FROM THE UNDERSIDE OF HISTORY

This blog features some of the author's lengthy essays on sacred scriptures, theology and history.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

DOLORES: THE MAKING OF A MUNICIPALITY



DOLORES: THE MAKING OF A MUNICIPALITY

by MSGR LOPE C. ROBREDILLO, SThD
Vicar General, Diocese of Borongan

(The data used in the writing of this essay were taken from rare books and archival documents found at the Philippine National Archives [Manila], Philippine National Library [Manila] Archivo-Franciscano Ibero Oriental [Spain], Cebuano Studies Center [Cebu], Divine Word University Museum and Library [Tacloban], and Lopez Memorial Museum [Pasig]. Other sources were provided by Dr Bruce Cruikshank, sometime Visiting Professor of Georgetown University, Washington DC, the late Rev Dr Pablo Fernandez, Professor of Church History at the University of Santo Tomas, and the late Rev Cantius Kobak of the Franciscan Friary [Manila].  Copyright 2016 by Lope C. Robredillo. This work, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced without permission from the author.)

INTRODUCTION

UNTIL shortly after the liberation (1945), the municipality of Dolores was vast: its geographical limits covered what now belongs to the municipality of Can-avid, the municipality of Maslog, and the municipality of Dolores itself.  While the bulk of
the population of Can-avid lived in the villages that dotted the banks of Jubasan (later on, Loquilocon or Ulot, and now, Can-avid) river, that of Maslog and Dolores dwelt in the riparian settlements along Bacod (now, Dolores) river. Its size, however, was gradually reduced with the separation of Can-avid on June 15, 1948 and of Maslog, officially on June 23, 1968. 

In what follows, I would like to briefly trace the evolution of this municipality from its incipience until Dolores was adopted as its administrative center, long before its breakup into several municipalities.  But the better to understand this essay, it is important to bear in mind the meaning of the following Spanish terms in their present-day equivalents: pueblo means municipality, poblacion refers to the capital or administrative center of the municipality, visita signifies barrio, and rancheria is equivalent to sitio.   Of no less significance, one has to distinguish between Dolores as a municipality and Dolores as a town or poblacion.

How did the pueblo of Dolores originate?

THE RISE AND FALL OF BACOD

The Sumoroy Rebellion.  It may be recalled that on June 1, 1649, what is now known in history books as Sumuroy Rebellion started when Agustin Sumoroy, the castellan at the Palapag fort (in Northern Samar), revolted ostensibly against the decree of Governor-General Diego Fajardo, requiring Bisayans to serve at the Cavite Shipyard.  (I say, ostensibly, because in reality it began as a personal issue, after the parish priest scolded him for cuddling a mistress.) The rebellion in the end engulfed many provinces in the Visayas and Bicol regions.  On the island of Samar, the first bungto (town or village) in the eastern part to join the rebellion was Bacod.

What was Bacod?  Where is it now? 

Bacod: The Original Settlement of our Forebears.  Bacod is now submerged in the river of Dolores because of the erosion of the bank on which it was established.  At present, it is known as Binungtoan (meaning, a former town site), and its location lies between the poblacion of Dolores and the barrio of Carolina.  It used to be the largest village along the river; that is why, its original name was rio de Bacod (river of Bacod).  As a compact bungto, it was founded around 1602 by the Jesuit Fathers who were based in the missionary center (cabecera) on Palapag, and who, for evangelization and civilization purposes, frequented the settlement, along with the bungtos of Borongan, Libas, Sulat, Tubig (Taft) and Jubasan.

Bacod was then a relatively growing community that accepted Christianity, and was gradually introduced to the various aspects of the Spanish culture.  Admittedly, it was not easy for the missionaries to congregate the people in the bungto not only because of the frequent Moro raids which drove people deeper into the hills, the raiders devastating their houses and crops, but also because of the frequent cholera epidemics, as in 1608-1609.  Even more significant, the people, as they have been used to since time immemorial, wanted to live near to their fields.  At any rate, the townsfolk were able in due course to build an iglesia de piedra (church of stone) as well as a convento (rectory), also made of corrals, as centerpiece of their compacted settlement.  In 1616, it had a population of around 400, forming 150 tributes. 

The Involvement of the Bacodnons in the Rebellion.  But when the revolt swallowed up the bungto of Bacod, many of its inhabitants burned the church and the convento, and then went to Tubig to convince the Tubignons to join the revolt, and most of them did, also setting the church and the rectory on fire, and finally to Sulat, where the same structures were also reduced to ashes.   Because the rebellion assumed an almost unmanageable proportion, a huge military force, which included Lutaos, Sugbos, Pampangos and Spaniards, was assembled under Don Gines de Rojas to suppress it.  Initially, it met stiff opposition.  In Jubasan river, Capt. Juan Fernandez de Leon, who just came from the cotta (fort) of Guiuan to beef up the forces under de Rojas, was ambushed, although the rebels failed to liquidate him. 

The Birth of Dolores.  But the Sumoroy rebellion did not prosper; the leader himself was killed, and the movement went kaput.  As a consequence of the inhabitants’ participation in the revolt, the people paid dearly.  Many of its residents were punished.  The gobernador del pueblo, the fiscal mayor del padre and the mayor principal were executed.  The Jesuit mission there was abandoned.  The bungto of Bacod, like that of Jubasan, was suppressed.  Though some families transferred to the settlement of Paric along Jubasan river, a number of them moved further to a location not far from the mouth of the Bacod river, built their small huts, and founded the hamlet of Dolores in 1650 in its present location.  That is how Dolores came into being; it began as a small cluster of houses.   It was named DOLORES to signify, and in painful remembrance of, the sorrows and sufferings the new settlers experienced on account of their armed participation in the Sumuroy Rebellion, the suppression of the bungto, and the abolition of the Jesuit mission as well as the establishment of a new village.

THE FORMATION OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF PARIC

The Rise of Paric.  It may be noted that, with the dismantlement of their bungto, most Jubasanons and Bacodnons who had survived the rebellion congregated on a smaller settlement east of Jubasan, called Paric.  Obviously because it was located along Jubasan river which was the main highway between the east (Ibabao) and the west (Samar) of the island at that time, it is not surprising that this village grew faster than others.  In the 1720s, years before the Jesuits were expelled from Samar, it was already a big settlement under Tubig.  Even though it remained ecclesiastically dependent on Tubig, under its political jurisdiction were the visitas of Carolina, Oras, Dapdap and Bacod. 

Speaking of Bacod, it is noteworthy to add that, in the final result, it was abandoned, because of land erosion, and its remaining inhabitants moved to Carolina, although records indicate that as of 1895, it still had 20 residents.  Old folks, however, attributed its effacement from the map to the murder of a priest by the Bacodnons during the Sumuroy uprising.  Anyhow, before the Second World War, nothing was left of the former town.  Of course, one could still see the remains of the stone church in the late 50s.

And what about the hamlet of Dolores?  At this point of time, Dolores was still a rancheria of the visita of Carolina.

Toward the Separation of Paric from Tubig.  When the Franciscans came in 1768, one of the first things they embarked on was to propose the separation Paric from the mother bungto.  Toward this end, Fr Manuel Valverde, OFM, in 1839, directed the construction of a convento, a escuela de instruccion primaria (parochial school) and a church of mamposteria (rubblework).  Among the difficulties that the Franciscans had to face in making Paric independent from Tubig were the Moro raids.  In September 1838, the Moros captured 3 Paricnons, and in 1847, 7.  Indeed, as early as 1814, the gobernadorcillo of Paric, together with that of Tubig, asked the permission of the national government to purchase a cannon for defense.

Creation of Paric as Pueblo and Parish.  In the 1860s, the visita of Paric by then had what were required for the creation of a pueblo, namely, a parochial church, a convento, a church plaza, a cemetery and a tribunal (roughly, municipal building).  It also had enough population, as the law so required, to support a parish priest.  As early as 1858, it had around 2,300, according to the German naturalist, Feodor Jagor, who visited the bungto that year.  So, when the parish priest of Tubig and the town officials petitioned for the creation of Paric into a pueblo, through an expediente of August 31, 1863 written by the Franciscan Provincial, their petition was granted by the King, who decreed its creation on April 5, 1864.  The decree, communicated to Don Rafael Echague, Governor-General of the Philippines, through the Overseas Ministry, reads:

Exmo. Sor.: Dada cuenta a la Reyna (q.D.G.) del espediente que V.E. acompaño a su carta de 31 de Agosto del año pasado, relativo a la ereccion de una nueva Parroquia en el pueblo de Paric, distrito de Samar, corespondiente al Gobierno de Visayas, en ese archipelago, S.M. oido el Consejo de Estado en pleano, ha tenido a bien aprobar dicha errecion conforme a lo propuesto en el espresado espediente, disponiendo que la dotacion de 600 pesos que se asigna al Parroco hasta tanto que el numero de tributos de su feligresia le producca [sic] una renta equivalente, se incluya en el presupuesto del proximo año economico.  De Real orden lo digo a V.S. para su conocimiento y efectos consiguientes.  Y habiendola mandado complir en este fecha, la traslado a V.R. par su conocimiento y fines consiguientes. -- Dios guarde a V.R. m.a.

That was how the municipality of Paric was founded.  The Governor-General issued his Superior Conformity Decree on June 16, 1864.  Even though Paric was created a pueblo and parish simultaneously, its ecclesiastical independence came only on April 20, 1878 when the Bishop of Cebu, Bp. Benito de Madridejos (1867-1886) issued the decree of the erection of the parish, placing it under the patronage of St Joachim the Patriarch.  The bishop appointed Fr. Jose del Olmo, OFM, as its first parish priest.  Under the jurisdiction of the new township and parish were the visitas of Bacod, Dapdap, Carolina, and the rancherias of Dolores, Jinolaso, Tubabao and Balagon. (Oras was no longer under its jurisdiction because it was made into a separate pueblo in 1850.)  Of course, the poblacion of the municipality, needless to state, was located in Paric.

Meanwhile, most likely on account of its location, it did not take long for the sitio of Dolores to advance into a barrio.

Early Reverses.  In 1864, the pueblo of Paric had a population of 2,998.  While its women weaved fabrics from guinaras, men extracted oil from coconut, stripped abaca hemp, and planted rice.  Business probably improved, since, unlike in the past decades when they relied on the itinerant Chinese or Chinese mestizos, two Chinese businessmen, who most likely controlled commerce, took residence in the pueblo.  But it also experienced reverses.  For, aside from the usual baguios the people almost yearly faced, they suffered from the cholera epidemics, which forced many of them to reside in less settled places.  Most of the recorded epidemics took place in the 1880s, notably in 1846, 1850, and 1876, and 1894.  But the worst happened in 1882 when Paric ranked eleventh among the hardest hit pueblos on Samar.  Of the more than 6,000 Samareños who died in that epidemic, nearly 200 came from Paric.  But not only that.

The Relinquishment of Paric as Poblacion.  A problem, most likely more pressing than anything else, with which the Paricnons were confronted, was the eating up of the poblacion by the Jubasan river.  The constant erosion of the river bank on the northern part of the poblacion, caused by big and frequent floods, has so took its toll that the portion on which a cluster of houses stood became part of the river.  At this time, the parish priest of Paric was Fr Juan Vicente Carmona, OFM (who was born on May 6, 1862 in Campo de Criptana, Spain).  The municipal officials (1885-1887), as recorded in the Relacion de los nombramientos hechos para constitutivo los tribunales municipales, Provincia de Samar, were as follows: Gobernadorcillo: Carlos Robredillo; Teniente Primero: Leoperto Planesniles; Teniente Segundo: Martin Irasga; Juez Primero: Pedro Esido [Hesido]; Juez Segundo: Martines Geroy; Alguacil: Fernando Bongon; Alguacil: Joaquin Cebrero.

DOLORES AS THE NEW POBLACION OF THE MUNICIPALITY

The Transfer of the Poblacion of Paric to the Visita of Dolores.  In 1886, after much deliberation, the parish priest, together with the municipal authorities, formally petitioned the Governor-General of the Philippines for the transfer of the poblacion to the growing visita of Dolores, about a kilometer from the mouth of Bacod river, convinced that the new poblacion would be secure and safe from floods and erosion.  The petition having been approved, they effected the transfer in 1887.  As one author says, “las autoridades eclesiasticas y civiles se han traslado a la visita de Dolores.”  Another published material reads: “Previendo el P. Juan Carmona lo que habia de suceder, debidamente autorizado, traslado el pueblo en 1887 a sitio mas seguro, mas ventilado y sano. 

This is how Dolores, once a hamlet, then a rancheria and ultimately a visita, became the poblacion of Paric.

As an aside at this juncture, one might ask: what could be said about the claim that Dolores was born in 1888?  Truth to tell, it has no historical import.  For one thing, there is no document, and no official document can be exhibited, to show the truthfulness about the claim, because it is erroneous.  It derives from a mistaken assumption that the transfer of the poblacion coincided the founding of the pueblo.  For another, the date of 1888 comes from oral tradition, but published documents in Spanish attest that the poblacion was transferred in 1887.

The Abandonment of Paric as Poblacion.  With the relocation of the poblacion from Paric to Dolores, the former poblacion reverted to a small settlement.   But being a former poblacion, people referred to it as Binungto-an, meaning, a former town site, just like Bacod.  A number of Paricnons also transferred to Dolores, while others chose to go to the visita of Maria Angeles (which was renamed Can-avid) at the mouth of Jubasan river.  As far back as 1912, part of the stone church of Binungto-an plunged into the river, but what endured later on became the barrio of Canteros. 

Dolores as the New Poblacion of Paric.  On the other hand, efforts were done to make Dolores worthy of its new status of poblacion.  From the year 1889 through 1893, Fr. Carmona, with the help of Doloresnons, constructed a church of hard wood, a mestiza parochial house of wood, a casa tribunal (located behind the lot of ex-Mayor Valles), a parochial school for boys and girls, a wide church plaza (which used to include the lot occupied by the present municipal building), and a cemetery (partly covered by the Engineering bldg.).   Marin y Morales describes some of these plants:

         El P. Juan Vicente Carmona… construyo con ayuda de sus feligreses una casa  parroquial con el primer piso de mamposteria y los restante de madera y una iglesia muy espaciosa en cuya construccion se han empleado todos los adelantos modernos, compatibles con las condiciones en que se encuentran la mayor parte de los pueblos del Archipielago.  La Iglesia ofrece un aspecto muy agradable y en su construccion se han empleado maderas excogidas; tiene cimientos hasta la altura de un metro y medio, de mamposteria.  Ademas de los edificios dichos, tiene este pueblo una casa tribunal de madera y un espacioso edificio, tambien de madera, que dividido por su mitad sirve para escuelas de niños y niñas.

A la mode of the European towns, these structures formed a nucleus around which were raised the houses of Doloresnons, for it was ideal to have the faithful within the earshot of the bell tower (de bajo campana).  Regrettably, though, the Pulajanes torched these edifices in 1905, and all that remained is the stone wall that was transformed in the 1970s into a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.  By 1890, it had two teachers: Damiano Pomasin and Donisia Hubirit.  Six Chinese were doing business in the town.  The población itself had a total population of 1,824.  The pueblo had 5 visitas and 20 smaller villages. 

With regard to the geographical area of the poblacion, its size was relatively large. The furthest street on its north-east portion was Carolina street, and at south-west was San Carlos street; between them were three parallel streets: San Joaquin, San Roque and San Carlos.   At its north-west was San Juan de Dios street, and at the south-east was San Francisco street, and these were separated by Real street.  Nueva street (renamed Eufracio Rivera street in the late 70s) that stretches parallel with San Francisco street was not part of the original design of the poblacion, while Crisologo street was formerly San Roque street.  Roxas, Reynaldo, Balagbis, Riverside, and Quitorio streets were added after the war.  Of course, the original street of Dolores was Calle Real, which was connected by a road to Oras through the initiative of Fr Fernando Esteban, parish priest of Oras (1875-1879).  Compared with those of others towns that were created during the Spanish period, these streets were relatively wide and straight.

CONCLUSION

That, in brief, is the story of how Dolores, which was a tiny village in 1650, evolved into a población of the municipality of Paric in 1887.  It is of interest to note that although the población was no longer Paric, that is to say, although the entire pueblo was by this time governed from the administrative center of Dolores, the municipality continued to be anomalously called Paric in official documents of the local and national government.  For example, the Census of 1903 still referred to the municipality as the Municipality of Paric.  It was only in 1906 that the name Dolores officially replaced Paric as the name of the municipality in governmental and ecclesiastical records. 

In fine, this brief history corrects a number of erroneous statements, purportedly historical, that have been dished out, for example, in the article, ‘Dolores: Your Home in Eastern Samar,” published in the 2008 Souvenir Program of Dolores Town Fiesta, which was based on, but sometimes literally lifted from, two articles: “That You May Know About Dolores,” in the 1966 Souvenir Program, and “A Portrait of Dolores” in the 1977 Souvenir Program.  Here are samples of baseless and false assertions, among so many: [1] That Paric was a first settlement (p.30); [2] That Bacod was a second settlement (pp.30-31); [3] That Dolores was a third settlement (p.31); [4] That Bacod river was formerly called Tumaguingting river (p.31); and [5] That Dolores was born in 1888!

For those interested in the details and in lengthy accounts of the history of Dolores, see Lope Robredillo, “The Parish of St Joachim: Its Genesis and Development (1602-1898),” Philippiniana Sacra (Manila: University of Santo Tomas, 1990) 465-482; Lope Robredillo, “Resistance and Assimilation: A History of Dolores (Eastern Samar), 1602-1898,” Leyte-Samar Studies XIX (Tacloban City: Divine World University, 1985) 2, 105-147 (a revision of the latter was published in the 2001 Dolores Town Fiesta Souvenir Program); and Lope Robredillo, “The Dolores Resistance against the Americans, 1899-1906,” Leyte-Samar Studies XXI (Tacloban City: Divine Word University, 1987), 1:1-28.

Monday, November 14, 2016

AN OVERVIEW OF THE BASIC ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES (BECs)



AN OVERVIEW OF THE BASIC ECCLESIAL
COMMUNITIES (BECs)

by Msgr Lope C. Robredillo, VG

[Note: This is the English version of a talk delivered by the author at the First Diocesan Congress of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) of the Diocese of Borongan, participated in by all the parishes, held at the parish church of St Anthony of Padua, Llorente, Eastern Samar, on January 19, 2006]

Introduction: Why the BECs in the Diocese?

          The 1997 First Synod of Borongan is a milestone in the history of the
Diocese.  It enshrines a diocesan vision, and defines its mission to give direction to the life and work of the whole diocese. 

Included in its mission is the formation of basic ecclesial communities.  With PCP II, the Synod believes that the renewed diocese it envisions finds expression in one ecclesial movement: the BECs. (PCP II, 137).  That is why, the 2004 pastoral plan of the Diocese provides for the establishment of the BECs in all the parishes.

What Is Meant by Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC)?

          Terminology.  In trying to see the meaning of BECs, it is instructive to note that they came to us under various brands.  In the 1960s and 1970s, they were known as base communities, basic communities, or grassroots-communities. 

But to specify its religious character, and especially its adhesion to the Church, they became known, in Latin America, as communidades eclesiales de base, which is translated as base-level ecclesial communities or basic church communities (CEB).  In Africa, they are called small Christian communities (SCC). 

In the Philippines, they have various names: Kriska or Kristohanong Katilingban, Gagmayang Kristohanong Katilingban, Munting Sambayanang Kristiyano (MSK), Basic Christian Community.

But why are they called Basic Ecclesial Communities?  Before we describe them, let us first of all look at the meaning of each term:

Basic means “at the lowest level of society,” grass-root; they are not at the vertex (diocesan or universal); rather, their members are at the bottom of the social and ecclesiastical pyramid; it also means “coming from the faith of small or simple baptized Christians.  The word also refers to their size, which is small—small enough for each member to know each other, yet they are not a barkadahan.

Ecclesial signifies the basic motivation for the BECs—to live and continue the life and mission of Christ in a group of people, who are in communion with the local Church. The members of these communities manifest, experience and localize the Church at the grass-roots level. It is not a natural community.

Community is used to signify that the BECs are not prayer groups, discussion groups, or service groups.  Rather, it means that the members live in close proximity and know each other; personal relationships are important; they exercise sharing and mutual help; they have common values, common commitment, and common mission; each member participate in decision making; they face community problems and challenges.

How Did BECs Start?

          There is no doubt that the greatest factor that influenced the rise and growth
of BECs is the impact of the Second Vatican Council, with its emphasis on the communitarian model of the Church,  the active participation of the laity and the liturgical reform that allowed Sunday celebration without a priest.

          But how did the BECs come into being?  In Brazil (Latin America), they started in 1956 with the evangelization movement, which eventually evolved into a situation in which communities without a priest, among other things, would gather around the radio to pray aloud the people’s part of the mass being celebrated by the Bishop and hear his homily.  By 1963, there were about 1,410 radio schools.  

In the Philippines, the barangay sang birhen of the 1950s is their precedent, since this strengthened the sense of community, but the BECs as we have them now started in the rural areas of Mindanao as a pastoral strategy to renew the Church following Vatican II.  Many of them came from existing sociological or parochial structures (chapel organization, neighborhood organization), but were eventually Christianized.  While lay people composed them, they were organized and supported by the priest.  Others were organized by the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference, the NASSA, and the Redemptorist Mission Teams.  But no doubt, the socio-economic and political situation influenced the way these were organized.

In Australia, we might single out the Adelaide Archdiocese where the BECs were established by Archbishop Faulkner himself in 1994; he enshrined their formation in the diocesan vision, and asks his priests to move toward the BECs.

How Are We to Define the BECs?
                 
          The 3rd General Conference of Latin American Bishops (1979) gave the following description (“Evangelization at Present and in the Future of Latin America,” par 642): “As a community, the CEB brings together families, adults and young people in an intimate interpersonal relationship grounded in the faith.  As an ecclesial reality, it is a community of faith, hope and charity.  It celebrates the word of God and takes its nourishment from the Eucharist, the culmination of all the sacraments.  It fleshes out the Word of God in life through solidarity and commitment to the new commandment of the Lord and through the service of approved coordinators; it makes present and operative the mission of the Church and the visible communion with the legitimate pastors.  It is a base-level community because it is composed of relatively few members as a permanent body, like a cell of a larger community.

The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines devotes two paragraphs to describe the BECs (138-139): “They are small communities of Christians, usually of families who gather together around the Word of God and the Eucharist.  These communities are united to their pastors but are ministered to regularly by lay leaders.  The members know each other by name and share not only the Word of God and the Eucharist, but also their concerns both material and spiritual.  They have a strong sense of belongingness and of responsibility for one another.
          “Usually emerging at the grassroots among poor farmers and workers, Basic
Ecclesial Communities consciously strive to integrate their faith and their daily life.  They are guided and encouraged by regular catechesis.  Poverty and their faith urge their members towards solidarity with one another, action for justice, and toward a vibrant celebration of life in the liturgy.”

          Personally, to me, one of the best descriptions of the BEC, if only because it is easy to grasp, comes from Abp Orlando Quevedo, formerly President of the CBCP.  According to him, the BEC is
1)    a small grassroots community of believers;
2)    that brings together families and individuals in intimate personal and social relationship based on faith;
3)    whose members gather together with their leaders to worship the Lord;
4)    listen prayerfully to the Word of God, reflect on it, apply it to their daily lives;
5)    take nourishment in the Eucharist;
6)    share with one another, serve and support one another;
7)    in a true fellowship of faith, hope and love—
8)    in a word, to evangelize others and at the same time to be evangelized.

Chief Characteristics of the BECs

          What are the chief characteristics of these communities?  In his book, Charism and Power, Latin American theological Leonardo Boff sees five points that characterize them: (1) an oppressed yet believing people; (2) born from the Word of God; (3) a new way of being Church; (4) sign and instrument of liberation; and (6) a celebration of faith and life.

          Following J. van Nieuwenhove, Lode Wosten, in his book, Doing Ecclesiology,
consider the following as key phrases in the Puebla description of the BECs: (1) centers of evangelization within a Church fellowship, (2) motive force for the renewal of the Church; (3) and a place, where Christians, especially the poor, (4) fashion their vocation for the service of the world.

          On the other hand, Quevedo enumerates 5 characteristics: (1) faith based; (2) Chris-centeredness; (3) Community-orientations; (4) participatory; (5) serving and sharing; (6) love.

For our purpose, the following may suffice:

(1)  Poor yet Believing—a concrete realization of the Church of the Poor:
1.     They emerge from among the poor, at the grass-roots level;
2.     Yet, they are people of faith, they are a community of faith
3.     They look at Jesus as the center of their lives—his life is the norm and the inspiration
4.     They believe in his promise of the Kingdom of God; God cares for them, and he will eventually change this world into a new one.
5.     Contrast feature: They imply that the Church need not always be a Church of the poblacion; it is also a Church of the periphery; it need not always be a Church of the learned, the famous, the money, but also of the illiterate, the neglected, the scum.
6.     Contrast feature: They do not profess any ideology (like communism, socialism, or capitalism), rather they draw inspiration from the Word of God, from the teachings of the Church, and look at realities from the perspective of their faith.

(2)  Community-oriented---
1.     Their members live in proximity or in the same neighborhood, like a squatter area, or a barangay where they know each other by name, and relate to each other.  Thus, it is small enough to permit personal relationship among the members, and large enough to contain itself in its basic needs;
2.     They strive to be of one heart and one mind;
3.     They have a strong sense of co-responsibility and solidarity; there is mutual care, sharing and support
4.     Contrast feature: it is not a church of individuals who do not know each other, who pray alone, who go to mass alone, who think that they go to heaven alone.

(3)  Participatory—Consultative
1.     Participation is absolutely necessary.  It is based on the understanding of and respect for the various charisms or gifts;
2.     The selection of leaders, process of decision-making, planning, prayer sessions, and implementation of decisions—all these are characterized by the widest member-participation.
3.     Charisms are recognized in the ministries: youth, family, liturgy, social action, catechesis, education, etc.
4.     Thus, the BECs participate in the life and mission of the Church.
5.     Contrast feature: unlike the parish, it is headed by a lay person who leads in the celebration of the Word, the priestless Sunday service, meeting, and other community affairs.  Hence, lay ministries are recognized in the small community.  It is not hierarchical, but closely connected with the hierarchy in the person of the priest.

(4)  Gathered around the Word of God and the Eucharist
1. The Gospel is heard, believed, shared, and lived in the community,
2. The participants reflect on the Gospel in order to interpret the life and events in the community, and see their life and happenings in the light of the Word of God.
3. Therefore, they look at realities and events in the light of their faith, and their reflection on the Word of God.
4. Hence, once or twice a week, the gather for Bible sharing and reflection, usually in one of the homes of the members
5. They study the Bible in relation to their daily life, and draw inspiration
for proper Christian action.
6. They denounce the sins of society in the light of the Gospel.
7. They announce the good news to the society.
8. They gather to celebrate the Sunday service without the Priest.
9. Contrast feature: it is not primarily for an income-generating project, for the building of a new structure, but they gather primarily to hear the Word, receive the Sacraments, and live the Word and Sacraments in their daily life.
9. They have high regard for popular religiosity—novenas, rosary, celebration of feasts, processions, etc.

(5) Sign and Instrument of Development and Liberation
              1. They are concerned with the material well-being of their members and the community.
              2. They try to build a community of peace, based on justice, freedom and love.  Thus, they have health care projects, mutual aid fund, transfer technology in agriculture.  Other may have communal farms, or involved in issues of justice and peace, or take position against business malpractices.
              3. That is why, during Martial Law, the BECs defended human rights, protested against oppressive laws, etc.
              3. Contrast feature: they are not concerned only with the spiritual realities, or with only one aspect of the human person; but with the entire aspects that make the human person—economic, political, cultural, environment, spiritual, bodily, etc.   They aim at total human development and liberation.

The BECs in the Diocese of Borongan 

In implementation of the diocesan thrust, the BEC program opened in the diocese under two forms, the first one being that of Daughters of Charity (DC), through Sr Alicia Arreglo, DC, diocesan coordinator of the basic ecclesial communities,  the second, that of the Redemptorist Mission Teams (RMTs), under Rev Carlo Villaflor, CSsR.

 (1) The DC model has several components: formation, community organizing, agricultural component, income-generating projects, cooperatives and health programs.  Sr Areglo started organizing basic ecclesial communities in June 1995 in 5 parishes (Guiuan, Borongan, Balangkayan, Lalawigan, and Sulat) and
16 barangays.  The first seminar was given for formators in October 16-20, 1995.  Its initial fund was borrowed from NEWSFi in the amount of P245,000.  It later expanded to 10 parishes (Oras, Giporlos, Salcedo, Canavid and San Policarpo) and 57 barangays.  When the DC turned over the program to the Diocese on May 18, 2004, it was headed by Sr. Jocelyn Verdadero, DC, whose staff ministers to 52 active areas with sustaining program. 

As of 2004, the program covers 11 parishes, with 70 BECs, and is under Ms. Virginia Raagas, a school supervisor of Oras.  In this sustaining phase, the BEC Office is engaged, among others, in the monitoring of on-going projects—(a) rice mill in Balogo, Balangkayan; (b) copra buying in Cantubi, Balangkayan; (c)
communal farm operation in Caisawan, Balangkayan; (d) tricycle operation in Maybocog, Maydolong; (e) individual income-generating projects in Sto. Niño, Sulat; (f) consumers’ cooperative in Buntay, Oras; (g) consumers’ cooperative in Dao, Oras; and (h) individual income-generating projects in San Eduardo, Oras.  More recently, as a result of the BEC-NASSA meeting on August 26, 2004, the BEC Office assists five parishes—San Policarpo, Oras, Dolores, Sulat, and San Julian—which have been chosen to implement the BEC-based NASSA project, which is Empowering Marginalized Sectors through BEC-Based Integral Evangelization. 

(2) In contrast with the first which is barangay-based, the other BEC model is parish-based, handled by the Redemptorist Mission Teams (RMTs).  The latter operated in Lawaan, Quinapondan, Sulat, Buenavista, San Julian and Sulangan.
 
As of December 31, 2005, the Diocese has 88 BECs, present in 14 parishes: Arteche (10), San Policarpo (10), Oras (10), Dolores (10), Maslog (2), Canavid (2), Sulat (10), San Julian (10), Borongan (4), Lalawigan (2), Balangkayan (4), Guiuan (7), Homonhon (3), and Salcedo (3).

Final Word: What Does the Hierarchy Say about These Communities?

         Since they emerge from the grassroots, one might wonder if these
communities have been recognized by the Church at the highest level.  It is instructive to note that Popes have given approval and encouragement to these communities.  Pope Paul VI, in his 1975 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, calls them a source of hope for the universal Church (n 58).   More recently, John Paul II, in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, refers to them as “a sign of vitality within the Church, and instrument of formation and evangelization, a starting point for a new society based on a ‘civilization of love’.  [They] decentralize and organize the parish community, to which they always remain united… [These communities become a means of evangelization and of initial proclamation of the Gospel and a source of new ministries.  At the same time, by being imbued with Christ’s love, they also show how divisions, tribalism and racism are overcome” (n 51).  And in his 1999 apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in Asia (n 25) the Holy Father recognizes “the value of basic ecclesial communities as an effective way of promoting communion and participation in parishes and Dioceses, and a genuine force of evangelization.”

          Not surprisingly enough, in 1991 during the Second Plenary Council (PCP-II), Church in the Philippines adopted the establishment of the BECs as the pastoral priority in all its diocese: “Basic Ecclesial Communities under various names and forms—BCCs, small Christian communities, covenant communities—must be vigorously promoted for the full living of the Christian vocation in both rural and urban areas.  Active non-violence will be a guiding principle in their approach to social change” (PCP II, Art 109).  For this reason, the Council directed the Conference to “issue an official statement on BECs, on their nature and function as recognized by the Church, making it clear that they are not simply another organization” (Art 110 #1).

FIRST DIOCESAN CONGRESS ON BECs
Parish of St Anthony of Padua, Llorente
January 18-20, 2006