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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


By Lope C. Robredillo, SThD
This essay is dedicated to the Most Rev Godofredo P. Pedernal, DD, a saintly bishop
(The original text of the talk delivered by the author in Samarenyo [or Binisaya] language to the delegates to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Diocese of Borongan at the Borongan Cathedral on October 22, 2010, 8:30 AM)
THOUGH the Estehanons’ first recorded encounter with Christianity occurred on March 16, 1521 when Magellan’s expedition reached Homonhon island, the historical beginnings of the Diocese of Borongan may be traced to as far back as 1585 when Augustinians set foot on Eastern Samar, but especially 1595 when Jesuits from Dagami, Leyte, systematically preached the gospel to the natives of the southern part of the island.  The people in the eastern littorals, on the other hand, were evangelized by Jesuits from Catubig and, later, Palapag as early as 1601.  In spreading the Christian religion, the missionaries initiated the reduccion of the population and founded towns, educated the inhabitants in the faith, raised stone churches, taught agriculture, and protected the faithful from Muslim raids.  The major bungtos at that time were Bacod (now part of Dolores river bed), Jubasan (now Giboangan, Can-avid), Sulat, Libas, Borongan, Guiuan and Balangiga.  On the whole, there was no stiff opposition to the reception of Catholic faith.  After half a century, however, the mission suffered a major setback in the Sumuroy rebellion in 1649.
When the Jesuits moved out in 1768, the Franciscans took over the parishes that the former had created save for Guiuan and Balangiga which were briefly administered by Augustinians.  The major problems that they faced were largely the same: population dispersion, Muslim raids and cholera epidemics.  They founded the parishes of Lanang (1851), Balangiga (1854), Sudao (1862), Oras (1863), Libas (1863), Nag-as (1864), Paric (1878), and Quinapondan (1894). These parishes, together with those founded by the Jesuits, all twelve of them, constituted the Vicariate of the Eastern Coast of Samar, under the Diocese of Cebu.  In terms of orthodoxy, however, they found a big challenge in the influential but heretical teachings of Don Gaspar de Guerrero.  It may be remarked that during this period, some Samareño priests already held parishes as pastors. However, the Spanish-American war in 1899 shook the Franciscan ministry and the local Church on Samar as a whole, what with the anticlericalism and Aglipayanism of Gen Vicente Lukban who had presented himself as Aguinaldo’s appointed Governor of Samar.  In fact, the Spanish friars resigned from their posts.  But at the same time, many people, including a number of Filipino priests, suffered from American ill-treatment.  Bucolic life was disrupted; hundreds of Samareños were killed.  Though Lukban was captured in 1902, peace never reigned; in the fierce war of the Philippine scouts with the local freedom-fighters, the Pulajanes, the latter practically controlled the island until 1905, leaving much suffering in its wake.  As a consequence, there was dearth of priests, between 1899 to 1905, to serve the needs of Samareños.
On April 10, 1910, the Estehanons became part of the Diocese of Calbayog, when the island of Samar was separated from the Diocese of Cebu.  Protestantism, American education system, and American culture became a challenge. Several Franciscans returned to work in the parishes.  Partly to counteract the spread of Protestantism, a Catholic school was established in Guiuan in 1927, as was done in other towns of the island.  Other schools followed eventually placed under the management of or established by the RVM sisters (Assumption College of Samar, 1940; St Joseph’s College, 1946; Holy Cross Institute, 1947; Our Lady of Fatima Academy 1949; and St Anthony’s Academy, 1949; Loyola Academy 1958 reverted to Msgr Desoloc).  During World War II, which displaced, decimated and impoverished the Estehanons, some priests aided Filipino guerillas.  After the war, the following parishes on the eastern part of the island were created, now all under Filipino priests: San Ramon (1955), Giporlos (1955), Maydolong (1956), Can-avid (1956), Sulangan (1957), Pambujan (1958), Matarinao-Burac (1959) and San Policarpo (1959).  Catechesis in elementary school was engaged in by almost all parishes.  In 1957, A lone Italian missionary (FdCC) started working in the parish of Jipapad.
On October 22, 1960, Pope John XIII issued the apostolic bull, Quod sacri, creating the Diocese of Borongan (Dioecesis Boronganensis), which originally included the aforementioned parishes as well as the parishes of Gamay, Basey, Calbiga, Pinabacdao, Villareal, Osmeña, Talolora and Sta Rita.  Bp Vicente P Reyes, DD, was the first bishop, installed on April 11, 1961.  The minor seminary, Seminario de Jesus Nazareno, was formally inaugurated in 1965.  Partly to halt the inroads of Protestantism in parishes, and in compliance with the First Plenary Council of the Philippines, diocesan schools, managed by diocesan priests, were also established: Jesus Nazareno Academy (Maydolong) 1962; Divine Child Academy (Lawaan) 1962; Borongan Cathedral School 1965, and Guimbaolibot Memorial School 1965.  Apart from Lapinig in Northern Samar, erected were the parishes of San Buenaventura/Balangkayan (1961), Lawaan (1961), Mercedes (1964) and Lalawigan (1964).  The faith was sustained among others by the strengthening of the Catholic organizations/cofradias (San Antonio, Lourdes, COM, Apostolados, San Jose, Holy Name, etc.) under the umbrella of Catholic Action, the best known being the Catholic Women’s League (CWL), Knights of Columbus (KC) and the Legion of Mary which had 12 Curiae and 105 Praesidia.  Cooperatives and credit unions in parishes were organized. 
With the closing of the Second Vatican Council, the Diocese moved toward the implementation of some conciliar decrees. In 1962, the Cursillo de Cristianidad became popular in the renewal of Christian faith and life, but the movement that penetrated the common people both in the poblaciones and the barrios was the Barangay han Birhen.  To involve the laity, pastoral councils were organized in several parishes as early as 1961.  It was in the 1970s until the early 80s that the faithful in the Diocese, including the clergy, were confronted with the problems spawned by Martial Law: deterioration of peace and order, human rights abuses, displacement and evacuation of inhabitants, among others.  People were caught up in the crossfire between the Philippine Army (PA) and the New People’s Army (NPA), with many untold and unhappy consequences. In the 80s, population declined.  The clergy tried to respond concretely to these problems.  The diocesan thrust, following the response of the Philippine Church, was development and liberation. Developmental projects were pursued, especially for farmers and fisher folk.  On December 5, 1974, the Diocese became confined to the civil province of Eastern Samar, when some of its parishes were ceded to the new diocese of Catarman. Only one parish was added in the 70s: Homonhon (1979). 
Late Martial Law period (1980s) and onward saw the rise and growth of movements that sustain and deepen the Catholic faith—Charismatic under various brands, Neo-Catechumenate, Marriage Encounter (ME), Oasis of Love, El Shaddai, Light of Jesus, Chrisma, Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP) and the Couples for Christ family (CFC), the last one having branched out to all the parishes and large barangays.  They appeared to have put a break to the spread of Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism.  Lay ministries were introduced.  In 1991, DYVW, the only Catholic radio station in the province, started a new media ministry.  New parishes were born: Maslog (Quasi-Parish, 1982), Buenavista (1999), Sapao (2004), Maypangdan (2005), Hinolaso (Quasi-Parish, 2006), Buabua (Quasi-Parish, 2006) and Sabang, Borongan (in process).  Several religious congregations, each with its own apostolate, enriched the pastoral ministry: Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSH) in 1987, Sister Servants of the Visitation (SSV) in 1988, Society of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1991, Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart (SFSC) in 1995 in Dolores, Daughters of Charity (DC) in 1995-2005, Order of Friars Minor Conventual (OFMConv) in 1997, Oikos Ptochos Theou (OPT) in 1998, Sisters of the Presentation of Mary (PM) in 2010 and the Living the Gospel Community (LGC) also in 2010. The Nativity of Our Lady College Seminary was established (1996) to form seminarians in the local context.  Partners in formation in the faith are 2 colleges (St Mary’s College of Borongan and Mater Divinae Gratiae in Dolores) and 9 high schools, mostly run by religious sisters, a good number of pre-schools, and 1 technical school. One has yet to see, however, how the recently aired (2010) diocesan channel, Borongan Catholic TV, Channel 13, will contribute to faith formation.
In keeping with the recommendations of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II), the Borongan Diocese, after a two-year preparation, held its greatest ecclesial event: the First Diocesan Synod (1997), defining its life and mission in the present and coming years, and providing basis for its pastoral plan. Its diocesan pastoral plan was formulated in 2004, almost decade after the synod, supposedly to culminate in the golden anniversary of the diocese, but it has yet to see its implementation phase.  Although the Diocese had several social programs to help the poor, like the now defunct Emergency Livelihood and Assistance Program (ELAP) in 1991, and those handled by the Social Action Center, like Small Enterprises and Kapital Assistance Program (SEKAP) in 1995, Community Health Base Program (CHBP), involvement in the election process, anti-mining advocacies, not to mention other services (orphanage, home for the aged, clinics, home for children of the poor), its pastoral thrust, as enshrined in the first synod and in the pastoral plan, was the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs).  The Daughters of Charity (DC) handled the program for 10 years (1995-2005), and several other communities sprouted in various parishes after they left.  On the other hand, as a service to its ordained workers, the Diocese has its own medicare program (1984), pension program for the elderly priests (2007), and priests’ home (2010).
In its 50-year history, the Diocese of Borongan was governed by nine Ordinaries: (1) Bp Vicente Reyes, DD, 1st bishop of Borongan (1960-1967), his Vicars General being Msgr Simeon Desoloc (1961-1966) and Msgr Angel Hobayan (1966-1967); (2) Msgr Hobayan, JCD, Vicar Capitular (1967-1968), (3) Bp Godofredo Pedernal, DD, 2nd bishop (1968-1976), his Vicars General being Msgr Angel Hobayan (1968-1969), Msgr Conrado Balagapo (1969-1971); Msgr Desoloc (1971-1973), Msgr Hobayan (1973-1974); Msgr Desoloc (1974-1976) with Fr Exequiel Singzon as Pro-Vicar General (1974-1976); (4) Bp Ricardo Tancinco, DD, Apostolic Administrator (1976-1977), (5) Bp Sincero Lucero, DD, 3rd bishop (1977-1980), his Vicars General being Msgr Emiliano Balein (1977-1978); (6) Bp Nestor Carino, DD, 4th bishop (1980-1987), his Vicar Generals being Msgr Conrado Balagapo (1980-1985) and Msgr Alfredo Amistoso (1985-1987); (7) Bp Leonardo Medroso, DD, 5th bishop (1987-2006), his Vicars General being Msgr Crescente Japzon (1987-2001) and Msgr Lope Robredillo (2001-2006); (8) Msgr Robredillo, SThD, Diocesan Administrator (2006-2007), and (9) Bp Crispin Varquez, DD, 6th bishop (2007-to date), with Msgr Robredillo as Vicar General (2007-to date).   
As of 2010, out of the around 400,000 inhabitants of the province, the Diocese has about 385,000 Catholics, who populate the 34 parishes/quasi-parishes.  Compared with other dioceses, Borongan may be categorized as economically poor.   In terms of personnel who co-work with the Ordinary in serving the People of God, the diocese has 89 priests. Of the 58 working in it, 5 are religious, and 54 were ordained for the diocese.  Of the 29 who are outside the diocese, 10 are in Manila and suburbs, 16 are in the US, 1 in Canada, 1 in Australia, and 1 in Italy.  Professionally, the diocese has 9 priests who earned doctorate degrees: 1 doctor in biblical studies, 1 in dogma, 1 in moral theology, 1 in spiritual theology, 1 in philosophy, 1 in mass media and communications, and 3 in canon law.  In addition, it has 14 clerics who finished licentiate or masteral degrees in various ecclesiastical sciences.  
Currently (2010) shepherding Christ’s faithful in Eastern Samar is Bp Crispin Varquez, DD, the Ordinary of the Diocese.  His Vicar General or deputy is Msgr Lope Robredillo, who also serves as Chancellor, assisted by Rev Neil Tenefrancia, the Vice-Chancellor.  In charge of the financial affairs is Fr Inocentes Abuda, the Financial Administrator.  For administrative purposes, the Diocese is divided into three regions, Northern Region, with Fr Dan Gañas as Episcopal Vicar, Central Region, with Fr Leroy Geli, and Southern Region, with Fr Joberto Picardal.  Each region has two vicariates, each headed by a Vicar Forane: the north has Msgr Alfredo Amistoso and Fr Romeo Solidon; the central Fr Eutiquio Belizar and Fr Marlon Gacho, and the south Msgr Crescente Japzon and Fr Nemesio Quiloña.  In the diocesan tribunal, the Judicial Vicar is Fr Antonio Alconaba, Auditor Fr Geli, and Defender of the Bond, Fr Abuda.
         To implement its various programs, the Diocese has a Pastoral Secretariat, which is directed by Fr Geli, the Executive Secretary.  Corresponding to the various aspects of its pastoral life and work are the following commissions along with their respective chairs: Doctrine of the Faith, Fr Belizar; Catechesis, Fr Joseph Orsal, Mass Media and Communication, Msgr Pedro Quitorio III; Liturgy: Msgr Robredillo; Clergy: Fr Marlon Gacho; Vocation: Fr Jan Michael Gadicho; Biblical Apostolate: Fr Dan Gañas; Family and Life: Jonas Rebamontan; Youth: Fr Edgar Abucejo; Mission, Fr Philip Campomanes; Social Action, Fr Juderick Paul Calumpiano; Basic Ecclesial Communities, Fr Roderick Rodeles; Religious Associations, Fr Joberto Picardal; Cemeteries: Fr Joberto Picardal; Custody of Church Properties, Fr Edwin Juaban, and Cultural Heritage of the Church: Msgr Robredillo.  These commissions, however, have yet to move on in terms of concrete pastoral plans and program of action.*


by Lope Coles Robredillo, SThD

TO THE PERCEPTION of many, Aquino’s election slogan “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” so accurately described the state of the nation and its disastrous impact on the Filipinos that in no small amount it catapulted him to the presidency.  People had enough of the litany of alleged corruptions under the previous administration; and the immorality and the amount of money involved were mind-boggling: NBN-ZTE scandal, Hello Garci scandal, P738M fertilizer scam, P532M overprice of Macapagal Blvd, Nani Perez Power Plant deal, P1.3B poll automation contract, Northrail project, Garcia and other AFP Generals scandal, the results of the 2007 Mindanao elections, millions of bribe money to congressmen and governors in 2007,  Mindanao massacre, extra-judicial killings, violation of human rights, etc. And more recently, the NFA “legalized smuggling.”  These not only further plunged the poverty level of the country; they also robbed the body and soul of the nation.      

Will Aquino eradicate corruption?

To abolish corruption and replace it with “matuwid na landas” and uplift the people from the misery of poverty—what could be much better objective for a leader to pursue than that?   If PNoy now sits on the presidency, it is not so much because of what his party has done, but because of the power of the people who have grown tired about the allegations of corruption and fraudulence in the government, and the impunity of their perpetrators.  But now that he is the President, they expect him, and rightly so, to walk the talk.  But even at this point in time, many seem to be disappointed with his one-year performance.  Only recently, the SWS survey conducted between March 4 and 7, 2011 showed that his net satisfaction rating slipped from his +46 in November 2010 to +46.  Could this be an indication that in the perception of those surveyed, Aquino has yet to show tangible results?  Sen. Francis Pangilinan, himself a ranking official of the Liberal Party, was quoted to have said that the Palace should match campaign promises with concrete accomplishments, particularly with regard to poverty and corruption.  But the point is: will he be able to deliver the goods?

This question can only be answered if we have to take a good look at the corruption in the Philippines.  There is no doubt that the country is among the most corrupt in Asia, and corruption does not spare the highest government posts, obviously to the defraudation of the poor and retardation of development.   According to Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PIRC) in 2011, the Philippines ranks third in Asia, after India and Indonesia.  For Transparency International (TI), the most corrupt countries are also the poorest.   Knowing the state of corruption of the country, it is quite natural for people to look for solutions.  Of course, popular wisdom says that to put an end to it, only untarnished candidates should be elected to lead the country, which is why people power preferred Aquino over others by a large margin.  For others, however, there should be a shift from Presidential to Parliamentary form of government.  Yet, our experience shows that from Quirino to Aquino, the corruption in the government went merrily on, despite the choice of not so corrupt—at least initially—candidates.   And as for change of government form, the Parliament (Batasan Pambansa) of Marcos has no records to show that it was less corrupt and more advantageous to the poor.  If anything, a parliamentary form in the Philippine experience is simply a different collar of the same rabid dog.

The real roots of corruption

Structural Root.  But why is the country so corrupt?  To really understand the anatomy of corruption, we have to analyze it against our socio-economic and politico-cultural structure and history.  As is typical of a largely agrarian society, ours is characterized by a majority who live in the countryside, living in real poverty, dependent on agricultural products, and a small percentage that live in luxury in the cities.  Estimates place the poor at 80%, the wealthy at 20%.  While the latter have power, privilege, and prestige, the former wallow in poverty, and find themselves taking up the burden of supporting the rich and the ruling class.  Many of those in the majority do not have the basic necessities of life and power to influence, and have scarcely received honor and privileges.  All they do is largely accept the word and explanation of the privileged minority on realities; hardly do they have any real participation on decisions that affect their own life as a class.  They are usually the victims in any attempt to question the system, and are practically left to themselves to survive.  Needless to state, such a social structure, which has persisted for centuries without any alteration, is a perfect environment for corruption to exist and prosper.  

The Government: An Instrument of Self-Aggradizement.  But quite apart from its structure roots, corruption exists and goes on because those at the top and the ruling class have a certain frame of mind that seems not to change.  From all indications, they seem to have a mentality that the state apparatus provides not the highest opportunity for service to the majority, but the greatest and highest means to self-aggrandizement, and so the primary aim of the existence of the class is to capture the state.  This is logical enough.  Those who control the state practically control the means to economic advancement.  That is why the political history of the country can be summarized as a history of the struggle among the richest families for the domination of the state apparatus, and not necessarily for the service of the constituents.  And one has to note that the struggle itself involves much corruption.  Of course, if history has anything to tell us, it is that the privileged class has yet to show that its actions are intended for the common good.  On the contrary, the wealthy endeavor to preserve their privileges and therefore their control of the state.  For this reason, elections, while the poor do participate in them, are nothing more than political exercises on who among the privileged families will control the state.  Victory in an election brings unprecedented wealth to the victors.  Few politicians or their retainers hold or leave their office without increasing their wealth.  And the increase in wealth—one has to ask: is this not tainted with corruption?

One remembers that when Arnold Clavio and Winnie Monsod interviewed Mikey Arroyo, their report showed that Mikey’s wealth increased from P5 M in 2002 to over P 70 M in 2005, or about 65 million in only three years.  At present, it is said that his declared wealth has reached a whopping P100 M.  Of course, the public wondered how he was able to accumulate such humongous riches in so short a time.  In a study made by Ibon Facts and Figures,  records indicate that from 2000 to 2008, former Pres. Arroyo’s declared net worth increased by 114% (from P20 M to 180 M); in other words, based on a year-on-year average, she added some P 10.97 M to her net worth every year.  Although Malacañang attempted to explain her statement of assets and liabilities by citing conjugal income and dividends, these have been questioned because, according to Ibon, “data from other sources aside from her undetailed SALN have yielded financial transactions, sales and ownership, and even the possible illegality of financial transactions.”

Within this frame of understanding of power and privilege, it is not difficult to see how corruption gets in.  Political power is really convertible to economic power.  Power brings about wealth, and with it, also corruption.  In their book, State and Society in the Philippines, Patricio Abinales and Donna Amorsolo, for instance, observe that as far back as the 1920s, our leaders began to use the state as an instrument of primitive accumulation, and largesse came from two sources: the state itself, and the extension of spoil system.  “Through the spoil system, Filipino politicians distributed offices (and their corresponding budgetary allocations) to relatives and appointees.  Political appointment of kin, allies, and cronies became standard practice. .. In exchange, an appointee facilitated the business success of his patron and protected other members of his network within the bureaucracy.”  In the extension of the spoil system, the vehicles were state corporations.  Osmeña, for instance, used appointments to the PNB offices to repay political debts, and it was later revealed that his appointees “authorized extravagant loans to companies in which the were themselves investors…[or] to finance personal consumptions, instead of production and commerce.”

Government Coffers as Private Possessions.  Coupled with this outlook is the attitude toward government funds.  It seems that for many among the privileged class, the money of the state is their personal possessions.  Or, least the distinction between public and private money is blurred.   Of course, who among the less privileged would dare to question the legality of the appropriation of money for personal use?  Practically, the powerful have enough instrumentalities under their control to stop any attempt to inquire into it.  All the poor do is see no evil.   According to David Timberman, in his book, A Changeless Land, this is a long-standing element of the political culture in the Philippines, but “it became much more pronounced under Marcos, because of his predilection to control virtually every aspect of society.  Thus, the resources of both the government and private sectors were viewed by the Marcoses as being available for their use.  The budgets of government ministries were regularly tapped to finance Imelda’s extravagant trips and parties, and businesses were expected to make contributions and/or offer shares of ownership to family members.”

While these forms of corruption may have the veneer of legality, a legal source of corruption is the pork barrel.  (Notice that the government does not provide an equivalent for those in the peasant class.)  Every year, each congressman is entitled to P70 M and each senator to P200 M.  Although projects for which the pork barrel that is given have already a particular government department to take care of them, yet legislators insist in keeping it.  Now re-baptized as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the pork barrel is perceived to increase the wealth of its beneficiaries.  It is claimed that about half of the money appropriated for a government project is lost in the form of kickbacks to legislators, engineers, etc; only about half of the budget is actually used for the project designated.  But despite all recommendations to abolish the pork barrel, not a single administration has seriously considered it, simply because of the money involved and its use especially in keeping politicians in power.  The PDAF is thus enough proof that corruption will never disappear on the face of this country.

Weak Justice System?   What exacerbates corruption is the culture of impunity. Why are members of the ruling class able to get away with their misdeeds?  Why only the small fry goes to jail?  The reason is that not only many government agencies are under the control of the ruling class, but also because the corrupt functionaries are part of the structure that sustains the system and protect the ruling class from deprivation of their privileges.  To misquote a saying, “they may be sons of bitches, but they are the oligarchy’s sons of bitches!”  It is logical that in a corrupt society like the Philippines, the justice system could be weak, or never perceived to be in defense of the majority who are poor.  How would one prosecute the retainers if the trail would lead to the prosecution of a member of the ruling class?  Besides, if the leader is corrupt, how can he discipline his men about corruption?  No wonder, efforts to go after corrupt officials are perceived not get anywhere.  For instance, despite the fact that Benjamin Abalos and other Comelec officials were charged with graft and corruption for changing the Comelec bidding rules to favor Mega-Pacific, and despite the fact that in 2004 the Supreme Court declared the poll-automation contract between the Comelec and the Mega-Pacific null and void, the Office of the Ombudsman cleared those involved.

One is reminded of an account by David Wurfel in his book, Filipino Politics: Development and Decay.  In 1975, Marcos “pointed an accusing finger at those who had violated their ‘sacred trust’ and promptly announced the dismissal of over two thousand officials, including cabinet members, bureau chiefs, scores of judges and prosecutors, and many others.  The auditor general and the director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue were among them.  Most had no prior warning, and pandemonium broke loose in the bureaucracy.  When the dust cleared, however, it was discovered that many who were ‘dismissed’ had already retired or dead.  And many charges against the more influential were ‘discovered’ to have been ‘unfounded.’  Acute observers opined that those actually dismissed were those with poor connections.  The president’s promise of a purge of corrupt military officers was entirely forgotten.”    One gets the impression that all these government crusades against corruption are all for a show; nothing really substantial takes off.  After the show—that’s all, folks.

How to solve corruption

            This brief anatomy of corruption is probably enough to show that corruption is not simply about using public money for private use; its causes go back to our history as a nation and to the very structure of our society itself.  Against this background, one doubts whether P-Noy’s crusade against corruption will succeed if he simply limits himself to removing officials perceived or proven to be involved in corruption or in protecting the corrupt.  Such action may be spectacular, and win for him an increase in ratings of credibility, but without doing something that really involves fundamental changes, nothing could come out of it, no matter how sincere he is.  His effort is doomed to fail.  Something more fundamental has to happen to the gross inequality in our society.  The majority of our people have to be involved in making changes so running the government could be more equitably participative.  But this presupposes that the government is able to enhance a fluid social mobility of the majority, and provide access to opportunities largely monopolized by the elite in order to bridge the wide social gulf.   One must point out that the elite have long been leading the country since the Spanish times, and the situation has never improved; on the contrary, corruption has gotten all the worse.  Truth is, corruption is not the disease of our society; it is simply a symptom.  And it is irresponsible to make population the scapegoat of the disease.*


By Lope Coles Robredillo, SThD

(Pre-Note: Partly revised to fit the format, this piece is an excerpt from the body of a letter addressed to the parish priest of Sulat, Eastern Samar, who sought the author’s opinion on the accuracy and appropriateness of celebrating the centenary of Sulat in 2006.)

WAS SULAT created in 1906?  Since the Philippine Commission of 1906 seems to say that Sulat was given independence on October 31, 1906, some have construed this to mean that Sulat became a municipality on that date.  The impression created, however, is far from correct.  Quite the contrary, Sulat was constituted a municipality long before 1906.  The truth is, Sulat was one of the earliest pueblos (townships or municipalities) to be established on Samar, dating back to the time of the Jesuits. 

Let me cite some history references attesting to its creation:

 (a) According to F. Huerta, Estado Geografico, topografico, estadisticoen las Islas Filipinas (Binondo: Imprenta de M. Sanchez, 1865), p. 308, when Sulat came under the administration of the Franciscans in 1768, it was already a pueblo or a municipality that was founded by the Jesuits: “Seiscientos ochenta y nueve tributos con 3,637 almas contaba este pueblo, fundado por los PP Jesuitas cuando el año 1768… de su administracion y se le asigno por primer cura franciscano….”

(b) F. Redondo. Breve Reseña… (Manila: Sto Tomas, 1886), p. 222, citing Cavada, states that the town was founded in 1650: “Creado en 1650, segun Cavada, y tiene la advocacion de San Ignacio de Loyola.”

© A. Pastrana, “The Franciscans and the Evangelization of the Philippines (1578-1900),” Boletin Eclesiastico de Filipinas, XXXIV (1965) 435, p. 86, says that Sulat was founded before 1768.
     Indeed, even the souvenir programs of Sulat town fiestas argue against 1906.  Why? The reason is that in those programs, Sulatnons usually publish the names of the gobernadorcillos and presidentes of Sulat during the Spanish and early American time.  But then, one must remember that only towns had gobernadorcillos or local presidentes.  In other words, the souvenir programs themselves admit that Sulat was a township before 1906.  The gobernadorcillos, capitan municipal and presidente del pueblo in the 19th- and early-20th century Sulat were the equivalent of today’s municipal mayors.  If Sulat were a barrio in the 19th century, it would not have gobernadorcillos, but simply tenientes
     Moreover,  if Sulat were not a municipality in the 19th century, it would have been called not pueblo (which is the Spanish equivalent for municipality in the Philippines), but visita (barrio) or rancheria (sitio).  Huerta (1865), for instance, merely describes Catalab-an as a visita of the pueblo of Sulat, because it was a barrio.  In 1886, Dolores is named among the rancherias (sitios) of Paric, because it was not yet a town; rather, it was simply a sitio of Carolina, which was a barrio of Paric.  Yet, none of the latter terms (visita, rancheria) were used to describe Sulat—it was always called pueblo in all documents dating from 1768 that I encountered at the Philippine National Archives.  This means that Sulat was already a municipality even before the Franciscans came to Samar in 1768. 

     It would seem that the idea that Sulat was founded in 1906 derives from a rather incorrect reading of historical documents.  The assertion that Sulat was born in 1906 obviously comes from the Reports of the Philippine Commission, because nowhere else (I like to think)  is the establishment of municipalities of Samar in 1906 mentioned, except in the report of 1906.  But before one reads the report of 1906, it is important to read the report of 1903, Act 960, Section I, no. 17: “The municipality of Tubig shall consist of its present territory and that of the municipalities of Paric, Sulat, and San Julian, with the seat of the municipal government at the present municipality of Tubig, under the municipality of Taft.”  Note the word—municipalities!  Hence, Sulat was already a municipality even before 1903!

          Now, in the Report of the Philippine Commission of 1906, Act No. 1558, Section I, we read: “the former municipalities of Paric, Sulat, and San Julian [are separated] from the municipality of Taft.”  The significance, therefore of October 31, 1906, is simply the restoration of Sulat to its former status as a municipality, after it was combined with Taft in 1903, when the 43 municipalities of Samar were reduced to 25 only.   In other words, if the Report of the Philippine Commission of 1906 uses the word establishment, what it meant is not that it was establishing the municipality of Sulat, but only restoring it to its former independent status (as municipality).
          This brings us to the question: What is the significance of October 31, 1906 for Sulat, if it is not its creation as a municipality?   I can write a lengthy dissertation on this subject, but because of the nature of this piece, I will be short.

          To begin with, when the Americans came to the Philippines, they tried to picture that we Filipinos embraced them, and that there was not much armed opposition.  Hence, in 1901, they declared the pacification of our country so their imperial designs would be acceptable to the Americans at home, the senators and other government officials who opposed the colonization.  To the contrary, Samar was turbulent!  But they concealed the turmoil by handing over the administration of the island to the civil government on June 15, 1902.  To put the island under martial law or under the military government would be to admit that there was war on Samar.  The truth is, even after the surrender of Gen Vicente Lukban, the Samareños carried on the war against the Americans, largely through the Pulajanes.

          One can gauge the turbulence by the following figures of 1904 I lifted from the history of the Philippine Constabulary: “There were 1,800 native soldiers on Samar and 16 Companies of the United States Infantry occupying the coastal towns.  Eleven officers and 197 enlisted men had been killed in action, 48 officers and 991 men had died of disease, 46 officers had been wounded in action, 768 men had been discharged for disability.  Firearms to the number of 7,474 and 45,018 rounds of ammunitions had been captured or surrendered to the Constabulary, 4,862 [Pulajanes] had been killed, and 11,997 prisoners had been taken.”

          Why did the Philippine Commission of 1903, Act No. 960, combine Sulat with Taft, together with San Julian and Paric?  The reason is that the civil government had no control of these municipalities; they could not be defended by the PC or the Scouts, nor could they be governed by the pro-American inhabitants! In the whole Eastern Samar, the municipal police had no arms, except in Borongan!  The Americans could not arm them in the first place, because they were not sure of their loyalty!  On the other hand, the Pulajanes were too numerous, their force overwhelming.  Terror reigned. What could a few scouts do in town? 

In Dolores, for instance, on Dec. 17, 1904, the 38th Scouts encountered 1,000 Pulajanes who attacked on the rear and flanks, and Capt Hayt and all of his 37 men were butchered, except one sergeant who bore fearful bolo wounds. In Oras, on Nov 10, they overpowered the Scout garrison, massacred all the 13 Scouts and took their rifles. Moreover, sometimes the town officials were also the officials of the invisible town government of the Pulajanes!  Yet the Americans did not call in the US Army to Samar until later (practically only to Eastern Samar) because they wanted to create the impression that there was only banditry, no insurrection!  The result was that thousands of people, because they could not be protected by the Scouts and the Constabulary, joined the Pulajanes; otherwise, the latter would have to eliminate them. (Oh, our written history has been unkind to the Pulajanes.)
      Thus, in order to have control of some people, and make it appear that the municipal governments have not fallen into the hands of the Pulajanes, the government resorted to the concentration of the natives.  The remaining inhabitants in Sulat, Dolores, San Julian and Taft were concentrated in Taft, with Angel Custodio Crisologo, a Paricnon, as their Municipal President.  The truth is, most of these towns on Eastern Samar, including their barrios, were sacked and reduced to ashes, left with practically no dwellers!  Because they did not summon the Army, the Americans allowed many Samareños to die.  On the other hand, those Sulatnons, San Juliananons and Paricnons who went to Taft for protection were not having picnic, either!  Numerous as they were, they suffered hunger, fear, sickness, disease and death.  Moreover, they were far from their fields, carabaos, and their livelihood!

However, by 1906, the Pulajanes, who were the virtual rulers of the entire island until 1905, were decimated, albeit there was still resistance.  That is why, although before 1903, there were 43 municipalities, now in 1906, there were 32—an increase of 7 from the 25 towns of 1903, among them being Sulat.  This implies that the Sulatnons who had survived, those who had surrendered, and those who had lived in Taft, returned to Sulat, and began rebuilding the poblacion and the barrios.   (But unlike Sulat, the 11 other towns could not yet be given back their former status as municipalities because protection of life and property, let alone governance, could not be assured.) 
     I have more to say about this unfortunate period of Samar history, but I hope this would be enough to give a background to the significance of October 31, 2006 for Sulat.  In our time, it would be comparable to liberation the town of Maslog by the local government and the military after it was ruled over by the NPAs in the 70s, although with a formal declaration by a duly constituted body, similar to the Philippine Commission during the American period. *


 by Lope Coles Robredillo, SThD

ALONGSIDE THE LITURGICAL celebrations that the Church observes during the Holy Week are practices which, in the Philippines, have long been linked with it. Among them are the siete palabras, the way of the cross, procession of
images, salubong, pabasa, cenaculo, and penitencia. For most Catholics, they not only add color to the week-long celebrations, but are, in fact, so associated with the Holy Week that it could not be conceived without them. It is not seldom that devotees--if only for these folk rituals—would spend the Holy Week in Sta. Cruz (Marinduque), Palo (Leyte), Grotto (Novaliches), or in some remote town in Bicol or Pangasinan, rather than in their own parishes. Some, for example, may decline to attend the Good Friday liturgy, but they will certainly make an effort to witness penitentes reenact the crucifixion on that day. Indeed, it happens that these activities attract more people than the liturgical celebrations themselves. But since these practices belong to the extra-liturgical spiritual life of the Church, the question is often raised: how do you look at them a critical point of view?

            For the nonce, it may be well to focus on the pabasa, cenaculo, and penitencia, and, to start with, give a short description of these practices. Usually held at home, the pabasa is the singing of the life of Jesus in poetic form, called pasyon. Accompanied by a musical instrument, with the book placed between the two lighted candles, singers chant verses, oftentimes in alternation, before a crucifix. It is not uncommon for the host to serve drinks and finger foods during a pabasa. The cenaculo is the dramatization of the passion story, which normally begins with the scene of the agony in the garden, and ends with the crucifixion. It may take the form of simple passion play or a grand one similar to that of Oberammergau in Bavaria, where practically the whole village is involved in holding it once every ten years. Unlike the way of the cross which is aimed at meditating on the journey to Calvary, the penitencia seeks to dramatize the physical sufferings of Jesus bodily, either by physical flagellation, the carrying of a heavy cross, being crucified on it, or their combination. All of them are, objectively viewed, forms of participation in the suffering of Jesus: oral (pabasa), dramatic (cenaculo) and bodily (penitencia).

Expressions of Affective Faith

            It is instructive that whereas in the siete palabras, procession, salubong and the way of the cross, the priest ordinarily accompanies the participants, especially in the provinces, he is conspicuously absent in pabasa, cenaculo and penitencia. Of importance, however, is that these three rituals are basically meant for the edification of lay people. And they are held without having to be joined with the liturgical celebrations going on in the church. The priest has no role in them. They belong to the popular tradition. But they are originally aimed at participation in the celebrations of the mysteries of redemption. If these observations have anything to tell us, it is that these rituals are expressions of the people’s affective faith, which scarcely finds place in the official worship in the Church. In effect, it may be said that these popular practices are expressions of the lay people’s affective dimension of faith and at the same time are catered to it. They enhance religious affections and feelings. In the chanting of the pasyon, it sometimes happens that singers, swept by their emotion as they sing the poetic lines, shed tears; in the cenaculo, the participants become emotionally involved as they dramatize the events surrounding Jesus’ death; and in the penitencia, they are able to empathize with him in his pain. On the other hand, Roman liturgy is sober and reticent, and such emotion experience has scarcely any place for expression in it.

            At the same time, however, they also externalize the people’s understanding of the faith. Of course, the lay people did not compose the pasyon; priests did. Most likely too, they did not, at the beginning, write the script of the cenaculo; but they make the oral and dramatic expressions, and obviously, having been written for them, these influence their ways of thinking and acting. For this reason, it is not surprising, indeed, that in most cases, their knowledge of who Jesus is and his salvific work shows a familiarity more with the pasyon and the drama than with the gospels or the official Christology and soteriology of the Church. Moreover, today, the script of the cenaculo is being written by laymen and, although priests are consulted, the over-all outcome mirrors the understanding of lay people. But this is especially true of penitencia. Though its roots may be traced to the practice of doing penance during Lent, it expresses the lay people’s faith in what participation in the suffering of Jesus must consist of. The rituals, in the other words, are a vehicle which expresses the faith experiences of the participants, but at the same time serving to call that faith to mind, and to catechize their audience in that faith.

Reason for Attractiveness

            That these rituals (particularly the cenaculo and the penitencia) attract more people than the liturgical celebrations has at least four significations. First, this indicates their success, at least in catering to the affective dimension of their faith, and the understanding of that faith. In other words, they are able to speak to the needs of the lay people. Unhampered by liturgical discipline, they undergo changes and additions as they develop and flourish in response to those needs. For this reason, they are meaningful to them. The second implication is simply the reverse of the first. These rituals may also be interpreted as an expression of their disaffection from the official Church liturgy. For lay people, it is difficult to appropriate the meaning of the prayers and the action of the official liturgy. Hence, they feel the need for a ritual in order to plug in to the reticent liturgical celebration. A case in point is the holding of hands during singing of the Lord’s Prayer. Although it is against liturgical norms to do so, people in Manila make that gesture because, as someone said, it feels good. More should be said of this, but the point is, there is wisdom in the proposition that liturgy should not be foreign to the affective dimension of the people’s faith.

            Moreover, the lay people have been estranged from the official liturgy because, before the Second Vatican Council, they had a little chance--save for cantoras--to take an active part in the liturgy. They were simply spectators, who could not understand the meaning of the words and gesture in the liturgy. Third, in these folk rituals, the lay people are, on the contrary, the subject of the expressions of faith experiences, not merely the recipients or onlookers of the celebrations. And the medium of expression is the language they speak and are at home with. On the other hand, that of the liturgy before, which was Latin, was opaque to their understanding. Hence, they could never comprehend nor feel for themselves the meaning of the celebrations. And fourth, on account of all this, the rituals provide them identity.

Environment of Poverty

            The aspect of disenfranchisement brings the discussion to the social location which these religious practices presuppose: an environment of poverty. In general, those who take part in pabasa, who are involved in the cenaculo, and who engage in bodily flagellation do not came from the middle class or above it. They belong to the lower classes–those often alienated from the official liturgy. Even today, they are, in many areas, still disenfranchised, because they are not given opportunities to take an active part and express their faith in parish celebrations to a degree which these rituals allow. (Eucharistic celebrations in which members of charismatic communities are able to express themselves emotionally are an exception rather than the rule.)  Quite apart from the gulf created between the language of the liturgy and that of the poor people, the common values which these practices represent are the pain and the suffering which Jesus endured until death, and people who are poor easily understand and identify themselves with these values. Hence, solidarity in values also accounts for the popularity of these rituals in an environment of poverty. The crucifixion for them is God’s empathy from which they can derive strength and inspiration. Clearly then, these rituals speak something of the part of society or the environment in which they thrive.

Encounter between Faith and Culture

            Their practitioners to some extend cut off from the official Church, and coming from the grass roots, these rituals--it is the whole understandable--reflect an understanding which is the outcome of the encounter between the Christian faith, which they received with much limitations, and the culture in which they were brought up. They presuppose an environment removed from the centers of religion and politics. Before the coming of the Spanish missionaries, our forefathers believed in animism. Here, it was taught that the forces of nature were controlled by spirits who, by magical rituals, could be rendered beneficent or harmful. These were performed by the diwatahan, tambalan or baylana. If Holy Week folk rituals have anything to tell us, it is the animism has not been completely erased from the Filipino psyche. If one makes a survey on those who join in the cenaculo, for example, he will discover that the motive for participation is not simply to share the suffering of Christ, if at all; some likely answers are: fulfillment of a promise, thanksgiving for a favor granted, or reparation for sins.

            In a study made on the penitentes of Palo, Leyte, it emerged that fear of punishment was among the motives for submitting oneself to penitencia. The fear of punishment for doing something wrong the year round motivates a person to placate an angry God. By experiencing pain, one assures himself of forgiveness, escape from punishment, and peace of mind. Nonetheless, this is actually an animist theology, though one cannot blame the devotees .They probably have never been thought correct theology, or have correctly understood it, in the first place. On the other hand, the environment of poverty prevents them from having access to opportunities to learning orthodoxy. Hence, the theology of these rituals does not perfectly cohere with the official teaching of the Church. On the contrary, it represents the result of the people’s appropriation of the gospel message vis-à-vis their pre-Hispanic culture and their situation of poverty.

            Which brings us to other shadows of these rituals. Alienated from the centers of Catholic authority and life, they are in danger, among others, of being engaged in for utilitarian purposes.  That one participates in self flagellation to obtain God’s forgiveness values the ritual for what the subject can obtain from it. This borders on superstitions, which nurtures the belief that as long as one engages in the ritual, he will be safe, for example, from calamities. This is true of other expressions of popular piety which are celebrated in connection with liturgy. For instance, although a procession is designed as a public witness to the faith, this is not how lay people take it. In many cases, they do not participate in it for that end. That one takes part in it so his illness will be cured, or so his son will reform his life–motives like these are very common. It fact during fiestas in rural areas, many residents will complain if the conduct of the procession excludes their houses from its ambit, convinced as they are that this will also bar them from receiving the graces that are obtained through the intercession of their patron saint.

Subjectivism and Lack of Ecclesial Sense

            Related to this is the risk that these rituals are anchored on subjectivism. As already noted, one reason for the popularity of a Holy Week ritual is that it caters to the people’s affective needs. Because it is in touch with their feelings, it makes them satisfied. But there is a danger in thinking that what satisfies is good. That is subjectivism. In official liturgy, of course, this is not supposed to happen, because liturgical signs have their own meaning. That is why the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, for example, forbids the raising of hands during the Lord’s Prayer because this gesture symbolizes communion.  At any rate, lay people continue the practice because they feel good doing it. But it is precisely the role of liturgy to educate us in such a way we are able to express the meaning of liturgical gestures as our own, and so enter into the mystery of God and our own as a community. This frees liturgy from the danger of subjectivism. On other hand, since lay people engage in Holy Week folk rituals because they make them feel good and satisfy their affective needs, they do not lead to a real participation in the saving mystery.

            In addition, these rituals hardly promote a sense of belonging to the Church. Because they focus on answering the effective needs of the participants, they, in general, are individualistic in orientation. If one were to ask the motivations of Black Nazarene devotees in Quiapo for joining the January procession or for wiping their handkerchiefs on the image, the responses would hardly differ from the ones that would be given for joining the cenaculo or the penitencia: personal favors, either material or spiritual. There is scarcely any sense of being community or of belonging to one. (Which reminds us the pre-Vatican II eucharistic celebrations where each member of the congregation acted as if he or she were not related to the other worshippers in the church.)They lack social direction. Understandably, the theory of salvation or soteriology they embody is likewise individualistic: it is the individual who is saved from material and spiritual evils. Hardly ever clear is the concept of salvation of the community, still less the teaching that we are saved through the community. Consequently, the idea of building up the kingdom as part of their mission is far removed from them. On the contrary, the understanding is oriented toward the maintenance of the status quo. It is not farfetched to say that these rituals are burdened with the pre-Vatican II theology. And since they tend to develop apart from the hierarchical structure of the Church, it is not surprising that, in some cases, they are celebrated without any harmony with the liturgical time and meaning of the Holy Week. And their lack of ecclesial sense of belonging opens itself to abuse. It does happen that these rituals are held either for the personal advantage of their patrons, or for tourism purposes, or both.

More Important than Liturgy?

            As is true of other popular devotions, these Holy Week popular rituals–to many lay people–are regarded as more important than the liturgy itself for reason already noted. As a young priest assigned to the seminary, I used to say Mass in far-flung barangays. For lack of priest, only one Mass was celebrated in each of them once a month. One day, in one barangay, the old ladies asked me a favor after the mass: "Father, since you come here only once a month, may we suggest that instead of coming every first Sunday, you rather say Mass for us every first Friday?” Similar views can be encountered when it comes to the Holy Week rituals. For many, it is more fitting to act as Pilate in the cenaculo than to attend the Holy Thursday liturgy. It is more meaningful to undergo self-flagellation than to participate in the Good Friday liturgy, for, in the penitencia, one really experiences than the pain which Jesus himself experienced. And so on.

            The problem, of course, is that this only reinforces the development of wrong values in the sense that these are at variance with those held by the Catholic Church. And precisely because many consider these rituals more important than the liturgy, there lurks the danger that they might think that all that is needed to be in the right before God is to take an active part in these folk practices. They might believe these are the ways of approaching God. That many ritual enthusiasts do not go to Church on Sunday, that they do not receive the sacraments, that they are more familiar with their practices than with the Bible--these reflect their lack of belonging to the Church and the importance they ascribe to these rituals. That the most important in being Christian is to follow Jesus daily in discipleship within the community, not in the yearly act of self-flagellation--this, it would seem, is still lost to the devotees.

Incomplete View of the Passion

            Finally, the primary importance attached by the participants in the cenaculo, pabasa and penitencia to the death of Jesus results in the formation of values which have grave consequences for their faith and life. (Of course, such significance is not limited to the practitioners of these rituals. As may be observed during the Holy Week celebrations all the country over, it is only during Good Friday that people feel obliged to go to church; hence, pews are occupied to the full. But Easter and its Vigil, which are the culmination of the three-day celebrations, does not, except in parishes where small communities are flourishing, command as much crowd.) The value placed on the death of Jesus has serious implications for a theology of salvation, because this overlooks the life and ministry which led his death, and the vindication of him by God through the resurrection. In such a theology, Jesus came only to die. Which, of course, is a gross oversimplification. Seen in this light, suffering almost becomes valuable in itself, or at least part and parcel of being human which nothing can be done about. But then, this would almost associate Christianity with masochism! Suffering, however, is evil, even in Christianity. In systematics, God is always viewed as a pure positivity. In the Bible, Jesus never enjoyed suffering; if he suffered, it was a consequence of the life he led. He was murdered; he never sought pain and suffering. To say therefore that all that is important is to participate in the suffering of Jesus by simply undergoing self-flagellation or by joining the cenaculo is to oversimplify the meaning of Jesus’ suffering and death. Such a theological understanding would encourage the acceptance of injustice, oppression and domination, and could be used to justify them.


But despite these observations, there is no reason to dismiss these rituals as aberrations. On the positive side, what the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) says of popular piety readily applies to them: “These religious practices are rich in values. They manifest a thirst for God and enable people to be generous and sacrificing in witnessing to their faith. These practices show a deep awareness of the attributes of God: fatherhood, providence, loving and constant presence. They engender attitudes of patience, the sense of the Cross in daily life, detachment, openness to others, devotion’’ (PCP II, Acts and Decrees, 172). In their Third General Conference at Puebla, the Latin American Bishops describe the lights of popular piety, which may be said of any of our Holy Week popular rituals: it “presents such positive aspects as a sense of the sacred and the transcendent; openness of the Word of God; Marian devotion; an aptitude for the prayer; a sense of friendship, charity, and family unity; an ability to suffer and to atone; Christian resignation in irremediable situations; and detachment from the material world” (GCLAB, Puebla, 913).

But then, what is to be done?              

Potential for Social Transformation

            Despite their weaknesses, they should not be suppressed. Our attitude should be “one of critical respect, encouragement of renewal” (PCP II, 175). For one thing, these Holy Week rituals are engaged in by numerous but poor Catholic all over the Philippines. And being part of the Church, they are subject of the Church’s care. This even gains prominence today since the Church in the Philippines has declared its intention to become a Church of the Poor where, among others, its “members and leaders have special love for poor.” The Church must therefore value their faith expression, however distorted or superficial, found in these rituals. For this reason, we must help the devotees in such a way that these practices can contribute to the maturing of our faith. And, probably, this could be done in two ways. First, we can identify their values and motivations and purify them in the lights of Christian faith. Then we can transform them by imbuing them with Christian values. In the process, we can show how these rituals are connected, for example, with the entire life of the Christian, and with the life of others. The purpose here is primary their coherence with right beliefs and right living (orthodoxy and orthopraxis).

            Second, in helping deepen their faith, we can explore the potential of these rituals for social transformation. At present, they are observed yearly, but do not have--it would seem--any visible impact on the communities they are held in. Probably for most, they are simply rituals, religious externals--period.  But it is instructive that during the Spanish period, from the 18th century onward, the Tagalogs found in the passion story a motivation for revolt against oppression. (A Filipino theology of liberation must take into account the theology of the Filipino peasant religious movements.) We are still in the process of liberation, and as the Philippine bishops noted their Pastoral Exhortation on the Philippines Centennial Celebration, “today, our liberty is eroded as much by foreign invaders, as by internal enemies as the poverty of the many and the concentration of wealth among the few, inequality and lack of participation, injustice and exploitation, deficient culture values and mind-set, destruction of the ecosystem and deterioration of peace and order, to mention a few. True freedom demands that we, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, are liberated from this evils (cf. Gal 3:25-28). It requires profound changes in socio-economics and political structures, revolution of the heart (cf. Jas 4:1) and, most important, liberation from sin (2 Chr 7:14 Rom 6 18; 1 Tim 1:5).  It dictates that we ourselves shape our history.”   Of course, we should not utilize these rituals to incite revolt—that is unchristian. But surely we can ask: what values could be appropriated from these rituals which could serve as vehicles, in a very Christian way, and how they could contribute to the process of transforming society, which the PCP II speaks of (cf. PCP II, Decree 97)?  How can “they serve the cause of full human development, justice, peace and the integrity of creation” (PCP II, 175)?* (Note: The author wrote this essay in 1998].