Sunday, March 27, 2011

Run/Walk for Life & Peace Across the Philippines: Itinerary

I only have 5 days before I start my solo, unsupported Run/Walk Pilgrimage for Life and Peace across the Philippines. I will start immediately after the 6 am send-off Mass for Life and Peace this Friday, April 1, 2011. It will take 57 days to cover 2000+ km. I am posting the purpose of this activity and my itinerary.
This pilgrimage has the following purpose:

1. To express my support for the peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front, and between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. I pray that a peace agreement would finally be reached. I would also like to appeal for a ceasefire between the government armed forces and the New Peoples’ Army during the period of peace negotiations. I will also make an appeal to our people to support the peace process.

2. To express my opposition to the ongoing destruction of the environment caused by logging, mining and coal-fired power plants. I appeal for a total ban on mining and coal-fired power plants and the implementation of the total log ban.

3. To denounce the continuing extra-judicial killings perpetrated by death squads in Davao and other cities in the Philippines. I appeal to the Commission of Human Rights to continue the investigation and come up with a final report and hold accountable local government officials sponsoring these killings.

4. To express my opposition to the Reproductive Health Bill (HB 4244) which is based on a false assumption that there is a crisis of overpopulation in our country that is one of the causes of the continuing poverty of our people and a hindrance to sustainable development. To address this crisis it aggressively promotes population control - contraceptives (some of which may be abortifacient) and mandatory sex education - as the solution to poverty and underdevelopment.

During this pilgrimage, I would like to preach about the Gospel of Life and Peace. To be pro-life means to oppose the above-mentioned manifestations of the culture of death.

I will be delivering a letter to Malacanang for President Noynoy Aquino on May 10, 2011 as I continue my journey from Manila to Aparri. I don't expect to to meet him, I will just leave the letter at the guard house and go on my way.

This is the itinerary:

  1. 4/1 Fri: Bajada, Davao City to Carmen (36 k)

  2. 4/2 Sat: Carmen to Mawab (34 k)

  3. 4/3 Sun: Mawab to Monkayo (35 k)

  4. 4/4 Mon: Monkayo to Bunawan (49 k)

  5. 4/5 Tue: Bunawan to San Francisco (51k)

  6. 4/6 Wed: San Francisco to Bayugan (39 k)

  7. 4/7 Thu: Bayugan to Butuan (40 k)

  8. 4/8 Fri: rest

  9. 4/9 Sat: Butuan to Santiago (44 k)

  10. 4/10 Sun: Santiago to Tubod (41 k)

  11. 4/11 Mon: Tubod to Lipata, Surigao (40 k), ferry crossing to Liloan, Leyte

  12. 4/12 Tue: Liloan to Sogod (37)

  13. 4/13 Wed: Sogod to Abuyog (58 k)

  14. 4/14 Thu: Abuyog to Tolosa (45 k)

  15. 4/15 Fri: Tolosa to Tacloban (25 k)

  16. 4/16 Sat: rest

  17. 4/17 Sun: Tacloban to Calbiga (59 k)

  18. 4/18 Mon: Calbiga to Catbalogan (44k)

  19. 4/19 Tue: Catbalogan to Gandara (44 k)

  20. 4/20 Wed: Gandara to San Joaquin (46k)

  21. 4/21 Thu: San Joaquin to San Isidro (40k) Cross to Matnog

  22. 4/22 Good Fri:Matnog to Juban (44 k)

  23. 4/23 Sat: Juban to Cumadcad, Castilla (42 k)

  24. 4/24 Easter Sun: Cumadcad to Legazpi (35 k)

  25. 4/25 Mon: rest

  26. 4/26 Tue: Legazpi to Libon (49 )

  27. 4/27 Wed: Libon to Naga (50)

  28. 4/28 Thu: Naga to Lupi (43 k)

  29. 4/29 Fri: Lupi to del Gallego (46 k)

  30. 4/30 Sat: Del Gallego to Daet-Tagkawayan Junction (46k)

  31. 5/1 Sun: Daet-Tagkawayan Junction to Lopez (32 k)

  32. 5/2 Mon: Lopez to Gumaca (20 k)

  33. 5/3 Tue: Gumaca to Atimonan (28 k)

  34. 5/4 Wed: Atimonan to Lucena (43 k)

  35. 5/5 Thu: Lucena to San Pablo (46k)

  36. 5/6 Fri: San Pablo to Cabuyao (50 k)

  37. 5/7 Sat: Cabuyao– Baclaran, MetroManila (40 k)

  38. 5/8 Sun: Rest

  39. 5/9 Mon: Rest

  40. 5/10 Tue: Baclaran-Balagtas, Bulacan (43 k)

  41. 5/11 Wed: Balagtas – San Fernando, Pampanga (37 k)

  42. 5/12 Thu: San Fernando – Capas, Tarlac (41 k)

  43. 5/13 Fri: Capas- Paniqui, Tarlac (40 k)

  44. 5/14 Sat: Paniqui– Binalonan (43 k)

  45. 5/15 Sun: Binalonan- Twin Peaks (32 k)

  46. 5/16 Mon: Twin Peaks –Baguio (31 k)

  47. 5/17 Tue: rest

  48. 5/18 Wed: Baguio to Sayangan (50 k)

  49. 5/19 Thu: Sayangan to Abatan (35 k)

  50. 5/20 Fri: Abatan to Sabangan (48 k)

  51. 5/21 Sat: Sabangan to Sadanga (32 k)

  52. 5/22 Sun: Sadanga to Lubuagan (32 )

  53. 5/23 Mon: Lubuagan to Tabuk (36 )

  54. 5/24 Tue: Rest

  55. 5/25 Wed: Tabuk to Tuao (43 k)

  56. 5/26 Thu: Tuao to Piat (10k)

  57. 5/27 Fri: Piat- Gattaran (43 k)

  58. 5/28 Sat: Gattaran- Aparri (40 k)

.I will celebrate the Mass for Life and Peace in Aparri on May 29, 2011 Sunday and after that take the bus for Manila. I will be staying in Baclaran, my new home for the next four years and report for work to the CBCP-BEC office on June 1.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Valuing the Gift and Sanctity of Life: Campaigning Against the Reproductive Health (RH) bill

Very early this morning, I joined the "Walk for Life"- a Pro-Life/Anti-RH bill march from our parish to San Pedro Cathedral here in Davao City. There were thousands from other parishes in the city who also marched to the cathedral. The mass started at 6 am, presided by Bishop George Rimando, with Archbishop Capalla and some 50 priests concelebrating. Archbishop Capalla gave the homily.
In other parts of the country, a similar rally was being held - with the biggest in Manila tonight, led by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales.
There is a ongoing deliberation in Congress on House Bill 4244 - formerly called Reproductive Health bill and now renamed Responsible Parenthood Bill. The bill is supported by the present administration and many progressive and civil society groups. It is being opposed by the Catholic Church and other religious groups.
After studying the bill thouroughly and read many of the arguments (for and against), I have made a personal stand against it. I am not in favor of this bill.
It appears to me that the bill is based on a false assumption:
-that there is a crisis of population explosion in country,

- that the continuing poverty of our people can be traced to this overpopulation and that this is a hindrance to sustainable development.

- therefore it is necessary for the governmen to adopt an aggressive/draconian measures to impose population control such as providing reproductive health services (free contraceptives) and sex education starting at Grade Five.

- this will require a substantial budget taken from the taxes.

The bill does not promote abortion, but requires hospitals to give preferential attention to women with post-abortion complication. There are contraceptives that induce abortion (abortifacient) such as the RUH pills. Thus, it may gives impression that while it explicitly denies promoting abortion, it condones and encourages it. The term "Reproductive Health" which is linked with "reproductive rights" in other parts of the world is often understood to include women's right to free choice (including termination of pregnancy or abortion). That is why the agenda of the IPPF all over the world is to promote legislation that will make abortion safe and legal. Thus, in many countries abortion is part of the means to control population growth. But the bill does not adopt that due to constitutional restraints - but it condones and even encourages it by adding the provision on post-abortion complications.
This bill is based on a false assumption that there is a crisis of overpopulation. In fact, population growth in the Philippines has gone down to 2.02 (according to NSO figures) or 1.78 (according to CIA factbook). The total fertility rate has declined to 3.1 in 2008 (from average of 7 in 1960)and is projected to decline to 2.21 (near the ideal replacement level) by 2020. The population density of the Philippines (210/sq km) is much lower than highly developed countries like Hongkong, Singapore, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, etc.
The crisis that the world (especially the West and highly industrialized society that have adopted aggressive population control programs) is facing is actually the coming "demographic winter" - an aging and shrinking population (more older people, less young people). This will mean a problem with human resources that will affect sustainable economic growth. Thus, there is a turn-around in these countries - they now promote reproduction and provide benefits to those who bear more children instead of penalizing them. Meanwhile, these societies are resorting to migrant labor to fill up their workforce requirements. The Philippines is one of the beneficiaries - that is why we have many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). But a time will come when the Philippines could also face the same problem - it may take longer (perhaps 50 years) or it could be hastened by an aggresive population control program.
The RH bill is based on the false assumption that overpopulation is a contributing factor to the perpetuation of poverty and underdevelopment. To ensure sustainable economic development there is a need to control population growth by any means necessary (contraception, sex education, etc). Thus, what will the government provide to the majority of the people who are poor and hungry? Give them condoms, pills, tubal ligation, vasectomy and sex education and use our scarce funds from our taxes to fund this program. The main beneficiaries of this program will be the drug companies that provide the contraceptives.
This is actually a rehash of the Mathusian theory that has long been debunked by economists. Poverty and underdevelopment continues due to graft and corruption, unequal distribution of wealth, unjust economic system that favors the local elite and foreign companies. What is needed is to stamped out graft and corruption, a comprehensive poverty alleviation program, improved education program, better health services, etc.
The issue that we face is not about whether contraception should be allowed or not (it is already legal), or which is the better family planning method (natural or artificial). Rather, the state pursue an an aggressive and mandatory population control policy based on false assumptions that will use our limited resources, that will have negative repercussion in the future, that will create unnecessary tension between the Church and the State?
We have to value new life in the mother's womb as a gift and a source of hope rather a burden, another mouth to feed. Human resource is the most important resource of every society. We have to avoid an anti-life attitude and policies.
I make this position knowing that many of my friends in Civil Society groups are supporting the RH Bill (and some have already chided me for being not politically correct). It is in line with the Consistent Ethic of Life. As I run/walk across the Philippines starting next week, I will preach about the Gospel of life and peace. The RH bill will be one of the concerns I will talk about, besides mining & logging, the extrajudicial killings, and the armed conflict.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Final Preparation for Ultra-Run/Walk Across the Philippines

My classes are over and I only have to give the final exams for my students this week and after that a period of my life as a professor which lasted for 16 years will be over. Time to move on to my new assignment in Manila as executive secretary of the Committee on BEC of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. How do I get to Manila from Davao? Instead of flying, I will just run/walk to Manila and even farther - up to Aparri, the northern tip of the Philippines, then take the bus back to Manila (it will take 58 days to cover over 2000 km). This will symbolize my life as a continuing journey and pilgrimage.

I am making my final preparation for this journey of a lifetime. I have already finalized the itinerary. I have already sent the letter to the parish priests where I will stay overnight - requesting for hospitality and asking for a chance to preach about the Gospel of Life & Peace. I have all the necessary equipment that I will need - backpack, running shorts and quick-dry shirts, jacket, running shoes & sandals, headlight, hydration system, umbrella, etc.

My training continues. Yesterday, I went on a 50 km run/walk training along the Davao-Bukidnon highway which took 9 hours 17 minutes. I carried my back-pack and imagined that I was already on my pilgrimage. The night before, I had heavy dinner. Then before starting in the morning, I just took coffee and ate a banana. I didn't have any lunch. I just consumed 5 bananas and 2 pieces of cookies during the entire run. I drank water and energy drink (samurai, extra-joss) every hour. Part of the time I wore sandals, and part of the time I wore a pair of running shoes. I noticed that after 4 hours, I developed some hot spots on my feet while wearing sandals, so I decided to wear my running shoes up to the end of the run/walk. I think it is not a good idea to wear sandals on hot asphalt highway - it could cause blisters. I felt fine during the whole 9 hours - I didn't feel exhausted or hungry.

This morning when I woke up, I felt fine. No muscular pain or strain. I could do another 40-50 km if I wanted but I decided to give myself a break. The remaining days up to the start of my run/walk pilgrimage, I will just do shorter training - 2-3 hours.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Assisting in the Formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities: Working with the CBCP-BEC Committee

Archdiocesan BEC Assembly, Lipa

CBCP building/ BEC office on the 3rd floor

Last Friday I was in Manila for a meeting with Bishop George Rimando - the Chairman of the Committee on Basic Ecclesial Communities of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-BEC Committee). He confirmed my appointment as the new executive secretary of the committee. I will be starting in June after my Run/Walk Pilgrimage Across the Philippines.

The following day, I went to Lipa to attend the archdiocesan BEC assembly. Over one thousand participants attended and the gathering started with a Mass presided by Archbishop Ramon Arguelles. I gave the keynote talk on the BECs as Expression of the PCP II Vision of A Renewed Church.

This morning I went to the office of the CBCP-BEC committee in Intramuros and met the outgoing executive secretary - Monsignor Elmer Abacahin. After four years of service he has been recalled by his archbishop and given a new assignment. So this was a sort of turn-over. So for the next four years, this office will be my base of operation. I will be residing at the Redemptorist Monastery in Baclaran.
When I report to my new assignment, I won't be taking the plane. I will run/walk all the way from Davao to Aparri covering over 2,000 km and then take the bus back to Manila. The first two days of my work in June will be a strategic planning with Bishop George and the BEC consultants.