A Trinity of Liturgies
Today I took part in three meaningful liturgies. No, I did not attend three religious ceremonies, though one included some prayers.
In the seminary, I learned that the word “liturgy” combines two Greek words – laos (people) and ergon (action or work). We can translate liturgy either as “public works” or as “mass action.”
As a young activist, I would describe our protest rallies as liturgies. Our marches through the streets of Metro Manila were like religious processions; our placards and organizational banners were similar to those carried by religious confraternities, and our chanted slogans were like the litanies recited by devotees.
Our secular liturgies served two purposes, external and internal. Externally, they proclaimed our faith to the public, hoping to influence them or at least inform them. But the experience of marching together and listening to speeches also served to strengthen our shared beliefs and identity.
Today’s morning liturgy started at 10 am, in front of the Quezon City Hall, and was organized by E-net Philippines as part of our advocacy campaign on Education for All (EFA). It is part of a global liturgy, since members of the Global Campaign for Education in 100 countries will be mobilizing millions at different times today to take part in the “World’s Biggest Lesson” on the theme: Quality Education for All! End Exclusion Now!
The organizers assembled over 1000 participants, mainly children in school and out of school, but also teachers, parents, and EFA advocates. As soon as I got to the place, May-i Fabros, our new media staff, steered a couple of reporters my way for interviews. Then the emcee called me to the stage to give the opening talk. He addressed me as “Father Ed,” which reinforced my sense of the event as a liturgy. But instead of greeting them with “The Lord be with you,” I led the gathering in an antiphonal chanting of our theme: De kalidad na edukasyon! Wakasan ang eksklusyon! Edukasyon para sa lahat!
The noon liturgy was held in one of the committee rooms of the Batasang Pambansa or Congress. A number of bishops led by Archbishop Tony Ledesma marched with farmer-leaders and agrarian reform advocates to lobby for the extension of CARP – the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform program. A small delegation was allowed to meet Speaker Nograles for a dialogue in his office. He expressed his personal support for the extension of CARP, but also admitted that the passage of a bill will be difficult.
I stayed for a while outside the main gate of the Batasan where most of the marchers listened to fiery speeches of farmer leaders from different provinces. But I got a text message from Bel Formanes that she couldn’t join me, as she had to take care of her daughter who suffered convulsions after delivering her baby. “Please take care of the interfaith service,” she requested.
After the dialogue with the Speaker, around a hundred of us gathered in the room where the Committee on Agrarian Reform was scheduled to have a hearing at 1 pm. Many of the congressmen and women were already seated, but others who came in later found their seats temporarily taken by farmers, advocates, and bishops.
I introduced the interfaith service by telling the members of Congress present that although we know that the passing laws have to take account of realpolitik, any law should be grounded in moral principles, and our prayers hoped to set that tone for their deliberations.
As the series of short prayers were said – by Catholic bishops, a Muslim imam, farmer-leaders, and CARP advocates, I wondered how the members of congress present were feeling. Did any of them resent being pressured by our prayers, especially that of an UNORKA leader who used the theme from the Lord’s Prayer – “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”? His prayer reminded me of Thomas Munzer, leader of the German peasant uprising during Martin Luther’s time; he invoked that same line and added: “In heaven there are no landlords. Let there be none on earth.”
We closed the interfaith service by singing Bayan Ko. I introduced it by saying it may be the only thing that everyone in the room agrees on. I said that CARP is a contentious issue, and while it is supposed to benefit the majority, it is still seen as favoring some at the expense of others. I asked that as we sing Bayan Ko, could we try thinking of how CARP will benefit not just the majority, but the whole country.
The third liturgy was in Makati, where FPE, the Foundation for Philippine Environment, hosted a celebration of its 16th Anniversary. If the two earlier liturgies were mainly prayers of petition, this third liturgy was one of thanksgiving.
A short video, narrated by Gary Granada, explained the history of FPE as an innovative fund, administered by NGOs and POs, to promote and support biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. (Gary and I were elected to the FPE Board two years ago). The closing images were accompanied by his plaintive song on the environment, reminding us of the slogan on the T-Shirts given to us: Biodiversity. Now you see it. Now you don’t. Act now!
We were told that FPE is the biggest non-government source of funds for biodiversity conservation. In 16 years, it has disbursed over 500 million pesos to various projects on biodiversity conservation. Grants have been given to around 500 NGOs and POs, but many of these are one-off small “action grants” given to NGOs and POs for advocacy activities and capability-building. The bigger multi-year grants went to programs of NGOs and POs who are at work in 22 sites that FPE has prioritized based on their rich biodiversity and the threats that they face.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, FPE gave plaques of recognition to five of these programs. I was impressed and inspired by the brief description of the biodiversity in these sites, the threats they faced and continue to face, and the programs’ activities and achievements.
The five biodiversity sites are initial answers to the question, “What has FPE to show for all the money it has given out?”
I hope that during my remaining term as board member of FPE, I can see for myself these program sites. I also hope to find out from the implementing NGOs and POs what lessons we can learn from their experiences – both positive and negative – which we can apply for work in future sites. Juju Tan, FPE’s outgoing chair, is particularly keen that these lessons are spelled out.
It would take too long even to briefly describe the program sites and the work of the NGOs and POs. Let me just list them as my way of expressing appreciation:
Biak na Bato National Park Conservation Project: Miriam-PEACE ( Public Education and Awareness Campaign for the Environment ) and Buklod Unlad sa Dalitang Umaasa sa Kalikasan ( BUNDUK )
Mts. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape: Luntiang Alyansa sa Bundok Banahaw ( LABB ) and Tanggol Kalikasan-Timog Katagalugan.
Mt. Bulusan Volcano National Park Community Based Resource Management Project: Lingap para sa Kalusugan ng Sambayanan ( Likas ) and Pederasyon ng Nagkaisang Samahan sa Bundok Bulusan.
Paranas Community-Based Forest Management Project: Katatapuran nga Pederasayon han Parag-uma ha Samar ( KAPPAS )
Matutum Integrated Conservation and Development Program: Mahintana Foundation Inc. and Matutum Integrated Peoples OrganizationExplore posts in the same categories: Agrarian reform, Biodiversity, Education for All, Uncategorized