Monday, December 08, 2014

Climate Ride: Pre-Departure Statement and Itinerary

Typhoon Signal 2 is up here in Manila and Typhoon Ruby is coming a few hours from now. I hope it that by December 10 it will be totally gone since I will be starting my Climate Ride from Manila to Mindanao at 5 am at the Mother of Perpetual Help Shrine in Baclaran. I am sharing my pre-departure statement and itinerary below:

Pre-departure Statement: Climate Ride

From December 10 to 23, 2014, I will be pedaling my bicycle from Manila to Mindanao, passing through Bicol, Samar, Leyte, Surigao, Agusan, Compostela Valley, Davao, Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro and ending in Iligan City. These are the areas devastated by typhoons for the last four years: Yolanda (2013), Pablo (2012), Sendong (2011) and now Ruby. This covers approximately 1,800 km which I am doing in two weeks.  I will be doing this alone most of the time, but along the way, there will be some local cyclists in major cities who will accompany me for a few hours. I will be staying overnight in parishes and will concelebrate in the Aguinaldo Masses and preach. I have planned and trained for this ride since four months ago but the Super-typhoon Ruby has increased its urgency and relevance.

I have done three advocacy rides (for life and peace) around the country in my younger years and  I thought I won't be doing this anymore when I become a "senior citizen." But the super-typhoons that have hit our country every year  and other calamities such as floods and droughts have spurred me to ride my bike across the country once again. I am aware that these are not "acts of God" or mere natural occurrences. These are manifestations of climate change.

This is why I call this a "Climate Ride" and I am doing this  in honor of the victims of Typhoons Sendong, Pablo, Yolanda and the most recent - Ruby. I also do this to call attention to the climate change and the disasters that result from it. Among these are extreme weather events like super-typhoons, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, water and food crisis, etc. The Philippines has become one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

While we focus our attention to disaster relief and preparedness, that is not enough. We have to address the cause - climate change -  that threatens to destroy our home - this earth - and our lives and the lives of the future generation.

 We are being reminded that we human beings are responsible for climate change due to our materialism and consumerist lifestyle, deforestation, dependence on fossil burning fuel for our cars, factories, power-plan which emits carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases into the atmosphere resulting in global warming and climate change. As the oceans gets warmer, the super-typhoons  have become the new normal.

I, therefore, appeal to the government to come up with measures to address more seriously the problem of climate change and mitigate its effects. Since our country and our people are the one of the most vulnerable and adversely affected by climate change, the government must make a more vigorous representation in the coming UN climate talks in Lima. It is not enough to ask for aid from foreign nations for the disasters that devastate us. The government must demand from these nations commitment to address the cause of climate change.

I also appeal to my fellow ordinary citizens to do our part to contribute in  saving the planet and saving our lives. We can do this by adopting a simple and green lifestyle, lessening our dependence on gasoline-powered vehicles, using alternative sources of energy  and thereby reducing our carbon footprints, stop deforestation and plant more trees and resist the construction of coal-fired power plants. I would also like to promote biking - not only for exercise - but also a regular means of transportation and commute within our cities. This means constructing more bike-lanes rather than spending more of the people's money in building super-highways and express-ways that benefit a few whose cars contribute to global warming and climate change. The bike can save our life and our planet. It may seem an insignificant activity but this can make a difference when more and more people ride a bike, or walk or run.

 As I bike across the country, I don't expect bikers to join me although they are welcome to join me for a few hours as I pass their cities. But I only hope that there will be more and more people who will ride the bike to their workplace or school, and also for sightseeing and adventure. Riding at 18-20 km per hour, with the wind caressing your face, is the best way to see and appreciate the beauty of our country.

I end with a quote from H.G. Wells: “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.”

Let’s bike to save the planet.

Dec 10 Baclaran - Gumaca 187k
Dec 11 Gumaca-Naga 187k
Dec 12 Naga-Sorsogon 147k
Dec 13 Sorsogon-Matnog ferry crosing to Allen- Calbayog 135k
Dec 14 Calbayog-Tacloban 175k
Dec 15 rest day Tacloban
Dec 16 Tacloban-Liloan Leyte cross to Surigao 154k
Dec 17 Surigao- Prosperidad 182k
Dec 18 Prosperidad-New Bataan 142k
Dec 19 New Bataan- Davao City 118k
Dec 20 Davao- Maramag 152k
Dec 21 Maramag-Malabalay 49k
Dec 22 Malaybalay-Cagayan deOro 97k
Dec 23 Cagayan-Iligan 88 k

If u want to contact me, this is my cp# 09081733611. ( just for local cyclists who wish to join me for a few hours)
Those who wish to join me for a few hours when I pass or leave your cities, you may make your own sign attach to your bike or jersey such as: climate ride, climate change=super-typhoons, no to coal fired powerplants, ride the bike daily & save the planet, more bike lanes-less superhighways, reduce ghg emissions, etc.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Climate Change: A Challenge to Our Mission as Redemptorists

Two days ago, the whole nation commemorated the first anniversary of the Typhoon Yolanda. On that day, the group that did the Climate Walk from Manila reached Tacloban. A month from now I will be starting my Solo 1,800 km Climate Bike Ride for Victims of Yolanda, Pablo and Sendong (from Manila to Iligan via Tacloban, Davao and Cagayan de Oro).

This month, Redemptorists are gathering in 3 places (Cebu, Bacolod and Davao) for the so-called pre-Chapter assemblies where we will be discussing (among others) the direction which our life and mission will take for the next four years. I was asked to prepare a working paper on Climate Change vis-a-vis our Mission:

Climate Change:  A Challenge to our Mission
A Working Paper  

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR


For the last three years, the Philippines  has been hit by three devastating super-typhoons: Typhoon Sendong in December 2011 which hit Cagayan de Oro and Iligan – including our former mission area in Hinaplanon, Iligan City. The flood reached our church in Tibanga, which made it impossible to hold the Misa de Gallo that day.

Typhoon Pablo hit Davao Oriental in 2012, several hundred kilometers  from our parish in Davao City. This was the first time that a typhoon has ever hit this area.  In 2013 Typhoon Yolanda  hit Samar, Leyte and parts of Cebu and Panay. Our parish in Tacloban was badly hit, and so many died and thousands of families became homeless. Our Church became a temporary evacuation center for three weeks.

 Will there be more super-typhoons coming? Undoubtedly, yes. It is the new normal. And besides super-typhoons, there also other disasters predicted. More flooding even from ordinary rain More long dry spell or drought. With the polar icecaps melting at an unprecedented rapid rate and the ocean rising gradually, a time will come when coastal towns and cities will experience more flooding and God forbid – will be submerged, hopefully not in our lifetime. All of these are manifestations of globa warming and climate change. And it will get worse in the years to come. According to PAG-ASA by 2020, there will be a rise in temperature of .09 to 1.1 degree Celsius and 1.8 to 2.2 C in 2050.

The Reality of Climate Change

 Almost 25 years ago, John Paul II warned about climate change in his World Day of Peace Message (1990):

The gradual depletion of the ozone layer and the related ‘greenhouse effect’ has now reached crisis proportions as a consequence of industrial growth, massive urban concentrations and vastly increased energy needs. Industrial waste, the burning of fossil fuels, unrestricted deforestation, the use of certain types of herbicides, coolants and propellants: all of these are known to harm the atmosphere and environment. The resulting meteorological and atmospheric changes range from damage to health to the possible future submersion of low-lying lands.

 Climate change is the effect of the destruction of the environment by humans.
The burning of fossil fuel – from factories, coal-fired power plants, cars, forest fires, etc. has released unprecedented volume of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere creating a green-house effect on our planet.  The forest –which is supposed to be the lungs of the earth that will absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen- is fast disappearing.With deforestation, there will be less trees to absorb rain fall, and thus, more floods.

Global warming is melting the polar ice-caps, raising the temperature of the oceans, changing  weather patterns, causing more water to precipitate into the atmosphere and creating more super-typhoons.

Thus, we can expect to experience the extremes of El Nino – long dry spell, and La Nina – long wet periods and super-typhoons.

The climate has become crazy and unpredictable. There is no more debate about the reality of climate change. And it is going to get worse. Many scientists would say that it is no longer a matter of preventing climate change but of mitigating its effects and preparing for the disasters that it brings. The more ambitious task is acting together to reverse climate change – which seems to be an impossible dream but which needs to be done.

The Vatican Academy of Science in 2011 came up with a report outlining the duty of the Church and all nations vis-à-vis climate change:

 Failure to mitigate climate change will violate our duty to the vulnerable of the Earth, including those dependent on the water supply of mountain glaciers, and those facing rising sea level and stronger storm surges. Our duty includes the duty to help vulnerable communities adapt to changes that cannot be mitigated. All nations must ensure that their actions are strong enough and prompt enough to address the increasing impacts and growing risk of climate change and to avoid catastrophic irreversible consequences.

The following are three measures to reduce the threat of climate change and its impacts:

1.“Reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions without delay, using all means possible to meet ambitious international global warming targets and ensure the long-term stability of the climate system.  All nations must focus on a rapid transition to renewable energy sources and other strategies to reduce CO2 emissions.  Nations should also avoid removal of carbon sinks by stopping deforestation, and should strengthen carbon sinks by reforestation of degraded lands.  They also need to develop and deploy technologies that draw down excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These actions must be accomplished within a few decades.

2.“Reduce the concentrations of warming air pollutants (dark soot, methane, lower atmosphere ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons) by as much as 50%, to slow down climate change during this century while preventing millions of premature deaths from respiratory disease and millions of tons of crop damages every year.

3.“Prepare to adapt to the climatic changes, both chronic and abrupt, that society will be unable to mitigate.  In particular, we call for a global capacity building initiative to assess the natural and social impacts of climate change in mountain systems and related watersheds.”

The Challence of Climate Change for our Mission

What is our response as Redemptorists to climate change? How do we carry out our mission in view  of climate change and the disaster that it brings?

Besides coming up with protocols on how we should respond in case of disaster (emergency response) we also have to broaden our perspective in terms of disaster risk reduction, preparedness, management, relief and rehabilitation.

We already have accumulated experiences in disaster response and mission in our own parish in Tacloban and other parishes hit by Typhoon Yolanda. This provides a model of how to respond immediately to disaster in a coordinated manner and how to carry out our mission in areas hit by disaster.  Karl Gaspar’s paper has distilled some of the learnings and the protocols that we as a province can adopt in the future, especially in terms of disaster response, rehabilitation and rebuilding.  

However, there is more that we need to do. Our mission is not just for communities already affected or will be affected by disaster. It is also for those who may be vulnerable to disaster. The question we need to answer is: how do we prepare ourselves and the communities that we minister for the disaster that arise due to climate change.

How can we make people aware of climate change and the disasters that it cause? How do we help develop parishes and BECs into disaster-resilient communities? What are the protocols that must be put in place which can be adopted by us and the people in our parishes and mission areas in case of disaster? What kind of mentality and lifestyle do we promote that can help arrest or revert global warming?

We should avoid the mentality that we are the messiah – that our primary role is to save or rescue helpless victims. We are not humanitarian aid workers but religious with a mission.

 We should operate on the principle of community participation in disaster risk reduction and management. We should avoid fostering a dependent-victim mentality.

In our preaching, evangelization & catechetical programs, and formation of BECs, we need to integrate the message of climate change, the responsibility of human beings as stewards of creation to care for the earth and protocols for disaster preparedness and management.

In order to do this, there is therefore a need to come up with resources -  modules and training manuals. These are the possible content:

  1. Our earth – global warming and climate change – causes and dangerous consequence. Disasters are not acts of God (due to God’s will) but due to human carelessness, sinfulness - selfishness and greed.
  2. Human beings as stewards of God’s creation – the responsibility to care for the earth. The practical implications of this in terms of lifestyle, plan of action to protect further environmental destruction and contribute to the reduction of carbon/GHG emissions, etc.
  3. Protocols for parish/community-based DRRM (Disaster Risk Reduction and Management).
Possible topics for community-based DRRM protocols/systems:

  1. Disaster risk-vulnerability assessment (discerning the kind of disaster the community is vulnerable to).
  2. Risk reduction and mitigation (what the community can do ASAP to reduce the risk or mitigate damage even before the disaster)
  3. Standard Operational Procedure in case of impending and actual disaster (warning, safety measures, evacuation, rescue, etc.)
  4. Initial Damage/Casualty/Needs assessment
  5. First Aid/Emergency Relief operations (how the community can help in orderly and efficient ways of doing this)
  6. Rehabilitation/Rebuilding (participatory/ holistic approach that includes material, psycho-spiritual dimensions)
The role of our apostolic units/mission teams is to facilitate this process and to help train the parish and BECs into becoming disaster-resilient communities.

In carrying this out, there is a need to coordinate with social action centers/commissions (national, diocesan, parish levels), NGO and LGU’s, government agencies (especially NDRRM and local counterparts).

In case of disaster, we do not have the expertise of humanitarian aid groups and first responders. Our role as Redemptorists  is very limited once disaster strikes.

Our significant contribution should be  in disaster preparedness and in the rehabilitation/rebuilding phase.  The victims and survivors do not only need material relief. They also need psycho-spiritual processing and community-rebuilding. This is where we can respond more effectively.

As Redemptorists we too should answer these questions: what can our own communities and apostolic units contribute to stop global warming? How can we help reduce the GHG/CO2 emissions? How will this affect the way we build or renovate our houses, monasteries and Churches?  How will this affect our use of vehicles and the type of vehicles we acquire?

 We, too, are vulnerable to the disasters that may be caused by climate change. We also need to go through the process of disaster risk assessment and reduction and adopt our own protocols for disaster management .

 To sum up, these are the urgent tasks in our mission:

  1. To make people aware of  climate change, its causes and effects and the human responsibility as stewards of God’s creation to care for the earth.
  2. To help mitigate the effects of climate change an promote disaster risk reduction, preparedness and management. This means helping build disaster-resilient communities (parishes, BECs).
  3. To foster a green lifestyle and search for ways that can contribute to reduction of green house gas.
We have to come up with mission modules and manuals on climate change and disaster risk reduction and management that can be used in our mission and parish apostolate.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Becoming a senior citizen

I turned 60 more than two weeks ago, after coming back from Bangkok, Thailand, where I attended a conference on "Small Christian Communities and New Evangelization." After being back in Baclaran for a day, I immediately left for Iligan on October 4. The last time I celebrated my birthday in my hometown was in 1988 - 26 years ago - before I left for higher studies. As I reach 60, I decided to celebrate it with my siblings. I also wanted to visit the grave of my parents to thank them.

So, at 3 pm on October 6 after celebrating Mass in the chapel, I started my 60 km birthday run/walk - from the Redemptorist house in Tibanga to Naawan and back, dropping by the memorial park where I lit a candle at my parents' grave on my way back to Iligan. In took me over twelve hours. In the evening, we had a birthday party in my sister, Inday's house, attended by my siblings and cousins.

Very early the following morning, I took the bus for Butuan. I was scheduled to give a talk on "The Church of the Poor and BECs" to the National Social Action General Assembly. I was back in Manila on October 8. After a couple of days, I left for Dumaguete to attend the Visayas Region Pastoral Assembly - a gathering of 18 dioceses from the Visayas  -where I was a guest speaker.

So now, I am finally back in Manila for  couple of weeks. I just got my senior citizen's ID which I was able to use last night for the belated birthday celebration with Edgar & Tina Valenzuela and their children - Eric and Myra - in an Italian Restaurant.

I may be a senior citizen but I really don't feel that old. I have started training for a 1,800 km Solo Bike Ride for Climate and for the Victims of Typhoon Yolanda, Pablo and Sendong (Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao) in December. I am also thinking of doing a run/walk adventure along the Aguinaldo Trail (West to East Luzon Traverse). sometime next year.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Conducting the Clergy Retreat of the Archdiocese of Manila

Several months ago, Cardinal Tagle asked me to conduct the annual preached retreat for his priests. Since the top priority of the archdiocese of Manila is the promotion and formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities, he saw it fit that I would be the one to facilitate the retreat.
So last week from July 21-25, the retreat was held in St. Paul Center of Renewal in Alfonso, Cavite. The theme of the retreat: "The Ordained Ministry vis-a-vis The BECs: A New Way of Being Priest for a New Way of Being Church." This was an opportunity for the clergy to reflect on their own life and ministry, based on the Vatican II and PCP II vision of the priesthood and on the priority of the Philippine Church, which is the formation of BECs.
This is the ninth retreat that I have given to priests so far. Last year, around this time, I was conducting the retreat for the clergy of Romblon. I expect to be giving more clergy retreat in the years to come. I feel happy and honored to be doing this. I am fulfilling my life's special mission: promoting the growth of BEC all over the country and at the same time, assisting in the renewal of the clergy. I am convinced that the renewal of the Church as promoted by Vatican II and PCP II can only become a reality with the spread of BECs and with the renewal of the clergy. This, I believe, is my contribution to the Church in the Philippines. This is what energizes me and what gives my life meaning and purpose. I don't mind doing this for the rest of my life - for as long as I am still physically and mentally fit to do this.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Report to the 109th CBCP Plenary Assembly

Last Sunday (July 6), I gave an oral report to the bishops during their plenary assembly held at the Pius XII Center, Manila. Here's the text:

Annual Report of the CBCP-BEC Committee
to the 109th CBCP Plenary Assembly
(July 2013- June 2014)

Meetings of CBCP-BEC Committee and National BEC Team
The Committee met on July 8, 2013 at the Pius XII center in Manila. This was attended by Bishop George Rimando, Bishop Julius Tonel, Bishop Gabriel Reyes, Bishop Jesse Mercado, Bishop Antonieto Cabajog, Bishop Pablo David and Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR. The committee fixed the schedule of the regular meeting and also discussed the concerns and questions that need to be addressed by the committee.

The National BEC Team composed of Bishop George Rimando, Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR, Mgr. Manuel Gabriel, Mgr. Joemarie Delgado and Dr. Estela Padilla, met four times during this period for planning and evaluation, especially in relation to the National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Coordinators and preparation for the 2015 National BEC Assembly.

National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Lay Coordinators
The most significant event during this period was the National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Lay Coordinators. This was held at the Holy Family on September 16-18, 2013. Some 129 diocesan BEC directors and coordinators coming from 64 dioceses  in the Philippines attended this gathering. The objectives of the gathering were the following:
  1. To review recommendations made in previous Gathering of October 2011;
  2. To update participants on the national BEC profile;
  3. To identify concerns, challenges and aspirations in view of their own experiences and in the light of New Evangelization; and
  4. To brainstorm ideas for the BEC National Assembly, slated sometime in 2015 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.
The gathering started at 4:30 pm on September  16, 2013 with welcome remarks by Bishop George Rimando – the chairman of the CBCP-BEC Committee and overall facilitator of this event. This was followed by a roll call and the opening activity. At 5:15 pm Fr. Amado Picardal gave the background and orientation. At 6:15 pm – the opening liturgy facilitated by Mgr Joemarie Delgado and Dr. Estela Padilla. This was followed by dinner
The following morning at six, Archbishop Jose Palma presided at the opening Eucharist. He also gave the keynote message. After breakfast, there were two presentations: Fr. Picardal on “The National BEC Profile (8:30-9:30 am) and Mgr. Manny Gabriel on “New Evangelization and BECs” (10:30 – 11:30 am). During the open forum, Bishop Varquez of Borongan shared his own experience of BECs in his diocese. In the afternoon after lunch-break, the delegates were divided into small groups where they shared their own experiences of how BECs are becoming evangelized and evangelizing communities. This was followed by reporting in plenum. The day culminated with an evening liturgy followed by dinner and socials.
On September 18, the whole morning was spent in brainstorming and planning by regional groupings. There were two questions that the groups answered: (1) their expectations and suggestions for the 2015 BEC National Assembly (theme, process, resource persons, possible venue and dates), (2) how they can enhance their regional networking and cooperation. After lunch break, the delegates gathered for reporting in plenum. After the reporting, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao shared what happened during the Synod of Bishops which he attended and how BECs was discussed.  Before the end of the session, Fr. Carmelo Diola of Dilaab was given time to explain the printed material that he was giving to the delegates for the coming barangay elections. The closing Eucharist was presided by Archbishop Valles at 5:15 pm.

Regional Networking and Cooperation
The executive secretary attended the following regional level gatherings:

1. Northern Luzon BEC Exchange - held on February 27-March 1, 2014 in Dagupan City. This was attended by 152 BEC promoters and leaders from various dioceses of Northern Luzon. The following dioceses were represented: Alaminos, Lingayen-Dagupan, Urdaneta, San Fernando (La Union), Nueva Segovia, Baguio, Bontok-Lagawe, Tabuk, Tuguegarao, Ilagan, Bayombong, San Jose (Nueve Ecija).

2. National Capital Region BEC Big Day, held on February 15, 2014 at the St. Paul University, Quezon City. This was attended by over  700 BEC formators and leaders from the archdiocese of Manila and the dioceses of Paranaque, Kalookan, Cubao, Pasig, Novaliches and Antipolo.

3. The Meeting of Diocesan BEC directors and coordinators of Central Visayas Region (from Cebu, Maasin, Dumaguete and Tagbilaran). The meeting was held on February 4, 2014 in Tagbilaran, Bohol.

Diocesan/District/Vicariate  BEC Assemblies

The executive secretary was the guest speaker or resource person of the gathering of the following dioceses, districts and vicariates:

1. Mactan Vicariate BEC Assembly held in Maragondon, Cebu on August 6, 2013
2. Palawan South District BEC Assembly  in Narra, Palawan on October 3, 2013.
3. Marbel Diocesan GKK (BEC) Assembly  in Koronadal City on November 30, 2013.
4. Ipil Diocesan  Kriska Leaders' Convention in Buug, Zamboanga Sibugay on Jan. 20-22, 2014.
5. Maasin Diocesan BEC Assembly, in Bato, Leyte on April 8-9, 2014.
6. Gumaca 25th Diocesan MSK Convention in Mulanay, Quezon Province on April 26, 2014.
7. Davao Archdiocesan GKK Gathering  in Davao City on May 26-28, 2014.

 Clergy BEC Workshops/Retreats
1. The executive secretary facilitated the clergy retreat of the Romblon Clergy which was held in Zamboanga City on July 22-25, 2013. The focus of the retreat was ministry and BECs.
2. The chairman (Bishop George Rimando) and executive secretary facilitated the Calbayog Clergy BEC Assessment which was held in Cebu on August 7-9, 2013.
3.  On October 1, 2013, the executive secretary conducted a BEC symposium for the clergy and religious assigned in the South District of the Apostolic Vicariate of Palawan.
4.  On July 20-24, 2014, the executive secretary will conduct a retreat on "Ministry and BECs" for the clergy of the archdiocese of Manila.

Disaster Response

On December 4, 2013, the chairman sent Fr. Picardal to Cebu to attend the meeting of the Eastern Visayas bishops and the various international  Catholic relief services (CRS, Caritas International, etc). The meeting was organized by NASSA to coordinate relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda.
After the meeting, Fr. Picardal came up with a concept paper "The Active Participation of BECs in Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation."  This was published in his column in CBCP Monitor. He also drafted a  bible-sharing method for the use of BECs in disaster affected areas which would help in psycho-spiritual integration and healing process of the people who have gone through traumatic experience and whose faith may have been shaken. This method, as well as the concept paper, was shared with the BEC directors of Palo, Naval, Calbayog and Borongan when he visited them before Christmas.  He also visited the resettlement areas of Typhoon Sendong victims in Iligan to conduct case studies on the efforts of the diocese to integrate the formation of BECs as part of the relief and rehabilitation process. Their experience would be valuable in coming up with best practices that would be helpful other disaster affected areas.
There are modules drafted by the CBCP-BEC office, which can be used in parishes and BECs affected by disasters. These modules can be helpful in the healing process, strengthening of their faith and enabling them to actively participate in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of their communities.

With the climate change and the prevalence of disasters that affect our country, including the BECs, there is a need to come up with protocols and manuals that can help BECs in disaster preparedness, relief and rehabilitation. On May 7-9, 2014, the executive secretary attended the executive course on disaster management held in Miriam College to get ideas for a disaster management manual for BECs.

National BEC Profile

A National BEC profile based on the diocesan BEC profile submitted by 61 dioceses (out of 84 dioceses) was presented to the National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Coordinators. A summary of the National Profile and the respective diocesan BEC profiles have been uploaded in our website:

Ongoing Projects
We continue conduct case studies on BECs in some urban areas (upper-class subdivision & condominium and urban poor communities).
Seminar-workshop modules for BECs are still being drafted and will be published next year.

Preparation for the 2015 National BEC Assembly
Between the middle of 2014 and the last quarter of 2015, the focus will be the preparation for the National BEC Assembly.
Initial Plan for the BEC National Assembly
1.      The 2015 BEC National Assembly will be held in Manila/NCR
2.      Tentative date: November 11-14, 2015
3.      Attendance: maximum of 15 official delegates including the bishops
4.      Accommodation (including supper & breakfast) for Delegates) : Foster parishes/BECs /families within archdiocese of  Manila & nearby NCR dioceses
5.      Tentative Venue for Plenary & General Assembly : La Salle Greenhills
6.      The host archdiocese of Manila and NCR dioceses will be asked to take care of the meals and snacks in the venue of general assembly (from donations raised from their parishes & BECs)
7.      All members of BECs in NCR and neighboring dioceses will be invited to attend the final day culmination liturgy and program (bring your own provision)
8.      Main Speakers: Cardinal Tagle and Cardinal Quevedo
9.      Suggested theme should highlight the link between BEC and Vatican II
(final plan and details of program and accommodation will be announced later)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Applying to the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board

Over forty years ago, on the first anniversary of Martial Law,  I was arrested, tortured and subsequently detained for seven months for distributing leaflets that  denounced the dictatorial rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. It was a traumatic experience and after four decades I am still occasionally haunted by a recurring nightmare that brings back the feeling of helplessness and terror.   Perhaps, this is a symptom of the so-called post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). During those times, there was no such thing as stress debriefing or psycho-social first aid. But even without the help of psychiatrists, I have tried to get over what happened in my own way and by God’s grace.

Last year, congress passed the Republic Act 10368 that will grant recognition and compensation for the victims of human rights violation during the Martial Law years. There is a six-month period for application (May 12, 2014 – November 1, 2014). So last Thursday I went to the office of the Human Rights Victims’  Claim Board at Virata Hall (University of the Philippines-Diliman Campus) to submit my application. I brought along my sworn statement, birth certificate, supporting documents, etc. There were around 20 applicants at that time - among them former senator Orly Mercado. I had to go to the second floor to have my sworn statement signed before a lawyer. After that I was interviewed by a staff member and my supporting documents checked. Then my filled application form was encoded and my picture taken. It took one hour to go through the process. At the end I was given the Receipt which I am posting below. Meanwhile, I will just wait for the Board to go through my application and make their approval. The waiting could take two years.

 After all these years, I never thought that this day will come. A few weeks ago, while I was at Starbucks drinking capuccino and preparing my sworn statement which narrated what happened forty years ago, my eyes were filled with tears. It was an overwhelming experience having to recall the traumatic incident. The recognition from the HRVCB and is part of the closure and healing process. I do not see myself as just a victim but a survivor.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thank God, a Peace Agreement at Last between the Philippine Government and the MILF

Today the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will sign the peace agreement in Malacanang Palace. I am filled with joy and thanksgiving. Muslims and Christians can live in peace in Mindanao now and in the years to come. I offered a Thanksgiving Mass for this occasion. I am grateful to God and, of course, the peace panels of the government and the MILF and their principals for making this possible.  I am very happy and there are tears of joy in my eyes - this is a fulfillment of a dream and my advocacy.

I don't have any significant contribution to the peace process, but in my own little way I tried to do my own part as a priest, a cyclist and ultra-runner. I believed that the peace process can prosper with the support of ordinary people like you and me and no matter how small and insignificant our contribution it will be very helpful in the end. In 2000, I biked alone for peace across the Philippines (from Davao to Pagudpud) as President Estrada was starting his total-war policy. A couple of years later I helped organize the Panaw sa Kalinaw (Journey for Peace), a peace caravan consisting of Muslim and Christians from Davao to Cotabato in the midst of the armed clashes between the Philippine Army and the MILF. I joined the Fasting for Peace. I helped organize peace rallies in Davao. I joined the Silsilah Christian-Muslim Dialogue Movement. I joined the IPPF (Imam-Priests-Pastors Forum) and participated in various meetings, dialogue and consultations. I organized the annual bike for peace in Davao during the Mindanao Week of Peace (for nine consecutive years). I biked for peace around Central Mindanao in 2003, around Mindanao in 2006, and around the Philippines in 2008 (Davao-Aparri-Davao). I ran and walked for peace and the environment across Mindanao (400 km Davao to Iligan) in 2010 and on the Camino de Santiago from the French Pyrenees across the North of Spain. In 2011, I ran-walked for life and peace across the Philippines from Davao to Aparri. Today, with this peace agreement, all my efforts - no matter how insignificant- were not in vain. As we celebrate the peace agreement, we need to remember that the journey to peace continues. The basic law of the Bangsa Moro has still to be drafted. This will have to be approved by congress and submitted to a plebiscite. Thus, the support of the citizenry continues to be vital.

As we rejoice that a peace agreement has been signed, we have to remember that our peace advocacy continues. There cannot be a lasting peace in Mindanao and in various parts of the country for as long as the armed conflict between the Government and the CPP/NDF/NPA continues. Twenty-seven years ago, the peace talks with the NDF began and up to now little has been achieved. There is an impasse. The arrest of the top leaders of the CPP (Benito and Wilma Tiamzon) recently have led some to believe that the prospects for peace have dimmed. But we do not lose hope. Today's historic event is an inspiration and a challenge that a lasting peace is possible not only in Mindanao but the whole country. There is much to learn from the MILF-GPh peace process.

The CPP/NDF/NPA can adopt the pragmatism of the MILF and the other revolutionary movements all over the world. They should accept the reality that the prospect for military victory and seizure of state power is very remote, if not impossible. Their guerrilla force and mass base support have been significantly reduced. Their leaders are aging and many have been captured. On the other hand, the military cannot totally eradicate them. The NPA are still capable of mounting tactical offensives but without strategic value. The senseless killings will continue, there will be no victors - only victims.  The only realistic alternative is a negotiated peace settlement that will address the roots of the armed conflict - especially poverty.

I continue praying and hoping that the peace process between the Government and the NDF continues and I dream that someday soon, there will be another signing of a peace agreement in Malacanang. This time, Louie Jalandoni and Joma Sison will be there shaking hands with the president. For this to happen, the support and pressure coming from ordinary citizens, of various groups and movements, of the Catholic Church and other churches is necessary.