Hope and the Poor, by Karl Gaspar

(Reaction of Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar, CSsR to the talk of Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP on January 20 at the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu City).

CEBU CITY (MindaNews / 21 January) – Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Good morning everyone!

(On January 19), I travelled from the far south of Mindanao to Cebu so I can be here for this occasion, riding first ahabal-habal– the motorcycle ride from the uplands – to the town of Glan (in Sarangani province) where I took the van to GenSan (General Santos City) then caught the plane to Mactan. Along with a group of Redemptorists and our lay missionaries, we are currently conducting a mission as we live among the indigenous and Moro communities in the villages of Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental.

Located just off the Celebes Sea bordering our country and Indonesia, these are the villages where the majority of the population are Sarangani Manobo, B’laan and the Islamized Sangils. Apart from some of the descendants of Christian migrant settlers, the majority of the residents are the poorest among the poor, living in the most peripheral of peripheries in our country.

Mostly abandoned and neglected by State agencies, the infrastructure, educational and health facilities in these villages hardly exist. The Manobo and B’laans are losing the ownership of their ancestral domain and could wake up one day soon to find themselves being ejected from the land of their ancestors. While the Muslim Sangils are not yet experiencing the turmoils faced by other Moro communities in Mindanao – which parallel situations in the troubled spots of the Middle East – still they live in fear and insecurity owing to the collateral damage brought about by the tragic Mamasapano incident. Last Sunday at our own Sto. Nino fiesta celebration in the mission station, Bishop Guillermo Afable, our Local Ordinary, at his homily mentioned recently receiving a report from the Department of Health indicating that one of the highest rates of malnutrition among children is in this locality and throughout his Diocese.

Even as we are sitting comfortably here in this impressive hall, there are hundreds of residents there who are faced with hunger. Their past two harvest seasons practically yielded nothing owing to a rat infestation. For this current planting season, no fields could be plowed and seeds planted because of El Nino and the ensuing drought which could last till middle of this year.

It was in this location that I read and reflected on Fr. Timothy’s paper, “Hope in the Desert?”

In such a setting, the words take on far more powerful meanings. And just now we have the privilege of being in his august presence to listen to his words. These are such precious gifts, and thank you Fr. Timothy for your words that bring hope to us who at times ask ourselves – Is there hope for the people of Mindanao that in my youth was still labelled as “Land of Promise”?

For 50 years of my life, I have travelled across this land and have been confronted with the terrifying and ugly face of war, displacements, massive poverty, inequality, ecological degradation, disasters of all kinds and at many junctures – out of sheer helplessness and frustration – have been tempted to completely lose hope that things could get better. Indeed, this is a Land of Unfulfilled Promise; a truly heartbreaking reality!

However, your words dear Fr. Timothy are absolutely true – at the most acute crisis of our time, the poor can teach us what it means to hope. This is truly ironic – the people who should be the ones to be consoled are the ones who console us, the ones who should be the first to just give up and yield to despair are the ones who remind us that beyond the darkness is light. Like our Brother Francis, they are the ones who exhort us that instead of despair, let us bring hope, instead of doubt, true faith in a merciful God.

Indeed, they will always abide in God as they cling on to their abode despite the evils that surround them. For their God hears their lamentations and nurtures their resilience, gifting them with a great sense of humor as they can laugh their cares away. They pray but not just on their knees but they rise, sing their hearts out and dance whether it is the Sinulog or the Dayang-dayang. Truly, if they have not been infected by the disease of cultural alienation from their indigenous roots, our people’s creative gestures in liturgy are so full of hopeful meaning.

And yes, the songs that our people sing can soar and penetrate the heavens above. There was a day when a group of us walked up and down the slippery and muddy trails of the mountain range of our mission area. We had hiked for hours. Tired, thirsty and sweating profusely, I asked myself – What am I doing here in this bleak landscape where the situation remains desperate and could go from bad to worse? And then one of the catechists began to sing and the rest joined the chorus. The music and lyrics echoed across the hills and fields; the words in Cebuano gripping our souls:

Ayaw wad-a ang paglaum, Bisan tuod sa mga kadag-um, Kay luyo sa mga panganod, Nagasidlak ang adlaw…(Do not lose hope, despite the gloomy sky, For behind the dark clouds, The sun shines brightly!)

So ladies and gentlemen, as the song goes:
Let the sunshine… Let the sunshine in!Daghang salamat!

International Eucharistic Congress (IEC)


Around 12,000 local and international delegates will attend to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), which will run from Jan. 24 to 31 in Cebu City. It will be the second time in the Philippines. In 1952, the event was held in Manila.

As Pope Francis said on his address to the coming IEC on last September:  ” The theme chosen for the upcoming International Eucharistic Congress is highly significant: “Christ in you, our hope of glory” (Col 1:27). It sets in full light the bond between the Eucharist, mission and Christian hope. Today there is a lack of hope in the world, that is why humanity needs to hear the message of our hope in Jesus Christ. The Church proclaims this message with renewed ardour, utilizing new methods and new expressions. With the spirit of the “new evangelization”, the Church brings this message to all people and, in a special way, to those who, despite having been baptized, are far from the Church and live without reference to Christian life”.

In preparation to the Congress the second day for the IEC Theological Symposium opened with a morning prayer followed by a lecture of Fr. Mark Francis regarding Liturgical Inculturation.

​As Pope Francis himself have been calling for decentralization of the Catholic Church and Liturgical Inculturation, Rev. Fr. Mark Francis explained that as dialogue is a continuous process there is a constant need for liturgical inculturation to keep up with the changing times and different cultures around the world.

​As reactors, Rev. Fr. Daniel Franklin Pilario and Rev. Fr. Amelito D. Racelis SDB brought into light the controversy regarding the inaction of the Roman Curia regarding the “Misa ng Bayang Pilipino” (Mass of the Filipino People) liturgical rites which was submitted to them for approval, the Philippine Churches despite being at a standstill as they wait for Rome’s approval have been using “Misa ng Bayang Pilipino” for special occasions because the need of Liturgical Incorporation is very much called for.

​But as was brought up by a listener of the lecture during the open forum was the fact that the biggest problem and contradiction regarding constant liturgical incorporation and decentralization of the Roman Catholic Church is the issue of preservation of tradition versus the development and progress using liturgical incorporation.

​This was followed with a lecture by Most Rev. Piero Marini, long time papal liturgist and master of ceremonies, who gave his talk in Italian. In his lecture entitled, “A History of the Novus Ordo” (History of the New Order of the Mass). During his lecture he discussed that under the Spirit of the Council, the Roman Rite that is now widely used in the Church becomes the basis for dialogue with cultures as regards liturgy. Archbishop Marini says “From my experience… it was sufficient to incorporate a few elements of local culture (music, song, local language, local vestments, physical gestures) into the papal celebration of the Roman rite for the congregation to see it as something properly theirs.

He cautions however and continued that, “Whenever cultural elements are inserted in liturgical celebrations held outside the milieu. There is always the danger of an exploitation.


Kidnap for ransom: 2016


The year 2015 has demonstrated that kidnap for ransom is a threat that is here to stay. For 2016, Aegis Response has identified two factors that will significantly affect the threat landscape: technology and the Islamic State. For companies operating in areas where abduction is a risk, these two developments are likely to have a marked effect on preventing and resolving kidnap for ransom incidents.


The accelerated increase in the use of technology is already having an impact on how traditional kidnap for ransoms are perpetrated and managed. On the one hand, this can be positive for both the potential victims and for those seeking to release them. For example, Aegis Response has noted a shift away from negotiations taking place via telephone calls, to email negotiations with kidnappers, with Islamic State almost exclusively using this form of communication for their demands. This gives a crisis management team the luxury of time in a less pressured environment, enabling them to reach a decision on strategy and to craft an ideal response “behind closed doors”.

In terms of proof of life, there are many more options for verification – video voice calls, for example – that can provide extra assurance that a victim is alive and being held by the group in question. However, the almost blanket use of forms of social media and popular messaging applications creates new problems in the kidnap for ransom arena. Victims can now be vulnerable to simple reconnaissance on their personal wealth gleaned from photos posted online and employment information, which kidnappers can investigate from the comfort of their own homes, choosing from a wide range of potential victims. There have been cases of kidnappers with sophisticated cyber capability conducting research on their victims’ bank accounts, abducting them, and then forcing them to simply use their online bank accounts to personally transfer a specific ransom amount for their release.

So, where does this leave insurance reimbursements? While bitcoin, the anonymous currency, is used extensively in cyber extortions, it is spilling over into the realm of kidnap for ransom: we have begun to see cases where kidnappers have demanded to be paid ransoms in this crypto currency. For instance, in October, a businessman from Hong Kong was released after being kidnapped and held in Taiwan for over a month by a gang demanding a ransom of USD9 million in bitcoin. Over the coming year, the trajectory of this technological shift will proceed apace and – for better or worse – further changes are likely in the field of traditional kidnap for ransom.

Islamic State

The Islamic State, for its part, has  begun to change the rules of the game in which we – response companies – play.

While the vast majority of kidnappings by the group are financially motivated, the situation becomes far more complex when combined with an ideological narrative.

Over the last year, media attention has focused largely on the nationality of the victim, with images of American, British, and Japanese citizens beheaded available on nearly every media source. The Islamic State knows its history – just as we determine the going rate of kidnap groups, they too estimate ransom payments based on their hostages’ nationalities. Although abduction is mainly opportunistic, Islamic State-associated militants in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Somalia and Syria will continue to seek victims who garner the highest price and the greatest degree of global media attention.

Considering that foreign civilians will largely avoid Syria in 2016, the risks there should remain the same, although attempts to kidnap Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese fighters will likely increase due to their growing presence. Moreover, an increasing number of Islamic State recruits from Iraqi and Afghani refugee centres in Iran are being sent to Syria. Al-Nusra Front will also remain active in Syria – in both kidnap for political/ideological purposes and for commercial reasons. While both the Islamic State and Nusra Front are designated terrorist groups, the latter has shown greater interest and flexibility in hostage negotiations as its financial model differs from that of the Islamic State.

A new risk in 2016 will be the possibility of militant groups outside Iraq and Syria, such as in Nigeria, Libya, Yemen and the Philippines, executing foreign hostages in an effort to show solidarity with the Islamic State.

Una luce per Zamboanga

Da quindici anni, padre Nevio Viganò opera in una delle regioni più povere e pericolose dell’isola di Mindanao. Dove cerca di portare aiuti concreti, ma anche di promuovere diritti e giustizia
Nevio«Il mio nome è Nevio. Brianzolo di nascita, ora sono per un terzo italiano, un terzo cinese e un terzo filippino». Si presenta così, padre Nevio Viganò missionario del Pime che dal Duemila vive a Zamboanga, sull’isola di Mindanao, la seconda più estesa delle settemila isole che compongono l’arcipelago delle Filippine.Un posto difficile e pericoloso, dilaniato da un conflitto tra l’esercito e gli indipendentisti musulmani che dura da quarant’anni e che ha fatto più di 150 mila vittime. Anche tre missionari del Pime – Tullio Favali, Salvatore Carzedda e Fausto Tentorio – hanno dato la loro vita per questa terra e la sua gente.

Padre Nevio è costretto a muoversi con una scorta. Un particolare su cui sorvola volentieri. Anche se è perfettamente consapevole della situazione: «Purtroppo – ci dice – Zamboanga e Mindanao vengono accomunate dai media solo a fatti negativi: povertà dilagante, mancanza di assistenza medica, rapimenti specialmente di stranieri a scopo di riscatto, gruppi armati che pretendono di amministrare arbitrariamente la giustizia nella totale impunità, presenza di gruppi di estremisti islamici…».

Poi, però, ci sono anche le straordinarie bellezze naturali e l’eccezionale ricchezza di gruppi etnici, culture e religioni diverse che vivono insieme. Un posto che – se fossero garantite condizioni minime di sicurezza – potrebbe essere un paradiso non solo per i turisti, ma per antropologi e appassionati di dialogo interreligioso.

Padre Nevio, come gli altri missionari, vi resta a prescindere. Questo è un luogo di predilezione per il Pime. E per lui personalmente. Che in questo momento è solo a Sinunuc, periferia di Zamboanga, dove si trova a operare come missionario e parroco della parrocchia della Trasfigurazione, una delle più giovani e povere della diocesi. La sua comunità è composta da circa trentamila persone, a maggioranza cristiana, con una forte percentuale di musulmani e indigeni lumad: «Quindici anni fa – precisa il missionario – i cristiani rappresentavano il 70 per cento circa degli abitanti della nostra parrocchia, mentre i musulmani erano il 25%. Oggi questi ultimi sono circa il 50% e il loro numero è in aumento per via del forte incremento delle nascite e per l’emigrazione dei cristiani soprattutto verso la vicina Malaysia».

Il territorio è vastissimo, va dal litorale sul mare di Sulu, sino ai villaggi arroccati sui monti: sette piccoli agglomerati, spersi in foresta e raggiungibili attraverso strade sconnesse quando va bene. Perché durante la stagione delle piogge spesso rimangono completamente isolati a causa delle frane.

«Più vivo con la gente – racconta padre Nevio – e più riesco a capire il mio ruolo di pastore e di missionario. Da un lato, ci si trova di fronte alla necessità di rispondere a bisogni immediati che non possono essere rinviati a un futuro prossimo o remoto; dall’altro, cerchiamo di far crescere nell’animo della gente, specie nei giovani, un senso di dignità che li spinga a essere responsabili della propria esistenza».

Nell’uno e nell’altro caso, si tratta di sfide non scontate. Il territorio è difficile e non solo per i problemi di sicurezza. Una grande questione è, ad esempio, lo sfruttamento delle ingenti risorse del suolo e del sottosuolo, dal legname al carbone, spesso nelle mani di multinazionali e di lobby locali senza scrupoli, interessate più al profitto che al benessere della popolazione o alla salvaguardia dell’ambiente. Più volte, missionari e attivisti per i diritti umani hanno denunciato la confisca e la distruzione delle terre ancestrali delle popolazioni indigene, che hanno un valore simbolico oltre che concreto per il loro sostentamento. In passato, era stata chiesta una moratoria per tutte le attività minerarie nella penisola di Zamboanga. Cosa che ovviamente non è avvenuta. Gli interessi di pochi prevalgono sui diritti di molti.

«La povertà e la mancanza di sicurezza – analizza il missionario – sono causate soprattutto dalla decennale mancanza di attenzione e di programmazione da parte del governo centrale di Manila. Questo ha creato un forte malcontento tra la popolazione locale, ma ha favorito anche la nascita e la diffusione di gruppi armati, specialmente di stampo islamista, con una forte spinta indipendentista o di autonomia politica ed economica».

Il 27 marzo 2014, il governo di Manila e il Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf) avevano firmato un accordo generale che aveva creato molta speranza: prevedeva, infatti, la nascita del Bangsamoro, una nuova regione autonoma con ampi poteri nelle province a maggioranza musulmana della regione di Mindanao (che comprende anche Zamboanga). L’accordo dovrebbe entrare in vigore nel maggio 2016, ma per il momento è tutto fermo in Parlamento.

Questa storica intesa, che contempla anche la consegna delle armi da parte del Milf, si fonda essenzialmente sulla suddivisione dei poteri tra il governo centrale e quello del Bangsamoro. Un ulteriore passo avanti rispetto a quanto già ottenuto dalla regione autonoma di Mindanao, creata nel 1989. Ma una vera pace in questa terra non sarà possibile senza una maggiore giustizia ed equità. È quanto ha sostenuto a più riprese anche il cardinale Orlando Quevedo, arcivescovo di Cotabato, il cui testo “Ingiustizia: la radice del conflitto a Mindanao” è stato ripetutamente citato anche nel corso dei negoziati.

«Spesso mi chiedo – interviene padre Nevio – se sia giusto che tanta di questa gente debba nascere povera, vivere tutta la vita in povertà e morire povera. Una vita sospesa a un filo, senza un pasto decente al giorno, servizi sanitari minimi, un lavoro decoroso; senza poter realizzare il sogno di una casa dignitosa e un minimo di tranquillità economica per i propri figli; senza aspettarsi tutto e sempre come dono, regalo o elemosina…».

Agricoltura e pesca di sussistenza sono le principali attività a cui si dedica la popolazione locale, più qualche lavoretto informale e precario che non dà nessuna garanzia per il futuro e che fa precipitare le famiglie in situazioni di crisi non appena interviene un imprevisto o una malattia. «E allora – commenta amareggiato il missionario -, anche qui come nel resto del Paese, il grande sogno dei nostri giovani è di poter andare all’estero. Qualcuno può cercare di far valere il proprio titolo di studio, ma molti provano a emigrare illegalmente per poter mantenere i loro cari. Oggi, quasi tutte le famiglie della nostra comunità hanno almeno un familiare all’estero, spesso uno dei genitori. Questo sta creando problemi immensi per via della lontananza e delle separazioni. La maggior parte dei nostri ragazzi vive “orfana” di uno dei genitori o di entrambi: il lavoro all’estero procura sostentamento per le famiglie, possibilità di studiare, ma anche il pericolo che il genitore lontano si crei una seconda famiglia, ignorando la prima».

Anche per questo, padre Nevio sta puntando molto sulla formazione. Religiosa ma non solo. A tutti i livelli: formazione delle comunità cristiane di base e di catechisti (soprattutto giovani a livello universitario), catechesi per bambini, ragazzi, adulti e giovani famiglie. Organizza incontri di preghiera, riflessione e studio della Bibbia, senza trascurare la visita alle famiglie, anche per una vicinanza e un supporto più personali. «Sono queste le preoccupazioni e le gioie dell’attività pastorale e missionaria che caratterizzano la vita della nostra comunità e la mia vita. Purtroppo – continua – i bisogni immediati spesso catalizzano la gran parte delle energie della nostra comunità cristiana. Ad esempio, l’aiuto di emergenza per spese di assistenza medica, degenze in ospedale, acquisto di medicine. Ma abbiamo anche un programma di supporto alimentare nelle scuole per far fronte al grave fenomeno della denutrizione dei bambini, che in certe classi sui monti arriva al 20% degli alunni».

Attualmente, grazie alla generosità di tanti benefattori dall’Italia e da Hong Kong – e alla collaborazione di maestre e mamme del posto – padre Nevio riesce a garantire almeno un pasto abbondante al giorno a circa 700 bambini. Il progetto di adozioni a distanza, portato avanti grazie all’Ufficio Aiuto Missioni del Centro missionario Pime di Milano, permette inoltre a studenti di ogni livello, dall’asilo nido all’università, di poter studiare senza la preoccupazione delle spese per iscrizioni, materiale didattico, uniformi scolastiche e cure mediche. «“Con el favor del Dios”, come dice la nostra gente di Sinunuc – conclude il missionario – speriamo di portare una goccia d’acqua nel grande deserto dei bisogni in questo angolo del mondo».

Fr. Francesco Palliola, SJ

fr-palliola_0DIPOLOG CITY, STAR

— The Catholic Church officially launched last January 6 the diocesan process for the cause of martyrdom of Fr. Francesco Palliola, the first step toward beatification and canonization to sainthood.

In ceremonies highlighted by Mass at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral in Dipolog, Bishop Severo Caermare announced the opening of the Cause of Fr. Palliola, an Italian Jesuit missionary who dedicated his work and his life to the people of Mindanao.

If declared a saint, Fr. Palliola will be third from the Philippines, after St. Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila and St. Pedro Calungsod of Cebu — and the first to come from Mindanao.

Born into nobility, in the town of Nola in Naples, Italy, on May 10, 1612, Fr. Palliola joined some 40 Jesuits on an expedition to the Philippines. After a trip of over two years, he finally landed in Iligan on January 2, 1644, beginning a mission in Mindanao that would take him to Dipolog, Dapitan and the rest of the Zamboanga Peninsula, spreading the Catholic faith to the locals, including the lumads.

Fr. Palliola was martyred at Ponot, now Jose S. Dalman town, on January 29, 1648 by Tampilo, a converted native leader who had left Catholicism, and who the priest was trying to bring back to the faith. He died at the age of 37.

A painting of Fr. Palliola, showing a dagger piercing his throat, remains at the archives of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Together with traditions passed on since his death, and written records of individuals who have been healed after praying to him, the painting is a reminder of Fr. Palliola’s lasting impact on the people of the Peninsula. His gravesite, marked by a modest memorial, continues to be regularly visited by those who seek his intercession.

Work on Fr. Palliola’s sainthood has been a collaborative effort involving not just the Diocese of Dipolog but also the Jesuits and the Augustinian Recollects who had worked in the area.

On the eve of the opening of Fr. Palliola’s cause, Bishop Beniamino Depalma of the Diocese of Nola also sent a message to his counterpart in Dipolog, expressing their joy and support.

Bishop Caermare said they are hopeful of Fr. Palliola’s cause.

“Padre Palliola may have been Neapolitan, an Italian by birth; but his love for God, his great passion for mission and caring for the people of the Zamboanga Peninsula, particularly the Subanon lumad, made him truly Mindanaoan” he said.

He added that though Fr. Palliola lived close to 400 years ago, he continues to care for his adopted homeland to this day, interceding for people in need — including fisherfolk who carry on the tradition of stopping by his grave to pray for a good catch.

With the opening of the cause for his martyrdom, an investigative process is now set in motion, to ascertain the authenticity of his life, the renown of his sanctity, and the miracles attributed to him. (PR)

Fausto Natalizio

fausto1Il 6 luglio 2006, in uno dei rarissimi scontri con i militari in Arakan un ribelle viene ucciso e il padre di costui prega Fausto (Tentorio) di fare in modo che la salma possa essere seppellita dignitosamente. Una semplice richiesta diventa invece una cosa così complicata da portare a termine che Fausto ne scrive un lungo resoconto al computer, in Word, e nelle ultime righe commenta: “Tutto finito, eccetto naturalmente le chiacchere che quelle non finiscono mai!!! Che il prete è un supporter dei ribelli perché il morto è stato messo in parrocchia, che il prete è stato arrestato perché’ mi hanno visto alla stazione di polizia etc. etc. etc. Alcune volte mi chiedo se non è meglio che me ne stia tranquillo in parrocchia, ma non sono capace”

7 gennaio 1952. Ricordare il natalizio di Fausto e stare tranquilli in parrocchia in Arakan non è ancora possibile. In questi giorni ci si può sentire ripetere: “A che ora sarà la messa per Pops?”  Un animo semplice, anche se non è di chiesa, percepisce l’eucaristia come sorgente ciclica di memoria anche di fatti molto umani. Grande intuizione direi, tanto più che si sa dove questa memoria sfocerà.

E’ tuttavia mi domando se stiamo smarrendo la memoria di Pops. Per un verso sì e per l’altro no. Per un verso sì perché abbiamo la memoria corta e poi si è sempre meno disposti a portare il peso del suo ricordo così come descritto sopra. Beh, non solo il suo. Per un altro verso no perché parte della sua storia è stata affidata a memorie elettroniche. In un certo senso per via di un piccolo schermo il suo passato sarà più difficile da dimenticare e facile da ristampare. E mi pare sia giusto così. Ci sono eventi grandiosi e dolorosi che non si possono lasciar perdere e il computer ci aiuta a ricordarli. Starà poi a noi decidere se accedere a un documento in Word sia solo un momento di curiosità o di memoria storica. Così in una messa.



I filippini (oggi 104 milioni) sono sempre ottimisti e pronti a perdonare pur di stare in pace. Anche per il 2016 se le cose non andranno bene la speranza sarà l’ultima a morire pur di non litigare. Dopo le festività di Santo Niño che a metà gennaio chiuderanno definitivamente il periodo natalizio (che nelle Filippine è lunghissimo) a febbraio, l’attenzione sarà consumata quasi interamente dalle elezioni politiche. In pratica tutto l’apparto governativo si fermerà sino ad Aprile. Un nuovo presidente, nuovi senatori e governatori via via giù sino alle minime cariche dei governi locali e municipali.

I problemi che dovranno risolvere non sono mai stati risolti. Pur con una crescita del Prodotto Interno Lordo del 6%, le Filippine hanno il più alto tasso di disoccupazione tra i paesi del sudest asiatico 6.3% (circa 10 milioni di disoccupati – il 78% tra i 15 e i 35 anni – su una forza lavoro di circa 48 milioni) contro, per esempio, lo 0.3% della Cambogia e il 6.0% dell’Indonesia. Per quanto riguarda l’occupazione, secondo il giornale Inquirer, 38.7 milioni di lavoratori hanno avuto un impiego nel 2015 (il 63% a tempo pieno, cioè sopra le 40 ore settimanali e il resto part-time), il 54.7% nel settore dei servizi, il 29.1% nell’agricoltura e il 16.2% nell’industria. Quello che appare strano è il 54.7% nel settore dei servizi per cui non si capisce un PIL così alto, 6% secondo solo a quello cinese, se non, appunto, inserendo nelle statistiche anche i 10 milioni di lavoratori filippini all’estero OFW e il loro e enorme flusso di soldi che rimandano a casa.

Circa la politica un passo indietro verso una pace stabile è stata la strage di Mamasapano avvenuta il 25 gennaio 2015 in Maguindanao, Mindanao. Il massacro destò un profondo sdegno a livello nazionale e internazionale per via dell’elevato numero di poliziotti, 44, rimasti uccisi e di come sono stati massacrati. Una operazione militare appoggiata dagli Stati Uniti per la cattura del noto terrorista Zulkifli Abdhir, meglio noto con lo pseudonimo di Marwan, e chiamata Exodus. La gestione della crisi da parte del Presidente Benigno Aquino III fu pesantemente criticata. Aquino subito affermò di non avere avuto alcuna responsabilità, puntando il dito al comandante delle forze speciali Getulio Napeñas. Il Presidente disse pure di non essere stato a conoscenza dell’operazione Exodus, ma secondo Napeñas, Aquino sapeva della missione e seguiva i suoi sviluppi da Zamboanga City. Il fatto ha praticamente messo a repentaglio il processo di pace in Mindanao e fermato il progetto di Legge sul Bangsamoro (Bangsamoro Basic Law o BBL) che prevedeva una soluzione del conflitto tra ribelli musulmani e il governo filippino. Il prossimo Presidente dovrà tentare di far ripartire il processo di pace, ma la ricerca delle responsabilità su Mamasapano e di quelle eventuali del Presidente uscente, lo terrà impegnato per buona parte della prossima Legislatura togliendo tempo e spazio a progetti urgenti come la Riforma Agraria e la maggior autonomia alle Regioni.

Tra la gente tuttavia l’ottimismo non manca e se dalle cariche più alte del paese non arriveranno aiuti ci penserà il valore fondante ‘pakikisama’ (stiamo uniti il più che si può in spazi stretti) a risolvere i problemi più urgenti oppure San Vicente Ferrer. Del resto secolare è la convinzione, almeno tra i nostri cristiani, che se anche l’uomo, per sbaglio o per corta memoria, si dimenticasse del suo Creatore, questi non si dimenticherà mai di lui. Anche se nei super affollati distretti umani e urbani, se vige la legge del più forte, chi viene schiacciato per primo, sono sempre i più poveri.

I mesi successivi alle Elezioni saranno comunque caratterizzati dall’altro El Niño, un fenomeno atmosferico già preannunciato aggressivo che porterà iniziali periodi di grandi siccità seguiti dall’arrivo di super-tifoni.

El Niño come metafora del giovane popolo filippino impegnato da un fronte all’altro. Nell’estremo tentativo di non dividere il sì dal no in una società che di certezze ne offre poche e dove bisogna, in qualche modo, arrivare sani e salvi al termine di ogni giornata.

Remebering bp. Escaler by Karl Gaspar

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 Nov) — Before going to bed in the evening of 28 November  2015, I stood at the veranda of the convent in the Nuing Mission Station somewhere in Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental watching the moonglow as it was reflected on leaves of trees inside the church property.  A few evenings before was full moon so there was still a beautiful moon casting its magic that evening.

During such special moments, one is caught mesmerized by life’s surprises.  My only worry as I went to bed was that I have always known that after such a moment, there follows moments of sorrow and sadness.

Early the following morning, I took thehabal-habalfrom Nuing to Glan, Sarangani province to catch the van to General Santos City where I was to take a flight to Cebu.  As soon as there was a signal, my cellphone caught the text messages sent earlier.  One came from BFF Jeanette Birondo-Goddar announcing that our dear Bishop Federico Escaler SJ has just passed away, the day before. Later in Cebu I found a computer with an internet connection and read the email and FaceBook messages sent by friends, including a page from the Jesuit News sent by Fr. Karel San Juan that had Bishop Escaler’s biography.

The moment of sorrow and sadness hit me and lasted throughout the day even as memory continues to bring back snippets of life shared with Bishop  Freddy.  What adds to the grief is that – owing to circumstances beyond one’s control – I can’t even attend his wake as well as the Funeral Mass scheduled on 1 December 2015.  I console myself with the thought that it will be easy to find his graveyard at the Jesuit cemetery inside their Novaliches property and visit him there later.

Why am I feeling such a deep loss at his passing?  Reading through his short Biography as written in the Jesuit News, I was amazed at how he was very much part of my life, and of my generation.  I was a very innocent and naïve sixteen-year-old when I first met him at his office as President and Rector of Ateneo de Davao College.  As first year students, we had the privilege of meeting him, individually and as a group.  He seemed formidable for us who werepromdis. But one always knew that he was a very kind person.

I would experience that kindness many times.  For he was not just Rector and President; he found ways to help us when we got into all kinds of difficulties, including financial ones when college expenses either had to be discounted or scrapped in our favor. When I reached third year college – his last year as Rector at AdeDC – I applied to join the Jesuits and he headed the panel to process my application.  He made things easy for me and when a decision was made (I was accepted but that I needed to finish my college course first in Davao before proceeding to aspirancy in Manila), he made sure I understood the reasons behind the decision and promised to guide me along with my vocation.

But instead of formally applying to become a Jesuit just before graduation rites, I instead approached him asking for Letters of Recommendation to his corporate friends in Manila as I had changed my mind. Instead of the Jesuits, I wanted to explore the corporate world in Manila and get a high-paying job.  He understood my decision and wrote three letters, one for the manager of the Sta. Clara Plywood Industries, Inc.  It turned out that this manager’s office was in the neighborhood of the Asian Social Institute, along Leon Guinto St., in the Malate-Ermita area.

In a rather ironic twist, instead of ending up with Sta. Clara, I ended up with “St. Francis Senden of ASI,” the founder of the Asian Social Institute.  Instead of the corporate world, I would find myself from then on walking the path leading to activism and advocacies related to social and ecological issues, while pursuing my religious vocation but outside of the Jesuits.

I enrolled at ASI and finished my graduate studies and made it commitment to return to Davao immediately after to be part of a social movement that was now making a difference in the Region thanks to what was happening with the Mindanao-Sulu Church. I worked first with the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and moonlighted with some of the activities of the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference Secretariat (MSPCS) and the Mindanao-Sulu Secretariat of Social Action (MISSA).

After his stint as Rector and President of Xavier University and other congregational assignments, Bishop Freddy was made the first Bishop of the Prelature of Kidapawan.  I was delighted to renew my ties with him, this time no longer in an academic but rather in a pastoral setting.  He actually was a changed person by then; gone was the formality and aura of being a university President but he became a much warmer person exuding pastoral grace.

Then I got elected as Executive Secretary  of the MSPCS at the MSPC III conference in Pagadian City in 1976. Bishop Freddy got elected as co-chair of the MSPC’s Board along with the late Bishop Bienvenido (Benny) Tudtud of Marawi. No two bishops could be so unlike each other. One wassosyalbeingburgis, the other was puremasa. One had a tendency to be quiet, unassuming and shy; the other was spontaneous, boisterous and quick to crack a joke. Precisely because they were such opposites, they worked   as a team. I was so privileged to have both of them as my bosses. Since Bishop Freddy was closer to Davao than Bishop Benny, he became head of the Executive Committee and I had to work very closely with him on matters dealing with the enormous range of MSPC concerns.

Remember, these were the martial rule years. And the Church was the only institution that dared to challenge the authoritarian State on matters related to human rights, militarization, corporate development incursions, corruption and the evils of martial rule.

Those were contentious years, full of conflict and tensions, mis-information and mis-representations.  We at MSPCS had to deal with matters of security with State and military apparatuses on one hand, but also had to be careful in our dealing with the Church hierarchy.  Naturally, we at MSPCS were subject to all kinds of suspicions.  But through it all Bishop Freddy never lost his confidence in us; he continued to empower us with his presence at most activities and inspiring words.

I thought my association would end when our terms at the MSPC ended at MSPC IV. But life with Bishop Freddy continued. I got arrested and he intervened on my behalf. Through his connections in the corridors of power, he was able to meet with the Imeldific at Malacanang who graciously received him.  Bishop Freddy pleaded that she intervene so I could be released; she refused (her reason: what guarantee did the State have that I would not find a way out of the country if released and then make a lot of noise there against her and her husband like what happened with a Jesuit who got released). If only for this act of mercy, I am indebted to Bishop Freddy forever.

Up to the time he was Bishop of Ipil and later during his retirement years, I tried to keep in touch as regularly as I could.  During my last visit at his ancestral home near Malacanang, I intuited that this would be my last visit to him. I had not known there was a mass in his liver until I heard he was very ill a few months ago.  I had planned to visit him in time for Christmas or in the New Year. But that was not to be.

I shed tears as I write this now.  Indeed, one grieves over the death of a loved one.  And we loved Bishop Freddy as he was a teacher, mentor, friend, guide a beacon of light and hope during the dark years of martial rule, a father-figure mainly because we knew so well that he cared for us, for his people.

But perhaps the tears are also a symbol of our deep faith, believing that out there beyond pain and the trials of life, our dear Bishop Freddy will continue to watch over us.  To keep us grounded in the Gospel’s challenge to be kind of others, to do works of mercy and to walk in the righteous path!  AMDG!

[Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is Academic Dean of the Redemptorists’ St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. He was author of several books, including “Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations.” He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw)].


Dopo due mesi …. after two months

2015-10-08T102326Z_95109672_GF10000236394_RTRMADP_3_PHILIPPINES-KIDNAPPING.jpgPiù di due mesi sono passati dal rapimento di Rolando Del Torchio e nulla si sa di preciso. Quando ci sarà la possibilità di accusare, cioè di conoscere cosa avevano in mente, i rapitori? Noi che conosciamo Rolando siamo in uno stato di attesa. Passivi e senza molto da dire cerchiamo tra le varie notizie che scorrono su internet qualche miraggio di speranza, ma possiamo fare poco. Bello se potessimo fare qualcosa, ma nessuno, né autorità militari né quelle civili, ci aiuta a comprendere la complessità che si nasconde dietro un rapimento malgrado la nostra voglia di conoscere e di aiutare. Quello che loro fanno o non fanno fa la differenza, allunga o accorcia i tempi. Noi, tuttavia, non possiamo non sentirci responsabili verso coloro che soffrono, verso Rolando che si trova nei guai e i suoi che aspettano con ansia. Una responsabilità che sentiamo a fior di pelle. Invece, giorno dopo giorno, veniamo dirottati verso i problemi di sicurezza delle comunità politiche ed economiche più importanti, verso le loro inquietudini dovute ai movimenti di capitale …. e, sciaguratamente, abbandoniamo tutti al loro destino. Allora, in un anno che appare aperto nel nome della misericordia, ci sembra giusto chiedere al Dio di Mosè, Isacco, Giacobbe … di tutti insomma, che ci aiuti a far emergere la sensibilità, compassione e pietà. Non solo in noi ma anche tra i rapitori, fra tutti insomma, così da ‘sentirci a casa’ una volta per tutte!

More than two months have passed since the kidnapping of Rolando Del Torchio. No one knows exactly if there is a chance to know what is in the mind of the kidnappers. We know, for sure, that Rolando is waiting for the end of his ordeal. As for us we are passive with nothing much to say. We are trying to find, among the various news flowing on the internet, some mirage of hope, but aside this we can do little. Despite our desire to learn and to help, no one, neither the military nor the civilian authorities, helps us to understand the complexity that lies behind a kidnapping. What they do or do not do makes the difference, lengthen or shorten the remaining time. In any case, we cannot forget our responsibilities towards those who suffer, to Rolando who is in trouble and waiting anxiously. A responsability that we should feel on our daily life. Instead, day after day, we are diverted to the security problems of the most advanced political and economic countries and to their worries regarding the movement of capitals. Doing so, unfortunately, we are forgetting the fate of other people. So, in the coming year, that appears to be open like a door in the name of mercy, it seems fair to us to ask the God of Moses, Isaac, Jacob … in short the God of all, to help us in bringing out the sensitivity, compassion and pity. Not only in our personal life but also among the kidnappers, and as far as possible, on the whole world, so that , at the end of the day, we can ‘feel at home’, once and for all!

Benigno S. Aquino III

2015-12-04 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday received the President of the Philippines, Benigno S. Aquino III, who subsequently met with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by the Under-Secretary for Relations with States, Msgr. Antoine Camilleri.

A statement from aquino.jpgthe Holy See Press Office called the talks “cordial,” and said they focused on the dialogue among the different parts of Philippine society, as well as the contribution of the Catholic Church in the life of the country.

The statement said particular attention was given to the state of the peace process in the Mindanao – located in the south of the country – with hope being expressed that the commitment of the parties can guarantee a stable and lasting peace in the region.

Furthermore, there was an exchange of views on the international and regional situation, especially in reference to the issue of climate change and the COP21 Conference currently taking place in Paris.
(from Vatican Radio)