Friday, April 30, 2010

Funeral of an Irish Redemptorist Missionary - Fr. Paddy Martin, CSsR

Last Monday, Fr. Paddy Martin died of pancreatic cancer. He was 71 years old and had been working as a missionary in the Philippines since 1964. The last time I met him was in October last year during the funeral of Fr. Abdon, another confrere who also died of cancer. At that time he had already be told that he had terminal cancer and was given a few months to live. What impressed me most about him was that he was at peace with himself was already ready to make his final journey.
I knew Fr. Paddy since my college days in the early 19870s when we occasionaly had lunch at the Redemptorist monastery. He told us stories of his mission experience in the mountains of Cebu. In 1982, when I was given my first assignment after ordination, we were in the same community Iligan. After overcoming problem with alcoholism he became active in the Alcoholic Anonymous, organizing AA groups wherever he was assigned. Fr. Paddy was well-loved by many people because of his interest and concern for them, especially the poor.
During the last weeks of his life, his sister Maureen (whom I met in Dundalk in 1993), came over and accompanied him until his last breathe. Last night, Cardinal Vidal and three other bishops celebrated the Eucharist (the cardinal couldn't attend his funeral since was leaving for Manila today).
We celebrated the funeral mass at 2 pm today which was presided by Redemptorist Bishop Manny Cabajar, bishop of Pagadian, and concelebrated by many priests. The church was packed by many people, many of them his friends and conferes and other religious sisters.
Fr. Paddy was buried in the Redemptorist plot at the Carreta cemetery.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Despedida: Saying Goodbye

This evening, friends of the community we call "Centennial Group" came over bringing food for my despedida - their way of sending me off as I leave for my Sabbatical. It was also a belated celebration of my 29th anniversary of my priestly ordination. We were also celebrating in advance the birthday of Fr. Tito Pascual. After the meal we had spontaneous singing and dancing. I accompanied with the guitar Fr. Senen who sang two of his favorite songs. I really enjoyed the whole evening.

I have already finished packing up. Tomorrow I leave for Cebu where I will make my final preparation before leaving for Rome in June. I will spend one month living as a hermit in the mountain of Busay, then the next two and a half months I will be journeying as a pilgrim in Rome and in the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (from the south of France and across northern Spain). I come back to the Philippines in late August and spend the last two months as hermit in Busay. So I will be away from Davao for only six months. This is actually part II of my Sabbatical. I had part I in 2005 where I spent 2 months as a pilgrim in the Holy Land and 5 months as a hermit in Busay. I couldn't take the whole year off since I had to be back in Davao to teach in the second semester, so this year I asked for the remaining months of my sabbatical.

I have been assigned here in Davao since I came back from my higher studies in 1995. This is my longest assignment in one community - 15 years. So far, my life as a priest can be divided into three periods: The first 8 years as a missionary (in Leyte and Mindanao). The next six years as a scholar (2 years in Berkeley and 4 years in Rome), and the last 15 years as a theology professor (also a peace & pro-life advocate). I am beginning to feel restless and I want to move on. There are other things I want to do as priest, besides spending most of my time inside the classroom. Well, for brief moments I have acted as parish priest (less than a year) but I want to be more involved in pastoral ministry among God's people and really be a good shepherd to them. I also want to have more time giving clergy retreats and conducting seminars on Basic Ecclesial Communities.

As I go on Sabbatical I have a strong feeling that a period of my life as a professor is ending and another period will begin. Whatever it is, this is something that I will find out in the mountain of Busay and along the Camino de Santiago during this sabbatical.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ampatuan Massacre: Davao Rally and Die-In

Yesterday, starting at 5:30 in the afternoon, I joined a protest rally and die-in to commemorate the 5th month since the Ampatuan Massacre. This was held at the centennial park and participated by various civil society groups, media people and lawyers' organizations. There were three of us who led the opening prayer - a Muslim religious leader, a Lumad leader and myself. This is the text of my opening prayer:

O God of justice, 5 months after the gruesome Ampatuan massacre we gather to remember the victims and express our indignation over the recent development.
The Secretary of Justice has hastily cleared two of the accused without even going through a trial, ignoring the recommendations of the government prosecutors. By doing so, he has made himself an instrument of injustice.
We wonder what sinister motives are behind this move. Is this because they are friends of the president? Is this part of the scheme to ensure the Ampatuans will once again manipulate the results of the elections that will favor the candidates of the president?
We are alarmed, Lord. The release of the two Ampatuan scions will restore them to their previous powerful positions and that will make it easy for them to harass or brive the witnesses and the families of the victims.
Lord, as we denounce the miscarriage of justice, we continue to pray that justice will be given to the victims of the massacre.
Grant us also the courage to continue our struggle for justice.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Family Gathering - Despedida

I got back from Iligan yesterday riding an airconditioned bus. No more running/hiking.
The other night I had dinner with my brother and sisters and their families. We were not complete. Two brothers are in the US, and a sister is in Manila. It was my despedida or send off for my sabbatical. I will be leaving soon for Italy and Spain and the next I see them will be after Christmas. I was just happy to see my siblings, nieces and nephews.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Trans-Mindanao Run/Hike (Day 9, April 4, Easter Sunday, 46k)

At 4:30 am, I was on the road for the last leg of my journey - 46 km to Iligan. I had to use my head lamp so that I can see clearly what's in front of me. I felt dizzy, weak and tired. I had to walk slowly, keeping my balance, I felt like I was being tossed in a stormy sea. I took a lot of breaks. Then I saw a roadside eatery which was open and ordered breakfast - the first time I had breakfast during this journey. So no more fasting. The heavy breakfast did not improve my condition. I still felt weak. I began to suspect that my heart could not cope anymore with the stress of long-distance trek (I was diagnosed with having atheroscerosis and myocardial ischemia 3 years ago). I was all alone and no one could help me. I was worried that I might not be able to finish the journey and will have to take the bus.
I continued walking very slowly and praying for divine help. The line of the song crossed my mind: "You'll never walk alone." Yes, for 9 days, I have ran/hiked alone across Mindanao, but I was never alone for the Lord was with me. The Lord is my strength, that's why I did not feel any muscle pain or fatigue the last few days. I kept repeating this: "every minute, every hour I am getting stronger and stronger."
As I was approaching the downhill section towards Naawan, I felt getting stronger and began to run. So I mixed running and walking, while meditating on the mysteries of the rosary. I made a longer break at noontime but I didn't feel the need to eat.
It was very hot between 1-3 pm, so I walked under my umbrella. Along the way, a vehicle stopped and a woman and her daughter came out. The woman gave me cold drinks and biscuits while the daughter took my hand and ask for my blessing. They then sped away while I wondered how they knew I am a priest.
I was so elated as I reached the boundary of Iligan. I resumed my run/walk interval and was running strong as I neared the Redemptorist church. Michael, a 40-yr old runner saw me and was amazed that I was able to do it. I met him more than a year ago and had told him that I had problem running long distance due to a recurring knee injury. I reached the Redemptorist church at 6:15 pm, and there was a brown-out. I had dinner with my Redemptorist confreres by the candle-light to celebrate Easter and the completion of my journey.
I am proud of what I have accomplished. At the age of 55 I ran/hiked alone over 390 km in 9 days carrying a backpack weighing 16 lbs, starting in Davao City across the mountains of Davao and Bukidnon and ending in Iligan City bringing the message of peace and care for the environment.
What's next? I am ready for my running/hiking pilgrimage on El Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain which is double the distance that I have just coveredm

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Trans-Mindanao Run/Hike (Day 8, April 3, 43k)

I was on the road again by 5:30 am. I didn't do any running since today is recovery/hiking day. When I reached Opol I was joined by Aping - a journalist for the GMAnews who also covered the Sumilao farmers when they walked to Manila the other year. He walked with me for 15 km, taking video shots and pictures. We also conversed a lot. At around noontime he went back to Cagayan and I was alone once again. I reached Libertad before 5 pm and was warmly welcomed by Fr. Ruthelberge Develos. I concelebrated with him in the Easter Vigil liturgy and he asked me to be the preacher. Besides preaching about Christ's resurrection, I also talked about my advocacy for peace and the environment.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Trans-Mindanao Run/Hike (Day 7, April 2, 38k)

Good Friday. I was on the road again at 5 am. There were lots of downhill running especially during the first four hours. As I ran down towards Puerto, I could see the coast line and the sea down below. I was filled with joy after realizing that I have reached the northern side of Mindanao after starting from the southern coast of Mindanao.
As I reached the Puerto crossing I still had 12 km to go before the city center. But by then the heat of the sun became unbearable. It felt like over 40 degrees celsius. I had to walk slowly, feeling the pain from the blisters and the shin. I used my umbrella to protect me from the heat of the sun. I continued to pray and meditate on the mysteries of the holy rosary - joyful, lights, sorrowful and glorious. What I like about the rosary is that it helps me contemplate with the blessed Mother Mary the mystery of Christ's incarnation, life, ministry, suffering, death and glorification of Jesus. While doing it, my pain and fatigue seem to disappear.
I attended the Good Friday liturgy at Nazarene parish church. By 5 am I reached the home of my cousin - Mr. & Mrs. Doring Caragos. I had dinner with them later.

Trans-Mindanao Run/Hike (Day 6 April 1, 58k)

This has been the longest day so far - 58 km! I started at four this morning. After more than an hour of walking, I began to mix running and hiking. I usually walked uphill and ran downhill. On the flat sections I used the Galloway method - running with walking intervals. The last 18 km was just a slow hike - in the rain. My calf muscles were tightening so I couldn't walk fast. I took a lot of breaks. By six I reached the Mangima zigzag road and I was making the steep ascent in the dark, using my head lamp. I reached Manolo Fortich after seven. Fr. Rubio brought me out to the carenderia for supper.
Over the last several days I have benefited from the hospitality of the parish priests. So I didn't have to spend anything for food and lodging. I have also been blessed by the aid of the poor along the way. Yesterday, a man stopped me and gave me money. It also happened this afternoon. A man also gave me cold water when I passed his house. A store owner did not ask me to pay for an energy drink. A woman who owned a fruit stand also gave me some free bananas. They didn't even know who I was.