Monday, September 21, 2015

Never Forget… Never Again

             Forty three years ago President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law. He abolished congress, suppressed press freedom and other civil liberties and violated the rights of the people.  Thousands of opposition leaders and student activists were imprisoned. Suspected subversives and criminals were subsequently arrested or executed (salvaged) without due process. His justification for his dictatorial rule:  to save the republic, reform society and build a new society – ang Bagong Lipunan . He emphasized discipline and one of the slogans was: “sa ikakaunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.”  Through farcical referendum and plebiscite, Marcos enacted a new constitution which provided a legal basis for his dictatorial rule, with a subservient judiciary and parliament. He tried to replace the oligarchy with his cronies who controlled all sectors of the economy. Thus, he monopolized  political and economic power. He was a ruthless, repressive and corrupt dictator, who enriched himself while majority of his people wallowed in poverty. Many of those in the military and the police became corrupt as well and engaged in torture, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances.

I was one of the victims of the Marcos dictatorial rule. In 1973, on the first anniversary of Martial Law, I was arrested, tortured and imprisoned for seven months. My crime: producing and distributing leaflets that denounced the dictatorial rule. I was just an 18-year old college seminarian studying at a University in Cebu and involved in student activism. After I was released from prison and continued my priestly formation, I was constantly haunted by a recurring nightmare reminding me of the terror and pain I experienced.  During that dark period, priests that I personally knew were among the victims: Fr. Godofredo  Alingal, SJ the parish priest of Kibawe assassinated for his prophetic denunciation of military abuses and Fr. Rudy Romano, CSsR, a fellow Redemptorist who was abducted and made to disappear by military intelligence agents. There were BEC leaders and pastoral workers who were arrested or killed by military and paramilitary units.  A few months before the end of the Marcos era, my mother was murdered and robbed by a gang composed of members of the Philippine Constabulary (PC - now known as PNP-SAF) who were later killed in a shootout with the police after another robbery attempt. Everything seemed so hopeless at that time until the miraculous EDSA  People Power which was for me a manifestation of God's liberating action in history.

 It seemed a long time ago and many have forgotten or are ignorant about the dark period of the history of our country.  Nowadays, there are many who believe that Marcos was the greatest president of the Philippines and who question the heroism of Ninoy Aquino whose death later became the inspiration of the People Power. These are the people who are too young and ignorant to know what really happened or old enough to be instruments or collaborators of the Marcos dictator and who benefited from his rule. These are the same people who are clamoring for his son to run for the highest office. Some are supporting the candidacy of a politician who has the reputation of being as corrupt as the former dictator and is being investigated for plunder. Others who are fed up with the judicial system and rule of law are clamoring for a strong man – another dictator – who will instill discipline,  rule with an iron hand, abolish congress, ignore human rights and civil liberties and unleash the death squads all over the country to stamp out criminality. They want history to repeat itself.  This is our fatal flaw. Our collective memory as a nation is as short as our noses. Ferdinand Marcos is long dead but his legacy lives on. Graft and corruption is imbedded in our political, economic and judicial systems. There are government officials as well as those in the military and police who think and act as if they are above the law, who use their positions to enrich themselves, and who violate human rights. Forced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings continue.

Those of us who witnessed, who suffered and who survived that dark period have an obligation to remind the nation and the new generation of the evil of the Marcos dictatorial rule and its persistence in our time. We will continue to cry out: “We will never forget. Never again.”

Here’s a poem I wrote which sums up what I and many went through under detention:

   A Prisoner's Psalm

From this dark and damp cell
I cry out to you --
Lord, can your hear my groaning 
I cry to you all day long,
I call out to you in the night
But you are so distant or absent.

My throat is sore, I cannot scream anymore
Day and night they ask me all sorts of questions,
they strike, punch and kick me  when I do not answer.
My fingers are swollen, I cannot clench my fist
My ribs are broken, I cannot stand erect
My whole body is enflamed, it is getting numb. 

I was thirsty and they forced me to drink  rum.
to loosen my tongue and reveal to them the truth.
They stripped me off my clothes and my dignity.
They are preparing the machine that will electrify my body.
And now I dread the sound of footsteps and the opening of the door.
I prefer this darkness than face the glaring light.

They said only I can end my suffering
if I confess to them everything and betray those
who oppose this dictatorial regime.

How much longer, do I have to suffer?
How much longer can I hold on?
How much longer can I maintain my sanity?
Will I ever see again the sky and the sun?
Will I ever see again the faces of those I love and serve?
Or will they make me disappear forever?

Lord, do not abandon me?
Deliver me from these kidnappers and murderers
who are trying to maintain peace and order.
Deliver me from these mercenaries in uniform
whose obsession is to defend national security
the security of this blood-thirsty and power hunger dictator
the security of his cronies and their big business interests
the security of his alien lords and their bases and investments.
O, Lord my God,
I know you are neither blind nor deaf.
Your mercy and compassion endure  forever.
You have always been a subversive God -
you depose the mighty from their thrones and raise the lowly.
I cry out now to you: subvert this dictatorial regime!
Let your Spirit fill the hearts of those who are struggling
to build a kingdom of justice, peace and freedom.
From this dark and damp cell
I cry out to you, Lord can you hear me?
Into your hands I commend my broken body
and my wavering spirit.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

We Who Mourn (A Poem on the Mamasapano Encounter)

We Who Mourn*

Amado L. Picardal, CSsR


You grieve for the loss of the 44 who perished in our cornfields.

We too are grieving not only for them but for our dead:

            18 mujahideens, a little girl and six other civilians caught in the  crossfire.

            Not counting those massacred in Corregidor almost 50 yrs ago

            and over 60,000 who perished in our homeland through the years –

casualties and collateral damage of war.


You demand for justice for the 44.

We too demand for justice and for peace

after what we have suffered through the centuries.

You have not seen the tears in our eyes.

The TV networks only showed the tears of those left behind by the 44.

You blame us, condemn us, and hate us – as if it was all our fault.


We were peacefully asleep when we heard gunshots.

It was still dark when armed men arrived in our place.

We did not know who they were.

We thought we were under attack from rival groups

or that the ceasefire agreement had been broken by the military.

If they were military or police, why did they not coordinate with us

or inform us of their presence?

They fired at us and we fired back.

There were also others who joined the fray.

It was kill or be killed.

We killed many of them.

They also killed some of our brothers.

A bloody encounter brings out the worst in each one of us.

In order to prevail we become ruthless.

And it takes a long time to put out the raging fire.

We found out too late that it was a misencounter.


You call it a massacre,

as if we planned the whole thing.

You call us terrorists harboring wanted terrorists.

You say only a dead Moro is a good Moro.

You say that we cannot be trusted.

And now you want to dash the only hope for a just and lasting peace -

 the scrapping of our peace agreement that we have labored for so long.

And you want to unleash another all out war on us and our children.


Please remember this.

There will be no victors in this war. Only victims.

Next time it won’t just be 44 who will come home in bodybags

and it won’t be only 18 of our Mujahideens that will be buried in our cornfields.

The number of widows and orphans will multiply.

Not counting the billions of pesos spent in bombs and bullets

that can better used for the poor.


You want to unleash  your armed might and subjugate us?

The Spanish conquistadores tried.

The American imperialists tried.

Successive presidents from Marcos to Erap tried.

They did not succeed.

You may turn our homeland into a no man’s land

and impose the peace of the graveyard.

But the traumatized orphans will grow up someday,

filled with hate and will swell the ranks of the Mujahideens

who will not be open to talk peace like us.

The spiral of violence will continue.

We will live in perpetual war that will be waged all over the country.

Is this what you want?


We are not the enemy. You are not our enemy.

Our ancestors welcomed your ancestors to our homeland.

The land which you claim as your own used to belong to us.

All we ask is for justice and a land we can call our own.

But we will not drive you away from our homeland

that you also regard as your promised land.


Our faith may differ but we have much in common.

The Christ you follow is the Jesus (peace be upon him) that we revere in the  Qur’an –

            as Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus Son of Mary) – born of the Virgin Mary,

            al Masih (the Messiah),  Al Nabi (the Prophet), who suffered and died

            and ascended into heaven and will return as judge at the end of time.

We both believe in One God/Allah – the almighty, the merciful

and we both honor Abraham (Ibrahim) as our father in faith,

we are all children of Abraham, children of the one God/Allah.


We have to embrace each other as brothers and sisters,

neighbors and friends, fellow Filipinos,

living in peace – a just and lasting peace

in our homeland that you also call your promised land.


We mourn together for our loss.

Let us work together to attain justice and lasting peace

so that what happened in the cornfields of Mamasapano

and other battlefields in Mindanao

will never happen again.



(*this poem was not written by a Muslim or a supporter of the MILF but by a Catholic priest who wants to “walk in the shoes” of those hated by the majority of Christians who support an all-out war in Mindanao and scrap the BBL)

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Silent Church? A Response to President Noynoy Aquino

Was the Church Silent Under the Arroyo Administration?

A Response to the Welcome Address of President Noynoy Aquino

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR


In his welcome address to Pope Francis in Malacanang a week ago (Jan. 16, 2015), President Benigno Aquino III paid tribute to courage of the clergy during Martial Law and for vividly living up to the vision of "the Church of the poor and the oppressed"  that "nourished compassion, faith and courage of the Filipino people ... This allowed millions to come together as a single community of faith and make possible the miracle of the EDSA People Power Revolution." At the same time he denounced the Church for being silent in face of the abuses under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration:

"Hence, there was a true test of faith when many members of the Church, once advocates for the poor, the marginalized, and the helpless, suddenly became silent in the face of the previous administration’s abuses, which we are still trying to rectify to this very day.In these attempts at correcting the wrongs of the past, one would think that the Church would be our natural ally. In contrast to their previous silence, some members of the clergy now seem to think that the way to be true to the faith means finding something to criticize, even to the extent that one prelate admonished me to do something about my hair, as if it were a mortal sin. Is it any wonder then, that they see the glass not as half-full, or half-empty, but almost totally empty. Judgment is rendered without an appreciation of the facts."


The president lamented that the clergy who were silent during the previous administration are now his critics in his efforts to correct the wrongs of the past. He accuses them of rendering judgment "without an appreciation of the facts."

Many netizens and journalists criticized the President for his inappropriate remarks, lacking in delicadeza and good manners, and out of touch with the occasion. Imagine, criticizing the host - the Philippine Church - in front of the Pope. Others, praised him for speaking his mind and for telling the truth even if it was not the proper occasion. That it was inappropriate everybody can agree. But was he speaking the truth? Was the Church really silent under the Arroyo Administration?

There may have been some members of the clergy, religious and faithful who were silent. But there were also many who spoke out against the abuses of the previous administration. The facts speak for themselves. Below are some excerpts from news reports and their url links:

“On March 8, 2006 Bishop Navarra, backed by dozens of clergy and leaders of religious congregations led more than 10,000 marchers in a prayer rally at the Bacolod public plaza to denounce Macapagal-Arroyo’s state of national emergency, threats of martial law reimposition, mining expansion, and Charter change, among others.
In the program, Navarra read his pastoral letter, the main message of which is to “disturb the conscience of the leaders of this land,” and calls on the people to register their protests as Christians.
“Be more vigilant for truth, remain steadfast witnesses of the truth, because we are adrift in a turbulent sea of lies and falsehoods,” Navarra urged the marchers.
“We have to make our voices heard as we search for truth and for the redress of our human dignity impaired by machinations of people with vested and partisan interests – the very reason why as Church and concerned citizens we strongly registered our protest against the imposition of state of national emergency, albeit lifted already,” Navarra also said.
After the bishop’s message, representatives of cause-oriented organizations, civil society, media, lawyers and local government units offered their respective prayers, most of whom offered their call for more vigilance, courage, righteousness, and resoluteness in seeking the truth, removal of GMA, and “liberating the people.”  Fr. Aniceto Buenafe, director for social action of the Diocese of Bacolod, elated by the big turnout of ralliers, said: “I am so glad that people have responded positively to our call, and showed their readiness to resist the threat of martial law reimposition.”“I hope our actions and statements here will be heard in the national level, especially in Malacañang, so they would know we are disgusted with the way GMA runs our government and country.” (

In 2008, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported denunciation from CBCP President Archbishop Angel Lagdameo’s condemnation of the Arroyo administration:

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has disputed the Arroyo administration’s claim of economic progress and condemned corruption in government. “Twenty million hungry Filipinos will disagree with the proclaimed “ramdam ang kaunlaran (progress is felt)” with their own experience: “Ramdam ang kahirapan, ramdam ang gutom (Poverty is felt, hunger is felt),” Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said Tuesday.  “The benefits of the much-proclaimed economic growth are not felt by the masses,” the CBCP president said in a statement which he issued jointly with three other bishops and vocal administration critic, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz.  Asked by reporters later if he thought that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was corrupt, Lagdameo unhesitatingly said “yes.” Asked if the President deserved to be removed from power, he said “the answer should come from the people who see what’s happening in our country.”  Lagdameo told a press conference that the statement, which called for “immediate reforms,” was the product of “communal discernment” with Cruz, Masbate Bishop Joel Baylon, Banga-Bataan Bishop Socrates Villegas and Legazpi Bishop Emeritus Jose Sorra.  “In the past few years up to today, we have watched how corruption has become endemic, massive, systemic and rampant in our politics. Corruption is a social and moral cancer,” said Lagdameo, who clarified that he was making the statement as the archbishop of Jaro and not as the CBCP president.  “In response to the global economic crisis and the pitiful state of our country, the time to rebuild our country economically, socially, politically is now,” Lagdameo said.  “The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy and to prove that we have matured from our political disappointments is now.  “The time to prepare a new government is now,” he said.

Villegas stressed that they were not calling for another mass revolt.  “We are making this statement because we believe that if we had been less corrupt we would be better prepared to face the impending global crisis. The problem of the Philippines is not population, the problem is corruption,” Villegas said. “We are not social troublemakers, we are soul troublemakers. We want to disturb consciences… then the change that we want in government and society will really come from within us,” he said.   Cruz said it was the “strongest statement” that Lagdameo had made so far during his incumbency, “the most straight language written, as straight as it could be.”  The CBCP has been divided over directly challenging Ms Arroyo over allegations of corruption.  In February at the height of the scandal over the aborted $329-million National Broadband Network deal with China’s ZTE Corp., the CBCP called a special plenary meeting but did not ask for the President’s resignation. The CBCP instead “strongly condemned the culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political order.” (

It was not only the bishops who condemned the abuses and corruption of the Arroyo administration. Priests and religious also did so. The AMRSP (Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines) provided support and sanctuary to Jun Lozada the whistle-blower who exposed the corrupt deals of President Gloria Arroyo. In my own, way I also denounced the president. Here is a GMA news report about my Bike-Tour around the Philippines in April 2008:

Redemptorist "biking priest" Amado "Picx" Picardal arrived in Manila Sunday for the Manila and North Luzon legs of his 56-day, 4,750-kilometer bike tour for peace.  The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Monday that Picardal will deliver his letter of concern to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Malacañang on April 27.
"On April 27, on his way back from Northern Luzon, he will bike around Manila and deliver (his) letter to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo," the CBCP said on its website Monday.
Picardal is expected to tour Northern Luzon then make his Malacañang delivery on his way back from the north, it said.  Earlier, Picardal said that while he does not expect President Arroyo to receive him or his letter personally, he will make its contents public once he formally submits it to the Palace.  He said his letter to Mrs Arroyo will denounce her and her government for perpetuating a "culture of death."  "Delivering a letter to Malacañang is just a side trip and I don't expect the President to meet me or to read the letter - it is just symbolic. I will make the contents of the letter public - in it I will denounce the President for perpetuating the culture of death and corruption and for being a hypocrite (she goes to Mass every day and claims that it is God's will that she is president). Although I want her to resign, I will not be demanding her resignation because I know that it will be futile - she will continue to cling to power at all cost," he said in his Web log in March.  Also, he said his letter will tell Arroyo she will face the judgment of history and of God, and her worst punishment will be to live the rest of her life in shame and disgrace.”
These news reports cited here are just examples to how that President Aquino rendered judgment on the Church "without an appreciation of the facts." He bore false witness against the Church in front of Pope Francis, the whole nation and the whole world. He was not only rude, he was also a liar. This is what made his welcome address very offensive.

The Church was not silent during the dark days of Martial law, the Church was not silent during the Arroyo administration, and the Church is not silent under Aquino’s administration. It is not his hair – or lack of it -  that has to  be admonished. It is what is lacking below his hair. He follows the neo-malthusian solution to the problem of poverty: more free condoms and birth control pills. Sure, some of his political enemies are already in prison for corruption, but what about his friends and allies. He continues to defend his PNP chief who has been charged with corruption. Pope Francis’ comment about corruption in government was in reference to the present administration. While talking about reforming the corrupt political system, President Aquino defended patronage politics and the corrupt pork-barrel system (PDAF & DAP) until these were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. While he has come up with a peace agreement with the MILF, he has not shown any interest in continuing the peace process with the NDF. This administration has not adequately responded to the disasters caused by successive typhoons and other calamities. The victims until now are still waiting for the implementation of rehabilitation program. He even snubbed the anniversary of Yolanda in Tacloban even if he was just nearby. He talks about climate change and protection of the environment while allowing mining and the construction of more coal-fired power-plants. What I find lacking is his mercy and compassion.

I supported his candidacy because I thought he is a decent man who who would continue the legacy of his parents whom I admire so much. I was mistaken. To my regret, he has turned out to be a big disappointment in the end. I wonder of his parents would b e proud of him. With all his good intentions, he is not up to the challenge of becoming a great leader like his parents. His welcome address to the Pope in Malacanang was pathetic and a monumental embarasssment to the nation. He was not just rude, he also did not speak the truth. That was un-presidential of him. This was the lowest, ugliest moment of the papal visit.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why is Pope Francis here?

Finally, Pope Francis is here. A grand welcome has been prepared for him by both the Philippine Church and the government.

Why is he really here? What is the purpose of his visit? No one really has a full answer except Pope Francis. We cannot presume to read the mind of the pope –we can only try to deduce or to guess. Perhaps, in his homilies and talks the purpose of his visit can become clearer. But we still have to read between the lines because there are deeper reasons that may not be explicitly stated. An interpretative analysis may still be necessary. I would like to share my own conjecture of what I believe is one of the most important reason.

Every papal visit usually has an agenda that is not explicitly stated. In his first trip outside of Rome after his election, Pope Francis went to Lampedusa to offer prayers for the victim of the tragic shipwreck that claimed the lives of refugees coming from North Africa. At a first glance, it was a gesture of his compassion and solidarity with the victims. A deeper analysis would show that it was also meant to draw attention to the flight of refugees and the indifference of European nations that have adopted restrictive policies that made it difficult for people escaping poverty and violence in their homeland to migrate to the European continent in search for a better life. His Lampedusa visit was a prophetic act meant to awaken the conscience of governments and the people of Europe and other wealthy countries. The pope tied the tragedy to the “inhuman global economic crisis, a serious symptom of a lack of respect for the human person.” Calling the tragedy shameful, he asked everyone to make sure that it will never happen again. So, his visit was not just an expression of his mercy and compassion. He also asked people to look at the causes of such tragedy and act so that it will never happen again.

The theme of the papal visit to our country is “mercy and compassion.” Everyone presumes that the pope is coming to express his sympathy and compassion for the victims and survivors of Typhoon Yolanda. This is why the highlight of his visit is the Mass in Tacloban and lunch with representatives of the victims and survivors. It was reported earlier on that he was deeply moved by the tragedy. This is why he immediately sent Cardinal Robert Sarah as his personal representative to express his solidarity with the victims and paved the way for his coming. But there is much more to that. He is coming not just for the victims and survivors of Yolanda but for all of us as a people and as a nation.  We are on top of the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change. We have been visited by a series of super-typhoons and floods through the years – not only Yolanda but Sendong, Pablo, Ruby, Seniang. There is to more come. All these are manifestations of the effect of climate change.

And the most vulnerable are the poor. The Yolanda victims and survivors represent all of us and the rest of the world – especially the poor -- that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Pope Francis’ awareness of the link between Yolanda and climate change is evident in his address to the Vatican diplomatic corps in January 2014: “I wish to mention another threat to peace, which arises from the greedy exploitation of environmental resources. Even if ‘nature is at our disposition’, all too often we do not ‘respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations’. Here too what is crucial is responsibility on the part of all in pursuing, in a spirit of fraternity, policies respectful of this earth which is our common home. I recall a popular saying: ‘God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature – creation – is mistreated, she never forgives!’. We have also witnessed the devastating effects of several recent natural disasters. In particular, I would mention once more the numerous victims and the great devastation caused in the Philippines and other countries of South-East Asia as a result of typhoon Haiyan.”

            Previously an analyst wrote: “the new pontiff’s role in assisting the world’s disadvantaged will be inextricably linked to the ravages of climate change, the fast-growing global crisis that will hit the rising global impoverished populations hard with increasingly deadly droughts, floods and storms as heat-trapping carbon pollution continues to build in the atmosphere.” (Rocky Kistner) . Pope Francis took the name of St. Francis of Assisi because of his love for the poor and the environment.

            It has been reported that Pope Francis will soon publish an encyclical on climate change. I believe that his visit to the Philippines is part of his agenda regarding climate change and its effect on the poor. Once again like his Lampedusa visit, his coming to our country is a prophetic act that will draw attention to the effects of climate change, link it to the global economic system and the consumerist-materialistic culture that is destroying this earth in the name of economic progress.

            The gaze of world is not only on Pope Francis but on us. Pope Francis is here, not to draw attention to himself but to our plight as a nation and as people – especially the poor in our midst –who are most vulnerable to climate change. I’m sure that the pope would be embarrassed to see his images plastered all over the country. The pope does not want us to focus our gaze on him but rather on the poor and the victims and survivors of the calamities in whose faces we see the face of Jesus.

As we welcome Pope Francis we too are invited to share his concern about the environment and about climate change. We need to look at our own lifestyle and to act to mitigate or reverse climate change. As PCP II reminds us, we are called to “care for the needy and care for the earth.” Mercy and compassion must therefore be concretely expressed not just in our care for the poor but through our action to care for the environment.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Climate Ride Diary

Happy New Year. It's been over a week since I returned to Baclaran after finishing my Climate Ride. I posted in the Facebook that short day-to-day account and photographs of the two-week epic ride. I am posting here an expanded diary of the climate ride:

1. December 10, 2014. Baclaran to Atimonan (173 km)

At 5:30 am after the send-off prayer and blessing at the Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, I set off alone on my Climate Ride.

I wasn’t feeling well because I wasn’t able to sleep the night before. Too much excitement? Or the increased dosage of my a pills. I was very thirsty even at the start. Possibly the effect of dehydration since I was always peeing that night.

At km 47, as I started my ascent from Calamba to Sto Tomas I felt the cramps in both my thighs and the forefeet. I had to slow down and take a lot of breaks. I was behind schedule. I was met by my friend Nova who biked with me for several kilometers.

When I reached Lucena, two bikers without their bikes met me – they told me they left their bikes for a while to meet and greet me and accompany me on their vehicle. They also gave me food and refreshment.

It was already dark as I took the diversion road to Atimonan instead of the Zigzag. The muscle cramp was gone thanks to the banajas. It was 7:45 pm when I arrived in Atimonan. I decided not to proceed to Gumaca where I am expected at the Cathedral rectory. I am staying in a cheap hotel. I am exhausted. I hope to recover tomorrow.

Day 2: December 11, 2014: Atimonan-Sipocot (170 k).

Left 4:30 am. Crashed at 5:00 a.m. minor bruises no broken bones. A very exhausting ride along Quirino highway. Lots of climbs and a flat tire. Arrived Sipocot 7 p.m. and slept overnight at St. Therese parish.

Day 3: Dec 12, 2014. Sipocot-Sorsogon City (190 km

Woke up at 3 a.m. fully recovered after a goodnight’s sleep. Started biking at 4:30 a.m. and reached the Archbishop’s residence at 7:15 where I had coffee. Archbishop Rolly Tirona was away and he just talked to me over the phone to welcome. I had conversation with the resident priests priests and Dr. Quimlat. resumed my journey at 8 am guided by Clarence Razo Llorin out of the city. The ride from Naga to Daraga was fast and easy on mostly flat highway except for some easy hill climbs to Guinobatan. There I was met by Cesar Banares and his friend who accompanied me for over 15 km. The ride from Daraga to Sorsogon was a bit tough but it was easier than Qurino highway. I reached Sorsogon at 6:15 p.m. without feeling exhausted. I proceeded to the cathedral rectory where I was given accommodation by Mgr Del.

Day 4: Dec 13, 2014. Sorsogon-Calbayog (140 km)

Continued my journey at 4:30 a.m. The first to accompany me was the municipal engineer of Juvan. Then 10 cyclists of Irosin joined. Among them was a kagawad of Irosin, a principal of a school, a lady teacher, a female nurse. Three Matnog cyclists. They accompanied me to Matnog port where I was able to board the 9 a.m. ferry. I was so glad it was raining when we docked in Allen. The rain kept me cool as I biked to Calbayog. It was tough ride up down 14 hills. I was met in San Joaquin by three cyclists from Calbayog. We finally reached the rectory of the cathedral at 5 pm. Had supper with the resident priests.

Day 5. December 14, 2014. Calbayog-Tacloban (175 km)

It was raining at 4:45 a.m. as I left Calbayog. It continued to rain intermittently four more times and I was happy as a frog inspite of the many hill climbs. I just love the wind and rain caressing my face and keeping me cool. I didn’t feel any exhaustion even without breakfast and lunch (as usual). Eight Calbayog cyclists met and accompanied me for a couple of hours. Along the way I saw some of the effects of Supertyphoon Ruby.

I finally reached San Juanico Bridge at 5 p.m. I reached the Redemptorist parish around 6 p.m. This is where the victims of Yolanda evacuated last year (they also came back last week to take shelter from Ruby).

I was welcomed by my Redemptorist confreres

6, Dec. 15: Tacloban. Rest and Recovery Day

I woke up late today and felt exhausted and drained. My muscles are sore, the bruise on both knees still swelling. I felt totally wasted. That’s what I get after biking 848 km in five days – a personal record. The last time I biked this route, it took me eight days to bike from Tacloban to Manila – and I was 14 years younger (that was my Davao to Pagudpud Bike for Peace in 2000).

So no fasting. Three meals today. I feel sluggish and sleepy. So I went back to bed after having my cycling shorts and jerseys laundered and cleaning my bike. I am now preparing my homily for tomorrow – the first day of the Misa de Gallo. I will be preaching about the Yolanda tragedy last year (in the Church which became a temporary evacuation center) and link it with climate change. After the Mass I will continue my journey. I don’t know if there will be any local cyclists who will send me off tomorrow. There was no one who met me yesterday. At least there will be one priest biker who will join me in Palo. My desire is as I continue my journey there will be more and more local cyclists or just ordinary citizens with any kind of bike – young and old, male and female – who will accompany me even for a few kilometers to express their support for the Climate Ride. After all climate change is everyone’s concern. This will be my remaining itinerary:

12/16 Tacloban-Liloan Leyte 144 km
ETD: 6 a.m. Redemptorist
12/17. Lipata Surigao-Prosperidad 182 km
ETA Butuan 11 am, ETA Prosperidad, 5 p.m.
12/18 Prosperidad-New Bataan 142 km
ETD 6 a.m. ETA 4-5 p.m.
12/19 New Bataan-Davao City 118 km
ETD 6 .am. ETA 1-2 p.m.
12/20 Davao-Maramag Redemptorist Mission Station 157 km
ETD Redemptorist 6 a.m. ETA 5:30 p.m.
12/21 Maramag-Malaybalay 48 km
12/22 Malaybalay-Cagayan de Oro 97 km ETD cathedral 6 a.m.-.ETA 12 noon
12/23 Cagayan de Oro cathedral-Iligan 92 km ETD 6 a.m. ETA 12 noon.
for monitoring, My CP#09081733611

Day 7 , Dec. 16: Tacloban-Liloan, Leyte (144 km)

I have just finished celebrating the Misa de Gallo. At 6 a.m. I will be resuming my journey to Liloan, Leyte where I will take the 10 p.m. ferry to Lipata, Surigao. From there I will proceed to Proseridad, Agusan. The sun is about to rise,.

Day 8, Dec. 17: Lipata Port, Surigao City-Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur (154 km)
I arrived here in Prosperidad Agusan Sur at 6:30 p.m. after biking 154 km from Lipata Surigao. Two bikers joined me in Surigao and six in Butuan. I only had two hours of sleep in the boat. I felt sleepy and tired by 8 a.m., so I stopped and slept for 20 minutes in a waiting shed. I felt refreshed and was able to continue with my journey. I had a spectacular view of Lake Mainit. It rained intermittently the whole day. (Can’t connect to FB, pls share)

Day 9, Dec. 18: Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur-New Bataan, Compostela Valley (150 km)
I concelebrated and shared about climate change at the Misa de Gallo at 4 a.m. I was set to go by 7:30 a.m. when I noticed that the rear tire was flat so I had it fixed. I was able to leave at 8:45 a.m. but after just 30 minutes I had another flat tire. So I was further delayed. It rained intermittently the whole day. I took 20-minute power naps twice in waiting sheds when I felt drowsy and tired. When I reached Montevista at 4:30 p.m. there were five Robobam bikers waiting for me. They told me they will accompany me as far as Compostela so that they can go back home before dark. I was expecting to bike alone in the dark but they decided to continue biking with me up to New Bataan. We reached the parish rectory at 7:30 p.m. after eating at a carenderia. I was welcomed by Fr Roy.

Day 10, Dec 19 Climate Ride (New Bataan-Davao City 141 k)

At 4 am I concelebrated and preached in New Bataan- one of the places devastated by supertyphoon Pablo two years ago. At 6:15 I continued my bike-journey. When I reached Montevista I was accompanied by Tatang but he was bumped by a motorbike after passing Nabunturan. I was accompanied later by military officers who went as far as Madaum, Tagum where another biker was waiting for me. I had a flat tire near Carmen so we were delayed. In Bunawan, several bikers were waiting for us and another group from the Redemptorist parish joined us in Panacan. We finally reached the Redemptorist compound st 3:40 pm where we received a warm welcome from the community and parishioners.


Day 11,  December 20, 2014: Davao-Buda (93 kms)

I resumed my journey at 6:15 am, after concelebrating and preaching in the Misa de Gallo at the Redemptorist Church. There were four who accompanied me – Dennis Jay Santos, Salome & her daughter Alicia May, & Boy Chavez. Later Dennis turned back but three more joined us. So six bikers were with me up to Lomondao – a mountain barangay 53 kms from Davao. Then I was all alone continually ascending the mountain-highway of Davao under the heat of the sun. It was a slow and exhausting ride. When I reached Buda at 5 pm I decided not to proceed to Maramag which was still 64 km away. So I went to the parish rectory and asked Fr. Mar Bilbao for overnight accommodation. This has been the shortest but most difficult stage so far.

Day 12, December 21, 2014: Buda-Malaybalay, Bukidnon (117 kms)

At 6:15 after the Misa de Gallo where I was the celebrant and preacher, I resumed my journey alone. The ride during the whole day was exhausting and scary. It was very hot & humid, so many climbs, and steep & long descents. At 12:15, I reached the Redemptorist Mission Station in Maramag. After two hours of resting I resumed my ride until I reached the Bishop’s residence at 6:40 where I was warmly welcomed by Bishop Joe Cabantan.

Day 13, December 22, 2014: Malaybalay-Cagayan de Oro (96 kms)

At 4 a.m., I accompanied Bishop Jose Cabantan to Sompong where I concelebrated with him and preached about climate change.

At 8 a.m., after receiving Bishop Joe’s blessing, I resumed my journey accompanied by 14 Malaybalay bikers. We were later joined by Fr. Titing Selicios who biked from Damilig parish to meet us and join us as far as Cagayan.

Two bikers took turns in carrying my pack and two others gave me a push during climbs, especially Mangima. In Dalirig, two Cagayan cyclists met us and three more joined us in San Miguel, Manolo Fortich.

In Puerto we were joined by Gilbert Dizon (a biker who has also toured around the Philippines). All the bikers had their own advocacy signs. We reached Cagayan de Oro by almost 2:40 and dropped by for refreshment in a place owned by one of the Cagayan bikers.

We finally reached the St. Augustine Cathedral at 3 p.m. where we were interviewed by ABS-CBN, GMA news, Inquirer and MindaNews. After taking snacks the bikers were on their way home. So while yesterday I was biking all alone the whole day, today I was journeying with a ‘community’ of bikers.

Day 14, December 23, 2014: Cagayan de Oro- Iligan (94 km)

Early this morning, I concelebrated the Misa de Gallo with Archbishop Tony Ledesma in Cugman parish church. I also preached about climate change. At 7 a.m. after receiving the Archbishop’s blessing, I set out on the final leg of my journey accompanied by Gilbert Dizon. We were later joined by Roni T. Tanz. As we approached Initao, bikers from Naawan and Iligan joined us. There were over 50 bikers who joined the Climate Ride.

We stopped for a while in the Naawan parish where we were welcomed by the parish priest Fr. Valmoria. After giving a talk on climate change we resumed our journey.

As we neared Iligan we proceeded to Hinaplanon where we held a brief memorial prayer service for the victims of Sendong. The bikers lit their candles and we ended the service by throwing the flowers to the river. Then we biked around the city and finally reached the Redemptorist church. So my Climate Ride has ended. I started as a solitary rider and ended with the biking community.

Dec 31, 2014 Climate Ride - Epilogue (Redemptorist Iligan to Deus Caritas Village Upper Tominobo 20 km roundtrip). My climate ride wouldn't be complete without ...a visit to the relocation site of the survivors of Typhoon Sendong. I couldn't do it immediately after Christmas due to Typhoon Seniang. So finally this morning I visited the Deus Caritas Village Phase II in upper Tominobo (a joint project of the diocese of Iligan, NASSA-Caritas & Daughters of Charity). I gave a donation to the community from the savings from my biking & fasting, and some amount I received during the climate ride. From 9-11:00 am, I gave a talk to the leaders of the Basic

Monday, December 08, 2014

Climate Ride: Pre-Departure Statement and Itinerary

Typhoon Signal 2 is up here in Manila and Typhoon Ruby is coming a few hours from now. I hope it that by December 10 it will be totally gone since I will be starting my Climate Ride from Manila to Mindanao at 5 am at the Mother of Perpetual Help Shrine in Baclaran. I am sharing my pre-departure statement and itinerary below:

Pre-departure Statement: Climate Ride

From December 10 to 23, 2014, I will be pedaling my bicycle from Manila to Mindanao, passing through Bicol, Samar, Leyte, Surigao, Agusan, Compostela Valley, Davao, Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro and ending in Iligan City. These are the areas devastated by typhoons for the last four years: Yolanda (2013), Pablo (2012), Sendong (2011) and now Ruby. This covers approximately 1,800 km which I am doing in two weeks.  I will be doing this alone most of the time, but along the way, there will be some local cyclists in major cities who will accompany me for a few hours. I will be staying overnight in parishes and will concelebrate in the Aguinaldo Masses and preach. I have planned and trained for this ride since four months ago but the Super-typhoon Ruby has increased its urgency and relevance.

I have done three advocacy rides (for life and peace) around the country in my younger years and  I thought I won't be doing this anymore when I become a "senior citizen." But the super-typhoons that have hit our country every year  and other calamities such as floods and droughts have spurred me to ride my bike across the country once again. I am aware that these are not "acts of God" or mere natural occurrences. These are manifestations of climate change.

This is why I call this a "Climate Ride" and I am doing this  in honor of the victims of Typhoons Sendong, Pablo, Yolanda and the most recent - Ruby. I also do this to call attention to the climate change and the disasters that result from it. Among these are extreme weather events like super-typhoons, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, water and food crisis, etc. The Philippines has become one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

While we focus our attention to disaster relief and preparedness, that is not enough. We have to address the cause - climate change -  that threatens to destroy our home - this earth - and our lives and the lives of the future generation.

 We are being reminded that we human beings are responsible for climate change due to our materialism and consumerist lifestyle, deforestation, dependence on fossil burning fuel for our cars, factories, power-plan which emits carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases into the atmosphere resulting in global warming and climate change. As the oceans gets warmer, the super-typhoons  have become the new normal.

I, therefore, appeal to the government to come up with measures to address more seriously the problem of climate change and mitigate its effects. Since our country and our people are the one of the most vulnerable and adversely affected by climate change, the government must make a more vigorous representation in the coming UN climate talks in Lima. It is not enough to ask for aid from foreign nations for the disasters that devastate us. The government must demand from these nations commitment to address the cause of climate change.

I also appeal to my fellow ordinary citizens to do our part to contribute in  saving the planet and saving our lives. We can do this by adopting a simple and green lifestyle, lessening our dependence on gasoline-powered vehicles, using alternative sources of energy  and thereby reducing our carbon footprints, stop deforestation and plant more trees and resist the construction of coal-fired power plants. I would also like to promote biking - not only for exercise - but also a regular means of transportation and commute within our cities. This means constructing more bike-lanes rather than spending more of the people's money in building super-highways and express-ways that benefit a few whose cars contribute to global warming and climate change. The bike can save our life and our planet. It may seem an insignificant activity but this can make a difference when more and more people ride a bike, or walk or run.

 As I bike across the country, I don't expect bikers to join me although they are welcome to join me for a few hours as I pass their cities. But I only hope that there will be more and more people who will ride the bike to their workplace or school, and also for sightseeing and adventure. Riding at 18-20 km per hour, with the wind caressing your face, is the best way to see and appreciate the beauty of our country.

I end with a quote from H.G. Wells: “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.”

Let’s bike to save the planet.

Dec 10 Baclaran - Gumaca 187k
Dec 11 Gumaca-Naga 187k
Dec 12 Naga-Sorsogon 147k
Dec 13 Sorsogon-Matnog ferry crosing to Allen- Calbayog 135k
Dec 14 Calbayog-Tacloban 175k
Dec 15 rest day Tacloban
Dec 16 Tacloban-Liloan Leyte cross to Surigao 154k
Dec 17 Surigao- Prosperidad 182k
Dec 18 Prosperidad-New Bataan 142k
Dec 19 New Bataan- Davao City 118k
Dec 20 Davao- Maramag 152k
Dec 21 Maramag-Malabalay 49k
Dec 22 Malaybalay-Cagayan deOro 97k
Dec 23 Cagayan-Iligan 88 k

If u want to contact me, this is my cp# 09081733611. ( just for local cyclists who wish to join me for a few hours)
Those who wish to join me for a few hours when I pass or leave your cities, you may make your own sign attach to your bike or jersey such as: climate ride, climate change=super-typhoons, no to coal fired powerplants, ride the bike daily & save the planet, more bike lanes-less superhighways, reduce ghg emissions, etc.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Climate Change: A Challenge to Our Mission as Redemptorists

Two days ago, the whole nation commemorated the first anniversary of the Typhoon Yolanda. On that day, the group that did the Climate Walk from Manila reached Tacloban. A month from now I will be starting my Solo 1,800 km Climate Bike Ride for Victims of Yolanda, Pablo and Sendong (from Manila to Iligan via Tacloban, Davao and Cagayan de Oro).

This month, Redemptorists are gathering in 3 places (Cebu, Bacolod and Davao) for the so-called pre-Chapter assemblies where we will be discussing (among others) the direction which our life and mission will take for the next four years. I was asked to prepare a working paper on Climate Change vis-a-vis our Mission:

Climate Change:  A Challenge to our Mission
A Working Paper  

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR


For the last three years, the Philippines  has been hit by three devastating super-typhoons: Typhoon Sendong in December 2011 which hit Cagayan de Oro and Iligan – including our former mission area in Hinaplanon, Iligan City. The flood reached our church in Tibanga, which made it impossible to hold the Misa de Gallo that day.

Typhoon Pablo hit Davao Oriental in 2012, several hundred kilometers  from our parish in Davao City. This was the first time that a typhoon has ever hit this area.  In 2013 Typhoon Yolanda  hit Samar, Leyte and parts of Cebu and Panay. Our parish in Tacloban was badly hit, and so many died and thousands of families became homeless. Our Church became a temporary evacuation center for three weeks.

 Will there be more super-typhoons coming? Undoubtedly, yes. It is the new normal. And besides super-typhoons, there also other disasters predicted. More flooding even from ordinary rain More long dry spell or drought. With the polar icecaps melting at an unprecedented rapid rate and the ocean rising gradually, a time will come when coastal towns and cities will experience more flooding and God forbid – will be submerged, hopefully not in our lifetime. All of these are manifestations of globa warming and climate change. And it will get worse in the years to come. According to PAG-ASA by 2020, there will be a rise in temperature of .09 to 1.1 degree Celsius and 1.8 to 2.2 C in 2050.

The Reality of Climate Change

 Almost 25 years ago, John Paul II warned about climate change in his World Day of Peace Message (1990):

The gradual depletion of the ozone layer and the related ‘greenhouse effect’ has now reached crisis proportions as a consequence of industrial growth, massive urban concentrations and vastly increased energy needs. Industrial waste, the burning of fossil fuels, unrestricted deforestation, the use of certain types of herbicides, coolants and propellants: all of these are known to harm the atmosphere and environment. The resulting meteorological and atmospheric changes range from damage to health to the possible future submersion of low-lying lands.

 Climate change is the effect of the destruction of the environment by humans.
The burning of fossil fuel – from factories, coal-fired power plants, cars, forest fires, etc. has released unprecedented volume of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere creating a green-house effect on our planet.  The forest –which is supposed to be the lungs of the earth that will absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen- is fast disappearing.With deforestation, there will be less trees to absorb rain fall, and thus, more floods.

Global warming is melting the polar ice-caps, raising the temperature of the oceans, changing  weather patterns, causing more water to precipitate into the atmosphere and creating more super-typhoons.

Thus, we can expect to experience the extremes of El Nino – long dry spell, and La Nina – long wet periods and super-typhoons.

The climate has become crazy and unpredictable. There is no more debate about the reality of climate change. And it is going to get worse. Many scientists would say that it is no longer a matter of preventing climate change but of mitigating its effects and preparing for the disasters that it brings. The more ambitious task is acting together to reverse climate change – which seems to be an impossible dream but which needs to be done.

The Vatican Academy of Science in 2011 came up with a report outlining the duty of the Church and all nations vis-à-vis climate change:

 Failure to mitigate climate change will violate our duty to the vulnerable of the Earth, including those dependent on the water supply of mountain glaciers, and those facing rising sea level and stronger storm surges. Our duty includes the duty to help vulnerable communities adapt to changes that cannot be mitigated. All nations must ensure that their actions are strong enough and prompt enough to address the increasing impacts and growing risk of climate change and to avoid catastrophic irreversible consequences.

The following are three measures to reduce the threat of climate change and its impacts:

1.“Reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions without delay, using all means possible to meet ambitious international global warming targets and ensure the long-term stability of the climate system.  All nations must focus on a rapid transition to renewable energy sources and other strategies to reduce CO2 emissions.  Nations should also avoid removal of carbon sinks by stopping deforestation, and should strengthen carbon sinks by reforestation of degraded lands.  They also need to develop and deploy technologies that draw down excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These actions must be accomplished within a few decades.

2.“Reduce the concentrations of warming air pollutants (dark soot, methane, lower atmosphere ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons) by as much as 50%, to slow down climate change during this century while preventing millions of premature deaths from respiratory disease and millions of tons of crop damages every year.

3.“Prepare to adapt to the climatic changes, both chronic and abrupt, that society will be unable to mitigate.  In particular, we call for a global capacity building initiative to assess the natural and social impacts of climate change in mountain systems and related watersheds.”

The Challence of Climate Change for our Mission

What is our response as Redemptorists to climate change? How do we carry out our mission in view  of climate change and the disaster that it brings?

Besides coming up with protocols on how we should respond in case of disaster (emergency response) we also have to broaden our perspective in terms of disaster risk reduction, preparedness, management, relief and rehabilitation.

We already have accumulated experiences in disaster response and mission in our own parish in Tacloban and other parishes hit by Typhoon Yolanda. This provides a model of how to respond immediately to disaster in a coordinated manner and how to carry out our mission in areas hit by disaster.  Karl Gaspar’s paper has distilled some of the learnings and the protocols that we as a province can adopt in the future, especially in terms of disaster response, rehabilitation and rebuilding.  

However, there is more that we need to do. Our mission is not just for communities already affected or will be affected by disaster. It is also for those who may be vulnerable to disaster. The question we need to answer is: how do we prepare ourselves and the communities that we minister for the disaster that arise due to climate change.

How can we make people aware of climate change and the disasters that it cause? How do we help develop parishes and BECs into disaster-resilient communities? What are the protocols that must be put in place which can be adopted by us and the people in our parishes and mission areas in case of disaster? What kind of mentality and lifestyle do we promote that can help arrest or revert global warming?

We should avoid the mentality that we are the messiah – that our primary role is to save or rescue helpless victims. We are not humanitarian aid workers but religious with a mission.

 We should operate on the principle of community participation in disaster risk reduction and management. We should avoid fostering a dependent-victim mentality.

In our preaching, evangelization & catechetical programs, and formation of BECs, we need to integrate the message of climate change, the responsibility of human beings as stewards of creation to care for the earth and protocols for disaster preparedness and management.

In order to do this, there is therefore a need to come up with resources -  modules and training manuals. These are the possible content:

  1. Our earth – global warming and climate change – causes and dangerous consequence. Disasters are not acts of God (due to God’s will) but due to human carelessness, sinfulness - selfishness and greed.
  2. Human beings as stewards of God’s creation – the responsibility to care for the earth. The practical implications of this in terms of lifestyle, plan of action to protect further environmental destruction and contribute to the reduction of carbon/GHG emissions, etc.
  3. Protocols for parish/community-based DRRM (Disaster Risk Reduction and Management).
Possible topics for community-based DRRM protocols/systems:

  1. Disaster risk-vulnerability assessment (discerning the kind of disaster the community is vulnerable to).
  2. Risk reduction and mitigation (what the community can do ASAP to reduce the risk or mitigate damage even before the disaster)
  3. Standard Operational Procedure in case of impending and actual disaster (warning, safety measures, evacuation, rescue, etc.)
  4. Initial Damage/Casualty/Needs assessment
  5. First Aid/Emergency Relief operations (how the community can help in orderly and efficient ways of doing this)
  6. Rehabilitation/Rebuilding (participatory/ holistic approach that includes material, psycho-spiritual dimensions)
The role of our apostolic units/mission teams is to facilitate this process and to help train the parish and BECs into becoming disaster-resilient communities.

In carrying this out, there is a need to coordinate with social action centers/commissions (national, diocesan, parish levels), NGO and LGU’s, government agencies (especially NDRRM and local counterparts).

In case of disaster, we do not have the expertise of humanitarian aid groups and first responders. Our role as Redemptorists  is very limited once disaster strikes.

Our significant contribution should be  in disaster preparedness and in the rehabilitation/rebuilding phase.  The victims and survivors do not only need material relief. They also need psycho-spiritual processing and community-rebuilding. This is where we can respond more effectively.

As Redemptorists we too should answer these questions: what can our own communities and apostolic units contribute to stop global warming? How can we help reduce the GHG/CO2 emissions? How will this affect the way we build or renovate our houses, monasteries and Churches?  How will this affect our use of vehicles and the type of vehicles we acquire?

 We, too, are vulnerable to the disasters that may be caused by climate change. We also need to go through the process of disaster risk assessment and reduction and adopt our own protocols for disaster management .

 To sum up, these are the urgent tasks in our mission:

  1. To make people aware of  climate change, its causes and effects and the human responsibility as stewards of God’s creation to care for the earth.
  2. To help mitigate the effects of climate change an promote disaster risk reduction, preparedness and management. This means helping build disaster-resilient communities (parishes, BECs).
  3. To foster a green lifestyle and search for ways that can contribute to reduction of green house gas.
We have to come up with mission modules and manuals on climate change and disaster risk reduction and management that can be used in our mission and parish apostolate.