Category Archives: Networking

Open letter to our colleagues and partners in welfare and development endeavors

Today starts the celebration of the 14th NGO PO Week in Iloilo. Spearheaded by the Iloilo Coalition of NGOs and POs (ICON), the annual celebration is done in partnership with the provincial and city government to give due recognition to the role of Non-government organizations (NGOs) and People’s Organizations (POs), and other civil society organizations in nation building. It has been institutionalized by Provincial Ordinance No. 2000-042 and City Regulation Ordinance 2001-190.

ICON  2013

This year’s theme is “Reclaim our Noble Heritage: Sustain the Power of Networking.” It was supposedly intended to respond to the multi-billion pork barrel scam that has besmirched the noble aim and name of NGOs. In fact, the planned highlight of the celebration is the big gathering of NGOs and POs in the city and province of Iloilo to tackle the current national crisis brought about by the pork barrel scam. As well, as the subsequent backlash even to genuine organizations that have been consistently serving the marginalized sectors of the society. At the planning stage, we felt the need to strengthen our ranks through linkages and networking to safeguard the organizations from fly-by-night ones. We consider the crisis an opportunity to bring into the public consciousness the noble heritage and role of NGOs in nation building.

In fact, in a statement published after the finalization of the plan last November 2, ICON has deplored the use of fake NGOs in a conspiracy to steal taxpayer’s money which besmirched the noble aim and name of non-government organizations . The Coalition has observed two angles in the current controversy- the systemic graft and corruption practices and the role of the NGOs.

We considered the act a double injury. The large -scale misuse of the people’s money is outrageous. Siphoning money out of government coffers thru fake NGOs adds insult to injury. For it besmirch the good image established by the genuine NGOs for decades. Worse, it provides justification to some government officials and local chief executives who do not feel comfortable with the watchful eyes of NGOs and their seeming intervention as provided for by the local government code in the Philippines. For indeed, one way of averting the systemic robbery in our government is to involve genuine NGOs in monitoring projects.

MASIPAG Visayas handles the relief operation of the Philippine-Misereor Partnership, Inc.-Panay Cluster to famers in San Dionisio, iloilo

However, as we started our information-dissemination campaign Typhoon Yolanda had overtaken us, as it battered the Central Philippines. We almost forgot our plans as respective NGO members started their initial response in the form of relief operation. It was just last week, when the board of directors reviewed the theme and the activities for the week-long celebration. We have decided to continue with the theme, as this current crisis provides the same opportunity to reclaim our noble heritage. Such nobility is manifested, among others, in the quick response of NGOs to the recent needs, havoc, and ravages brought about by Typhoon Yolanda to supplement the government’s intervention.

We have simplified the celebration, though, due to pressing needs of the time which have also made our officers and member organizations busy in respective relief operation and rehabilitation plans. The following are the activities we decided to retain out of the previous plan:

icon

December 2, 2:00 pm Opening of Photo Exhibit, Robinsons Place,                                                              Iloilo City
December 3 – 8:30 am, Forum on Volunteerism, 4th floor                                                                              Henry Luce III Libraries, Central Philippine University
December 6- 8:30 am NGO-PO Fellowship and Capability Building                                                           Seminar, 4th floor Henry Luce III Libraries, CPU
December 7- Advocacy- Dialogue with NSTP students in various                                                             universities and colleges

The supposed highlight of the celebration on December 6 will be spent, instead, to discuss how we can maximize our participation  in the  on-going relief operation and  how we can sustain linkages and networking in helping in the rehabilitation or rebuilding process. In this way, our theme will still be relevant in responding to the crises in our country in various fronts or aspects. Despite the  crises, let us continue to celebrate this milestone of networking in Iloilo.

Advertisements

When the Baptist Pastors move

The upcoming Truth Forum on April 15 has renewed my ambivalence. On one hand, I feel excited of  another opportunity to restore the spirit of solidarity among pastors, especially in fighting against perennial ills in our denomination. On the other hand, I am a little bit hesitant that the influence, I once had, will no longer work this time having been out of the mainstream in our organization’s life for a couple of years or so. Undeniably, the division has been obvious and  hurts too deep  which have marred the developing solidarity among pastors.

Primarily, the forum is intended to know the truth behind the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA) Fact Finding Committee Report  related to the boat buying and other fraudulent practices in the CPBC elections and reveal more truth to be incorporated in the report. It will also serve as avenue to discuss other issues and concerns related to Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) and CBMA and unite on common agenda and plan of action. Finally, there will be a presentation of the mechanics of the PADAYON Welfare Fund for Pastors Project as springboard of unity for change and development.

Despite the ambivalence, I believe that “miracles” happen when the Baptist Pastors move based on past experiences. Their flashbacks started to rush through my mind. Foremost, was the 2006 election. While it has been labeled as the controversial , expensive and partisan elections, it became a witness to the power when the Baptist pastors move. I will never forget the scenario the night before the election when I was guided by the Spirit to stroll around the campus in order to have a feel of the political pulse. Earlier, I had witnessed the movements of both groups trying to outwit one another to ensure victory of respective candidates.

Along the way, I met pastors from one political grouping in pensive mood and apologetic that they could not openly campaign for me because of the directives for block voting from patrons who sponsored their fare, as well as that of their church members. However, aware of my battle cry for the Pastors Cause, they assured me of covert  support.

Some meters away, I met another group coming from a caucus of rival political grouping with similar sad news due to the same directives for block voting. Likewise, they assured me of their secret  support so as not to antagonize their patron. Of course, those alarming revelations prompted me to speed up my campaign strategy since that night until the election day. The rest is history. I was one of the 3 independent candidates who survived the highly politicized, charged and explosive election. I had the rare privilege of joining two other candidates whose names were sort of institution in the CPBC. That was the wonder when the Baptist Pastors move.

Of course, I had discussed in my other blog the movement for change  resulting to significant events that brought changes in the political landscape of the CPBC and related institutions/organizations. I even featured the emergence of the movement of young ministers in Negros who dared to challenge the status quo perpetuated by influential ruling group in my article The Wonder of YOU.

Then the breakthroughs and milestones in the organizational life of the CBMA and in projects and programs that galvanized our solidarity highlighting the Katipan Hall.

And how can I forget the show of solidarity of pastors during the selection process for the General Secretary of the CPBC in 2009. It was the culminating event of our solidarity, some sort of a clincher to our  organizational struggle which gave us valuable lessons on how concerted efforts made a difference. The spontaneous support of pastors succeeded to frustrate the well planned scheme of a group that had been dominating/ programming/ dictating the course of events in the CPBC particularly the election and selection process in the leadership and administrative position. It averted an obvious attempt to railroad the process.

From my memoirs, I want to quote the following excerpts: “The launching of the movement for change, accountability and transparency at CPU the day before the CPBC Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting and the subsequent mobilization during the Board meeting on October 16, 2009 to watch and pray have contributed to the conglomeration of events that led to the BOT to defer the selection process despite attempts by the other group to proceed with the process knowing they have the numbers.”

“…The unprecedented endorsements and support of various chapters and sub chapters of the CBMA as well as the CBYFP, Kasapulanans, auxiliary organizations and institutions various organizations and institutions  to my nomination were overwhelming. The strong support of  Negros pastors neutralized the political maneuvers, smear campaign, misinformation, and other machinations directed against me. The timely mobilization of Iloilo pastors to hold a watch and pray movement during the meeting has sealed the show of protest and concretely manifested the growing unrest and tiredness of too much politics and the need for change. “Most of those involved have become part of the REVIVAL 1020 Network which serves as convenor of the upcoming forum.

All these and more happened when Pastors move. Both a reminder and an inspiration to us to restore the solidarity we once had. With these in mind, I have high hopes that the coming truth forum will make a difference in the lives of CBMA and the CPBC. Yes, against all odds. We are determined to put closure to the issue and enhance reconciliation and healing without sacrificing the whole truth. This can only be attained when the Baptist Pastors move.

Networking: A development strategy

My fondness for the concept of networking began while conducting a study on the subject as development strategy of non-government organizations (NGOs) for my Master of Social Work thesis in the University of the Philippines- Diliman. Since then I have internalized the learnings and live with it in my whatever development endeavors I engage in.

Networking has been used by development workers and organizers as a strategy to strengthen their ranks especially during the times they were faced with the problem of either co-optation or reprisal from the government and other traditional power holders that want to maintain the status quo. Moreover, they have to deal with the proliferation of pseudo NGOs that undermine the sector’s credibility. Set up to take advantage of funding sources for dubious or narrow purposes, they are fly- by- night organizations.

Faced with such problems and threats to their credibility, NGOs have seen the need to establish linkages and networks among themselves and with other sectors of society. Melgrito (1994) has defined networking as coordination among people, groups or organizations of various interests and orientation, working together as in a chain so as to function in a specific manner. It takes place when organizations link up together and make concerted efforts for mutual advantage and greater effectiveness towards the achievement of a common goal.

As a strategy, networking has been used by many sectors in pursuing development endeavors. Networks link local efforts for more effective lobbying and advocacy and provide venues for the exchange of experiences and resources between similar NGOs. A proper coordination of NGO activities, in networking, helps prevent unnecessary duplication or overlapping of development effort. NGOs are also protected from any form of threat because of their collective nature, while they police their own ranks through common code of conduct.

In the Philippines, NGOs have reached the highest level of unity in networking during the launching of the Caucus of Development NGOs (CODE NGOs) in 1990. This solidarity, however, did not happen overnight. It was a culmination of decades of common struggle similar to what other NGOs in other countries experienced in the course of historical development characterized by diverse intensity and highlights.

It is interesting to note the participation of our pastors and churches in networking in the Philippines. Historical record shows the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the Ecumenical Center for Development (ECD) were among the pioneers in the formation of CODE NGOs. Alegre (1996), in his book Trends and Traditions; Challenges and Choice, acknowledged the significant role of pastors and churches during the Coping with Repression, Carving a Niche (1972-1978) stage in the history.

This is the time when the late President Marcos used a hard line stance to establish a New Society. Subsequently, the NGO community was included in a systematic crack down on opposition groups. All legal attempts at organizing for popular empowerment were paralyzed. NGOs responded to the situation in various ways. While some went underground to wage armed struggle, others were either coopted or forced to lie low. After an initial wave of repression, those that did not join the underground movement continued with their commitment through institutional work, which eventually came to be known as NGO work.

Three significant developments in the networking took place during this period. In 1974, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) came together and adopted a statement defining the priorities and strategies of the development work of the church and its related organization. This development resulted to the formation of a body similar to NASSA- the Commission on Development and Social Concerns. Four years after, as an offshoot of the split of PECCO, a fellowship of pastors and lay workers to assist churches in development efforts was organized into a network known as the Ecumenical Center for Development (ECD).

The united effort of Philippine NGOs evolved from relief and reconstruction work to welfare activities geared toward anti- communist inspired social reform. Affected by the social context, which witnessed worldwide questioning of development approach, Philippine NGOs found themselves doing grassroots organizing for transformation. Such approach, however, faced a momentary halt when confronted by a repressive regime that used an iron-fist policy in dealing with oppositions.

Overcoming the threat, NGOs became instrumental in the qualitative growth of the organized mass movement, which culminated in the EDSA phenomenon. Thereafter, NGOs have maintained their legitimacy and prominence in Philippine society. The gains of networking in the national scene inspired the NGOs to translate it to the regional and provincial level.

The spirit of EDSA lives on

Its cathartic power continues to provide relief and refreshes hope. The over arching and encompassing spirit cannot and will never be domesticated. Its mystery remains unspoiled, not completely unfolded.

These three insights summarized my series of reflections on EDSA and Lent during  the Silver Anniversary of People Power Revolution in 2011. I have decided  to repost these insights for their relevance to the 27th Anniversary of EDSA Revolution with the theme “Pilipinas Natin: Abot -tanaw Na.”

The Cathartic power of EDSA

The Philippine Star Editorial Cartoon 2/25/2013

The Philippine Star Editorial Cartoon 2/25/2013

Nobody will ever deny that EDSA Revolution had provided relief to wounded and bruised nation, captive for decades by an abusive rule. Although debates over extent of healing still looms, it does not diminish the magical power of the historic event. I continue to experience this power while recalling my half a decade involvement in people’s struggle in the local context as part of the national call. Inevitably, haunting past events involving comrades, friends and the basic masses characterized the slow and painful process undertaken until that victorious day.

The feeling of gratitude to God for my survival and the thoughts of my contribution in shaping the history has been cathartic. Although my involvement pales in comparison to the intensity and period suffered by nameless and countless faces. The cathartic power of EDSA also refreshes my hope to attain full recovery from lingering illness. Chronic heart ailment, compounded by nerve disorder, has constrained my active life of service for three years now. The delay of complete healing makes me vulnerable to discouragement and depression. But recalling EDSA Revolution gives me new drive to conquer, if I will not give in to despair.

EDSA’s  over arching and encompassing spirit

Like Lent, nobody can domesticate the EDSA Revolution. Even the so called EDSA heroes cannot claim exclusive right to the historical and mystical event in the Philippines. For the spirit of EDSA is inclusive. It is above all and encircles all.

What happened in EDSA 27 years ago reflects the truism of systems theory. The key concepts of the systems theory are wholeness, relationship, and homeostasis. The beauty of systems theory is represented by the rainbow. While there are only three primary colors (red, yellow, blue) there is a multiplication of colors when these link, interact, and overlap. Try to separate one from the other, and the beauty of rainbow is gone.

edsa shift

cbclawmatters.blogspot.com

So with EDSA. It is a culmination of respective struggles participated in by the basic masses who since time immemorial always take the lead as they are ones affected. Then comes various sectors of diverse orientation, status, political and ideological leanings, colors and shapes. Youth, professionals, church people, businessmen and women, government officials, military and others. All have contributed their share in shaping the Philippine history. Try to isolate one, and the beauty of the event is gone.

Such inclusive spirit should have been the focus in celebrating EDSA and in sustaining its gains and the struggle for change. Most often, movement for change and development in any field of endeavor is often hampered by bigotry and exclusivism. Essential issues are sidetracked or left behind to give way to the struggle for supremacy misled by an illusion that one has the sole reservoir of truth and best approach in any given situation. It is only when one realizes the need to link with each other that the beauty of unity in diversity is seen like that of the rainbow.

The unspoiled mystery of EDSA

Twenty seven years after, the mystery of EDSA has not been fully unfolded. Analysts from various socio-political persuasions attempted to explain the event. Some had to come up with new concepts as EDSA Revolution departed from any of the standard categories. While new testimonies from living participants came out every year, they just shed light to understand the pattern of events and contributing factors. But the mystery still remains.

EDSA bloodless Revolution defied logic. For how can you explain this phenomenon: “When guns and tanks of a dictator melted before the flowers held out by priests and nuns, by millionaires’ sons and squatters’ daughters, by ordinary men and women and by young and old alike; when… a new day was ushered in by ordinary Filipino common tao who rose to heroic heights that won the admiration of the whole world…” The quoted description was that of Jorge Lorredo, Jr. in his article “Four Days that changed History” published in Bulletin Today exactly 25 years ago, as cited by Douglas J. Elwood in his book, Philippine Revolution.

The hand of God was there…” was the explanation of the late Dr. Quintin Doromal, former PCCG commissioner & president of Siliman University. Quoted by his friend Douglas Elwood in the book, Doromal, an Ilonggo leader, was a witness to the event, having joined his old friend Fidel Ramos at Camp Crame and stayed there with him throughout those critical anxious hours. Indeed, God acts through people, as surely as he speaks through people, and that he uses the sometimes complex interconnection of human forces to serve his larger purposes.

We need more politics to sustain our network

Now that we have reached the 13th year of celebration, we are certain to sustain the activity in the coming years. For number 13 has been considered both unlucky and lucky number. Countries around the world associated the number 13 with either luck or disaster. Let the debates go on. Regardless of the result, the fact remains that we have survived the 13th year which, for me, assures us of a bright future.

Slide1For the past 12 years we have experienced both worlds – the peak and the lowest condition of the Iloilo Coalition of NGOs and POs (ICON) advocacy work particularly in spearheading the NGO PO Week celebration. To quote the wedding vow, we were together in “times of plenty and times of want, sickness and health, joy and sorrow, failure and triumph.” There was a time we had two full time staff, at other times, none.

ICON is a story of struggles – from the lobbying stage for the institutionalization of the non-government organization s and people’s organizations (NGO PO) Week to the subsequent pioneering days in organizing the network. We also struggled to sustain both the coalition and politics in the government.

A review of the history will help us understand the state of our coalition, learn lessons from the past to guide us in another decade of development. Circumstances, indeed, had determined the nature of the organization. Looking back, I realized that what sustains us for years is POLITICS. It has been defined in various ways to capture the complexities of relations of people in the society involving authority or power. Some even thought of politics as sort of “intrigue or maneuvering within a political unit or group in order to gain control or power.”

ICON 1

While we might have experienced these elements in our 12 years of struggle, I want to qualify what I mean by politics that sustains our network. It is an acrostic/acronym which capsulizes the sustaining elements in our organization, as follows: Participation, Optimism, Lobbying, Integrity, Tact, Interdependence, Coordination, and Spirituality.

Participation

Historically, the NGO PO Week, which gave birth to ICON was a by product of participation. When seemingly moderate organizations decided to take an active role in the mainstream of politics in the development council, which was dominated by veteran leaders, and subsequently captured the slot for the civil society organizations representative.

Thereafter, we have sustained our activities throughout the years, as well as our relationship, because of your participation. As development workers and empowerment advocates, we share common understanding of participatory approach and apply such in our network.

Optimism

Our existence as network has been characterized by ups and downs. The task to convince veteran organizers of various persuasions to form the coalition and sustain it had been taxing and wearisome. We also struggled to sustain both the coalition and politics in the government. We even had the foretaste of tug-of-war of politicians at Capitol during elections.But we succeeded against all odds because of our optimism. Such optimism will continue to guide us for another decade of struggle.

Lobbying

An effective tool but less applied by NGOs because of its association with traditional politics, lobbying sustains our relationship with government partners. The provision of the local government code for our participation in the development councils and local special bodies become a sort of leverage in our lobbying. Having represented the NGOs in the Executive Committee of the provincial development council for many years, I have learned how to maximize such privilege in lobbying.

Integrity

ICONWith pride I can say that, as a whole, ICON has maintained its integrity. Of course, there were tensions and even skirmishes among officers in the past but as a network our integrity remains intact as far as relationship with the government and the public is concerned. We were never accused of using others for our own needs or advantage. Neither did we allow our network to be used by others, much more the politicians. We always work in partnership with others for mutual advantage.

Tact

Our delicate condition as loose organization and task in coalition building has developed in us the skill to handle or deal with difficult or delicate situations. We have experienced crises but handled it with tact. I can still recall an instance when some of the member organizations protested against an electric company related to power supply and used our office for mobilization which created friction from other members who were supportive of the company. More important than citing other cases is the fact we were able to handle all these with tact and further developed our skills in handling more issues.

Interdependence

I always relate our relationship in the network to the beauty of the rainbow which is an excellent representation of systems theory. While there are only three primary colors (red, yellow, blue) there is a multiplication of colors when these link, interact, and overlap. Try to separate one from the other, and the beauty of rainbow is gone. Yes, it is our interdependence that gives color to our relationship, no mater how fragile it may be.

Coordination

The nature of our network is ambivalent. Since we are not implementor of projects we do not have much fund. On the other hand, we are not a threat to other organizations as we just facilitate and coordinate the welfare and development activities of NGOs and POs, as well as the government agencies in order to maximize resources.

Spirituality

By spirituality, I do not necessarily mean religiosity. Although we have religious sectors in our network since its founding. In fact, their presence have been instrumental in sustaining our integrity. However, spirituality is meant here as relationship among people, the non human environment and God. Thus, spirituality is eclectic and inclusive than religion. It encourages diversity and encompasses other relationship and beliefs. It is spirituality that serves as the well spring of our voluntary endeavors.

Yes, it’s  politics (participation, optimism,lobbying, integrity, tact, interdependence, coordination, and spirituality) that sustained our network for a dozen of years. We need more of these  politics  to sustain us in the next decades of networking towards development.
_____________________

Message delivered during the ICON Assembly of Leaders on December 6, 2012 at  the Conference Room, University Research Center, Central Philippine University to culminate the 13th NGO PO Week celebration in Iloilo.

Reliving the spirit of EDSA

This article should have been posted few days after the 26th EDSA Anniversary, had it not been affected by my hectic schedule. Although quite late, as intended, still it has timeless relevance.

Last month’s celebration of EDSA Revolution seemed to lack the cohesive element which typically characterized the people power legacy. Rather it was highlighted with exchanges of innuendos from unofficial representatives of major players in anti dictatorship struggle, reflecting a divided nation. We find on one side the President, a son of two symbols of EDSA, in his relentless drive to get rid of perceived blocks in his matuwid na daan platform specifying one in the judiciary. Rallying his call were some militant groups leaders indicating “a new type of people power” against impeached Chief Justice.

On the other hand, outspoken archbishop emeritus Oscar Cruz warned that President Aquino could himself be the subject of a “people power” revolt. Stressing the role of the Church in previous People Power movements, Cruz, in a phone interview reported in the Inquirer.net, warned the president of his downfall “if he continued to offend churches and religious faiths.”

Meanwhile, another militant group made snide remarks on President Aquino’s Edsa anniversary speech as nothing but a rehash of his previous “daang matuwid” (straight path) rhetoric. Pointing out lapses on the government in addressing the pre EDSA Revolution issues, the group was not optimistic with the present leadership. Still they joined the commemoration of EDSA Anniversary as it represents the unfulfilled Filipino people’s dreams and aspirations.

Indeed, for years, the question persists whether the spirit of EDSA is still alive after the unprecedented phenomenon more than two and a half decades ago. More so, with the present skirmishes and political bickering in various branches of our government.

I believe the spirit of EDSA is alive. But it is overshadowed by bigotry and exclusivism that try to domesticate the encompassing spirit of truth, struggle for change and advocacy for development. The over arching and encompassing spirit of EDSA mystery cannot and will never be domesticated. No person nor group can domesticate the EDSA Revolution. Even the so called EDSA heroes cannot claim exclusive right to the historical and mystical event in the Philippines. For the spirit of EDSA is inclusive. It is above all and encircles all.

I love to relate the beauty of EDSA Revolution with the systems theory which was used as framework in my thesis on Networking as a Development Strategy. The key concepts of the systems theory are wholeness, relationship, and homeostasis. Wholeness implies that the product of interaction by the elements within the system is greater than the additive sums of the separate parts. The concept of relationship asserts the importance of the pattern and structure of elements in the system, equally important as the elements themselves. Homeostasis suggests that most living systems seek a balance to maintain and preserve the system.

The systems theory focuses on communication patterns and the transactions and relationships among parts. As pointed out by Hartman (1970), the relationship among parts and the whole are of prime interest when considering the structure of a social system. This relationship is relatively stable. Sometimes, the relationship between systems is referred to as network.

The beauty of systems theory is represented by the rainbow. While there are only three primary colors (red, yellow, blue) there is a multiplication of colors when these link, interact, and overlap. Try to separate one from the other, and the beauty of rainbow is gone.

So with EDSA. It is a culmination of respective struggles participated in by the basic masses who since time immemorial always take the lead as they are ones affected. Then comes various sectors of diverse orientation, status, political and ideological leanings, colors and shapes. Youth, professionals, church people, businessmen and women, government officials, military and others. All have contributed their share in shaping the Philippine history. Try to isolate one, and the beauty of the event is gone.

Movement for change and development in any field of endeavor is often hampered by bigotry and exclusivism. Essential issues are sidetracked or left behind to give way to the struggle for supremacy misled by an illusion that one has the sole reservoir of truth and best approach in any given situation. It is only when one realizes the need to link with each other that the beauty of unity in diversity is seen like that of the rainbow.

MSPM: The miracle of sharing

I always relate the Master of Socio Pastoral Ministries (MSPM) experience to the feeding of 5,000 with few loaves of bread and fish. Although our experience pales in comparison to the miracle. It is one of the only two miracles that are recorded in all four Gospels. The other one is the resurrection. Of the four, I like John’s narrative (John 6:5-14) which portrays the role of a boy with five loaves and two small fish. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

Apart from the dominant view on the literal multiplication of the food, some emphasize the miracle of sharing. This view assumes that people have brought with them little food of their own. They just kept them for themselves, hence the scarcity. However, upon seeing the unselfishness of the boy whose generosity was blessed by Jesus, they began to share what they have. Thus, the abundance of food are more then enough for their needs.

In the same way, we also offered whatever we have to respond to the needs of the time. Like the boy, we were not disturbed by overwhelming discrepancies and limitations, even criticisms. Such voluntary spirit made a difference. Amidst reservations, if not downgrading of the modest offering, Jesus made use of what was available and another miracle happened.

When the program started in 2007, some downgraded the voluntary effort while others already expressed skepticism of its sustainability, even before it is tested. Worse, there were those who consistently campaign against it when the program was well accepted by pastors, even to the extent of recruiting those already participating in the MSPM program to join the program they promote.

In our response, we dared the critics to a debate which was never materialize. We argue that MSPM has been designed with quality not inferior to what Central Philippine University (CPU) offers in Master of Social Work program which was patterned after that of UP Diliman. Yet, the program is friendly and affordable for pastors. The faculty are more than qualified. The only difference is compensation because in MSPM, we teach voluntarily, gaining the love and respect of pastors, not monetary profit.

Conglomeration of events have been favorable for the design of the MSPM program. A couple of us tried the distance education program of a state college in Iloilo for our doctoral degree which met once a month. Some were also teaching, once a week, in Korean seminary in Iloilo City which offered Master of Arts in Missiology. Moreover, we were inspired by the successful revival of the Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) program in CPU which produced the first graduate, after 30 years. We even opened an extension class with weekly meetings at Convention Baptist Bible College for Negros students.

The aforementioned favorable trends sparked the idea to design similar approach for a graduate studies program for pastors. The break came when through the pastors’ support, I was elected to the board of Trustees of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) in 2006 and subsequently chaired the Theological Education and Ministerial Concerns (TEMC) Committee. By divine guidance, the first document that caught my attention was the CPBC Strategic Plan for 2000-2010 which highlighted the TEMC program. Finding the missing link, I started advocating the program, trying to bridge the gap through voluntary involvement in its implementation. My wife also volunteered to teach in theological institutions in Negros to strengthen the TEMC program.

Studying previous initiatives of various organizations related to continuing theological education, eventually the CPBC Unified Theological Education System (UNITES) was conceived and gradually implemented. Two breakthroughs were undertaken, namely: Formulation of Standardized Curriculum; and the MSPM program.

But why MSPM? As registered social worker and holder of master of social work, I can only offer a degree program within my area of specialization. My exposure to development work and community service has also shaped my holistic perspective. Likewise, pastors who were enrolled in Master of Social Work in CPU encouraged me to integrate social work courses in designing a masteral program for pastors. Comparing the curriculum of divinity and theology masteral programs with that of social work and other masteral programs, the relevance of MSPM appears convincing in terms of meeting the needs of pastors, its practicality and length of time for studies, as well as usefulness to their work in church and community.

The mission of the Master of Socio-Pastoral Ministries program is to prepare pastors for leadership roles in church, church-related institutions and community. Specifically, it is geared towards a healthy and balanced pastoral leadership in church and community services. MSPM classes are conducted in provincial centers by volunteer faculty. Students in respective centers shoulder their transportation expenses accommodation. Certificate is issued upon completion of each subject with corresponding grade. This will be used for official enrolment in the aforementioned theological institutions. The enrolment can be done simultaneously while the students are taking up modular classes. Or may be enrolled later.Participating theological institutions are the ones granting the degree after official enrolment.

The program in Master of Socio-Pastoral Ministries is a combination of Master of Social Work and Master of Ministry. The curriculum incorporates Ministry Core courses, Biblical Core Courses, and Socio-Pastoral Courses. Both ministry and biblical core courses include the following: Philosophical Foundations of Ministry, Ministry Assessment & Equipping Strategies, Church: Ministry & Mission, Hermeneutics, Biblical Theology, Biblical & Theological Foundations of Discipleship.

On the other hand, the Socio-Pastoral Courses consist of Socio-Behavioral Theories, Group, Community, Social Institutions and Processes, Family Wellness & Pastoral Counseling Models of Ministry and Leadership in the Church & Community, Strategies in Church and Community Mobilization, Seminar in Socio Pastoral Ministries, Social Research, Social Jurisprudence & Local Governance, Pastoral Ministry in Conflict Situations, Administration and Management of Church & related organization/institutions, Community Organization & Social Welfare and Development Services. After completion of academic courses, students have the following options as final requirement: Thesis Writing, Special Paper, or Community Project.

Through sharing of resources, our pastors can earn masteral degrees without necessarily leaving their pastorate or respective work. Indeed, the KATIPAN Hall and MSPM are living testimonies that whenever we start sharing whatever we have, God will work more stories of endless possibilities.