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.