Today the whole Redemptorist community in Davao fasted. This means no lunch was served. This is part of our communal penance every Friday during the season of lent. We are also setting aside the amount we save on food for the poor. I am glad that we are doing this as a community.
As far me, I do not only skip lunch but I fast for 24 hours. I do this not just during lent but throughout the whole year every Friday. But during the season of lent, I fast twice a week. I also eat one full meal a day the rest of the week. It may sound strange but I do not feel any hunger. I even jogged for 40 minutes this afternoon on an empty stomach.
Fasting has various significance in my life. The first time I fasted was when I was an 18-year old political prisoner during the early years of martial law. Seven days before Christmas (1973), I joined 80 other political prisoners who were on hunger strike to demand bette a stop to the torture and maltreatment of prisoners. We ended our fast on Christmas eve after our demands were granted.
The next time I took up fasting was after the death of my close friend and fellow seminarian, Magno. I was in the third year of theology in Davao (1979). I started to fast every Friday as part of my grieving process and also as an ascetical practice. I continued to do this after ordination. Every time I stayed for a month in my hermitage up in the mountain of Busay every year, I would fast for a week or more. Fasting was part of the contemplative and ascetical dimension of my life.
In 1987, I fasted for nine days, accompanied by two other Redemptorist priests to seek for truth and justice for Fr. Rudy Romano who was abducted by suspected military intelligence and who had disappeared.
When I was sent for higher studies, I stopped fasting regularly. It was only recently that I once again took it up as a regular practice. During the Mindanao Week of Peace I joined other Christian and Muslim Religious leader for the Fast for Peace. I also fasted in solidarity with the Muslims during the month of Ramadan. After the Ramadan, I decided to continue doing it every Friday.
Nowadays, I fast to help me meditate and pray (it enhances contemplation). I also fast in solidarity with those who are poor and hungry. I fast for peace and to promote the value of life.
Beside the spiritual, ascetical and political dimensions, intermittent fasting also has physiological effects. It can cleanse the body of toxins, burn excess fat and bring down blood pressure level. In other words, it is good for the health for a long as it does not lead to starvation. It can even lengthen one's life span.