Saturday, December 31, 2011

Davao to Iligan by Motorbike, Seeing the effects of Typhoon Sendong

I arrived here in Iligan yesterday, on a motorbike (instead of the usual mountain bike) from Davao via the mountains of Davao and Bukidnon.

Upon crossing the new Hinaplanon bridge, I saw some of the devastation of the flashflood caused by Typhoon Sendong two weeks ago. Over a thousand people perished. Many of those who survived are now homeless.

Our monastery in Iligan was also hit by the flood but it was only knee deep. The computers, an LCD projector and the files have been destroyed. Major repairs need to be done on the ground floor of the monastery and the old novitiate building. Meanwhile, some members of the Redemptorist community are involved in relief operations. Some of the relief goods keep coming, and they have to be sent to the relief centers of the diocese and the city.

There are two families who are living at the second floor of the seminar house - they survived the flood but their homes have been destroyed. One of them is the family of Eugenio - our retired sacristan & driver. The other is the family of Dodoy - our former lay vocation promoter. Dodoy told me that a few minutes after they escaped to higher ground, the waters from the overflowing river reached the roof level of their house. His wife, Joy, said that the members of the neighborhood BEC cells survived because they urged one another that it was time to evacuate immediately.

Tonight, I will be celebrating the coming of the New Year tonight with my sisters and their families, thinking of those who will be greeting the New Year in the evacuation centers.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011 in Davao: The Gift of a Piano

This is the 16th Christmas that I celebrated here in Davao (starting in 1995), but this time I celebrate it not as a member of the Redemptorist community but as a visitor or guest. Last night, I concelebrated at the 10 pm Christmas vigil mass presided by Fr. Mario Masangcay.

Tonight, we had our Christmas party with the senior Redemptorist community and the Redemptorist theology students. We had lechon, turkey and lots of drinks - wine, whisky, brandy, bailey, liquer, punch. With all these 'spirits' I recommended a "discernment" of "spirits". Everyone was in a jolly  mood after eating and drinking too much, and after receiving their gifts.

Tonight, I gave to the Redemptorist Formation Community a very expensive and valuable gift - the "certificate of ownership" of  the Weinstein piano. It's not really a new piano. I bought it 16 years ago after receiving a share of my inheritance from my late mother's estate. I was planning to bring the piano with me wherever I was assigned - and even bring it with me to my hermitage in Busay when I retire. After my death, the piano will be donated to the Davao Redemptorist Formation community. However, after I was assigned to the CBCP in Manila, and ran/walked across the Philippines to my new assignment, I thought it was too heavy to  bring with me. So, I decided to just give the piano as a gift to the community instead of making them wait for 30-40 years. So tonight during the Christmas party, I thought this was the opportune time to give it to them.

I still have a long journey ahead of me. A pilgrim has to travel light. I cannot bring the piano with me.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Misa de Gallo at the Redemptorist Church in Davao

This morning at 4:30, I was the presider of the 8th day of  the Misa de Gallo - the traditional early dawn mass. . As early as 3:30 am, the church was already full and many had to stand outside, as far as the car park. There were many young people around. After the mass, many stayed around to partake of the delicacies - puto bumbong, tsokolate, etc.

I'm so glad to spend my Christmas here in Davao.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Burial of My Cousin, Victim of Typhoon Sendong

Last Sunday, I heard the news that Typhoon Sendong hit Cagayan and Iligan and caused a flash flood which resulted in the death of over a thousand people. Hundreds remain missing. Thousands of families were left homeless.  I was worried about my sisters, relatives, confreres and friends in Iligan. I was relieved to hear that they were safe although the flood was only knee deep in their houses. The Redemptorist church was also flooded so the Misa de Gallo was cancelled.  But the others who were living along the Mandolog river and Bayug island were not as fortunate.

 Later that day, I got a call from my cousin Nene telling me that her younger brother - Arthur was one of those who perished in the flood in Cagayan de Oro. My cousin Arthur had a stroke several months ago and he was wheel-chair bound. So when the flood began to rise rapidly inside their house he panicked as the water rose to his neck level. His children rushed and tried to bring him up to the rooftop but it was too late, he was suffering from hypothermia and had a heart attack. He was only 53 years old. His family and relatives were distraught with grief. They were more fortunate than the entire families that perished and there was no one to claim their bodies or attend their burial.

 I arrived in Cagayan last Tuesday evening and as I was walking on the bridge across the Cagayan river, I could smell the stench of death below me. The houses along the river bank below had been destroyed and there were still bodies under the debris.

When we arrived at chapel of the Greenhills memorial park, there was a funeral mass that was just finishing. We were able to celebrate the funeral mass for Arthur at 9:30 am and bury him by 10:15. We were told that almost every hour every day for the next few days until Christmas there will be burial - mostly victims of Typhoon Sendong. I heard that elsewhere unclaimed decomposing bodies  will be buried in mass graves.

I met my sisters and cousins from Iligan who came to attend the funeral and burial of Arthur. They told me about the devastation caused by the typhoon and the flood in our city. The most gruesome story was about the people who took refuge in the second floor of a big concrete house. They thought they were already safe but the water rose and a huge log from the river hit the house and killed all of them.

Apparently most of the water came from the mountains of Bukidnon and  Lanao del Sur. When the typhoon came, there were no more forest and watershed that could absorb the heavy rainfall. They have been replaced by pineapple plantations, farms, meadows for cattle, golf courses and housin subdivision. So the topsoil  and the water quickly came down to the cities of Cagayan and Iligan. Some of the illegally cut logs rushed down and hit so many people. What was surprising was that Northern Mindanao - including Cagayan and Iligan never experienced being hit by a typhoon before. Climate change.

Natural disasters are often called "Acts of God." This is a blasphemy! God is not responsible for Typhoon Sendong and the flashfloods that killed so many people and left many more homeless. This is the result of the greed of human beings and corporations who destroy the environment, who are responsible for the ecological imbalance. Mother nature does not forget. And that will not  be the last.

Almost 25 years ago, when we organized and mobilized the Basic Ecclesial Communities of San Fernando and the neighboring parishes to stop logging in Bukidnon we were aware that a total log ban and reforestation would benefit not only the villages of Bukidnon but also the coastal cities of Northern Mindanao. An ecologist from an NGO had informed us that without the forest, the coastal cities will someday be inundated by flashflood coming from the mountain ranges of Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur. The Aquino government declared a total log ban in Bukidnon in 1988, but that did not stop the logging especially in the ARMM - in Lanao del Sur. By then the whole of Bukidnon have become one large pinapple plantation, grasslands for cattle, and farms. The big capitalists, loggers and agribusiness have earned huge profits from destroying the environment. It is the ordinary people, especially the poor who pay for their sins. And they call this "act of God?"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Impeaching Chief Justice Corona, Prosecuting Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Early this morning, I received this text message: "14 Dec, 2 pm @d SC, CJ Corona will address current issues affecting d entire judiciary. All r encouraged to attend & wear black. lets all wear black 2 pls pass."

This message  is an invitation to attend a rally in the Supreme Court to support Chief Justice Renato Corona who has recently been impeached by the house of Representatives and will face trial in Senate next month. I presume this comes from the office of the SC spokesman Midas Marquez. This is probably the same text message that judges and court employees received, that is why there is a court holiday today.

Of course, no way will I attend the protest rally in the SC. CJ RENATO CORONA DOES NOT HAVE MY SUPPORT. I fully support the move to impeach him and oust him from his position as chief injustice. I hope he resigns rather than face humiliation and disgrace.

Renato Corona was the chief of staff, spokesman, executive secretary of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo - one of the most corrupt and abusive president we ever had - next to the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. His position made him an alter-ego of Gloria. It was on this basis that he was appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court a few days after the election of the new President Benigno Aquino III. This was clearly in violation against midnight appointment. This move has been interpreted as a way to protect the outgoing president GMA. He was appointed not because of his competence, probity and independence but because of his loyalty to Arroyo.

His decisions since then show a pattern of protecting his patronness. He and his 7 cohorts (the  so-called Arroyo court) has been an obstruction to justice - a hindrance to the reform agenda of the new government, blocking attempts at holding Gloria Macapagal Arroyo accountable for her crimes against the Filipino people. The recent SWS survey show that he is the least trusted among the high office holders of the land.

Through his spokesman, he has the gall to say that the impeachment proceeding is an attack against the judiciary and can lead to a constitutional crisis. I prefer to see this is an act of cleansing the judiciary and restoring its credibility. As of now,  Corona and his cohorts has the contempt of the majority of our people. For as long as Corona stay, the Supreme Court will remain a damaged institution. I hope that the impeachment will not stop with Corona - but will later include the other associate justices who are beholden to Arroyo and who have been corrupted.

There are some things that I don't agree with President Aquino and which I oppose - like his pro-RH stance and  his pro-mining policy. But  I fully support  his anti-corruption and reform agenda: starting with the campaign to make Gloria Arroyo and her minions (including Corona) accountable for their acts.

I don't believe that PNoy is an autocrat or a Fidel Castro. I wonder why those who say this did not say anything when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo acted like a corrupt autocrat and controlled the judiciary and congress.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Back to Davao as Visiting Professor, Dreaming of the Next Adventures

I've been here in Davao for 3 weeks and I will be around until the middle of January 2012. Well, this is part of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between my Redemptorist superior and the chairman of the CBCP-BEC committee - that I will be available to teach for 8 weeks every year at the St. Alphonsus' Theological and Mission Institute. So this agreement is good for the next four years while I work with the CBCP.

From 1995 up to March this year, I have been teaching full-time in Davao. Since I was appointed executive secretary of the CBCP-BEC committee, I am now only a visiting professor. I am teaching three courses: Theology of Religions/Interreligious Dialogue (2nd years), Ministry & Orders (4th years), and Pastoral Leadership & Management (4th & 5th years). My are students are Redemptorist seminarians coming from the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. There are also students belonging to the Fransciscan TOR, Benedictine and also lay women.

I have a very hectic schedule - teaching 3-4 hours every morning from Tuesday to Saturday. The afternoons and evenings I spend either preparing for class or performing my task for the CBCP-BEC committee: updating the website, communicating and following-up the BEC directors, writing articles, and preparing BEC modules/manuals.

My running has been reduced to a minimum - 2 short barefoot runs and one long run. I also do some weight training. I still have to find time to go mountain biking and scuba diving.

I'd better start preparing for a marathon this June in Manila (Milo Marathon). Let's see if I can do it bafefoot with a faster time. My next goal after a barefoot marathon is to break 3:30 before I reach 60 years old. After running/walking across the Philippines, I've run out of more challenging running/walking adventure. The only remaining challenge is to beat my marathon PR which I set 30 years ago. Well, there's also another longer Camino de Santiago pilgrimage during the next Xacobeo in 2021 - the Via de La Plata (more than a thousand kilometers  from Southern Spain to the Northwest coast - Seville to Finisterre). That's still 9 years f rom now. Maybe,  I can do another bike-tour around the Philippines four years from now - this time including Zamboanga and Palawan and even Batanes. The last adventure before I reach 100 yrs old could be a wheel-chair  tour across the country (now that's a crazy idea). As I grow older I keep dreaming that I can still do these things. Yet, when I was 30 years younger I never thought that I can run/walk 400 km across Mindanao, 800 km across France-Spain barefoot, and across the Philippines. As I reach 57 years of existence, retiring is far from my mind.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A New Way of Being Priest for a New Way of Being Church

(I have a regular monthly column at the CBCP Monitor entitled Along the Way. I am posting here what will be published in the next issue)

During the National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors held last October 11-12, 2011 in Taytay, Rizal, the result of the initial survey on the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) in the Philippines was discussed. One of the findings was the vital role that the clergy, especially the parish priests, play in the promotion and formation of BECs. Where the clergy adopt the formation of BECs as a pastoral priority and support the lay pastoral workers and BEC leaders, the BECs become vibrant. In dioceses and parishes where BECs fail to grow or develop, the lack of support from the parish priests is considered as one of the primary factors. The regular reshuffling of priests can have a negative effect on BECs especially when the new parish priests are not as supportive as the previous pastors. In dioceses where the formation of BECs has been adopted as the diocesan pastoral thrust, the implementation still depends on the parish priests. The findings of this survey is consistent with the results of previous surveys conducted over the last 10 years.

Why is the support of the clergy necessary for the growth of BECs? PCP II regards the BECs as a realization of its vision of a renewed Church – the Church as the community of disciples, living in communion, participating in the mission of Christ as a priestly, prophetic, kingly/servant people, and as the Church of the poor (PCP II no. 137). The BECs are not mere lay organizations or associations, but the Church at the grassroots, in the neighborhood, barangay or the village. They are a new way of being Church. Hence, PCP II decreed the vigorous promotion of BECs in all dioceses and parishes all over the country (PCP II art 103). This means renewing and restructuring of the parish into a network of BECs, a community of small Christian communities.

Since the BECs are a realization of a renewed Church, then a renewed clergy is required. Since BECs are a new way of being Church, then a new way of being priest is necessary. The renewal of the Church requires the renewal of the clergy. This means going beyond a narrow cultic understanding of priesthood. To be a priest is not simply to say Mass and administer the others sacraments.

Vatican II and PCP II have broadened the understanding of the ordained ministry. “Hence, we can appropriately call ordained ministers as servant-leaders of the community. They are in-charge of the community. They are to build-up the Christian community. Their task extends by right also to the formation of a genuine Christian community.” (PCP II no. 518).

The ordained ministry is, therefore, oriented towards forming and leading a genuine Christian community that is prophetic, priestly and kingly in nature – a witnessing, worshipping and serving community. The role of the priest is not simply a matter of celebrating communion during the Eucharist but building up communion (loving union, sharing and fellowship) among the members of the community in their day to day life. Thus, according to PCP II, the priest is a servant-leader who presides over a prophetic, priestly and servant community.

The formation of BECs is therefore a constitutive part of the ordained ministry. Our parishes are too big to form one community. They have to be decentralized and restructured into a community of communities, a network of BECs where the ordinary lay faithful can truly experience communion and actively participate in Christ’s prophetic, priestly, and servant mission.

Through his prophetic ministry – a ministry of preaching, evangelizing and catechizing, the priest animates the parish community and BECs to become prophetic and evangelizing communities that announce the Good News and denounce evil and all its manifestation (including the culture of death).

Through his liturgical and sacramental leadership, the priest enables the parish community and the BECs to actualize their common priesthood and actively participate in the liturgical celebration.

Through his kingly/servant ministry, the priest animates the parish community and the BECs to become truly servant communities actively involved in the Church’s social mission and apostolate – caring for the poor and the needy, working for peace, justice and the integrity of creation. This requires an option and love for the poor and living a more simple lifestyle.

All these require good pastoral leadership and management on the part of the priest. Collaboration and teamwork with other priests, lay pastoral workers, lay leaders and religious is necessary in the pastoral ministry. The priest is called to be a Good Shepherd – who forms and leads the flock. This demands availability and closeness to the people he is ordained to serve. This also requires getting rid of patterns of leadership condemned by Christ- of lording it over the flock, of authority exercised in the spirit of self-service, power, privilege and prestige. This also demands a moral and ethical leadership that does not tolerate clerical abuse.

The understanding of ministry that the Vatican II and PCP II promote is not easy to realize. It requires continuing conversion and ongoing formation of priests. But this is necessary because without a renewed clergy, the vision of a renewed Church advanced by Vatican II almost 50 years ago and reaffirmed by PCP II 20 years ago will remain a dream.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Addio, Padre Fausto, missionary & martyr

Fr. Fausto Tentorio, PIME was buried in Kidapawan today, beside the grave of Fr. Tulio Favale who was also murdered 25 years ago.

I regret I could not be at his funeral. Manila is so far away from Kidapawan. However, my confreres Frs. Romeo Obach and Frank Tobin of the Davao Redemptorist community represented the Redemptorists.

Like many, the news of Fausto's death deeply saddened and shocked me. I first met him when I was assigned in Arakan Valley in 1986. I was a member of the Redemptorist Mission Team and we were invited to conduct missions in his parish - the Mother of Perpetual Help parish. We helped in revitalizing the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) that were weakened due to the militarization. It was a period of euphoria - Marcos had been toppled by People Power and democracy was restored. Yet, we were still in grief over the death of Fr. Tulio Favale who was murdered by paramilitary group led by the Manero brothers. I thought that with the end of the Marcos dictatorship, it won't be necessary for a priest to die a martyr's death.

I was wrong. Last week Fr. Fausto was gunned down as he was about to leave the rectory to attend the monthly meeting in Kidapawan. The assassin shot him point-blank and fled on a motorcycle with another man. As of now nobody knows who killed him or who ordered his death or why he was targetted. The way he was killed reminds me of the modus-operandi of the DDS (Davao Death Squad). Last year, I received information that some of the hitmen of the DDS were moonlighting as hired assassins.

There are a lot of speculations. He was active in the defense of the Lumad - the Indigenous Peoples who were fighting for their rights. He opposed the entry of mining companies in the area. He was very critical of the military operations in Arakan Valley.

His life had been threatened before. He knew it was not safe to continue his missionary work in Arakan. Yet he would not abandon his people. He took the risk and took up his cross. He did not run away and faced death - like  Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

Ciao, Fausto. Addio e ci vediamo. Go in peace. I pray that truth and justice will eventually prevail.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Biking from Baclaran to Baguio - Dakateo Annual Conference

The Annual Conference of Dakateo (Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines) was held in Baguio from Friday to Sunday (October 21-23). Instead of taking the bus, I decided to bike to Baguio - that's over 260 km from Baclaran. I was planning to leave at one in the morning of Thursday hoping to reach Baguio before nightfall. But it was already almost three when I departed. I was biking at an easy, slow pace with a heavy backpack. I got a flat tire at 3 pm while in Villasis, Pangasinan. It took some time to change the interior and then had the punctured tube-tire vulcanized. By 4 pm there was a heavy downpour, but I continued biking until I reached Binalonan - 206 km from Baclaran. It was already 5 pm and I still had over 60 km of biking - mostly uphill. I felt it would be foolhardy to proceed in the dark and rain after biking over 200 km. I decided to just stay overnight in the parish of Binalonan. I knew the priests - Fr. Catungal and Fr. Cirilo - since this is where I stayed overnight during my run-walk across the Philippines. So, they put me up for the night after a heavy meal.

I continued biking very early in the morning and after 6 hours of exhausting ascent, I finally reached the Little Flower Retreat House in Baguio where the conference was held.
The theme of the conference for this year is: "Art and Theology at the Crossroad." Last year I was just a guest who presented a paper on "BECs and Environmental Praxis" in the annual conference held in Davao. This time, I was formally accepted as a member of the Dakateo - the Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines. This is an exclusive society of Catholic theologians in the Philippines - mostly professors in various theological schools in the country with doctorates in theology from Louvain, Fordham (USA), Gregorian (Rome) and also from the Philippines.
I came back to Baclaran yesterday afternoon, this time taking the bus. There was enough space for the bike in the baggage compartment.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors/Coordinators

From October 11-13, 2011, directors/coordinators of Basic Ecclesial Communities coming from 57 dioceses all over the Philippines and gathered at the Bukal ng Tipan Center, in Maryhill, Taytay Rizal. the delegates from Surigao and Catarman failed to arrive due to Typhoon Ramon. The gathering was organized by the National BEC team of the CBCP-BEC committee composed Bishop George Rimando (chairman), the executive secretary (yours truly), the consultants (Mgr. Manny Gabriel, Mgr. Jomari Delgado and Dr. Estela Padilla). Bishop Broderick Pabillo (vice-chairman of CBCP-BEC Committee and chairman of Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace) also attended together with 2 observes from the National Secretariat of Social Action. The Staff of Bukal ng Tipan (headed by Fr. Mark Lesage) acted as the secretariat and documentors of the gathering.
The purpose of this gathering was to establish contact between the CBCP-BEC national office and the diocesan BEC directors, come up with a general assessment of the BECs in the Philippines, develop regional networking/linkages and plan for the regional BEC assemblies starting 2012. This was also an opportunity to explain the role of the CBCP-BEC Committee and the National BEC team. I also introduced our new website (the Cyber-Office) which will function as a means of means of inter-connection, communication and exchange.
The whole gathering went very well and I was amazed at the commitment and enthusiasm of the delegates. I will be very busy in the coming months and years, following them up, helping in the preparation and facilitation of the regional gathering all over the country.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

At Home in Baclaran

shrine/church of the Mother of Perpetual Help

 the monastery beside the church

 2nd floor corridor outside my room

 my room

my bed and little altar

 Redemptorist community

Since the beginning of June this year, I have been living in the Redemptorist Monastery in Baclaran. The church is the national shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help and every Wednesday over one hundred thousand devotees flock to the church to attend the masses and novenas which go on from dawn to dusk. Over fifty thousand also attend the Sunday masses. This is the only church that is open 24 hours so there are many people who come even late at night and the wee hours of  the  morning to pray - including well known actors and actresses and some politicians.

There are nine members of the Redemptorist community (4 Australians & 5 Filipinos) - who belong to the Redemptorist Vice-Province of Manila (under the Australian province) and one from the Cebu Province assigned here. There is one Indonesian Redemptorist staying here who is studying at University of Sto. Tomas and another Filipino Redemptorist from Cebu Province who is doing his masteral studies in conselling in de La Salle University. I am a resident here but canonically I am not a member of the community since I belong to the Redemptorist Cebu Province on special assignment to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (as executive secretary of the BEC committee). But I help out in the masses on Wednesdays and Sundays at the shrine-church (usually 7 am on Wednesdays and 6:30 pm or 8 pm on Sundays).

My office at the CBCP building in Intramuros is 8 km away from Baclaran, so I usually go there on weekdays by running/walking or biking (round-trip is 16 km but sometimes I take a longer, round-about route when biking).

I feel very much at home here in Baclaran.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Asian Continental BEC Conference (Taipei)

I just got back from Taipei after a four-day conference on Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) in Asia sponsored by Missio-Aachen. The meeting was held at the One World Community Service Center in Taipei. There were representatives coming from India, Sri Lanka, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and the Philippines. I represented the Philippines. There were two observers from Germany, two theologians-resource persons and two staff from Bukal ng Tipan.

The theme of the gathering was: "BECs in Asia 50 years after Vatican II." Each representative gave a report on the state of the BECs in their country and how the BECs have realized the vision of a renewed Church of Vatican II and the challenges that they face at present. Two invited theologians (Fr. Michael Amaladoss, SJ and Agnes Brazal) shared their reflections on the challenges facing BEC in Asia in light of the recent social, economic, and cultural developments (especially globalization and post (or late) modernity. This meeting was preparation the intercontinental gathering on BECs which will be held in Tubingen, Germany next year. The Latin American BEC continental conference has already been held. The other continental conferences in Africa and North America will also be held soon.

I am just amazed about the growth of BECs not just in the Philippines but also other countries in Asia. This is a sign of hope of the vitality of the Church in this region.

Last night, we had an 11-course dinner with the archbishop of Taipei - archbishop John Hung. The Chinese meals are just so delicious. I have been on a binge these last few days. I suspended my "one meal a day" regimen. A meal-fellowship with the participants of the conference holds precedence over my ascetic. I must have put on weight inspite of maintaining my daily running/walking exercise.

Last Friday, I ran/walked early in the morning from Baclaran to the NAIA 2 airport. I also did the same from the airport to Baclara this evening. While in Taipei, I was able to do some running in the morning and to join the locals in their Taichi exercise.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Barefoot Running on the Pavements of Manila

Last Sunday starting at 7:30, I went on a slow long-distance run along the Macapagal Boulevard, passing the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex, the Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard, Rizal Park, around Intramuros, and back to Macapagal boulevard, around the Mall of Asia and back to Baclaran. I did most of it barefoot - but by 10  am, the pavement became so hot that I had to put on my Adizero rocket running shoes until I finished my run at 11 am. While celebrating mass in shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran later in the afternoon, I had to walk slowly especially going up and down the sanctuary since my calves were stiff. I must have overdone it.  It's been a long time since I ran long-distance barefoot. That was last year on the Camino de Santiago - from the French Pyrenees across the North of Spain up to the old city of Santiago de Compostela covering around 800 km which I did in 27 days, most of it barefoot (I sometimes had to wear my sandals when the afternoon heat and the sharp gravel paths became unbearable).

After my Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, I haven't done much barefoot running. When I ran/walked across the Philippines for 57  days covering 2060 km, I wore my running shoes. I figured that it would not be possible for me to run/walk barefoot 40-50 km a day on asphalt and cement highway. I noticed that I got a lot of blisters while wearing running shoes. I didn't get any blisters during my barefoot pilgrimage on the Camino which I find miraculous.

Since I started living and working here in Manila last June, I have done some short barefoot running  for 20-30 minutes twice  a week as part of my training for the Condura marathon next February 2012. I have integrated my marathon training with my daily commute on foot from Baclaran to the CBCP-BEC office in Intramuros in the morning and back to Baclaran in the afternoon. Last week, I ran barefoot the whole way from Intramuros to Baclaran and last Sunday I did it as part of my long run.

There's a big difference between running barefoot on rough terrain and on concrete/ asphalt pavement. I miss the feel of the earth under my feet. I have to get used to running on the hard and hot pavement of Manila.

I've been going through my bucket list - things I want to do before I die. I already checked the following: Bike Around the Philippines, Run/Walk Across Mindanao, Run/Walk Barefoot on the Camino de Santiago, Run/Walk Across the Philippines.

There are still a lot of items which remains unchecked. Among these: Run marathons every year up to my 90th birthday, break 3:33 personal record, join the triathlon, run/walk the Camino again during my next sabbatical when I'm 65. Can I still do these things?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Assisting in the Formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs)

Over ten days ago (July 29-30), I was in Lingayen attending the archdiocesan BEC exchange. Some 150 leaders and promoters coming from the various parishes and vicariates of the archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan gathered for two days to share their experiences in forming BECs. I was the guest speaker - speaking about the 2nd Plenary Council of the Philippines' (PCP II) vision of BECs. Then a few days later (August 3), I gave the keynote address of the annual Forum of the Institute of Spirituality in Asia held at the Titus Bandma Center (Carmelites) in Quezon City. My talk was entitled "Spirituality and the Church of the Poor" and I emphasized that the vision of the Church of the Poor is concretely realized in BECs. This Friday (August 12), I will be giving a talk to the diocesan BEC assembly of the diocese of Kalookan. The day before that I will be going to the Taiwanese consulate to apply for a visa. I will be attending a BEC Meeting organized by the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conference (FABC) which will be held in Taipeh from September 2-5.  This meeting will assess the growth of BECs in Asia.  I will be giving a talk on the "BECs in the Philippines as a Reception and Implementation of the Ecclesiology of Vatican II."This meeting is part of the preparation of the BEC international conference which will be held next year  a part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.

Besides giving talks, I do a lot of work in my office maintaining and developing the BEC website. I've also sent  to all the bishops communication containing details and survey questionnaires regarding the coming national assembly of diocesan BEC directors (October 2011). I've built up the library of the BEC office so that scholars doing research on BECs can have access to books and literature about BECs.

I'm enjoying my work. This is my life's passion - assisting in the growth of BECs all over the Philippines. I'm just amazed at how dioceses all over the Philippines have adopted the formation of BECs as their pastoral thrust. The existence of the CBCP-BEC committee is a sign that the bishops are indeed serious in implementing the direction set by PCP II twenty years ago - the renewal of the Church in the Philippines. The formation of BECs is a concrete expression of this renewal.

Since 1977, as a seminarian, I have already been involved in the formation of BECs. During the first 8 years of my priestly ministry, I was directly involved in the building up of BECs all over Mindanao. In 1989, when I went for higher studies at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, California my licentiate thesis was on the BECs in Mindanao. When I continued my doctoral studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1991-95, my doctoral dissertation was on the Ecclesiology of BECs in the Philippines. After finishing my doctoral in 1995, I was assigned in Davao as full-time professor yet I was at the same time involved in the promotion of BECs - writing books and articles, giving talks and workshop-seminars to over 25 dioceses, helping organize BEC national assemblies, and as consultant of the CBCP-BEC committee. And now I am working full-time as executive secretary with a BEC national team and assisting BEC promoters all over the country. I am now in a position to devote most of my time to what I consider as my life's passion. I hope to contribute to the growth and expansion  of BECs all over the country - communities at the grassroots living a new way of being Church, renewing the Church and transforming Philippine society. These communities will not just be worshipping and bible-sharing communities whose members experience a sense of unity and belonging - they will also be prophetic and serving communities working for total human development, peace, justice and the integrity of creation. I commit myself to this task for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reporting to the CBCP Plenary Assembly

Since yesterday, over 120 Catholic bishops have been in session at the Pius XII center to discuss concerns and issues affecting the Church in the Philippines. Today, the plenary assembly continued and listened to the reports from various episcopal commissions and committees. In the afternoon, Bishop George Rimando - the Chairman of the Committee on Basic Ecclesial Communities of the CBCP introduced me to the assembled bishops as the new executive secretary. Then I gave the initial report on the result of the the assessment/planning session of the National BEC team (especially the National Assembly of Diocesan BEC Coordinators/Directors). The new website of the office of the CBCP-BEC committee was also launched: .

This has been a busy week. I arrived from Davao last Monday after giving a 5-day seminar on Missiology: Redemptorist Perspective. The following day I immediately reported to my office at the CBCP building and followed up the website. I also did some recording for my weekly podcast "Sambayanihan" for the CBCP Online Radio. I also did some final preparation for the seminar on Missiology and BEC which I will be giving to 11 newly-ordained priests of the Cebu archdiocese two days from now.I attended a meeting last Friday evening called by Archbishop Sergio Utleg (chair of the Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples) to plan for a biking pilgrimage for the Tribal Peoples and the Environment. Yesterday, I went to the Pius XII center to follow up on the distribution of the printed copy of the CBCP-BEC detailed report to the bishops. This evening, after spending the whole day in the Pius XII center, I said the 6:30 pm mass in Memory of Fr. Rudy Romano who was picked up my suspected military intelligence and disappeared 26 years ago. Tomorrow, I still have a meeting with Bishop Rimando and Msgr. Manny and Msgr. Jomari to finalize our plans for the National Gathering of Diocesan BEC directors this October. Then I fly to Cebu at 9:30 in the evening and start my Missiology-BEC seminar for the newly-ordained Cebuano priests.

I still have not fully recovered from my colds which started over 3 weeks ago. It seems that I am developing an acute sinusitis. I need to take some rest but my schedule is full up to the end of the month.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Continuing Journey: Starting a New Stage in my Life's Journey

Well, here I am starting my new assignment as Executive Secretary of the Committee on Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). It is known as the CBCP-BEC Committee. My office is in the 3rd floor of the CBCP building in Intramuros, Manila. The various CBCP commissions and committees are also located in this building.

The CBCP-BEC committee is composed of Bishop George Rimando (chairman) and 8 other bishops who head their respective commissions: Bishop Broderick Pabillo (Social Action), Bishop Pablo David (Biblical Apostolate), Archbishop Romulo Valles (liturgy), Archbishop Socrates Villegas (Catholic Education and Catechetics), Bishop Paciano Aniceto (Family & Life), Bishop Joel Baylon (Youth), Bishop Antonieto Cabajog (Canon Law),  and Bishop Jesse Mercado (Laity). There are three consultants: Dr. Estela Padilla, Ph.D., Msgr. Manny Gabriel and Msgr. Jomari Delgado.

We will work closely as a team with Bishop George Rimando and the three consultants. We will also be tapping the service of the staff of Bukal ng Tipan especially when organizing BEC national and regional assemblies. I will also be interacting with the Executive Secretaries of the various CBCP commissions.

I started my work last week, June 1, just three days after finishing my Run/Walk Pilgrimage for Life and Peace across the Philippines. The first day of my work was spent in Bukal ng Tipan (Taytay) with Bishop George and the three consultants (Estela, Msgrs. Manny and Jomari) and Epee. We had an assessment and planning session. The following day I immediately reported to my office.

It is 8 km from Baclaran and I just run/walk to the office and back every day (Monday-Friday) - which means 16 km on foot daily/ 80 km a week. With another long run on Sundays, I should be able to average over 100 km a week - a good training for the marathon.

However, it is not entirely office work. That would be boring. I will also be travelling to other dioceses in various parts of the  country to give talks, conduct seminars and retreats, hold regional and national gatherings of BEC promoters and organizers, conduct case studies and documentation, etc. This weekend I will be in Surigao for the BEC day/ Pentecost gathering. Then the last week of June, I will be in Davao to conduct a Missiology seminar.

I already asked Msgr. Pepe Quitorio of the CBCP Communications Development Foundation to help me build a website/internet forum for the CBCP-BEC office. We will be meeting next week when I come back from Surigao to conceptualize the project. I hope we will be able to launch it during the CBCP assembly in July.