Saturday, June 30, 2012


Today both the city of Tacloban and the province of Leyte is celebrating the feast of the Sto. Niño of Tacloban. Another variant of one of the most popular Catholic devotions in this only Catholic nation in the Far East, this local celebration--promoted to the rank of a feast by virtue of a decree issued by then Bishop Teotimo Pacis in the late 1960--stands out among other celebrations of the Christ Child due to its peculiar date. Usually the feast is celebrated in January, but due to special circumstances here in Tacloban (the return of the lost image of the Christ Child in June) its feast is celebrated on the 30th of June. 
These past few years the celebration of this feast has been the stage of 

Friday, June 29, 2012


Pope Benedict XVI: Significance of the Pallium Bestowed Upon Archbishops
"The metropolitan archbishops appointed since the feast of Saints Peter and Paul last year are now going to receive the pallium. What does this mean? It may remind us in the first instance of Christ’s easy yoke that is laid upon us (cf. Mt 11:29f.). Christ’s yoke is identical with his friendship. It is a yoke of friendship and therefore “a sweet yoke”, but as such it is also a demanding yoke, one that forms us. It is the yoke of his will, which is a will of truth and love. For us, then, it is first and foremost the yoke of leading others to friendship with Christ and being available to others, caring for them as shepherds. This brings us to a further meaning of the pallium: it is woven from the wool of lambs blessed on the feast of Saint Agnes. Thus it reminds us of the Shepherd who himself became a lamb, out of love for us. It reminds us of Christ, who set out through the mountains and the deserts, in which his lamb, humanity, had strayed. It reminds us of him who took the lamb – humanity – me – upon his shoulders, in order to carry me home. It thus reminds us that we too, as shepherds in his service, are to carry others with us, taking them as it were upon our shoulders and bringing them to Christ. It reminds us that we are called to be shepherds of his flock, which always remains his and does not become ours. Finally the pallium also means quite concretely the communion of the shepherds of the Church with Peter and with his successors – it means that we must be shepherds for unity and in unity, and that it is only in the unity represented by Peter that we truly lead people to Christ."

~ Pope Benedict XVI; excerpt from Homily on 6/29/11 ~

Today I'll be praying for Archbishop John Du and the rest of the metropolitan archbishops who would be receiving this symbol from the hands of the Successor of  Peter.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Saint of the Ordinary: Feast of St. Josemaria in Brgy. Apitong.

Here are some photos I took before the start of the Mass, celebrated by Msgr. Ramon Aguilos, at the St. Josemaría Escriva Mission Station in Brgy. Apitong, Tacloban City. The mission station, currently under the pastoral care of Fr. Alvin Nicolasora, is perhaps the most beautiful of all the barrio chapels in the whole archdiocese. It's not even a parish yet, though it holds much promise. All of us concelebrants have been touched in one way or the other by the figure of this great saint of the ordinary, as Fr. Alvin pointed out after the communion, during the message of thanks. The chapel was filled to overflowing, especially as he had also invited the children of the nearby school, since they had no classes this morning. Their teachers were having their practices for the Sangyaw Festival which is due on the eve of the Tacloban Fiesta this weekend.

The sacristy table or altar

The relic of St. Josemaría.

Fr. Bong taking a look at the vestments. 

The chapel was well spruced-up for the occasion. They had even adorned
the altar in the Benedictine arrangement.

The view from the diminutive choirloft.

The most beautiful baranggay chapel in the whole Archdiocese.

The image of the patron saint.

Another view of the altar with the Benedictine arrangement.

One of my old teachers in elementary and a dear friend, Mrs. Araceli Baisa.

Fr. Felix and Fr. Bong

After the Mass free meals were distributed among the faithful, the majority
of whom are poor.

The choir loft 

Msgr. Ramon after the Mass.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


About a week ago I had the enviable opportunity to accompany Archbishop John F. Du to where no archbishop before him has ever gone before. The lightning visit to the mines located in Brgy. Imelda, MacArthur, Leyte was something bound to take place in a matter of time. The mine became operational once landowners had begun to sell or lease their lands to the mining company to the Nicua mining corporation, which exports magnetite to China. These had caused the farmers to be bereft of the land that they had tilled for so long, compelling some of them to work for the said corporation.  Actually, the issue on mining had already been hot ever since it surfaced just a few years ago. It was one issue that had already been presented to the presbyterium of Palo some time ago, and awareness of it elicited a motion for a joined statement from the Archdiocese, in which it took a stand against it. Well, to be more precise, the stand was not against mining per se, but as an irresponsible lucrative activity. Personally I considered it an important thing that the local church and its pastors be made aware of this, but it did not affect me much. The mining issue was relevant in the metropolitan province of Palo; the advocacy against abusive mining activities was also in full swing in other areas comprising the suffragan dioceses near us. But as I said, it never affected me as much as it did when I finally get to know the issue in the biblical sense of the word.
That day we were in the locality of Mayorga, Leyte. The archbishop, concelebrating priests and the faithful had finished celebrating the fiesta mass in honor of the patron saint of the town,  and we were already enjoying the sumptuous lunch that always followed every liturgical celebration (as we say it, after the Misa follows the mesa). Fr. Edwin Perito, the parish priest, was our gracious host. It was thanks to his insistence that the Archbishop had to change his flight itinerary in order just to be able to preside at the Mass. He also happened to be in charge of the Social Action Secretariat of the Archdiocese of Palo, under which the issue of mining was. He had some people from the NASSA( ). Towards the end of the meal I saw that the Archbishop had been introduced to Fr. Perito’s collaborators, one of which was Rodne Galicha, who was very much active in environmental advocacies and was working with the socio-pastoral arm of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-NASSA) concerning these issues on the environment. I had spoken with this young man the night before at dinner and I had no doubt that he was telling the archbishop about the situation at the mines. By the end of the meal, when it was time to go, the Archbishop Du inquired whether it was possible to go to the mines for a quick visit. Fr. Perito said that it was not far from his parish; in fact, it was in the next town, just  a few kilometers from where we were.
And so we—Archbishop Du, Fr. Edwin, Rodne, Bro. Peter Ayaso, Sis. May Verona, FHL, me, and of course (an important part of the archiepiscopal retinue), Glenn, one of the Archbishop’s drivers, drove to Brgy. Imelda, MacArthur, Leyte. The town of MacArthur was divided over the mining issue, something that I would summarize as between those who wanted the income (which allowing the mining company to operate would suppose, especially to those who had the power to issue permits), and those who most likely suffer the immediate consequences of the mining operations. As we drove through the dusty neighborhood somebody was commenting that had it not been for the approval and the support of the local leaders it wouldn’t have been possible for the company to start their operations.
When we reached a certain place on the road, we turned left and entered into the lush green, going along a narrow dirt road which led us into a huge field. I turned out to be huge expanse of arable land. Rice fields stretched from where we were, until it met with the coconut trees on the horizon. Somebody once again commented that before us there were more or less 700 hectares of rice fields. Well, at least there used to be, for in the distance we could make out large patches of dry sand, as if the seashore was there. As we made our way through the path, we gradually observed that the irrigation system became drier, bereft of water. There were scattered groups of farmers, trying to get what was left after the first harvest. The irrigation trenches got drier, and the drier they where, the deeper they became, in search for new water. I learned that the mining operation needed lots and lots of water. Machines sucking the water through and from the soil had robbed the fields of the water necessary to make plants grow and harvests to be plentiful. But only the fields were made to thirst for water; the nearby Lake Bito’s water level had lowered drastically, it’s waters drained through ground by powerful machines to give way to the seemingly insatiable demand for more water. This gravely affected life in the lake, by endangering the fishes living there. But then in doing so, it was already seriously affecting the lives of those living around the lake, the fishermen who for so long had depended upon the fresh bounty of the lake for their living.

As we approached we could see how the mining had taken its toll. Where green and fertile fields once stood, only dry sand dunes were left. Basically, the mining operation was interested in a mineral called magnetite, which was found beneath the surface, a black substance that was part of the earth. The fertile topsoil provided little interest for the mines. The earth that served as a fertile bed upon which the palay grew was bulldozed as soon as it was purchased, seemingly, irrespective of the fact that a fruitful yield of palay was still on it, waiting to be harvested. A lot water was applied, and the barges with the powerful sucking machines and mineral separators were floated in. these machines separated the soil from the magnetite, and the rejected soil was spewed back into the surface with the water used to soften the earth and mine it. Stripped of its nutrients, the wasted soil was light and dusty. The soil’s nutrients mixed in wastewater issuing from the huge pipes of the barges: this promiscuity rendered the water poisonous. This poisoned water flowed downstream, away from the lake nearby. However months ago, heavy rains and flooding (now partly caused by the alteration of the immediate environment) caused the water to go back on its course, and so poisoned water flowed into the lake, causing a fish kill which was never before experience by the community, an unprecedented phenomenon that cost more than a million pesos worth of damages. This was the fish kill reported in the news just this April.

When we got out of the car our presence caused quite a stir. The Archbishop was dressed in his clerical shirt and wore a pectoral cross on a chain that hung from his neck. Bro. Peter and I still wore our white cassock, and Sister May was in her habit. The workers and the guards all stared at this strange group that had just alighted from the automobile. The guards didn’t seem to know what to make of our presence. They approached us and we began to engage them in conversation. When we asked them as to who was in-charge of the operation, they informed us that they were not here at the moment. After some moments of conversation the guards politely showed us the way to the protester’s camp, which was just on the other side of the pond that the mines had dug. I could see huge, ugly barges with machines and big pipes that brought and sucked water from the depths. Their activity caused the ground beneath our feet to tremble, and the steady hum of the machines was annoying. Tractors were working, stripping the land bare of its humus. We didn’t notice until late that the miners disappeared soon after we came, and the tractors have been silenced somewhat, but the barges were kept functioning relentlessly.

One of the barges. they have placed one of the banners of the
protesters from the barricade, as if taunting the plight
of the fishermen campaigning that the lake be spared.

The only thing separating the brackish lake water and waste water
 is this thin film of material and sand barrier

We were able to make our way across stripped land to the where the farmers and fishermen where. They had established themselves upon the boundaries of the operations, so that the miners could progress no further. They were a poor lot, and distressed. Once introduced to the Archbishop, they opened up and shared their concerns. They showed us around the periphery of the mines. I only realized later on that we were actually trespassing, and that it was quite of a feat that it was the guards who showed us around, and how to go to the farmers in the first place. Perhaps they were just being considerate to the cloth, which led the Archbishop to conclude that the cassock had the ability to command respect. He would be singling us out later on for our “witnessing” with the cassock. (Actually I didn’t have a change of clothes with me, but hey, thanks anyway!)
The Archbishop walking across the barrier.

The mines have reached so far up to the edge of the field. The application to
proceed to mine off the hill in the background has been filed.

After showing us around, we ended up in the small shack that they had built, just on the edge of the pond. There the Archbishop addressed himself to the farmers and the fishermen. I wasn’t very attentive to what he was saying in the beginning, but what he said towards the end was that which struck me most. He had said that he would do everything that he could, but expressed his doubts that he could count much on getting the ear of the President and other officials, being as they are. However, one thing that they must not leave out of their struggle was God. Man could do something, but his limitations or those of others would always limit him. But God is powerful, and in the end, it is to Him that we ought to turn to, especially in our time of need. They could depend on the Archbishop for action, but they have to have in the Lord an ally who would never fail them. Impressed as I was with the deep spirituality and the practicality behind these words, I as one with the Archbishop in noticing that indeed they have may have counted out prayer as a powerful tool in their struggle.

After placing our names in the logbook, we made our way back to the car. By that time people outside were already aware of our presence, and the Archbishop didn’t want confrontation of any kind, and so we left.
many thoughts were running through my mind as the car slowly made its way over the dirt road. As we passed through the rice paddies that had just probably yielded their last harvest, I could say that I have just stared at corruption in the face. In the first place, it was the lure of easy money and a fixation on present comfort that had led to this, the lamentable rape of a good portion of our natural resources. A foreign mining company comes into a sleepy municipality, makes a business proposition to the town’s leaders, and covers up the adverse effects of their operation with generous monetary offers and promises of rehabilitation. The leaders let themselves be seduced without thinking too much of how it would affect not only the land, but ultimately, the lives of their people. I think that in this matter, what is at fault is not merely the greed of the privileged few, but also the shortsightedness of these few, and those whom they had managed to convince. Lured by the prospect of easy money, they have been blinded to the truth that the measly millions and thousands that they receive are not guarantees of a brighter future, either theirs or that of the town of MacArthur.
By allowing these things to happen, the privileged few have also become blind to something equally serious: the plight of the less privileged. By stripping away the fertile topsoil, mining operations have done away with the means of livelihood of the farmers who have lived their lives in communion with the land that they tilled. Through the harmful effects of mining which went unchecked, habitats once rich and biodiverse have become poisoned, affecting not only the wildlife that flourished in them, but also making the future more dark and uncertain for those whose livelihood depended on these same resources.
These things I had seen with my own eyes, in the midst of a greater international conflict between China and the Philippines. One in our company quipped—not without irony—that we were trying to hard to protect our interests in the Panatag shoal against the encroachment of China, but seem to be too complacent about the fact that the Chinese where making big profit from our own land in the other side of the archipelago, without much courtesy at that. The uncouth and arrogant attitude of the Chinese employers at the mines just adds insult to injury, with their disregard for their workers welfare and well-being. I had observed that the workers weren’t advised to wear protective clothing. I doubt that the Chinese would give them benefits for their pains, and I am quite sure that they would just leave them there once they’ve got what they came for. Shortly after we left, I was saddened to hear that the two guards who came out to meet us were given a good dressing down. 
This is something that is not too known beyond the confines of the town of MacArthur. Good thing that neighboring towns have refused to let the mines operate in their jurisdictions, after having seen its adverse effects. I have written not only because of the impact that this had had on me, but also so that others may also know, and in knowing, be mobilized. My thoughts turn especially to the youth. My prayer is that they learn eventually to understand that though they need to enjoy the time that they have in their hands, they also need to prepare themselves and be aware of these things. There is a danger that our society faces when our Filipino youth are only given to enjoy life, than learning to live it so that others too may live. I am hoping that this gesture of sharing what I have seen may also open the eyes of others—especially the youth—to the truth that people are suffering because of injustice and corruption, and that we can do something to help, even just in our own little way. And helping starts with the prayer the Lord that he may touch the hearts of all, so that, in being touched, they may be transformed and become agents of a new creation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Actions speak louder than words

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS; let your words teach and your actions speak. we are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. Gregory says: "A law is laid upon the preacher to practice what he preaches." It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ridley Scott, Aliens, Religion and Parent Modeling

I read this from an interview of the director of that new sci-fi movie Prometheus and its got some pretty interesting points that I thing people should consider very well, especially for parents who want their children to grow up well as God-fearing persons...
Are you a believer and what is your vision of heaven and hell?
My father made me an altar boy because we were with the Protestant Church of England. I’d go and struggle with the wine with the priest, who’d pour out this ruby-red wine. We’d have a struggle with the communion cup, because I liked the wine, as well.
I got fed up and eventually took up tennis instead of going to church. I became an avid tennis player. My parents never knew this for a year. My father said to me, “How can you do this?” I said, “Well, you don’t go to church and neither does mum.” There was this total silence.
But, the time I spent in church left a mark on me. I am not sure that the mark is a good thing, because it leaves an inherent sense of guilt even when you haven’t done anything wrong. Bizarrely, I still feel guilty. It keeps me on the straight and narrow path, so I think what you learn from religion are the fundamentals of right and wrong. Whether God or Christ has a part in that, the most important thing I got out of religion was right and wrong.
So, if you could ask your Creator, is there one burning question that you would want answered?
Yeah, what’s the weather like? I don’t know. Maybe if I can get my knee back, so I can play tennis again. The sport is a wonderful thing for me. It was my escape. But, my Maker? I wouldn’t know what to ask Him. I have pretty well everything. I’m really enjoying myself.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Solemnity of Corpus Christi: Body given and Blood shed

This feast, instituted in the 12th century, seemingly as a response to the controversies concerning the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, manifests to us one thing that is in the heart of the message of the history of salvation: God is love, a love that is shown in his fidelity to the promises he has made to his people.

The Holy Eucharist—Jesus Christ present whole and entire under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, body, blood, soul and divinity—is the great sign of God’s fidelity to man. In this great mystery we see the ultimate fulfillment of the promises that had been made in the key episodes of the history of salvation. In them God had promised to Israel that he would be to them a God who would protect them from their enemies, who would take care of them, who would be their shield in the face of their enemies. Israel, in turn, would be his people, one that is peculiarly his own. I will be your God, and you shall be my people (cfr. Ex 6:7ss): this was basically what the covenant between the Lord God and Israel had stipulated, and which formed a unique relationship between God and the people he has called his own. This was a covenant that was sealed with the blood of young bulls. It was a covenant that gave birth to Israel as a nation whose God was the Lord. The history of salvation would come to prove two things: on one hand, that Israel did not always comply to this covenant; on the other, the frequent infidelity of his people emphasized all the more God’s enduring fidelity to the alliance. The history of salvation, seen from this view of the covenant between God and man, is the story of man’s infidelity and the faithfulness of God that is constant and true.

In the sacrifice of the cross Jesus established the new covenant between God and man, and sealed it, not with the blood of animals, but with the blood of the Son of God. This covenant is definitive, it is the new and eternal covenant, one that shall never pass away: God is faithful to his promise to save man from his own destruction, even though each of us may either accept it or not.

In the Eucharist, which the Lord Jesus established on the evening before he suffered and died, we behold the great sign of this covenant. Underneath the mere appearance of bread and wine we see the fulfillment of this promise, that God will always be with us, and that he will always be there for us, no matter what. In the Eucharist the Lord remains among us, so that he may be there whenever we are troubled, whenever we are happy. He remains there, whole and entire—body and blood, soul and divinity—the prisoner of the Tabernacle, so that he could feed us with his life, his very own.

Day and night the Lord Jesus remains under in Eucharistic species, regardless of whether there may be courageous souls with enough love in their hearts to keep him company, or whether he is left alone and abandoned by the people for whom he has offered his life on the cross. This constancy of the love God presents to us the supreme example of fidelity: the Eucharist is in a way the sacrament of God’s fidelity to man. In this great sacrament of love, Jesus, our Eucharist, remains under the appearance of the most humble and simple of things—bread and wine—in order to be near us, in order that he may be easily accessible to us and that we may come near him without hesitation and yet with much faith. We who live in a society that is sophisticated and which is oftentimes marked by deceit and superficiality have Jesus in the Eucharist as our master. In the Eucharist he teaches us that to be faithful not only means that one has to be there, that one has to be able to keep one’s word, but that one has to be accessible and humble. Humility and the fact of just being there for the ones that we love are hallmarks of Christian fidelity. This is what we need to have, especially in our relationships, if we would want them to be truly life giving and fulfilling.

This is another reason why we need to always nourish ourselves with the gift of the Eucharist. For the family that goes to Mass well disposed to receive its graces the Sunday Eucharist is a pledge of unity and love; here the words “the family that prays together stays together” acquire their fullest sense. Once we live a life that is truly Eucharistic, we learn to be like our Lord, who is always there to shower us with his love, the lonely prisoner of the Tabernacle out of love.

Let the resolution that we make in this Sunday of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord be that we not leave our Lord alone and lonely in the Tabernacle, and that like him, we learn to be faithful and true to the commitments that we have made in our relationships, both with the Lord and with the persons whom we live with. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

I'm staying at the house of the Father...., I'm not yet dead, though I'll be staying in a place that's basically nearer to the heavens due to its higher location, and also because of the fact that this is the house of the Archdiocese's common father, Archbishop Du. I'll be staying for the meantime with the Archbishop and his staff at the Gonzagahaus, accompanying him while he tries to "get to know me better", as he once put it, during my first encounter with him, which took place soon after I arrived in Palo. 

I haven't given up my room at the seminary, though. I'm still looking forward to return there every now and then.

Being here in the archbishop's house was very helpful in breaking the "summer lethargy" that had invaded me so soon after I was back again on Philippine soil. I think i'm ready to resume my blogging after quite a long absence. I have been remiss in posting last Sunday's homily, I know. But I'll try to make up for it. There's a lot of time and the connection here is good.

I've come up with a list of objectives that I need to fulfill during this break:
  1. Read Adalbert G. Hamman's book entitled La Vida Cotidiana de los Primeros Cristianos, and come up with the first of the three book reports that I would have to submit this coming semester.
  2. Go and visit the archives of the Augustinian Recollects in Quezon City, in the effort of gleaning some information for my thesis.
  3. Start working on my thesis, even just some lines.
  4. Go visit some friends.
  5. enjoy my summer in the company of my friends and loved ones.