they were the first group to share their reflections. I was touched by their comments about their situation -- the poverty, harassment, the violence, the arrests, and persecution.

After the second part of the reflection and sharing in the afternoon, the people resolved to resume the weekly chapel activity. They planned to use this time for worship, for reflection on the Word of God  and for discussion of their common problems and making appropriate plans. It seems that the Misa-Pamalandong has made an impact on them. This has been the common effect in the different barrios and sitios where we have conducted the Misa-Pamalandong. The BCCs that  have "died out" were "resurrected" and those that were vacillating were strengthened. I have come to realize that in times of crisis, the Eucharist can strengthen the BCCs and enable them to carry out their prophetic, priestly and pastoral mission.


The Misa-Pamalandong has become our unique way of carrying out our mission work among the BCCs in the barrios. Since the militarization of the rural areas, we had been unable to use the CO (community organizing) approach in our mission work. It has become difficult to live in the barrios for  longer periods of time and organize the people. We could be suspected of being members of the NPA semi-legal team. The military is continuously conducting search-and-destroy missions. Besides, it is difficult to organize barrios that have become part of the NPA guerrilla base areas. Thus, our usual mission methodology has become inapplicable in this situation. Through the Misa-Pamalandong, we have been able to minimize the security risks. It's what we call a "hit-and-run" operation. Our main task is no longer focused on grassroots organizing but on the revitalization of the BCCs and the formation of leaders.  We meet the leaders once a month and arrange with them the schedule of the Misa-Pamalandong. They take the responsibility of doing the necessary groundwork and preparation. Thus, we would appear in the barrio on a specific day and the people would gather in the chapel the whole day for reflection and the Eucharist. The people reflect on their situation and experience in the light of the Word and in the context of the Eucharist. Then we move out and come back some other time. This has become our modus operandi in the barrios.

When I got back to the poblacion at around 4:30 in the afternoon, I was surprised to see many people gathered in the plaza in front of the municipal hall. I tried to find out from the students what happened. They told me that a Tanduay Rum truck went through the barricade and drove in front of the municipal building. The police and the CHDF guards panicked and started shooting at the truck. The soldiers of the 28th infantry battalion woke up from their siesta thinking  the NPA guerrillas had attacked. They started firing their armalites. Some of the soldiers rushed to the church, while others went to the rectory – thinking there were NPA guerrillas hiding there. The driver of the truck got so scared and drove towards the center of the town. A soldier aimed his grenade launcher but could not fire since there were many people watching. Everyone panicked. The government employees at the municipal hall ducked under the tables. The students at the school dived to the floor and screamed.  Many thought that the NPA had finally raided the town. It turned out to be a false alarm. The truck driver who was a friend of the police station commander was just delivering a supply of rum.

I had supper with Ben and his family. Ben is one of the lay leaders in the parish.  We talked about the situation in the town and the scheduled dialogue between the facilitators of the bible-reflection and the mayor. The bible-facilitators had decided during their seminar last week to hold a dialogue with the mayor regarding the harassment of the bible-reflection sessions in the areas.

Manny and Momeng did not come back this afternoon. They went to Cambatong this morning for the Misa-Pamalandong. They must have decided to spend the night in that barrio or perhaps in Port Lamon.

 

Friday. November 18, 1983

I went for a 21 kilometer run after meditation. I was able to cover the distance in one hour and 50 minutes. When I came back, I took a shower and washed my clothes.

Today is my "day in the desert" -- a day of silence, solitude, prayer, reflection, study and fasting. I spent part of the day preparing for tomorrow's retreat for students.


At around 3:30 in the afternoon, I went out to the sea for snorkeling and spear-fishing. I brought my diving mask, snorkel and my new spear gun. After 30 minutes under water I gave up. The current was too strong and the sea was very rough. It was very difficult to find the corals. I went back empty handed. This reminded me of our mission in Hinatuan which is like fishing in rough waters. Better luck next time. Hermes has invited me to go spear-fishing in Port Lamon where there's a lot of corals and fish.

The liturgy preparation meeting went well this evening. There were 15 who turned up. This was the process they followed:

 

1. Theme selection

They went through the three readings and brainstormed on the possible theme.

 

2. Assignment of roles and tasks

They decided who should do the different tasks: the commentator (who was also assigned to prepare the introduction of the liturgy), 3 persons who will do the penitential prayers, 2 who will read the first and the second readings, 5 who will do the prayer of petition and 1 who will make the thanksgiving prayer.

3. Prayer Workshop

a. Penitential Prayer.  They first reflected on the concrete situation of the community and focused on what they considered  a sinful situation. Then they brainstormed on the possible points that should be included in the penitential prayer. Those who were assigned began to compose the penitential prayers based on the reflections and the suggested points. After the prayers were composed, they were presented to the group for comments and suggestions. This was followed by the finalization of the prayers.

 

b. Prayers of Petition.  Once again they reflected on the concrete situation of the community. They brainstormed on for whom and for what they should pray. The five assigned then started to compose the prayers based on the different points discussed in the reflections. When they were finished, the prayers were presented to the group for comments and suggestions.

 

c. Prayer of Thanksgiving. They reflected on the things that they should thank God for. A prayer of thanksgiving was then composed based on the reflections.

 


After the workshop, the participants decided to hold their rehearsal tomorrow afternoon in the church.

The mass-sponsorship is one of the means of organizing the BCCs in the poblacion. There are four zones in the town and each zone sponsors one Sunday mass each month (e.g., Zone 1 - 1st Sunday, Zone 2 - 2nd Sunday, Zone 3 - 3rd Sunday, Zone 4 - 4th Sunday). In each zone there is a Liturgy committee that coordinates the liturgical activities, the meetings, planning and evaluation. There is also an Inter-zone Liturgy Committee that coordinates the bigger liturgical activities (Christmas, Holy Week, and the Fiesta). Each zone holds its own general meeting, reflection sessions, planning, rehearsals, and evaluation. Thus, the value of active participation is fostered and a sense of community is enhanced through the mass-sponsorship. The people and the leaders also learn the skills of holding meetings, planning and evaluation. These skills will not only be used for liturgy preparation but also in facing the problems and issues of the community. In a time of crisis and repression where our organizing means and activities are limited, mass-sponsorship is one of the viable means in building up the BCCs. It is in this context that the Eucharist is the focal point and the basic means of building up the community.

The mass-sponsorship is also one of the ways in making the liturgy more participative, meaningful and creative. The process tries to integrate liturgy and life. The prayers are based on the concrete situation of the community -- the suffering, the problems, the struggles, the hopes of the Christian community. The occasional drama, symbolic offering, liturgical dance and other artistic representations, make the liturgy not only meaningful but creative as well. This is where the process of inculturating and indigenizing the liturgy takes place. The relevant themes such as loving service, human dignity and human rights, justice, freedom and liberation are reflected in the liturgy.  Thus, the liturgy can have a subversive function. It can subvert the culture of silence and the structures that are oppressive and sinful.  The liturgy therefore conscienticizes the people -- it makes them aware of their situation and it awakens their conscience. In a society where the dictator has curtailed the right of freedom of assembly and expression, and where the mass media has become the instrument of lies and propaganda, the liturgy becomes the forum where the truth can be proclaimed. This is probably one of the reasons why the military consider participation in the liturgical celebration  a subversive activity. It is one of the remaining activities that the dictatorial regime cannot control.

 

Saturday. November 19, 1983


I gave a retreat to the graduating class of the Father Urios Academy. Forty-eight senior high school students attended. The following is the format for today's sessions:

 

Session 1. The Intra-personal Dimension

Questions for personal reflection and journal writing: Who am I? What are the bright and the dark sides of my Self? My strengths and weaknesses? My potentials and limitations? What is the basic symbol of my life? What has been happening in my life this past few years?

 

Session 2. Interpersonal Dimension

Focus of reflection/journal writing/group sharing by triads:                     

- the self in relation to one's family

- the self in relation to friends and barkadas

- the self in relation to the opposite sex

 

Session 3. Societal Dimension

Guide questions for reflection and small group discussion:

- What is happening in our society today? How do you look at the present 

situation?

- What do you think are the causes or roots of this situation?

- What is to be done?

 

Sunday. November 20, 1983

The retreatants woke up at five in the morning. We went out in silence for the "awareness tour." We walked around the poblacion and ended  up in the seashore. We gazed at the sea, we watched the fishermen come in with their catch of fish and waited for the sun to come out. When the sun rose we started our morning praise. First we sang "Morning has broken," then reflected  on what we had seen, heard and smelled during the "awareness tour." This was followed by the spontaneous praising and thanking the Lord. Then the prayer of petition. We ended by singing the final hymn: "Fill the World with Love."

 

Format for today's sessions:

 

Session 4. The Religious Dimension

Focus for personal reflection and small group sharing:


- Who is God for me? How do I encounter Him in my life?

- What does it mean to be a Christian today?

 

Session 5. Dreams and Visions

            Focus for personal reflection/journal writing and sharing:

- Visualizing, imagining what I would like to be and what I would like to do in the future

- Why (what is the driving force, the motivation in my life)?

 

Final Session. Culminating Liturgy

Penitential Service. Examination of conscience, public expression of repentance                     and reconciliation, "burning of sins" ritual.

Symbolic offering of dreams and visions

A running commentary of the meaning of the Eucharist as it is being celebrated.

 

We ended at exactly seven in the evening. I had supper with the students and the teachers. Lourdes, a female member of the CHDF, joined us for supper. Her niece was one of the retreatants. She told me the news about the 28th IB soldiers who were ambushed by the NPA on their way to Bislig this morning. Three military men were killed.

After supper, I went back to the rectory and sat on my favorite rocking chair at the veranda. I felt tired after a long day -- after a long week. On my left, I could see the flickering lights from the fishing boats.  I could imagine the fishermen casting their nets into the sea and staying there the whole night. On my right, I could recognize the CHDF and the 28th IB soldiers sitting behind sandbags with their armalites and M-60 machine gun.

The nights are long in Hinatuan.