Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I celebrated the 6:00 mass in Baclaran this morning. At 8:00 am, I biked to Malacanang accompanied by 8 bikers and the media. The vehicles of GMA7 and ABC were stopped at the checkpoint. A soldier approached me and asked if I was the biking priest. When I told him that I would like to deliver the letter to the president, he told us back down. More soldiers, marines and policemen arrived and blocked the entrance towards Malacanang. A firetruck was being filled with water. There was a tense atmosphere. After waiting for a long time, an officer of the Presidential Security Group came and told me that we could not come in. I asked him if he could assure me that the letter which I was giving him can reach the president. After he promised that it will be given to her, I then decided that it was time to go. So we biked back to Baclaran with a police car tailing us and making sure that we wouldn't go back to Malacanang.
Here is the content of the letter to the president which I read yesterday during the press conference at the CBCP media center:
March 23, 2008
Dear Madam President,
Peace be with you!
I am a 54 year old Catholic priest who is biking around the country – from
In many churches all over the country, I preach the Good News of Life and Peace in a land where the culture of death, violence and corruption prevails. Some of the manifestations of this culture of death are: the continuing armed conflict in the countryside, the extrajudicial killings, and the destruction of the environment. The rampant graft and corruption which the CBCP has condemned as “death dealing” perpetuates this culture of death and violence.
Eight years ago, I also biked across the country preaching a similar message. When President Estrada was ousted by people power and you assumed office, I was so happy and I thought it would no longer be necessary for me to bike around the country again and preach in the churches to condemn the culture of death and corruption. In your inaugural address you promised to bring about an era of new politics that would put an end to the culture of corruption and that would bring about lasting peace based on justice. I expected the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF and MILF to go forward and a peace agreement would be reached.
Now as I look at our situation I am filled with disappointment and indignation. After seven years under your administration, what your promised remain a dream.
The culture of death persists. The armed conflict continue to escalate as the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF have been abandoned and you adopt an all out war policy aimed at ending the insurgency problem within the next two years. There is still no peace agreement between the Government and the MILF in spite of the ceasefire.
The extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances have increased under your regime. The Alston report lay the blame on forces within your government that have used these killings as part of the counter-insurgency strategy.
The environmental destruction caused by logging and mining threatens the life and health of the people continues. The forests are fast disappearing. The air, land, seas and rivers are polluted.
The corrupt patronage politics continues to prevail. The
Yet you stand accused of being an evil person who is filled with greed for power and wealth, who cheated in the elections, who brutally suppresses dissent and who engages in covering up anomalies and corruption carried out by those close to you, who favors the mining companies over the welfare of the people and the environment.
You have become so unpopular, Your approval rating is very low and many are calling for your resignation. There is anger and discontent among the people.
It is difficult to reconcile your piety and your behavior. Because of this many perceive you as a hypocrite.
Even if I wish you would resign I will not ask you to step down because I know it will be futile. You intend to hold on to power and finish your term.
The worst thing that can happen to you is to spend the rest of your life in shame and disgrace knowing that you have been judged by your people as a greedy, corrupt, deceitful, power-hungry president no better than Marcos or Estrada.
Madam President you can use the remaining years of your presidency to redeem yourself. You can still live up to the promises you made after you were installed by people power.
The following are my appeal:
- Abandon your all out war policy and resume the peace process with the NDF and the MILF.
- Investigate thoroughly the extrajudicial killings, bring the perpetrators to justice, and put an end to these killings
- Protect the environment by implementing a total log ban, repealing the mining act and banning aerial spraying
- Allow the investigation of corruption to continue even if it involves people close to you. Do not appeal to executive privilege in these investigations, and come up with stringent measures to prevent corruption in all levels of government.
Madam President, do not allow yourself to be dominated by the dark side but live in the light. Instead of perpetuating the culture of death and corruption, may you promote the culture of life, peace and good governance.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Came down from Baguio yesterday morning along the Marcos Highway. It was mostly downhill riding for over 40 km. Upon reaching Agoo, I was met by 2 bikers of OCHO who accompanied me as far as the junction towards Dagupan. I was glad to see the sea again after being in the mountains for almost a week. It was a relaxing ride until I was 20 km to Alaminos. By then the heat became unbearable and there were some climbs. I felt weak. I had to stop several times and rest under the shade. I was met by 4 motorbike escorts 15 km before Alaminos. . With 10 km to go, over 30 bikers belonging to WESTPAC led by Capt. Perilla and Fr. Ed welcomed me and biked with me up to the Cathedral. I celebrated the 5:15 pm mass with three priests concelebrating. After the mass they brought me to the pier where we could view the hundred islands. Had supper with Bishop Marlo and some priests afterwards.
Early this morning 10 local bikers accompanied me as far as Sta. Cruz, 60 km from Alaminos, where over 20 motorcycle escorts of the Kabayan were waiting for me. After snacks we proceeded to Iba, another 60 km to go. Along the way, we met cyclists who were racing from Iba to St. Cruz and back. People along the road probably thought that I was leading the race but after a while, the cyclists overtook me. The afternoon sun became unbearable and I once again felt exhausted. I had to stop several times to rest. I had another flat tire which I quick fixed. We reached Iba by 2 pm, and was welcomed by Fr. Noriel. After a short rest, I celebrated the 5:15 pm mass.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Left Bangued at 5.40 a.m. accompanied by 5 Abra bikers with a support vehicle and 4 motorbike escorts.
The first 3 hours was easy gradual ascent on paved winding road. Then the climbs became steeper on rough roads.The rains fell at 3pm by the time we reached the Malibcong welcome arch. The Abra bikers loaded their bikes on the support vehicle and returned home. I biked the remaining 10 km to Malibcong alone. What followed was just terrible. The road was wet and slippery and the tires were covered in mud. While on a long steep descent I crashed and my knee was bruised. I arrived in Malibcong by 5 pm and was welcomed by Fr. John Bala - an Indonesian SVD priest. Upon seeing the bruises on my knee, he volunteered to apply his homemade oil.
I concelebrated with Fr. John at the 6 am mass. After the mass I met some of the elders of the village and had picture take with them.
As usual I left at dawn after my morning prayer and meditation. After just 5 min of biking I had another flat tire. It took 20 min to fix it. There were lot of descents until I reached Pasil. Then I did a lot of climbing. I kept looking for the junction to Lubuagan. I was considering Joy's suggestion. By 9.30 am I stopped by a place where there were lot of vendors selling coconut juice and delicacies. It was there I found out that I was following the road to Tabuk. I felt dejected. I had to retrace my steps for 10 km and I wouldn't be able to reach Bontoc before dark. I was tempted to ride a jeepney to Bontoc. After waiting for a while decided to bike back to the Lubuagan junction. I was worried about my safety and pedaled as fast as I could everytime I saw some people on the road. I reached Lubuagan by noon-time. After lunch with the parish priest I continued biking until I reached Tinglayan by 4 pm. I decided not to continue to Bontoc and seek hospitality of the parish priest - Fr. Loy
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I woke up late yesterday morning, this being my rest day. After breakfast, I did my laundry and later gave a brief talk about my advocacy to the Laoag clergy who were meeting at the bishop's residence. I then biked downtown and had my bike checked-up at the Ilocos Cycle Center. I also bought an extra tire tube. Upon knowing of my identity as the biking priest, the owner did not ask for payment. He also gave me a cycling jersey and had my picture taken with him and his wife.
I had lunch with Fr. Alex and Bro. Dodong (my fellow Redemptorists) and the lay missionaries working in the Laoag diocese. Before the mass I was interviewed by the ABS-CBN tv crew. After the mass I had dinner with Bishop Utleg and Msgr. Paulie and the parochial vicar.
At 5:30 this morning, I left Laoag accompanied by Bishop Utleg, Fr. Anthony Dimayuga and 5 other bikers. We were followed by an ABS-CBN tv crew. The bishop and his group biked with me as far as Badoc - the boundary between Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte which was 43 km away from Laoag. After saying goodbye, I biked the next 100 km alone. It was exhausting especially because I had to face the headwinds alone and because of the heat. There were some continuous clims 23 km before Bangued. I reached Bangued at 3:30 pm and was welcomed by 3 members of the Abrak biking club who informed me that they will accompany me as far as Malibcong. At 5 pm, I concelebrated the mass with Fr. Andres and preached about the Gospel of Life and Peace.
Monday, April 14, 2008
I celebrated the 6:30 am mass in Aparri yesterday. Being Sunday the church was packed. By 9:00 am, 30 bikers accompanied me as we biked around the town and crossed the Cagayan river on two pumpboats. We were taking a the short-cut to Claveria via Ballesteros. Among those biking with me was Colonel Carillo and Fr. Noel Adolfo. Fr. Noel had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer of the colon four years ago. He continues to undergo chemotherapy. Instead of waiting passively for his demise, he continues to carry out his priestly ministry and bike everyday.
After reaching the junction of Ballesteros and the Maharlika highway we parted ways - I biked alone to Claveria while the Aparri bikers headed home. Upon reaching Pamplona I had my first flat tire. It took me 30 minutes to fix it. I reached Claveria by around 5 pm I was welcomed by Fr. Fajardo and his fellow SVD priests. Before dinner several local bikers turned up and assured me that they will accompany me the following morning.
After the morning mass in Claveria, I saw many bikers from waiting for me outside. There were over 40 of them led by Fr. Tony Dimayuga. Some actually arrived from Laoag last night while other came early. So we departed by 7:30 am together with the 6 Claveria bikers who went as far as the boundary. As we reached the boundary, more bikers from Ilocos joined us including 3 more priests. Upon reaching the first barangay of Pagudpud, we were welcomed by the local people waving flaglets and accompanied by a band. They prepared some snacks for us. It was actually Fr. Alex and some member of the Redemptorist mission team in the area who organized the reception. Fr. Alex joined us on his roadbike was we continued cycling towards Laoag. We reached Laoag by 5 pm. The parish priest welcomed us and prepared a merienda for the bikers. Later, I biked to the bishop's residence and was welcomed by Bishop Sergio Utleg.
So far I have already covered 2070 km. Tomorrow is a rest day.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Yesterday, I left Ilagan at 6:30 am after saying goodbye to my host, Fr. Roseller Lora. This was the third day that I was biking alone. I thought this was going to be an easy 80 km ride to Tuguegarao. But there were a lot of rolling hills and the temperature rose to 35 degrees celsius by 9 am. I noticed my coasting speed increasing to 25 kph while my heart rate remained at 105 bpm. Three weeks ago my heart rate would have gone up to 130 bpm at this pace. This was an indication that my heart has become more efficient and I was getting stronger. I stopped by a noodle house along the road at 9:30 and I stopped again an hour later for halo-halo. By then the heat had become unbearable. I reached Tuguegarao just in time for lunch. Msgr. Ben Lasam and his two parochial vicars welcomed me and we had lunch together.
I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and going around the city. I celebrated that 5:15 pm mass. Later in the evening, I went along with Msgr. Ben and the other priests to dinner at a benefactor's house where I met Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan and 7 other priests.
At 5:40 this morning, I continued my journey alone towards Aparri. After biking for 20 km, 4 cyclist caught up with me and asked me if I was the biking the priest. They were members of the Tuguegarao cycling club and they accompanied me as far as Gattaran, 50 km away from Tuguegarao. I continued to bike alone until I reached the town 15 km away from Aparri where I was met by 50 local bikers belonging to the Bikers' Club of Aparri. Among them were local government officials and some policemen and firemen who were members of the club. There were also some women bikers. There were fireworks to welcome us. We biked behind the police patrol car who led us around the town and up to the parish rectory where we were welcomed by Fr. Noel - the parochial vicar who is also a biker. So we finally arrived at 12:15 after biking for 105 km. I had lunch with Fr. Noel and the parish priest, Fr. Flor.
So I have finally reached Aparri after biking for 20 days covering 1850 km.
In the evening, Orlando Balisi - the president of the Bikers' Club of Aparri tendered a special dinner in my honor in his home. Fr. Noel and the local bikers were there.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I left Cabanatuan yesterday before 6 am. This time, I was all alone. There were no local bikers who were available to accompany me. With no one to talk to, I spent the whole time in silence and solitude - the hermit on a bicycle. Beside looking at the road and admiring the scenery, I prayed all the mysteries of the rosary using my fingers on the handlebar instead of fingering rosary beads. The rosary enables me to contemplate on the life of Jesus: his infancy (joyful mysteries), his public ministry (mysteries of the light), his passion and death (sorrowful mysteries) and the glorious mysteries (resurrection, etc). In between mysteries, I also listen to my favorite music on my mp3 player.
By 9:30 am, it became very hot. I stopped by several roadside stores to eat halo-halo. By noontime I was ascending the winding road to Dalton pass. As the heat became unbearable, I reminded myself that this was nothing compared to the Jericho-Jerusalem ascent through the desert which I did in 2005 when I biked around the Holy Land. I doused water on my jersey and put a wet towel over my head, underneath my helmet. I kept checking my heart rate monitor to make sure that I won't exceed my safe heart rate level. I reached the summit of Dalton pass at 1:45 pm and immediately had lunch at a roadside restaurant. From there it was all downhill. I noticed that my shifter for the chain-ring wasn't functioning. I continued to pedal as fast as I could so that I can make it for the mass. I reached Bayombong at 4:45 pm after biking for 155 km. Fr. Ted Lazo welcomed me and introduced me to the people at the beginning of the mass. In my homily I placed a l
I felt very tired and drowsy after dinner so I just went to bed early.
At 5:30 this morning, I continued my journey. No local bikers accompanied me so I was alone again. Like yesterday, I whiled away the time by praying the rosary and listening to music. It was an easier ride today. The hills were not as steep as yesterday and there were more flat roads. It was again very hot between 9:30 am to 3 pm. I made several halo-halo stops.
I reached Ilagan by 4 pm after biking for 144 km. Fr. Roseller Lora welcomed me. Had been waiting for me since 3 pm. He was worried that I would be late for the 5:15 pm mass. Even if this was a weekday mass, there was a good number of parishioners in attendance.
Like Nueva Viscaya, Isabela is one of the provinces where the NPA guerrillas are very active and where the government forces continue to conduct counter-insurgency operations. In my homily, I once again emphasized the call to stop the war and resume the peace process and address the roots of the armed conflict.
After 18 days, I have covered 1,662 km so far. Each day I feel that I am getting stronger and faster. I don't really feel that exhausted. After a good night's sleep I feel energized and ready to continue my journey.