Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Priests, Imams & Pastors' Dialogue for Peace & Development

While the negotiators of the MILF and the Government are continuing their peace talks in Kuala Lumpur, some Catholic priests, Protestant Pastors and Muslim Imams gathered here in Davao this afternoon to discuss the People's Agenda for Peace and Development facilitated by the AFRIM. We were joined by s0me members of the Bishops-Ulama Conference: Archbishop Fernando Capalla, Bishop Delfin Callao of the Philippine Independent Church, and Ustadz Mahmoud Adilao of the Ulama League of the Philippines.
We shared our understanding of peace and development and framework which we should approach this.
We believe that achieving peace and development is not just the task of the peace negotiators from the MILF and the government. The religious leaders, civil society organizations and the grassroots communities (Muslims, Christians and Lumads) have the responsibility to participate in this process and influence the agenda.
Archbishop Capalla shared an interesting understanding of peace. He said that for the ancient Romans, peace means reaching a agreement or settlement. For the Greeks it means a "lull" from fighting or "ceasefire." But for Christians and Muslims peace means "shalom" or "salaam" - wholeness and reconciliation. The government and the MILF may reach a signed agreement and a ceasefire. But we have to go further - we - the various peoples that live in Mindanao (Muslims, Christians and Lumads) have to reach a state of "shalom." This requires a process of healing and reconciliation, of rooting out the hurts and hatred in our hearts. This is where various groups like us can come in and encourage our communities at the grassroots to get involved in the process of peace and development.
While peace requires that the guns be silenced and the bloodshed stopped, peace is not just the absence of war. Genuine peace can only be achieved when the roots of the conflict is addressed, when there is justice and reconciliation, when there is sustainable development.
It is high time that grassroots communities tell the MILF, the NPA and the Armed Forces of the Philippines - give peace a chance, top your all out war. Instead of just waiting for these groups to come up with a peace agreement and the cessation of armed hostilities, these communities should also expand the zones of peace and development.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Death Squads in our Midst

For the last two days, I have been assisting two members of the US-based HumanRights Watch conduct research and interviews about the killings perpetrated by the Davao Death Squads (DDS).

In spite of the opposition and condemnations by the Church and civil society, the killings carried out by the DDS have not subsided. Our data as of May 2008 show that there are 641 documented cases of summary executions (since 1998). Just 5 days ago, there were four killings that have been reported. Most of the victims are young people accused of drug use and drug pushing, petty theft, membership in gangs.

Many of those interviewed believe that the DDS is sponsored by local government officials in the city and the barangays. They say that the DDS is composed mainly of rebel-returnees (esp. f0rmer sparrow unit hitmen of the NPA) and off-duty police officers. The list of targets (order of battle) are compiled with the help of the barangay intelligence network. It has the support of big business who claim that it has made Davao peaceful and crime-free. It appears that these killings is part of a systematic campaign to rid the city of petty criminals using means that are criminal and illegal. These observations are similar to that reported by UN special rapporteaur Alston.

It will be difficult to prove these allegations because no one is willing to come out and testify. There were already two cases of filed against alleged DDS hitmen who were caught but these have not prospered - it was difficult to find witnesses and the suspects were granted bail and have disappeared.

Meanwhile, there is very little outcry to these killings. Many ordinary citizens even think that this is good since the DDS is getting rid of the criminals in our midst. But there are still many who are against it but think that there is nothing we can do about it. The killings continue and all we can do is to count the victims. The crimes and criminals continue to increase - and the big ones occupy high positions in government.

What is happening reminds me of the martial law period when suspected criminals were executed by secret marshalls sponsored by the dictatorial government. Yes, this is indeed a legacy of martial law. This is one of the manifestation of the culture of death that rules Philippine society. There is a lack of respect for the value of life and the rule of law. The national government under the leadership of president Arroyo has failed to do something to stop this.

Several years ago, Archbishop Capalla already wrote a pastoral letter condemning it. The Redemptorist community in Davao has denounced it. We have constantly preached against it. Yet the killings continue. What more can we do?

We will continue to exercise our prophetic mission even at the risk of incurring the ire of those responsible for these killings. Someday, they will be held accountable for their crimes and sins - if not in this life, then before the Divine Tribunal.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A gathering of Redemptorists

For the last 8 days (July 14-22), 69 Redemptorists of the Cebu Province (working in Visayas and Mindanao) have been gathering as a Chapter-Assembly. We ended this afternoon and this is the statement that we came up with:




JULY 15 - 22, 2008

Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 29-31)

At our Fifth Chapter, we heard God’s message for us as Redemptorist missionaries.

We heard the call for everyone to undergo a radical conversion to the person of Jesus. As in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus calls each one of us to make ourselves a neighbor to those in need.

We also discerned the Spirit leading us to a greater realization that central to our spirituality is the relationship between the Person of the Redeemer and the choice of the poor and the abandoned which – as embodied in Constitution 5 - is the badge of fidelity to our vocation.

Passion for Christ is Passion for the Poor. This constitutes the very heart of our missionary identity.

As we grappled with the need to intensify our presence among the poor, we asked ourselves the question - who are the poor in the Philippines today? As our mission teams have been serving the needs of those living in the remote rural, mountainous areas and islands, we are familiar with agricultural workers, tenant farmers, small land-owning peasants and indigenous peoples.

In the urban centers – where our foundations are located - we can find the poor in the streets, slums and squatter areas including the unemployed, the unskilled daily wage earners, casual employees, migrant workers, the street people and the out-of-school youth.

We have come to realize, however, that there has been a major shift in populations to the urban centers; there are more people now living in cities. Thus, we believe our presence among and service to the urban poor have to be intensified.

In the past triennia, we responded to the needs of the poor by focusing our efforts in BECs, Youth and Social Concerns. These remain important areas in our apostolate but, today, we see a need to focus our efforts more in urban areas.

At this Chapter, we accepted that Passion and Compassion are movements of the Spirit that give meaning to our mission, animate our spirituality and impart quality to our community life. Our reflections also led us to discover our own limitations and ambiguities, our fragility and inconsistencies and the influences of evil in our world and in ourselves.

We have continued to speak and write about the challenge of the poor but we have not done nearly enough. There is a distance between us and the people, owing to our lifestyle and a tendency towards nesting. We hope that with our mission teams, parishes, shrines, retreat houses and other apostolate, as well as in living out our vowed life, we can take steps towards shifting to a lifestyle and commitment that mirrors the radicality of our vows.

We have also believed that the contemplative dimension of our life has to include a rootedness in Christ along with closeness to the most abandoned. We seek to encourage each other towards devoting more time for prayer as well as creating in our communities an atmosphere conducive to meditation and contemplation. We aim towards living our vows in such a way that we give witness to the message we preach.

We embraced the need to have a passion for our confreres as brothers. There have been many reasons to be thankful for the blessings and positive gains in our community life and the administration of the Province. However, we also acknowledged the need for conversion in these areas given our weaknesses and shortcomings.

As a Province we have affirmed the gains that have been made vis-à-vis the call of the Generalate towards restructuring. We honor our commitments in the Asia-Oceania Region in terms of both joint formation programs and initiatives in the apostolate. We specifically seek to strengthen our ties with our confreres in the Manila Vice-Province.

Taking all these into consideration, we take to heart the following Postulata (P) and Exhortations/ Recommendations (E/R):


a. Our Existing Apostolic Units

As an apostolic community dedicated to following Jesus Christ the Redeemer, who became poor, and as an expression of our passion for the poor, the Chapter directs all apostolic units to give greater emphasis to our call to evangelize the poor and to be evangelized by the poor. To ensure that this happens, the Chapter directs the setting in motion of a process which includes the following:

1) When the communities come together to draw up their Plan of Community Life (PCL), special attention will be given to devise a Program that will involve direct contact for all members of the community with the poor of the area. This Program will be holistic, with efforts made to respond to the faith-life needs of the poor and empower the same poor to be instruments of evangelization in our own lives as Redemptorists.

2) The Program will be evaluated by each community during its mid-year Review of Life.

3) The Apostolic Secretariat will devise a method of evaluation, keeping in mind the spirit of the Chapter, which will be offered to the communities.

b. A New Pastoral Initiative to respond to the needs of the Urban Poor

Recognizing the special needs of the Urban Poor and the challenge presented to us as Redemptorists to respond to those needs, as well as respecting our existing Commitment to rural missions, the Chapter directs the OPC to ensure the existence of a Mission Team in the Province, attached to an established community, which will give special emphasis to responding to the needs of the Urban Poor in the preaching of the Gospel.


In response to the call of the XXIII General Chapter for greater collaboration and solidarity between and among Units of the Congregation, the Chapter directs the OPC of the Cebu Province to continue the process already in motion wherein both the Cebu Province and the Manila Vice-Province seek further ways of collaborating with each other in the areas of mission, formation, Redemptorist life and administration.


The Chapter continues to affirm the Redemptorist Itinerant Mission Community as a radical expression of our Redemptorist Missionary identity. However, to further deepen this expression of our commitment, the Chapter directs the OPC to evaluate the RIMC as it currently exists in the light of its original vision with a view to solidifying and strengthening that identity.


The Chapter recognizes the importance of youth ministry, acknowledging that often the youth are the most abandoned in terms of the importance given them by both Church and State. Therefore, the Chapter directs the OPC to appoint a Youth Ministry Coordinator and/or a Youth Ministry Team to facilitate each Apostolic Unit (Churches, Parishes, Mission Teams and Retreat Houses) set in place a Youth Ministry Program that will respond to the pastoral needs of our young people, especially the out-of-school youth.


Encouraged by the impact of recent General Missions, the Chapter encourages the continuation of such Missions. When requests are made, the OPC, through the powers invested in it as the Leadership Team of the Province, have the right to seek the cooperation of all confreres in the Province.


The Chapter directs that each community and each of its members, when the community meets for the PCL at the beginning of the triennium, make an inventory of their lives. This inventory will focus in a special way on the following considerations:

a. How much time we spend in direct contact with the poor;

b. How we use our resources, especially how much money we spend on ourselves in contrast to the amounts we spend on improving the lives of the poor.

c. While recognizing the value and even the necessity of the use of modern technology, we have to examine if the values of our community life are not being undermined

1) in the manner in which we acquire our instruments of modern technology,

2) in the use we make of them vis-à-vis our life of simplicity and poverty,

3) in our choice of the more expensive and latest model of these instruments for the sake of our personal gratification.

d. How much time we devote to prayer vis-à-vis our other activities and how we create in our communities an atmosphere conducive to prayer and contemplation.

In keeping with our current practice, the PCLs, after being evaluated by the community itself, will be submitted to the OPC and the Community Secretariat for further reflection and for possible help in facilitating a more radical conversion to Christ.


a. Living in a rapidly changing world where we are confronted with new realities and challenges everyday, the Chapter acknowledges the importance of on-going formation, theological renewal and skills training for all confreres in the Province. Therefore, the Chapter directs the incoming OPC/EPC to direct the incoming Community Secretariat to draw up a specific and definite Program of Renewal which will facilitate the professional engagement of confreres, and our lay cooperators, with such new realities and challenges. (P)

b. In order to promote greater community consciousness among us, the Chapter recommends that the OPC facilitate the re-printing of the Booklet, Important Values in Community Life and How to Live Them, and ensure that each confrere is given a copy for use in strengthening community structures, for example, the monthly Recollection, the use of a discernment process in making important decisions and so on. (R)


a. While recognizing the value of personal autonomy the Chapter also acknowledges the importance of our corporate identity as Redemptorists, both at the level of the local community and the Province. In this we see a certain tension. In order to assist us in promoting our religious identity and to ensure greater openness to the decisions made by various leadership teams in the Province we need to open a dialogue in the Province concerning this issue. As a starting point, the Chapter directs that early in the triennium the Community Secretariat, with the help of competent resource persons, organize a seminar/retreat on the theme: Leadership, Authority and Obedience in Religious Life Today. Following on this, the Community Secretariat will continue to facilitate on-going dialogue on this issue both in communities and at the Province level. (P)

b. To ensure greater efficiency and better communication and accountability between the Councils and the Secretariats, the Chapter directs that the OPC, for this triennium, appoint the Chairmen of the various Secretariats. This will be reviewed at the Chapter of 2011 and, if it is deemed advisable, a change will be made to the Provincial Statutes at that time. (P)

c. To ensure the implementation of Chapter/Council decisions, and to utilize existing structures, the Chapter directs that the OPC/EPC extends greater authority to the various Secretariats of the Province as envisaged by Decree 50 in the Statutes, Decrees and Electoral Law for the Redemptorists of the Cebu Province. For this to be effective, greater communication between the Secretariats and the communities, as well as greater communication between the Secretariats and the Councils, is essential. (R)


This Chapter, in accordance with a, 2, 602 of the Directory of Chapters, convokes the 6th Chapter of the Province of Cebu in the form of an Assembly.


The Chapter Delegates Approval of the Acta to the EPC.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ministering to a friend with a death sentence from his doctor

Yesterday, I accompanied my Muslim friend, Nor, to the house of Yoks Briones. I have known Yoks since 2003 when he acted as guide when we climbed Mt. Apo. He has also joined the annual bike for peace which I organize annually during the Mindanao Week of Peace. Last March 24, he accompanied me as far as Lomondao - 50 km from Davao City on the first day of my Bike-Tour around the Philippines. I was surprised when Nor told me a few days ago that Yoks had leukemia and that his doctor has told him that he only has six months to live. So when Nor told me that she was going to visit Yoks, I told her that I will come with her.

When I saw Yoks yesterday, he was lying in bed and looked very weak. He has lost a lot of weight and he couldn't speak because of a throat infection. His wife, Divina, told me that they decided not to have chemotheraphy since the doctor told them that he has reached the terminal stage. The doctor even told them not to bother considering alternative healing since nothing will come out it. In short, the doctor has passed the death sentence.

It was no wonder that Yoks feels frightened, hopeless and helpless. Those around him, including his wife, and his friends expect him to die soon. They even wonder if he will be able to celebrate his birthday in December. His friends consoled him by saying that he is fortunate since at least he knows when he is going to die and he can prepare himself.

I prayed over Yoks and taught him to meditate. I told him not to believe in the doctor's death sentence. Nobody has right to declare when we are going to die. We are all going to die but we don't know when. And we should never look at ourselves as dying. We are either alive or dead. We should not think of dying, but of living - a day at a time. I also told him not to be afraid of death. It is not the end of human existence but a transition to another mode of existence -with God. But he should not easily give up living and wait for death to come.

I will be visiting Yoks again two weeks from now after our general assembly in Cebu. I still don't know if by December we will be celebrating his birthday or his funeral. But I will try my best to minister to him and assist in his healing process. We cannot give up hope.

I still remember Alice who came to me more than year ago. She had cancer and her doctor had told her that she only had three months to live. She refused to have surgery since she had reached the terminal stage and the doctor told her that it would be useless. She had given up hope and everyone around her expected that she was going to die. I taught Alice to meditate and to visualize herself living up to 80 years old and to see her granchildren grow up. She forgave her mother whom she hated for abandoning her when she ways young. She achieved inner healing. And she decided to have surgery. After more than a year, Alice is alive and healthy. The cancer is gone. The lesson: do not believe in the doctor's death sentence.

Cancer is a mysterious ailment. Modern medicine relies too much on drugs and technology - chemotheraphy, surgery, radiotherapy. But these have proven to be very expensive and ineffective. This has led American oncologists such as Simonton and Siegel to consider a more holistic approach that mobilize the power of the mind and of belief. That is why meditation, visualization, prayer and other easter modalities (such as reiki and pranic healing) can be helpful in this. This is where the priests, shamans and psycho-therapists can help.

Doctors should be careful in dealing with a cancer patient. Cancer is not necesarrily a death sentence. They should never tell a patient that there is no hope and that he should prepare for death. It will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In his book, Peace, Love and Healing, Dr. Siegel tells this story:
"The aunt was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and given three months to live. In desperation she went to Mexico for laetrile, returned home and was doing beautifully a year later, having gone back to work and started driving a car again. She felt great. Then one day she ran into her original doctor, who expressed shock and surprise that she was still alive. When she told him what she had done, he indignantly proclaimed laetrile quackery and berated her for wasting her time and money and said he could show her proof. She died that night."

Besides medicine, what a cancer patient needs is faith, hope and love. The most cruel thing a doctor can do is to make the patient feel hopeless and helpless and to dismiss alternative and spiritual healing as quackery.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Remembering Fr. Rudy Romano - Desaparecido, presumed dead

Today we mark the 23rd anniversary of the disappearance of Fr. Rudy Romano. He was a Redemptorist assigned in Cebu who was actively involved in struggle against the Marcos dictatorial regime. He courageously spoke out against the abuses of under martial law. On July 11, 185 he was abducted by military intelligence agents and since then has not been found. Fr. Rudy was one of the hundreds of desaparecidos -victims of the the dictatorial rule. After Marcos was deposed by people power, we heard from sources within the military that he died during interrogation. Until now we still don't know where they buried him.
I have known Fr. Rudy since 1972 when he was assigned in Iligan. I accompanied him in the parish mission in Balingoan during my summer vacation in May 1972, a few months before the declaration of martial law. I was impressed by his missionary zeal as we moved from barrio to barrio conducting mission evangelization seminars among the people.
As we remember Fr. Rudy, I am appalled that cases of forced disappearances and political killings are still happening under this supposedly democratic government. Many continue to be missing - among them Jonas Burgos. Marcos the dictator is gone - but his legacy is lives on under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Some of those involved in the abduction and death of Fr. Rudy Romano are probably still around and occupying high positions in the military, hiding their dirty secrets and continuing their dirty war.
Never again! This was our cry after the fall of the dictator. And now we have more of the same. When, O Lord, can we be truly freed from evil? When can we be freed from corruption and abuses of those in power?
I hope that someday, the truth will come out and those responsible for the abduction and death of Fr. Rudy and thousands of desaparecidos under the Marcos regime and the Arroyo administration will be brought to justice.
(For Fr. Rudy Romano)

From this dark and lonely cell
I cry out to you
Lord, hear my groaning.

I don't know where I am.
I don't know whether it's night or day.
I don't know what will happen next.

My throat is sore, I cannot scream anymore.
My fingers are swollen, I cannot clench my fist.
My ribs are broken, I cannot stand erect.

I hate the sight of water
I can no longer bear a single drop.
I loathe those cigarettes
that penetrate my skin.
I dread the sound of footsteps
and the opening of the door.
I prefer this darkness
than face the glaring light.
I can just imagine
what they are going to do next.

They said only I can end my suffering
if I cooperate with them
and sign the confession they manufactured
and bear false witness against myself
and those who oppose this diabolical regime.

How much longer, O Lord, can I hold on?
How much longer can I maintain my sanity?
How long will they keep me in this limbo?

Will I ever see again the sun?
Will I ever see again the faces
of those I love and serve?
Or will they make me disappear forever?

Lord, deliver us from these kidnappers and murderers
who are trying to maintain peace and order.
Deliver us from these mercenaries
whose obsession is to defend national security‑‑
the security of this bloodthirsty
and power‑hungry 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 that you are neither blind nor deaf.
your mercy and compassion endures forever.
You have always been a subversive God:
you scatter the proud,
you depose the mighty,
you empty the rich,
you lift up the lowly,
you free the oppressed,
you fill the hungry.

I cry out now to you:
subvert this evil kingdom and empire!
Let your spirit fill the hearts
of those who are struggling to build your kingdom
of justice, peace and freedom.

From this dark and lonely cell
I cry out to you, Lord hear my prayer.

Into your hands, O Lord
I commend my broken body
and my wavering spirit.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Meeting with the CBCP-BEC board

I came back from Manila last night. I was supposed to fly black to Davao immediately after giving the retreat to the clergy of Infanta but I had to stay on for two more days since I was asked to attend the meeting with the bishops who comprise the board of the CBCP-BEC national office - this is the office that assists the dioceses in the promotion and formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Philippines.

The meeting was held last Friday afternoon at the Pius XII center where the CBCP will be holding their general assembly the next few days. The meeting was attended by Archbishop Orlando Quevedo (chairman), Archbishop Romulo Valles, Bishop Socrates Villegas, Msgr. Elmer Abacahin (executive secretary), Dr. Estela Padilla and yours truly. Estela and I are the consultants. (There are two other consultants who could not attend: Msgr. Manny Gabriel who is in France and Msgr. Joemari Delgado who could not come due to the flood in his place.)

We went through the report that will be presented to the CBCP general assembly, the financial report and the plans for the forthcoming BEC national assembly in November. We finalized the date and place: November 10-14 in Cagayan de Oro. There will be four delegates from each diocese: the bishop, the diocesan BEC program/commission coordinator, a lay pastoral worker, and a BEC leader. The theme of the assembly is: "BEC and Rural Development."

The executive secretary and the consultants will meet in Davao City at the end of this month to go through the recommendations of the National Rural Congress which will be held in Manila tomorrow and the following day. We will also finalize the plans for the assembly.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Retreat with the Priests of the Prelature of Infanta

I came down from Baguio this morning after facilitating the retreat of the clergy of the prelature of Infanta. There were 30 priests who attended the retreat including Bishop Rolando Tirona. The priests came from the remote parishes of northern Quezon province and the nearby group of islands.

The theme of the retreat was: "Priestly Ministry & Spirituality vis-a-vis the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs)."

There were four sessions and each session followed the following process:
a. a presentation/talk by the retreat facilitator
b. individual meditation/reflection
c. group sharing (by vicariates for 3 sessions, in plenum for 4th session)

The following are the topics of the presentations and the basis for reflection & sharing:
1. Pastoral Ministry (ministry of pastoral leadership and communion)
2. The prophetic ministry
3. The liturgical/sacramental ministry
4. The social action ministry

The framework for the presentations and reflection is grounded on the understanding of ministry broadened by the Second Vatican Council and further explicated by the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II). I also made use of John Paul II's encyclical "Pastores Dabo Vobis."

The following were the main points of my presentation:

1. Ministry of Pastoral Leadership and Communion
Following Christ the Good Shepherd, the priest is called to be the shepherd or the servant-leader of the Christian community.
This means forming and leading the Christian community (in the parish and in the local communities/Basic Ecclesial Communities -BECs).
The priest is also called to promote communion (sense of unity and sharing) among the laity and with them. This means becoming close to the flock.
Pastoral leadership is to be exercised in the spirit of service, and not in terms of power, privilege or prestige. A participative and collaborative style of leadership is to be adopted, rather than the authoritarian or laissez-faire style.
This ministry is grounded on a spirituality of pastoral charity and communion.

2. Prophetic Ministry
The priest shares in Christ's prophetic office. The ordained ministry is a ministry of the Word - of proclaiming the Word and and witnessing to the Word.
This involves the task of preaching, evangelizing, and catechesis.
This involves prophetic denunciation - of becoming a conscience in society and denouncing the sin and evil (including injustice, oppression, the culture of death & violence, corruption, the destruction of the environment, etc). This also means calling people to repentance and conversion.
This also involves prophetic annunciation - announcing the Good News of the Kingdom, of salvation and liberation, of justice and peace, and of life.
The prophetic ministry of the ordained forms the Christian community/BECs into a prophetic community - the community that listens to the Word, proclaims the Word and lives the Word, that acts as conscience of society and denounces sin and evil.
The prophetic ministry is rooted in a spirituality nourished by the Word.
In exercising his prophetic ministry, the priest must be ready to risk his life.

3. Liturgical/Sacramental Ministry
The priest exercises leadership in the liturgical/sacramental celebration of the Christian community.
He enables the laity to actualize their common priesthood by promoting full and active participation in the liturgical celebration.
He forms the parish and the BECs into truly priestly/worshipping community.
The community that celebrates what it lives and lives what it celebrates - a life of communion with God and with one another, of unity and sharing, of self-sacrifice
The liturgical/sacramental ministry requires a spirituality nourished by the Eucharist and deepened by prayer and contemplation.

4. Social Action Ministry
The priest ministers to people who are poor, hungry, oppressed, victimized and dehumanized. He cannot be blind to their suffering. Social action is therefore a constitutive dimension of the priestly ministry. This is exercised in the context of the community. Thus, the priest has to form the Christian community/BECs into ministering/servant communities that address the problems that they face (poverty, hunger, injustice, violence, corruption, environmental destruction, violation of human rights) and work for social transformation that will bring about justice, peace and development.
In carrying out this ministry, the priest must avoid being subservient to political ideologies and parties. He must avoid involvement in partisan politics.
This ministry requires a spirituality rooted in compassion. It also requires a simple lifestyle, immersion in the life of the poor, solidarity with the poor, and forming the Church into truly the Church of the Poor.

PCP II considers the BECs as the realization of the vision of a renewed Church. It is a new way of being Church that requires a new way of being priest. This can be done by living out the four dimensions of the ordained ministry.

(These presentations were followed by individual reflection/meditation and then group sharing.)

While listening to the sharing of the priests, I was impressed by how they have tried to live out these four dimensions of ministry.

They have tried to be good shepherds of their flock, they have formed their parishes into networks of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). Some still feel the need to revitalize their BECs.
Over the years, especially under the leadership of Bishop Labayen and continued by Bishop Tirona, the priests have been prophetic. They have tried to live out what it means to be a Church of the Poor.
Some of the priests have initiated income generating projects and livelihood programs in the BECs to address the problem of poverty. They have introduced organic farming.
They have also helped establish the zones of peace in Infanta and General Nakar. Recently, Fr. Osee initiated the setting up of the peace zone in his parish in Real.
The bishop and the priests have been leading the efforts to defend the environment, mobilizing the communities to struggle against logging in the province that has caused a lot of devastation. (Four years ago, Fr. Chast Colendres died while trying to save parishioners from flash floods).
The Task Force Sierra Madre, headed by Fr. Pete Montellana, is coordinating the anti-logging campaign. It has exposed the corruption in DENR that has allowed illegal logging to continue. Several priests have been actively involved in the anti-logging campaign in their parishes such as Frs. Boyet, Joefran, Olet, Israel, Eric, Nilvon, and Osee. One of them, Fr. Boyet Valenzuela of Dinalungan, has received death threats after leading a group composed mostly of BEC leaders in investigating logging activities. Bishop Tirona has already denounced the ongoing logging in Northern Quezon inspite of the total log ban declaration by former DENR secretary Angelo Reyes.

The retreat was followed by a whole day meeting where the clergy of Infanta came up with a unified stand against logging. They drafted a letter to DENR secretary Lito Atienza and also a statement.

I am more impressed by the clergy of Infanta who live simply among the poor and who risk their lives for their flock, to address the problems of poverty, violence and the destruction of the environment, rather than those who make millions of dollars beating the shit out of their opponents in the ring. If you are looking for real heroes, they are in Infanta, not in the boxing arena of Nevada.

by the way.
(I have just read the comments in my blog. Some irate fans of Manny Pacquiao are angry with me because of my comments about boxing as a brutal sport, for not being thrilled about his victory and for refusing to hail him as a hero. I have received a lot of insulting remarks. I am amused by their reaction - they reveal what kind of person they are. I will not apologize to anyone for expressing my opinion nor will I tolerate any insult or abusive language in this blog. So I am moderating the comments section. Speaking of heroes, we are the only country who consider our boxing champions as heroes. Muhammad Ali, the black heavyweight champion, was never considered a hero in the US, rather it was Martin Luther King, the civil rights leader. Heroes are not just object of admiration, they are role models. I wouldn't want our little boys to grow up thinking they can become heroes by using their fists and beating up other boys.)