Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bike for Peace 2008

Over 500 bikers turned up at Rizal Park this morning for the Bike for Peace. Most of the bikers were from Davao City but there were some who came from as far as GenSan. There were bikers in mountain bikes, road bikes and BMX. The some Kabayan motorbike riders were also around to help as marshalls. There was a Muslim Imam who came to join and well as another priest beside me. There were also some female bikers, some children and and biker with his monkey. By 8:15 am, after I gave the final instruction and led the prayer, we were on our way around the city and we biked for 30 km led by motorcycle cops. It was a slow pace - an average of 15 km per hour. It was really a procession on wheels, with me leading the bikers and setting the pace. There was no overtaking and we made sure that nobody was left behind. Signs were place on our jerseys or bikes which read: "No to war, peace now." "Stop the War, Resume Peace negotiations" and "Kalinaw sa Mindanao." We came back at Rizal Park by 10:45 am. We gave out snacks and certificate to the participants.
This is the 7th Bike for Peace which I organized and which is sponsored by the Redemptorist Community and the Mother of Perpetual Help Parish. Our parish staff, youth core group and seminarians helped as support group. The Bike for Peace has become an annual event, which is part of the activities of the Mindanao Week of Peace.
As the peace talks between the Government and the MILF and the Government and the NDF have broken down and the war continues in Mindanao, the Bike for Peace is one of the activities that highlight the need for peace in Mindanao and in the whole country.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mindanao Week of Peace - Walk for Peace & Opening Rites

The Mindanao Week of Peace (MWOP) started today with a peace walk which started at 3:30 pm at the Freedom Park and ended at the Rizal Park. Over two thousand people attended - Muslims and Christians. I joined the Imam, Pastors and Priests at the stage for the opening rites. The MWOP is an annual event initiated by the Bishops-Ulama Conference to enable the people of Mindanao to celebrate and express their aspirations for peace.
The theme for this year's MWOP is: Integrity of Mind and Heart, a Way to Reconciliation and Peace
There are several activities lined up for this week:
Mindanao Peace and Development Communicators Forum (Nov. 27-28)
Youth Peace Camp (Nov. 28-30)
Students' Forum "Mindanao History" and "Workshop for Peace" (Nov. 29)
Culture of Peace for Children: Empoweing Children as Peacebuilders (Nov. 29-30)
Bike for Peace (Nov. 30)
Church-Mosque Visitation: Priests, Pastors, Imams (Dec. 1)
Closing Day : Fasting & Prayer for Peace (Dec. 3, 8 am - 5 pm)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Praying over a Friend with Cancer

An elderly couple (Berting and Lydia) and their daughter Alidia came over for lunch today. I used to stay in their house in a barrio in Arakan Valley when we had our mission there in 1986. Their daughter Alidia, who is now a guidance counsellor in Ateneo de Davao High School, called a few days ago asking if they could visit me, so I invited to come for lunch. After lunch, we went to the prayer room and we talked. Lydia told me that she has cancer in the lungs and the doctor has given her six months to live. After praying over her, I taught her a healing meditation method which she could do three times a day. I also taught her husband, Berting how to pray over her. We will be seeing each other once a week.

Lydia is already 65 years old. She still wants to live but she said that she is ready to die. I advised her to focus her thoughts not on dying but on living each day to the full. What is important at this stage is to achieve inner healing. Of course, I am still praying and hoping for a miraculous healing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Silsilah Forum Davao Gathering

Forty Christians and Muslims belonging to the Silsilah Forum Davao gathered from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at the Holy Cross of Davao College. The theme of the gathering: "Move on Pilgrims of Dialogue and Peace."
The objectives of the gathering:
1. Gathering of alumni and friends of Silsilah, sharing of experiences and praying together.
2. Levelling-off: As pilgrims of dialogue and peace
3. Planning and recommendation
Aminda Sano, the president of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, based in Zamboanga was present and shared her thoughts of the theme after the group sharing. There was also a Muslim couple for Cagayan (Natz and Amina) who shared their experiences in helping organize the Silsilah Forum in Cagayan de Oro.
The forum was organized and facilitated by Nor Asiah Adilao (Muslim coordinator) and Fr. Larry Sabud (Christian coordinator).
There were five Redemptorist seminarians who came with me for this gathering.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Supporting the farmers in their struggle against aerial spraying

Yesterday, the last day of the BEC national congress, we listened to 3 leaders of the Mamayan Ayaw ng Aerial Spraying (MAAS) explain about their concerns. The participants decided to support them and approved this statement:

Statement of Support for the Mamamayan Ayaw ng Aerial Spraying (MAAS)
from the Participants of the 2nd CBCP-BEC National Congress

We, 325 participants of the 2nd Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Basic Ecclesial Communities (CBCP-BEC) national congress coming from 68 dioceses all over the Philippines express our support for the members of Mamamayan Ayaw ng Aerial Spraying (MAAS) who are presently encamped in front of the Court of Appeals in Cagayan de Oro.

The members of MAAS, most of whom are farmers living near the banana plantations in Calinan, Davao City, have been affected by the aerial spraying. On account of this, the local government of the City of Davao has come out with an ordinance banning aerial spraying in the city. The Regional Trial Court in Davao has upheld the legality of the ordinance.

We, therefore, express our solidarity with the MAAS and ask the Court of Appeals to expeditiously resolve the case in consideration of the health of people and safety of the environment. The preservation of the environment, life and health of the people take precedence over profits. This ruling will benefit not only the people of Davao City but also the various cities and provinces that have also passed a similar ordinance.

The Participants of the 2nd CBCP-BEC National Congress
November 13, 2008
Cagayan de Oro City

This morning, before going back to Davao, I dropped by at the camp site to greet and meet the MAAS group.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The 2nd CBCP-BEC National Congress

I am here in Chali's Beach Resort and Convention Center helping facilitate the 2nd CBCP-BEC national congress which started yesterday afternoon and which will end 2 days from now. There are over 300 delegates coming from over 80 dioceses all over the Philippines, among them 19 bishops.
The theme of the gathering is: "Basic Ecclesial Communities and Rural Development. "
The following are the objectives:

1.To listen to actual stories/experiences of BECs on rural development
2.To evolve what rural development entails from the point of view / stories / experiences of base communities & sectors
3.To formulate BECs’ own agenda for rural development
4.To integrate rural development into the pastoral vision of the local church
5.To develop a system of networking and collaboration in the area of rural development (among BECs and with NGOs, POs, LGUs. etc)
The whole day today, which I facilitated, was spent in sharing of stories and experiences of BECs engaged in Rural Development. It was very moving to hear stories of BECs involved in adressing the problems of poverty, corruption, environmental destruction, etc. There were stories of BECs initiating livelihood projects, microfinance, cooperatives, community-based health projects, peace advocacy, anti-mining campaign, good governance, etc.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Remembering a friend on her birthday

Yesterday was my friend's birthday but I couldn't celebrate it with her - as usual - because she is in a Poor Clare monastery, in the island of Siquijor, far from Davao. Sr. Mary Angeline (I still prefer to call her Gina) was an engineering student and reader in our church in Tacloban when I was assigned there after my ordination in 1981. We occasionally met after mass and had enjoyable conversation. Although I really wanted to become close to her I tried to maintain some distance because I was very conscious about my vow of celibacy and chastity. When I left Tacloban for my new assignment I wrote this poem:

It was only a brief encounter
yet every time I whisper your name
to the wind
and remember your elusive image
I am reminded of the emptiness within.

You remain a mystery to me
but you have awakened feelings
that have lain dormant for ages
that I feel so alive.

My only regret is:
time and fear would not allow
our minds and hearts to be one.
Perhaps it was safer that way.
No risks, no heartbreaks
and the parting was easy.
But now I go on living a celibate existence
haunted by that fleeting moment.
Years later, I was surprised to hear that she had become a contemplative nun. While I was studying in Rome, I received a card from her and two pictures: one of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the other her picture during her final profession. She wrote that she "constantly remembers me in the silence of her heart. " I wrote this poem:

All alone - as usual.
The only company I have:
framed images on fujicolor paper,
an image of the Lady who loves me
but whom I cannot see nor touch,
an image of the woman who lovingly
remembers me in the silence of her heart
but whom I cannot see nor touch.

Not even the veil can hide
the radiant beauty and kindness
that brightens this dark night.

So far, far away.
One is on the other side of eternity.
The other is on the other side of the world,
in a monastery on a distant island.

Yet they keep me company
like the moon on this dark night.
We have been writing occasionally through the years (she can only write to me during Easter and Christmas) and I have visited her monastery several times. I also met her in Tacloban in 2005 when she was taking care of her dying mother. I hope I can visit her next summer.
I thank God for the gift of friendship. I didn't expect to become close to someone whom I seldom see.
Happy Birthday Gina - oops, Sr. Mary Angeline. Unfortunately, she won't be able to read my blog. No internet connection in the monastery.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Lowering blood pressure without medication

Early this morning, after waking up I measured my blood pressure. It was 148/91. After meditation it went down to 137/86. Then I went on a three-hour long distance run to the Pugaan mountain and back. I measured my blood pressure after the run: 114/74.
So besides meditation, running can lower the blood pressure. It looks amazing. Running is a strenous activity and we usually expect the blood pressure to shoot up. Instead it goes down, in my case.
It is not really surprising since running for me is a contemplative activity - it is meditation in motion. Like sitting meditation, running can bring about an alternative state of consciousness that relaxes the mind and the body. That is why I enjoy running and I forget about the time.
I have less than four months before the marathon. My body is getting used to long distance running again. I am still slow and sluggish. What is important is that I am no longer dependent on medication to keep my blood pressure down.