Author Archives: Fr. Robert Reyes

Urban Poor Stage 'EJK Calvary' Protest

Urban Poor Stage ‘EJK Calvary’ Protest

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 | Written by
Urban Poor Stage 'EJK Calvary' Protest

"Daan krus" Urban poor groups dramatized the crucifixion of Christ an emphasis that the poor are unjustly killed in the war against drugs. Philippine Online Chronicles images / Photograph by EddCastro. Manila Philippines.

“Daan krus” Urban poor groups dramatized the crucifixion of Christ an emphasis that the poor are unjustly killed in the war against drugs. Philippine Online Chronicles images / Photograph by EddCastro. Manila Philippines.


11 April 2017.  Urban poor groups dramatized the crucifixion of Jesus Christ portrayed by a poor man as he was sentenced to death by PDurtz, Batorte, pro-death penalty Congressmen and Senators, and Mochang Angel because he fought back (Nanlaban)— an emphasis that the poor people are unjustly killed in the war against drugs by saying that they fought back.
 
Dubbed as “Kalbaryo ng mga Maralita (Calvary of the Poor)”, 3,000 individuals from the urban poor sector on Tuesday marched from Plaza Miranda to the Peace Arch, Mendiola led by seven poor people carrying 7-foot crosses with the following themes:
 
Stopping  Extra Judicial Killings and the Death Penalty,
Reducing the age of Criminal Responsibility,
Uncertainty in the Provision of Housing and Basic Services,
Proliferation of Fake News,
Climate Change and Evictions,
Culture of Fear and Lack of Respect for Women, and
The Decreasing Space for the Free and Critical Participation of the Citizenry.
Urban poor groups dramatized the crucifixion of Christ an emphasis that the poor are unjustly killed in the war against drugs. Philippine Online Chronicles images / Photograph by EddCastro. Manila Philippines.

Urban poor groups dramatized the crucifixion of Christ an emphasis that the poor are unjustly killed in the war against drugs. Philippine Online Chronicles images / Photograph by EddCastro. Manila Philippines.


 
 
With them were members of housing rights groups including Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), and other organizations like Kaya Natin, Koalisyon ng mga Organisadong Samahan sa Maynila (KOSMA), Ugnayang Lakas ng mga Apektadong Pamilya sa Baybaying Ilog (ULAP), fisherfolk from Laguna de Bay and residents of relocation areas in Bulacan. The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) trained the urban poor actors for the Kalbaryo.
 
The big march is a reminder to the President and government leaders that the poor people are closely watching and monitoring events under his administration. Poor people feel very deeply that their lives are being sacrificed in the guise of peace and order.
 
Bernadette Sabalza, President of Samahan Magkakapitbahay sa Slip-0 walked slowly with a 7-foot cross on her shoulder, depicting the present situation — “The culture of killings dominates our communities. The government’s war against drugs makes blood flow continuously in our areas where the number of EJK cases is rising. We have become sacrificial lambs in the guise of peace and order.  Our neighbors were never given justice.”
 
Sabalza added, “We condemn in the strongest terms the return of death penalty, it is the urban poor as usual who will suffer. Because the poor in prison are not able to hire a good lawyer to defend them, it is again us, the poor who will be victimized.  We are against drugs and condemn those who commit illegal acts. But suppressing them, especially for us poor, will not happen simply by killing us. We are calling for the President to consider us as people with dignity, poor Filipinos who have human rights under the rule of law, including right to life.”
 
 “Stop the killings! Eliminate the death penalty! We also condemn violence against women and insulting comments which diminish our worth as human beings.  End the culture of fear and honor women!”, shouted Sabalza during the dramatization.
             Leo Obnamia, the “penitent” who carried the cross with the theme “reducing the age of criminal responsibility” asked, “Don’t you have grand children who are nine years old? Don’t you have brothers or sisters or children who are nine years old? I do!  I have a beautiful grandchild who soon after six more years will become nine years old.”
     Obnamia reiterated, “If the bill to reduce the minimum age of criminal responsibility of Filipinos is passed into law, our children as young as nine years can be considered criminals. Instead of helping the children and their parents to correct their mistakes, however serious these may be, our legislators are choosing cruel measures to inflict more harm  on still immature young children and eliminate any chance of a better future for them. Labeling children as criminals will scar  them for the rest of their lives. We should give our children assistance, not imprisonment!”
        In a statement, the urban poor groups said, “The uncertainty regarding the availability of housing and basic services continues to contribute to the daily “Calvary” of the urban poor. The lack of decent housing is a blot upon the lives of poor people like us. Our right to decent housing which the government is not providing is a burden we continue to  carry.”  The group is calling for the government to focus on in-city housing and address the needs of those relocated to distant off-city sites!
 
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo at the Mass commented, “We are one with the poor in this kalbaryo. The alarming deaths caused by the campaign against illegal drugs frighten not only the poor but the Church itself. To do extrajudicial killings is something that is against the law. That’s a crime. We cannot suppress crime by committing another crime. Surely there are peaceful and humane ways to discourage poor people from taking desperate means to earn a living. Surely users should be considered not primarily as criminals but as victims who need effective rehabilitation programs to be able to contribute to society in more acceptable ways.”
 
            Fr. Robert Reyes, who concelebrated the Mass said, “We shall take good care of one another. We shall protect everyone from harm.  Violence and the culture of fear will disunite groups of people towards individualism. People are beginning to be afraid of approaching and assisting their neighbor in need, fearful that they will be accused of coddling addicts or pushers. This is not the society we want to live in — a community of alienation and malice. We should nurture one another to create a community of generosity and tolerance.”
 
Urban Poor Stage 'EJK Calvary' Protest
           
The Kalbaryo also pointed out the issue of decreasing space for the free and critical participation of the citizenry.  According to the statement of the urban poor, “People will participate most effectively when they are not forced to agree to a certain point of view, especially if they feel that that view is wrong. It appears that the space for free and critical expression is becoming narrower and narrower.” The group calls on the government to listen to the voices of the poor and  to recognize their right to participate in correcting the horrors presently  taking place in the country.
 

Backhoe dismembering branches of Mahogany trees along the highway at the junction of Morong and Baras.
Philippine Online Chronicles image / photograph EddCastro

Merciless Backhoes Continue Mindless Massacre of Trees along Highway at Morong-Baras Junction

Tuesday, 14 June 2016 | Written by
Backhoe dismembering branches of Mahogany trees along the highway at the junction of Morong and Baras.
Philippine Online Chronicles image / photograph EddCastro

Backhoe dismembering branches of Mahogany trees along the highway at the junction of Morong and Baras. Philippine Online Chronicles image / photograph EddCastro

Backhoe dismembering branches of Mahogany trees along the highway at the junction of Morong and Baras.
Philippine Online Chronicles image / photograph EddCastro


May 31, 2016, Tuesday. Around 10:30 am I witnessed the unusual sight of a backhoe dismembering branches of Mahogany trees along the highway at the junction of Morong and Baras. I could not help it. I stopped driving and walked towards the man operating the back hoe. I asked him to stop but expectedly, he just looked at me with indifference and even a tinge of boredom in his eyes. “Why don’t you go to the mountains and stop the cutting there. DENR k aba? Nasaan ang papeles mo para patigilin kami. “ 
I tried connecting with whoever can help me. It was impossible. All I can do was document the cruel and totally heartless killing of trees by a man operating a backhoe. It was another sad day in the life of Mother Earth. On the rice field on the side of the road several trees were lined up like massacred men. I was reminded of the Maguidanao Massacre. I might as well give a name to this crime, The Morong Baras Massacre of Trees.
With only a few days left of the P Noy administration, the DENR and DPWH are at it again. They “successfully massacred trees in many places, from the San Fernado to Carcar Road in Cebu to the Manila North Road and now here in Rizal. It was difficult reaching either Secretary Singson or Secretary Paje. Definitely it is useless trying to reach Malacanang. If there was one thing that this passing administration failed to do, it is to raise the level of awareness, appreciation and respect for nature and the environment. Travelers, drivers and passengers alike simply passed along the highway where the massacre was taking place and hardly noticed the crime. 
Is it too late Secretary Paje and Secretary Singson to save these precious trees. We cannot expect you to educate the public, particularly the workers of the DPWH and DENR who seem to treat trees as lifeless objects or things but you can stop, yes stop the senseless killing of trees.
I hope and pray that the next DENR Secretary under the new Administration will truly be a daughter and son of Mother Earth. “Doon kayo magpigil ng pagpuputol ng mga puno sa bundok. Daan ito. Wala kayong magagawa dito. Tatanggalin namin ang mga punong ito.” These words from the back hoe operator mirrors an attitude of disconnectedness and alienation from nature. Trees along the highway are without value and dignity. Trees belong to the mountains not to roads, highways, or to structures of steel and concrete. 
I wonder how many trees were massacred under the Aquino Administration. Can the DENR and DPWH give us an inventory of all the trees they have killed whether in relation to the road widening project or to some other so called development projects? Who are answerable to the mass killing of innocent trees? Is this a matter for the Environmental Ombudsman Gerard Mosquera?
Fr. Robert P. Reyes OFM
Our Lady of the Angels Seminary

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan protest celebration on 152nd birthday of national hero Andres Bonifacio at  Mendiola. Philippine Online Chronicles images photograph by: Edd Castro. November 30, 2015.

Six days to go before the May 9 national elections.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016 | Written by
Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan protest celebration on 152nd birthday of national hero Andres Bonifacio at  Mendiola. Philippine Online Chronicles images photograph by: Edd Castro. November 30, 2015.
Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan protest celebration on 152nd birthday of national hero Andres Bonifacio at  Mendiola. Philippine Online Chronicles images photograph by: Edd Castro. November 30, 2015.

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan protest celebration on 152nd birthday of national hero Andres Bonifacio at Mendiola. Philippine Online Chronicles images photograph by: Edd Castro. November 30, 2015.

We can also use the Kartilya of our Revolutionary forefathers in our discernment and choice of President, Vice President and others. If Andres Bonifacio and the genuine revolutionaries were to vote today, using the Kartilya as their criterea for discernment, which among the candidates do you think they will choose. Here is the Kartilya for our reflective and prayerful guide….

Kartilya ng Mga Anak ng Bayan
(Attributed to Emilio Jacinto)

1. Ang kabuhayang hindi ginugugol sa isang malaki at banal na kadahilanan ay kahoy na walang lilim, kundi damong makamandag.
2. Ang gawang magaling na nagbubuhat sa pagpipita sa sarili, at hindi sa talagang nasang gumawa ng kagalingan, ay di kabaitan.
3. Ang tunay na kabanalan ay ang pagkakawang gawa, ang pagibig sa kapua at ang isukat ang bawat kilos, gawa’t pangungusap sa talagang Katuiran.
4. Maitim man at maputi ang kulay ng balat, lahat ng tao’y magkakapantay; mangyayaring ang isa’t higtan sa dunong, sa yaman, sa ganda..; ngunit di mahihigtan sa pagkatao.
5. Ang may mataas na kalooban inuuna ang puri sa pagpipita sa sarili; and may hamak na kalooban inuuna ang pagpipita sa sarili sa puri.
6. Sa taong may hiya, salita’t panunumpa.
7. Huag mong sasayangin ang panahun; ang yamang, nawala’y magyayaring magbalik; ngunit’t panahong nagdaan na’y di na muli pang magdadaan.
8. Ipagtanggol mo ang inaapi, at kabakahin ang umaapi.
9. Ang taong matalino’y ang may pagiingat sa bawat sasabihin, at matutong ipaglihim ang dapat ipaglihim.
10. Sa daang matinik ng kabuhayan, lalaki ay siyang patnugot ng asawa’t mga anak; kung ang umaakay ay tungo sa sama, ang patutunguhan ng iaakay ay kasamaan din.
11. Ang babai ay huag mong tignang isang bagay na libangan lamang, kundi isang katuang at karamay sa mga kahirapan nitong kabuhayan; gamitan mo ng buong pagpipitagan ang kaniyang kahinaan, at alalahanin ang inang pinagbuhata’t nagiwi sa iyong kasangulan.
12. Ang di mo ibig gawin sa asawa mo, anak at kapatid, ay huag mong gagawin sa asawa, anak, at kapatid ng iba.
13. Ang kamahalan ng tao’y wala sa pagkahari, wala sa tangus ng ilong at puti ng mukha, wala sa pagkaparing KAHALILI NG DIOS, wala sa mataas na kalagayan sa balat ng lupa; wagas at tunay na mahal na tao, kahit laking gubat at walang nababatid kundi ang sariling wika, yaong may magandang asal, may isang pangungusap, may dangal at puri; yaong di napaapi’t di nakikiapi; yaong marunong magdamdam at marunong lumingap sa bayang tinubuan.
14. Paglaganap ng mga aral na ito at maningning na sumikat ang araw ng mahal na Kalayaan dito sa kaabaabang Sangkalupaan, at sabugan ng matamis niyang liwanag ang nangagkaisang magkalahi’t magkakapatid ng ligaya ng walang katapusan, ang mga ginugol ng buhay, pagud, at mga tiniis na kahirapa’y labis nang natumbasan.
15. Kung lahat ng ito’y mataruk na ng nagiibig pumasuk at inaakala niyang matutupad ang mga tutungkulin, maitatala ang kaniyang ninanasa sa kasunod nito….

SA HKAN. NG________________________________
AKO’Y SI____________________________________
TAONG TUBO SA BAYANG NG___________________
HUKUMAN NG _____________ ANG KATANDAAN KO

The crusifixion of Mother Earth

Crucifixion of Mother Earth

Wednesday, 6 April 2016 | Written by
The crusifixion of Mother Earth

The crusifixion of Mother Earth

Fr. Robert Reyes leads protest action to call attention from the Government and ask for accountability and justice from the government officials who are responsible for polluting the environment. (Philippine Online Chronicles image courtesy of Fr.Robert Reyes)


A Different Cross, A Different Christ, a Different Crucifixion of Mother Earth by Slaves of Unbridled Consumerism Corrupt Officials Promoters of a Garbage, Throw-away Society

Dr Jonel Cruz and Natividad Reyes (Fr.Rubert Reyes Mom)

Mothers and eyes

Wednesday, 2 March 2016 | Written by
Dr Jonel Cruz and Natividad Reyes (Fr.Rubert Reyes Mom)

February 24, 2016 75 Days to Go to May 9, 2016 of Doctors, Mothers and Eyes

Dr Jonel Cruz and Natividad Reyes (Fr.Rubert Reyes Mom)

Many years ago, when I was still a student priest in Rome, I had a chance to visit Germany a number of times. In one of those visits, I made sure to visit Heidelberg, the University Town where Jose Rizal studied to become an eye doctor. We all know why our National Hero studied medicine. He was concerned about his mother Josef’s failing eyesight. When he completed his medical training, he came back to our country and immediately operated on his mother’s eyes. According to Dr. Jonel Cruz of Quirino Labor Hospital Eye Center, the method used then was called “Couching.” It was a rather crude method of pushing the cataract to the back of the eye. Eye doctors then used a special lens worn on one eye to magnify the subject of the operation.
I am not a doctor much less an ophthalmologist, but like Jose Rizal, I am a son. My mother Natividad is a feisty woman, literally alive and kicking at the age of 87. She loves to walk and do all her personal and official erands on foot. However, I no longer allow her to walk alone. She now does all her errands with a care-giver. These pass months, she started complaining that her reading glasses no longer work. I brought her to optometrists who tried doing new refractions for her eyes. The last one however told her that there is not much that can be done. Perhaps, a magnifying glass would help. My mother started using the magnifying glass but continued complaining and suggesting that perhaps a cataract operation would help her. Finally, it was arranged. She will be operated on her right eye by Dr. Jonel Cruz today which happens to be my birthday.
At around 8:00 am. Dr. Jonel Cruz invited my mother to walk towards the operating room of the Quirino Labor Hospital Eye Center. The good doctor told me not to go too far and be sure to be back within the hour. I decided to walk to the house of a former parishioner recovering from a mild heart attack. The house of Mrs. Nedy Simpas was only a ten minute walk from Quirino Labor Hospital. Fortunately, tita Nedy was home and her care-giver daughter June Pearl as well. Tita Nedy was not feeling well and was suffering from some kind of allergy. I had a short and pleasant conversation. She promised to be well soon so that we can once more go out on a date with my mother who is her good friend. I also had a chat with June Pearl on the realities, the joys and pains, the challenges and blessings of caring for our aging mothers. I was hardly twenty minutes in their house when I received a text message informing me that my mother’s operation was over. I looked at my watch. It was not even forty minutes since I left the hospital. Now I understand what an Eye Center nurse told me when we arrived early this morning. “Dr. Jonel is a very good and one of the fastest, safest eye doctors here!”
As I walked back to the hospital, I notice an enclosure with four chiwawas and one French Bull dog. I approached the man seated by the enclosure. I asked whether the dogs were friendly. He nodded his head which began a short friendly encounter with his noisy, friendly and playful pets. The French Bull dog was particularly hungry for human contact. He affectionately licked and covered my right hand with saliva. His owner explained that it was the dog’s way of asking me to carry her which I immediately did. I suddenly remembered my former parishes and my various pet dogs who have all gone to the animal heaven. Oh, how I had fun with my Dalmatian, Doberman and German shepherd.
When I entered the Eye Center, my mother was seated next to her care-giver. Dr. Jonel approached me and invited me to see the various sections of the Eye Center. A few minutes later, we thanked Dr. Jonel and walked to our car. The good doctor insisted on walking us to the parking area. The doctor even held my mother’s other arm so that she was secure between her care-giver and her doctor. I went ahead to get the car. It was just a few minutes after 9:00 am, the first hours of February 24, 2016, my sixty first birthday. Text birthday greetings have already turned my phone into a tiny music box. Some messages even asked me to check my Face Book page. The day however was spent quietly with my mother away from the typical birthday celebration. I ended this day thanking the Lord for Dr Jonel and his fellow eye doctor Jose Rizal. I was also especially grateful for my mother Natividad for all her loving and sacrificing devotion in the last sixty one years and nine months of her son’s life, not to forget the time she carried me around in her womb.
On our way back home, my mother noticed my sleepy eyes. She suddenly insisted that we should celebrate by eating halo-halo. We took a short side-trip to a restaurant along the way. As we approached the restaurant, a lady in white approached me. I recognized her. She was Dr. Belinda R. Talabia, the optometrist who refracted my eyes and prepared special glasses for me some years ago. Funny that I should see her on the day of my mother’s cataract operation. Yes Lord, thank you also for my eyes and all those who offer their services to keep them healthy, strong and clear.
It already passed 9:00 p.m., twelve hours after we left Quirino Labor Hospital. Text messages are still coming. I have not even opened my Face Book. Thank you, thank you Lord for Doctors, Mothers, Friends. Thank you Lord for eyes that see not only the beauty of creatures and all creation. Thank you all powerful, all beautiful God for allowing us to see, and see deeply so that we can praise your grandeur and beauty in and with all creatures. Thank you as well for the power, the force from deep within that makes us act against the greed and arrogance that destroys and defaces this very beauty that belongs to all, human and non-human creation. May our eyes lead us to the humility of creatures whose littleness is their…our utmost praise to your unspeakable glory. Salamat po…maraming salamat Panginoon.

"People Power Monument" a World Day of Social Justice event, Feb. 20, 2016 (Philippine Online Chronicles image/Photo: Edd Castro, Quezon City, Philippines)

79 Days to Go

Monday, 22 February 2016 | Written by
"People Power Monument" a World Day of Social Justice event, Feb. 20, 2016 (Philippine Online Chronicles image/Photo: Edd Castro, Quezon City, Philippines)

Feb 20 2016 79 Days to Go

The interfaith prayer and fasting for peace and enlightenment by Fr.Robert Reyes and PAGASA (philippine Online Chronicles image / File photograph EddCastro)

The interfaith prayer and fasting for peace and enlightenment by Fr.Robert Reyes and PAGASA (philippine Online Chronicles image / File photograph EddCastro)

I had to go through EDSA traffic for the wedding of my nephew Gerard Reyes to Faiva Cimatu at Santuario de San Antonio Church in Forbes. I had less than an hour’s time from Cubao to Forbes. With the usual Makati traffic I needed more than an hour to negotiate an approximate distance of ten kilometres. I was quite fortunate. I arrived five minutes after 2pm. The bridal march was already playing to welcome the groom, best man, bridesmaids, ring bearer and flower girl and parents of the groom. The bride and her parents were still outside the main entrance door waiting for the cue to enter and do the bridal march. This gave me ample time to rush to the sacristy to put on the chasuble and stole to concelebrate in the nuptial mass. The mass, readings, homilies, exchange of vows, etc. took about an hour. This was immediately followed by the usual sequenced picture taking. I congratulated Gerard and Faiva and said goodbye at the same time. As I once more inched my way through the traffic towards Cubao to attend the 90th birthday celebration of my former Parish Council President at Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish in Murphy Cubao, I was pleasantly surprised to ride through moderate, not heavy traffic. As we approached People Power Monument at EDSA corner Temple Drive, I notice an odd gathering of around twenty people. I looked at the posters displayed on the stage of the People Power Monument. One of them read, “World Day of Social Justice.” I was intrigued and decided to park the car I was driving at an inner section of the People Power Monument.

When I got to the stage, I immediately recognized Linda, a personnel of the National Secretariat for Social Action or NASSA. I approached her and asked what all this was all about. “It is the World Day of Social Justice and we find it fitting to offer a mass for the victims of road accidents. Some of the relatives of the victims of unsafe and violent roads are also here. With this, we immediately began the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Fr. Picx Picardal who was main celebrant requested me to read the gospel and give the homily. But this was totally absent from the original plan as I knew nothing about the World Day of Social Justice celebration at the People Power Monument. Fr. Picx later on could only explain my participation with one word, “Synchronicity!!!”

Two weeks ago on February 7, 2016 it was the second death anniversary of the actor Tado’s fatal accident in Sagada. In a few months it will also be the anniversary of Chit Estela’s fatal accident at Ayala Technohub along Commonwealth Avenue. The group that gathered at People Power Monument was originally organized by Roland Simbulan shortly after his wife’s fatal accident. The movement is still alive and kicking and membership is definitely increasing with the continuing victims of road accidents, particularly those killed while biking by reckless and uncaring drivers of motor vehicles from the smallest motorcycle to the monstrous twenty four wheelers. The group is campaigning for safer roads through serious legislation that will protect and encourage those who choose non-motorized means of transportation from bikes to running or walking feet.

"People Power Monument" a World Day of Social Justice event, Feb. 20, 2016 (Philippine Online Chronicles image/Photo: Edd Castro, Quezon City, Philippines)

“People Power Monument” a World Day of Social Justice event, Feb. 20, 2016 (Philippine Online Chronicles image/Photo: Edd Castro, Quezon City, Philippines)

In my homily, I gave the following hyperbole: “Unsafe roads because of unsafe, irresponsible, disrespectful and uncaring driving is and should be considered a matter of National Security. We do not need internal nor external enemies. We can simply continue and encourage the lack of respect, courtesy and reverence for persons, their life and limb while driving our cars, buses and motorcycles on all the roads. We can simply allow the already widespread road anarchy to grow and worsen, thus cheapening and sacrificing precious human lives on the altar of egoism and arrogance. In such an environment of so-called self-referential individuals caught and trapped in their own ego-driven and attention starved world our enemies need only watch and patiently wait until the social fabric is totally damaged and substantially weakened. By then it would be convenient to attack us and take over. Another aspect of the problem is the superficiality and ineptitude of our political culture. Many of our political leaders do not really care about road safety since, anyway they are protected in their SUVs whether they travel to work or play. Perhaps, a legislation may be crafted requiring both candidates and winners in elections to ride a bike along EDSA or some major thoroughfare at the height of traffic. If they fail, their failure should be publicized. Also, they should not be encouraged to run for public office.

The Warriors (Philippine Online Chronicles image / Photograph EddCastro)

Manila Seedling Bank Little Plant and tree vendors…Green warriors, true friends, children of Mother Earth

Saturday, 20 February 2016 | Written by
The Warriors (Philippine Online Chronicles image / Photograph EddCastro)
Watershed Norzagaray,Bulacan (Philippine Online CHronicles image / Photograph Edd Castro, Bulacan, Philippines)

Watershed Norzagaray,Bulacan
(Philippine Online CHronicles image / Photograph Edd Castro, Bulacan, Philippines)

February 18, 2016 81 Days to Go to May 9, 2016

Green Warriors…Manila Seedling Bank ornamental plants and trees vendors. This is what they were and still are for plants, trees, greenery lush, vibrant and full of life is their life, passion and livelihood. Warriors, for they fought not only for their rights but for that of nature, on which humans whether they know it or not are deeply connected and dependent. Thomas Berry’s famous quote is most relevant here: “If we lose the forest, we lose our souls.” For the longest time, whenever I drove or rode through EDSA, it was always a pleasing and refreshing respite to gaze at the trees and plants of Manila Seedling Bank at the corner of EDSA and Quezon Avenue. After rows and rows of gray and lifeless walls, windows, roofs, at last weary passengers are greeted by forests trees and both local and exotic plants. There is an automatic inner shift that brings a positive and expansive feeling. This is what nature is all about. This is what plants, trees, flowers, flora and fauna are all about. This is our primordial unity with all creation. Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn speaks of this unity using the word “INTER-ARE.” Indeed, we are not alone in this world. We are among countless others sharing the air, water, earth and the fruits of the earth for survival. We cannot continue just thinking and behaving as though we are the only ones on this earth. Thanks to plants, trees, flowers, wild animals and fish, we are reminded that we inter-are.

The Warriors (Philippine Online Chronicles image / Photograph EddCastro)

The Warriors (Philippine Online Chronicles image / Photograph EddCastro)

Recently these Green Warriors scored an important victory when the Ombudsman recommended the removal of the Quezon City Treasurer from his office. He was found guilty of misusing his authority in the closure and take over of Manila Seedling Bank in favour of the Quezon City Government which will ultimately favour Ayala Land Corporation which has been pushing the entire block which includes the area where Manila Seedling Bank stands to become a mini-Makati in Quezon City. The Quezon City Treasurer had wrongly used the failure to pay taxes and issuance of notices thereof to the vendors of Manila Seedling Bank when the property belongs to the National Housing Authority or NHA which is exempt from real estate tax.

The Green Warriors of Manila Seedling Bank suffered all kinds of harassment from the notices of delinquency of payment to notices of eviction and finally forceful eviction itself. I was witness to all these and lamented the sad collusion between the three agencies of National Housing Authority; the Quezon City Government and Ayala Land Corporation. T

The illegal and inhuman eviction of little plant and tree vendors happened under P Noy’s watch. During the entire unjust episode, Malacanang stood silent as it stood silent while the DPWH carried out the DENR sanctioned cutting of trees in Pangasinan, Baguio, Cebu and many parts of the Philippines as part of the “collateral damage” of nationwide road widening.

Thanks to Green Warriors like the little plant and tree vendors of Manila Seedling Bank, we will not lose the forest and eventually lose our souls. More Green Warriors are needed to fight anti-green, anti-nature politics.

Shouldn’t we asked then whether those colors standing for political parties have even a drop of green? Is there Green in Yellow…Red…Orange…White…Blue…or hidden beneath the deceivingly bright and colourful veneer is something not quite green…something rather dark, ashen…death, night like…black!!!

Supreme Court of the Philippines (Phillipine Online Chronicles image/ Photograph EddCastro, Manila Philippines)

On Earth as it is in Heaven

Friday, 19 February 2016 | Written by
Supreme Court of the Philippines (Phillipine Online Chronicles image/ Photograph EddCastro, Manila Philippines)
Supreme Court of the Philippines (Phillipine Online Chronicles image/ Photograph EddCastro, Manila Philippines)

Supreme Court of the Philippines (Phillipine Online Chronicles image/ Photograph EddCastro, Manila Philippines)

February 17, 2016 82 Days to Go to May 9, 2016 Elections

On Earth as it is in Heaven

June 30,1991, almost twenty years ago, was a bloody day in Philippine criminal history. What took place was even called the “Crime of the Century.” And so it was when three women, the wife and mother and her two daughters were murdered in their home in a subdivision in Paranaque. Lauro Vizconde, the husband was then an OFW working in the States when his house was raided by men who stabbed and killed his wife, Estrelita (thirteen stab wounds); youngest daughter, Jennifer (nineteen stab wounds) and the teenage Carmela who was raped as well ( seventeen stab wounds). There were eight suspects led by Hubert Webb and Antonio Lejano II, Hospicio Fernandez, Michael Gatchalian, Miguel Rodriguez, Peter Estrada, Joey Filart and Artemio Ventura. Filart and Ventura were convicted in absentia. And on December 14 1010, all except Filart and Ventura were acquitted for the prosecution’s failure to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

It was when the accused and convicted men were acquitted that I met Mang Lauro. I joined him in a number of meetings and rallies to ventilate his deep feelings of anger and mistrust towards the Supreme Court for its highly questionable decision. Life each day from the time of the massacre to the present was Calvary for Mang Lauro. He struggled between wrenching feelings of sadness as well as the overwhelming rush of anger and thirst for justice in his veins. After a number of meetings and protest actions in 2011, I saw Mang Lauro less and less until I heard about his deteriorating health. m

LOGO Supreme Court of the Philippines (Phillipine Online Chronicles image/ Photograph EddCastro, Manila Philippines)

LOGO Supreme Court of the Philippines (Phillipine Online Chronicles image/ Photograph EddCastro, Manila Philippines)

Last Saturday, February 13, 2016 Mang Lauro finally joined his creator and his family. Finally, the dark clouds of loneliness and anger as well as the many unspoken pains and burdens of life were finally absorbed into the infinite light of God’s mercy and love. On February 17, 2016, I offered mass for Mang Lauro at Heritage Memorial, Taguig before his body was brought to Manila Memorial in Paranaque where the bones of his wife and two daughters waited to be finally reunited with him. It was a different kind of Salubong. In my homily earlier I referred to an expression gaining popularity: “Walang Forever.” While quite a few subscribe to the fleeting and passing from hairstyles to relationships, there are quite a few who believe otherwise. Mang Lauro believed in “Forever.” Even in the depths of loneliness and loss he did not waver in his love for Estrelita, Carmela and Jennifer. If he lived another twenty five years after his tragic loss, it was this undying love more than the loss and separation that propelled and sustained him. He must have struggled between living through loss and loneliness and finally giving up and raising his hands in surrender to the darkness that promises light. There may be times in our mortal lives when death may have seemed sweet. For Mang Lauro his profound love for his beloved family, his wife and two daughters meant twenty five years of pinning for closure, salvation, deliverance from the unrelenting dirge of loss and separation. Last Saturday, Mang Mario saw and experienced “Forever.” Today, as Mang Lauro and his family are reverently placed together in their final resting place, as they leave the world of fleeting lights, they are finally led towards each other by the eternal light of the infinitely merciful, forgiving and loving God.

Fr. Robert Reyes visited Narita Gonzalez in Hospital (Narita had been bed ridden) -Philippine Online Chronicles image / Photograph EddCastro, Quezon City, Philippines.

Aging, The Pain and the Glory

Friday, 19 February 2016 | Written by
Fr. Robert Reyes visited Narita Gonzalez in Hospital (Narita had been bed ridden) -Philippine Online Chronicles image / Photograph EddCastro, Quezon City, Philippines.
Fr. Robert Reyes visited Narita Gonsalez had been bed ridden (Philippine Online Chronicles image / Photograph EddCastro, Quezon City, Philippines)

Fr. Robert Reyes visited Narita Gonsalez had been bed ridden (Philippine Online Chronicles image / Photograph EddCastro, Quezon City, Philippines)

Last night, I went to Tanay, Rizal to celebrate a funeral mass for Jesusita Santos, sister of Fr. Caloy Santos OFM, a Franciscan missionary to the Holy Land. I was able to visit Jesusita a number of times in the past months. She was a cancer survivor. My condolences to Fr. Caloy.
As I checked messages on my cell phone this morning, I found these two text messages sent by Selma, daughter of Narita and NVM Gonzalez:

“Gud am if you have time visit mom tnx.” (7:02 am.)

“Mom gone to her creator.” (8:43 am)

ad been bed ridden and blind for many years now. Combining the roles of dutiful and loving daughter and caregiver, her daughter Selma hardly left her side. Whether it was a regular visit to her doctor or a situation that was a potential medical crisis, Selma was there to give her mother the best medical attention. Since Narita turned 90 she was considered an “honour student” by everyone around her. Each year her grade just got better and better until she herself decided, “I will try my best to live to be 100.” One of Selma’s devotions was to keep the priests closest to Narita informed about her condition. This is why she would regularly invite Msgr. Manny Gabriel and me to visit her mother either in the hospital or at home.

What was Narita’ secret of a long, happy and fruitful life? Her genes? Her character? Her circumstances? Her faith in God? Her loving, supportive and ever caring family?

In this year declared the Jubilee of Mercy by Pope Francis, we are asked to pray and reflect deeply on Mercy and Compassion. Throughout the almost thirty four years of my priestly life, I have witnessed the presence of the merciful and compassionate God in hospitals and homes where the sick, aging and dying were cared for by their families and others. I have seen how many have heroically coped with the burden of daily, constant care-giving and the unavoidable financial costs. I also witness the painful, disheartening opposite of the sick, aging and dying are neglected and impatiently treated like an unwanted burden that they could live without.

How are the elderly treated in every home in our country? Recently, at least 3 million senior citizens were deeply disappointed when Malacanang vetoed a P 2000 increase in the monthly SSS pension for senior citizens. All that Malacanang can say was, “It will be the end of SSS if we implement this increase.” Senior citizens, especially those receiving meagre pensions which they budget for food and medicine were visibly angry more than disappointed. For the poor aging Filipino, feeding oneself daily is difficult enough but getting sick can immediately be serious and life-threatening not only because of disease but the overwhelming cost of medical treatment. Several senior citizens expressed their anger to me this way, “Sana maging tunay na tahanan ang ating bansa kung saan ang mga mahihina at matatanda ay minamahal at inaalagaan. Bakit tila merong tinitingnan at merong tinititigan?” Good barangay captains, parish priests and pastors can develop community programs for the elderly or senior citizens and find ways of enabling poor families to properly care for the elderly.

It was never like this with Narita whose faith and will to live grew in strength and depth because of a loving, merciful and compassionate environment. I shall miss Selma’s text messages and most of all Narita. She was a great Filipina in every way. From her devotion and fruitful partnership with her husband, national artist for literature NVM Gonzalez to her pivotal role as matriarch of the Gonzalez family she radiated strength, wisdom and faith. Yet, when it was time she had to surrender all to God and put her life in the hands of her loved ones. All this I shall miss but I know Narita, NVM and the life-giving memory of a loving, merciful and compassionate home will forever nourish my heart, mind and soul. Goodbye po Nanay Narita. Maraming, Maraming Salamat Po.

State Funeral for a true Public Servant, Statesman, Ambassador & Congressman with a 21-Gun salute befitting a President of the Republic of the Phiippines

OFWs, Family and Philippine Politics

Tuesday, 16 February 2016 | Written by
State Funeral for a true Public Servant, Statesman, Ambassador & Congressman with a 21-Gun salute befitting a President of the Republic of the Phiippines

February 15, 2016, 84 Days to Go to May 9, 2016 Elections
OFWs, Family and Philippine Politics

State Funeral for a true Public Servant, Statesman, Ambassador & Congressman with a 21-Gun salute befitting a President of the republic

State Funeral for a true Public Servant, Statesman, Ambassador & Congressman with a 21-Gun salute befitting a President of the republic


Ambassador Roy Seneres passed away last February 8, 2016, three days after withdrawing his candidacy for President of the Republic. As a presidential candidate his main platform was the general welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs. The late Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (1994-1998) was advised by his doctors to withdraw from the gruelling demands of a presidential campaign due to his failing health. I met Ambassador Seneres recently in a press forum where he spoke passionately about the ever-increasing numbers of OFWS which has reached about 2.3 million. Multiply that number by five to include espouse and children and you have something like 11.5 million persons dependent on OFWs. That number of course does not include the thousands of unregistered or illegal OFWs in many parts of the world.

State Funeral for a true Public Servant, Statesman, Ambassador & Congressman with a 21-Gun salute befitting a President of the Republic of the Phiippines

State Funeral for a true Public Servant, Statesman, Ambassador & Congressman with a 21-Gun salute befitting a President of the Republic of the Phiippines

Truly, a public servant championing the cause of the OFWs is sorely needed by a country whose survival depends so much on the sacrifice and heroism of OFWs. But the much vaunted remittance of OFWs often does not include the social costs taking a serious toll on Filipino marriages and families. At various periods of my priestly life, I have lived abroad both as a student as well as an OFW. From 1983 to 1987, I studied in Rome and spent much of my free time working with OFWs in Italy. From 2006 to 2010, I worked in China and Hong Kong and was once more exposed to the realities of OFWs in those parts of the world. While better earnings to support their families in the homeland is the obvious reason for working abroad, whenever I spent time with OFWs as a priests ministering to their spiritual needs or as a simple friend or kabayan, the gist of our conversations have always been the problems and complications of leaving their families behind in the Philippines. It has become quite clear how in spite of the advantage of better wages as OFWs, the myriad disadvantages far outweigh this. Broken marriages, strained marriages, wayward children and other rather serious complications like crime leave a rather unsightly mark on the otherwise rosy complexion usually used to project and promote the OFW option. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration or POEA is the government agency tasked to oversee the deployment of Filipino workers to various foreign destinations for work. While the POEA has programs to prepare workers before they leave for their work abroad, from basic language courses to understanding their new adoptive culture and new work ethic, a big hole remains as far as readiness for espouses to live separately and children to live without a parent or both parents is concerned.

Marriages and families continue to be the serious casualty in overseas employment. Churches have organized ministries both here and abroad to address this serious social and moral problem. If we can only quantify the number of broken marriages and problematic youth in terms of Peso, Dollar, Yen, Ren Men Bi, Euro and the like I won’t be surprise if the figure will appear to be more than the total remittances of all OFWs. Because of this, when asked by Filipinos for my opinion on becoming an OFW, I always have the following simple response, “A few more pesos cannot take the place of a parent or children or of being family 24/7. What you may lack in pesos you may have more than enough in the form of love, counsel, direct and daily interaction and supervision and the inestimable value of sharing life together as couple and family. Family for me is far greater than more money. Money can never replace relationship unless you are willing to replace relationship with money…”

Just recently, a good friend of mine was agonizing whether to accept a job offer abroad or not. He told me that if he had a choice he prefers to stay with his wife and children and work here to provide for them. But life has been rather hard. His earnings are hardly enough to support his six children. He loves his wife and children tremendously and because of this he is willing to make the sacrifice of leaving them for a while to work abroad. He continues to agonize and asks for a sign that will make him decide to stay. This sign came recently in the form of a contract to design and landscape a garden. He shared with me the deep and priceless joy his wife and children. He thanked God for this simple yet concrete sign that strengthened his conviction to stay with his family.

Yet, how many parents, couples, families agonize over the choice between family and work abroad? I really do not know. But this much I know and dare ask of government. How concerned is government about OFWs and especially the families of OFWS? In P Noy’s six State of the Nation Addresses, hardly anything was said about OFWs. The seasonal title given to OFWs, mga BAYANI has become an empty and meaningless phrase. Who among the presidentiables really has the welfare of OFWs and most of all their families in their mind and heart? Who among them will do more than pay lip-service to the plight of OFWs?

Perhaps now Ambassador Roy Seneres can play the role of intercessor for OFWs and their families to God and the heavenly court. Perhaps the good Ambassador can help us discern who among the candidates has a genuine love and concern for OFWs and their families.

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