Monday, November 30, 2009

Bike for Peace - Biking for Justice for the Victims of the Ampatuan, Maguindanao Massacre

Message and send-off by Archbishop Fernando Capalla

We are celebrating this week the annual Mindanao Week of Peace - an initiative of the Bishops-Ulama Conference. Here in Davao one of the regular activities is the Bike for Peace which I have been organizing every year since 2001.
This morning over 500 bikers turned up at the Rizal Park to participate in the 9th Bike for Peace. There were all kinds of bikes - mountain bikes, road bikes, bmx. Over 30 biking clubs were represented. The biking police accompanied us, and so also did the bikers of the Philippine Army Eastern Mindanao Command. There were many women and children who also participated. As usual, Archbishop Fernando Capalla was on hand to give a short talk to the bikers and to send us off with a blessing and a prayer.
Besides biking for peace around the 30 km loop within the city, we also demanded justice for the victims of the massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
We started at 8:00 in the morning and finished by 10:30. The bike for peace was sponsored by the Davao Redemptorist Community and co-sponsored by the Bread for the World and Mindanao partners.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Maguindanao Massacre - Another Manifestation of the Culture of Death

Since last Monday, the gruesome account of the massacre in Maguindanao has been reported in all the local and national TV stations, newspapers and radio. So far, 56 bodies have been recovered - women (two them pregnant), lawyers and over 20 journalists. Some of the women were reportedly raped. The women were on their way to the office of the COMELEC to file the certificate of candidacy of vice-Mayor Esmale Mangudadatu. The journalists were there to cover the event. Along the way they were reportedly stopped by Mayor Andal Ampatuan who had earlier warned Mangudadatu not to run for governor. Witnesses point to the Ampatuans and their private army as responsible for this heinous crime.
I am filled with revulsion and sadness that this could happen in our country. This is once again a manifestation of the culture of death which permeates our political culture. The Ampatuans have lorded it over the province of Maguindanao for so many years. They usually ran unopposed during elections and have been accused of being responsible of the election anomalies that benefited President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They have continued to reign as political warlords with the blessing of the president.
I pray and hope that justice may be served and those responsible for this mass murder be held accountable.
Below is the statement of the Redemptorists:
(Maguindanao Massacre)

With a deep sense of shock and sadness over the carnage in Maguindanao, we, the Redemptorist Missionaries, join the Philippines and the whole world in condemning the barbaric massacre of civilians and journalists in Maguindanao.
The continued existence of political dynasties is one of the root causes of this dastardly crime. Over and above the call for swift and impartial justice, WE ALSO CALL FOR THE DISMANTLING OF ALL POLITICAL DYNASTIES IN MAGUINDANAO AND IN THE WHOLE PHILIPINES. The 1987 Philippine Constitution called for this drastic move. However, the very political dynasties that control Congress have not passed any enabling law, after 22 long years.
Furthermore, we dare President Arroyo, if it is within her Constitutional Emergency Powers in Maguindanao - not to wait for any enabling law - but, to dismantle IMMEDIATELY all the political, military and economic powers of all FAMILY dynasties involved in this heinous crime in Maguindanao.
On this the first Sunday of Advent, we wait, not just for the birth of our Savior. We are in ACTIVE EXPECTATION of justice, peace and love, not just in Maguindanao, but also in the whole country and the whole world.
May we be empowered by these challenging words of wisdom from an Eastern sage:
“If you find that the garden which you have so carefully cultivated has produced only poisonous weeds, you have to tear them out by the roots; you have to pull down the walls that have sheltered them.”
Together with all the peace loving Filipino people, we call on our government leaders to act swiftly and bring all the perpetrators of this heinous crime behind bars... JUSTICE FOR ALL THE VICTIMS OF MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE AND NO TO VIOLENCE AND IMPUNITY!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Preparing for the Trans-Mindanao Solo Ultra Run

Yesterday, I came back from Iligan after giving a three-day seminar on Basic Ecclesial Communities to the Lay Missioners -in-training of the Alphonsian Lay Formation Institute (ALFI). I rode the motorbike so that I can follow the route, measure the distance and choose the stops for my Trans-Mindanao solo ultra-run (Iligan-Davao). I have set the date for the run this March 2010. I can move it to October or November if I feel that I'm not yet ready. So here's the tentative itinerary and date:

March 20 (Sun) - Iligan-Libertad (46 km)
March 21 (Mond) -Libertad-Cagayan (43 km)
March 22 (Tues) - Cagayan-Manolo Fortich (38 km)
March 23 (Wed) - Manolo Fortich - Malaybalay (57 km)
March 24 (Thu) - Malaybalay-Maramag (52 km)
March 25 (Fri) - Maramag-Buda (62 km)
March 26 (Sat) - Buda-Lomondao (39 km)
March 27 (Sun) - Lomondao-Davao (52 km)
total distance: Redemptorist Iligan to Redemptorist Davao = 389 km.

I will be sleeping in parish rectories (convento).

I am calling this the Trans-Mindanao Run because I will run across Mindanao - from Northern Mindanao (Iligan) to Southern Mindanao (Davao) across the mountains of Bukidnon - the heartland of Mindanao.

I will be doing this alone - no competition, no running partner, no support vehicle. Everything I need I will carry on my back-pack - water, chocolates, clothes, religious habit, extra running apparel, cell phone, digital camera, umpc (with mobile broadband), headlight.

Why am I doing this? Will I be able to do this?

Why would I be doing this? There are many reasons. The most obvious is because it is fun. I enjoy doing this - and it satisfies my longing for adventure. This is the same reason why I biked around Mindanao and around the Philippines, climbed Mt. Apo seven times and walked from Rome to Assisi 15 years ago. I wouldn't be doing these things if I did not enjoy doing them. But this is not only the reason.

It is also a challenge. No one has ran this route before and I would like to be the first to do it. I am also doing this for my environmental and peace advocacy: "Lakbo Para sa Kalikasan at Kapayapaan."

There is also another reason. My father, Antonio, told me that in 1941, after the USAFFE forces were ordered to surrender to the Japanese invasion forces, he refused to follow orders and hiked all the way from Davao to Iligan to join the guerilla forces. I was always fascinated by his account of this walk. I would like to do it in his honor, but instead of just walking, I would like to run-walk it.

Will I be able to do it? It remains to be seen, there is one one way to find out - just do it. My recent marathon finish has indicated that I am capable of running for over six hours (with walking breaks). Can I do the marathon distance and beyond for 8 successive days? I am not sure, but I would like to prove to myself that at my age (55) I can do this. When I was 40 years old I walked alone for one week from Rome to Assisi averaging 30 km/day with a heavy backpack. I brought a tent and a sleeping bag and slept in the open at night. It was a very memorable journey. I believe I can run/walk about 50 km/day with a light back-pack this time.

I still have four months of training and preparation. This means running 3 times a week (2 medium runs between 1.5-2 hrs, 1 long runabout of 4-6 hrs). I will also be doing strength training (twice a week) and biking (twice a week). By March I will see if I will be ready, otherwise I will do it in October or November at the end of my sabbatical.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Back to School: the Last Semester before my Sabbatical

After finishing the marathon I came back to Davao this Tuesday, in time for the start of the second semester. I am teaching 3 courses this semester: Ministry & Orders, Pastoral Leadership and Management, and Theological Synthesis.

There are fourteen students attending the course on Ministry and Orders and seventeen for the Pastoral Leadership and Management course. My students are from the Philippines, Thailand, Africa, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

After this semester at the end of March, I will be starting my sabbatical (part II). I did a sabbatical in 2005 but I could only do it for the summer break and one semester, rather than the whole year because no one could teach my courses in the second semester. I spent two months in Israel and five months in my hermitage in Busay. So this time I asked if I could do part II. I will be in Italy from midMay and mid July and in my hermitage in Busay from mid July to end of October.

I have a very light load this semester - 2 major courses. So I can have more time to give talks and seminars and to do a lot of running and biking.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Finishing the Philippine International Marathon (run for Pasig River)

At 4:30 this morning, I finally stood at the starting line of the Philippine International Marathon at the Luneta Park. There were hundreds of runners around me, including the Kenyans who came to win. My only aim was to finish the marathon, no matter how long it would take. I almost did not make it to the starting line. A day after getting my race packet, I had a sore throat which developed into a cold. So for four days, I tried recover from the cold and bring my fever down. Yesterday, I felt better although I still had a runny nose.
So even without fully recovering from my cold, I ran the marathon. My body felt heavy and sluggish. I ran at an easy, slow pace - mixed with walking (4 minutes run-1 minute walk). The last 8 kilometers was mostly walking with some slow running. All the time, I felt at peace within. I didn't feel any anxiety or tension - even if I was left behind and I knew I was not going to make the cut-off time of 5 hours. I was enjoying the whole experience. With 5 more kilometers to go, I was told by the race marshall to get on the sag vehicle since I was way beyond the cut-off time and they were closing the finish line. The other runners were already aboard the truck, but I insisted in continuing. They told me to run on the side walk along the boulevard. There were still a few runners behind me, two of them were old men in their 70s and a young man. At 10:45 am, over six hours after starting, I finally reached Quirino grandstand. There were only a few people left, the runners, race officials and crowds have gone home. There was no more finish line, no official clock/timer indicating my finish time. I didn't receive any finisher's certificate, nor my name & time recorded as official finisher. Yet I felt I was a winner. I dared to enter the race and finish it. I didn't quit and ride the sag vehicle. I looked at the runners who arrived a few minutes after me and they had the same expression in their faces - satisfaction and pride. We didn't need a finisher's certificate or medal. In the marathon, the first and the last are winners in their own way. The losers are those who quit.
Today, I ran the slowest marathon in my life - over six hours. I could run this distance in three and a half hours when I was younger. Yet I feel more pride and satisfaction crossing an empty finish line than receiving a finisher's medal (for top 200 runners) from President Marcos in Malacanang 27 years ago. Finishing the marathon today is a symbol of my own life. It is about being faithful to my vows and commitment as a priest, enduring all the hardships and difficulties, enjoying the whole experience, achieving peace within and never giving up.
It's been 14 years since I last ran the marathon in Rome. I decided to quit running after that due to a knee injury. I kept attempting to make a comeback but failed due to the recurring injury. Today, I have successfully made a comeback. So that make's me a winner.
I remember the marathoners I used to run with in the 1980s. They could run faster than me. Where are they now? Most of them have stopped running and have grown fat. It happened to me also several years ago. But now as I turn 55, I am running marathons again. That makes me a winner. It is not how fast I can run that matters. It is how long - in terms of years. If I can run in my old age - even up to 85, I will indeed be a winner.
So what's next? I will definitely run a marathon every year. Next time, it will be less than six hours. Today, my weight was 157 lbs that's why I felt sluggish. If I can lose another 25 lbs and train more I think I can still go below 4 hours or even break my personal best of 3:33. But that's not my priority. I just want to enjoy running. My dream is still to run solo from Iligan to Davao - next year or the following year.
Crossing an empty finish line. This is symbolic. We never cross the finish line as long we are still alive. There is no finish line in this life. Life is an ongoing journey - a continuous marathon. We have to keep on running until we reach the "heavenly" finish line. Years from now, hopefully in my old age, after running many marathons and after serving God and the people as a priest faithfully, as I am about to breath my last, I will echo the words of St. Paul: "As for me, the hour has come for me to be sacrificed; the time is here for me to leave this life. I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim 4:5-7)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Marathon Comeback

PAL Manila Marathon 1982

I arrived here in Manila yesterday afternoon and after depositing my backpack in one of the guestroom in Redemptorist Baclaran I immediately proceeded to the Mall of Asia to get my race packet at IZOD containing my bib number, singlet and final instruction. It is still 5 days more to go before the Philippine International Marathon for the Pasig River but I am already very excited.

Finally, I am making my marathon comeback! My last marathon was in 1995 in Rome just a month after finishing my doctorate at the Gregorian University and before coming home to the Philippines.

I still remember my first marathon in 1980. I had taken up running in 1979 after giving up smoking (I smoked 2 packs day for 8 years) and losing 25 lbs. So a year later I joined my first Milo Marathon (20 km in 2:04) and then ran my first full marathon in Davao in December 1980. There were only 150 of us and I finished 33rd with a time of 4:30. I was addicted to running and made a promise to run one marathon each year until my old age.

In January 1982, I ran my second marathon - the Manila International Marathon. There were over 1,500 participants and I placed 194th in 3:36:28. The race director (Dorotheo) told us that the first 200 runners will receive their medal from President Marcos during the dinner in Malacanang held in their honor. That's how I got to meet the dictator face to face (he probably never guessed that I was one of the political prisoners who was imprisoned for 7 months after he declared martial law).

So from 1982 to 1989, I went to Manila to run the marathon to fulfill the promise I made to myself. I became known as the marathon priest. I posted my best time in 1984 (3:33:13). After that I kept on attempting to break 3 hours and I usually reached the half-way mark in less than 1:30 but would slow down especially after 30 km. Still I was usually able to finish in under 4 hours. I thought I would finally break 3 hours during the California Marathon in 1991 but again I hit the dreaded "runner's wall."

The Rome Marathon was the worst marathon I ever ran - 5 hrs 12 min. I was running well for the first 30 km and then suddenly I felt pain on my right knee. I did not give up, I just walked slowly the last 12 km. Since then, I have not ran a marathon. I attempted several times to do a comeback but my knee injury kept recurring. So I decided to take up mountain biking instead and became known as the biking priest. But I missed the marathon and I often reminded myself of my vow to run a marathon every year until I grow old.

Last year in May 2008, after completing my over 5,000 km solo bike-tour around the Philippines, I decided to once again try a marathon comeback. As I slowly trained, using the Galloway method (run-walk) and Chi-running, I rediscovered the joy of running. 30 years after taking up running, I am still running - although I stopped running marathons for 14 years. This is a new beginning. This time, I won't race against the clock - I will just aim to finish. This is what matters most. I already lost 20 lbs, and I hope to lose another 20 lbs to reach my ideal running weight. A faster marathon will have to wait. I still have many more years of running - 30 more years, God willing.

What's do I want to do next? A solo, unsupported ultra-run from Iligan to Davao (390 km in 8 days), perhaps this coming March 2010. What excites me most is not the race with thousands of runners, but running alone up in the mountains , along trails and highways for days or weeks, with just a backpack. Some day I will journey across the Philippines not on a bike but by running alone, without any support vehicle. . And then, of course, the triathlon. These are my fantasies, or dreams waiting to be realized

The marathon priest is back! The ultra-marathon and triathlon priest is coming soon.