Category Archives: Pastoral Letter/Message

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.

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True service*

The scriptural basis for this message, as requested, was Luke 5: 1-11. Inexhaustible, I love this text as I have preached many times on this passage in various context. One of the provocative titles I used is Rock the Boat in two separate occasions but both city churches. One needed a reminder on a change of perspective in order to go deeper towards productive endeavors. This was exemplified by Jesus in the story when he transformed the boat into a pulpit which eventually resulted to paradigm shift of fishermen to fishers of men. The other one was beset with conflict including legal battle that needed more rocking in order to go back to their senses.

As I prepare for this message, another enlightening took place. Hence, I want to emphasize the transformation of Peter and his company after enjoying the fruits of their adventure. Daring to challenge their own knowledge, ability and skills, even their own belief and reservations in order to respond to the needs, they experienced the life-changing encounter.

Using the acronym of the seminary –NETS, I have organized my points in the context of the story, as follows:

NEEDS

1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.

The first two verses present the needs of people and Jesus, as well as that of the fishermen. Jesus needs a pulpit to satisfy the cravings of the people for God’s words. In finding a boat, Jesus ably meet the needs both of the people and the owner of the resources. For Jesus also knows the needs of Simon and company. He understands that Peter and his coworkers are capable of bringing in a huge catch. But the problem is that they are absolutely convinced nothing is there to catch, having spent the whole night. There’s a need to overcome their pride.

A proud mentor. My wife, DZ, flanked by young graduates. DZ is one of the founders of NETS


ENCOUNTER

3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Such is the encounter of Jesus with the veteran fishermen. After the paradigm shift of using the boat as pulpit, Jesus moves on to the next level of change. In the guise of gratitude for the favor, he encouraged Simon to resume fishing for a compensated catch. With reservation grounded on experience and expertise, Simon dared to risk another attempt. Surprisingly, the cycle has been broken by such paradigm shift. An overwhelming catch rocked their boats.

The pioneer graduates


TRANSFORMATION

8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

Humbled by the encounter, the veteran fisherman bowed to the carpenter’s son. It is safe to presume that Simon might have under estimated Jesus. A transformation takes place in Simon’s heart. But it was just a prelude of the real transformation in the lives of the fishermen. Thereafter they become fishers of men.

SERVICE

11So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

This seals off the transformation process. Instead of savoring the gains of their catch, they forsake all and follow Jesus. Rather than advancing their needs and interests, they serve the interests of Christ – advancing the Kingdom of God.

True service is a by- product of transformation, resulting from a personal encounter with the One who knows our needs.
It unfortunate that there are some who see the need without any attempt to respond. Hence, they deprive themselves of the personal encounter. Some have encounters but without transformation. While others experience transformation but fail to actualize this through service.

You are privileged to be part of the history, having been honored as the pioneer graduates. You have an obligation to spread the word of the NETS based on your actual experiences. You joined the NETS because of particular needs. Such needs have been met by personal encounter which have transformed your perspectives and lives. It is your turn to translate this transformation into true service. Congratulations and God bless you in your mission to spread the NETS story.

*Excerpts of my recorded video message during the First Commencement Exercise of the Negros Theology Seminary (NETS) held at Balay Kauswagan Sagay City, Negros Occidental on April 8, 2011. Photo credit: Maemeh De-maala Salvador

The fullness of time has come for us to organize

Thank you for coming and congratulations for taking part in this historic gathering today. Its significance may not be felt immediately but some years from now, after our consistent commitment, we can look back to this gathering and the people who are here as the key players in bringing the change many have longed for.

This is the reason why I decided to print my message so that you can keep it for reference 3-5 years from now. Not to mention the obvious, that I cannot speak too long, having not fully recovered yet from my ailment. But the urgency of organizing this movement cannot wait for my full recovery. Being personally present is enough for me.

The need for change in the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) has long been felt. Many have been calling for it, some even taking initiatives towards this end. This is one of the important lessons I have learned in my stint as President of the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA) for two terms in my interaction with pastors in the mainstream. By trying to know the actual situation and improve the life of pastors, I have learned that problems do not only involve personal ones but the system itself. And we can only attain the development of pastors if we change the system, to complement the changes in individual lives.

Let me cite concrete example of defect in the system. We were made to believe before that CPBC is basically for churches and not for pastors, which should be the concern of the CBMA. But when I joined the CPBC Board, I have discovered that foremost of the tripartite intentions of the CPBC is the leadership development of pastors and lay. This was inscribed in the Declaration of CPBC Principles during its founding in 1935. There is an observable trend, however, of the lopsided development in terms of fulfilling its intentions. For so long, the development of ministers was not given much emphasis in programs and services and in the budget.

Similarly, record shows that in 2000, a Ten Year Strategic Plan was formulated which included the Theological Education and Ministerial Concerns as a separate program specifically for the development of pastors. This however was not given emphasis and sufficient budget and particular staff.

Why such historical document that is very valuable to pastors not given attention and emphasis reflects the problem in system of leadership and CPBC politics. Indeed, since the time CPBC elections have been highly politicized, the trend in leadership position has drastically changed. Results of elections always favored organized groups that have established and strengthened their mass base and machinery to perpetrate their leadership control and set the direction of the CPBC and related institutions. As such, the CPBC and related institutions have been captive of various interest groups/cliques as the focus shifted to control of leadership and not service and giving direction in implementation of the avowed intentions and purpose of the Convention as chartered by the founders.

Some opined that the development of pastors was not given emphasis to maintain their dependence and loyalty on particular person and group that support them. Because if this has been deliberately undertaken by the CPBC, then the loyalty of pastors will be on the organization not on person.

It has become a perennial problem, criticized, scorned and condemned by some. But oftentimes forgotten in the course of time. Then when the problems manifest, the concerns are revived. There appears to be no deliberate and concerted effort to put an end to this obvious and condemnable activities. Rev. Rustom Ola has rightly described this as form of bondage.

The systemic problem has created a culture of traditional politics of patronage – that one cannot be in the leadership position unless he/she submits to a particular patron/group. Leadership is no longer a matter of capability, ability and skills and tract record but on what has been programmed by the group. Those who do not toe the line or fail to consult the patron are left by their own in their leadership survival. Such approach forces those dreamers of leadership position to establish tactical alliances and trade offs in order to get and subsequently cling to the desired position.

Because of this, the CPBC has been deprived of other qualified and good leaders who cannot win in the elections because of the systemic problem. The trend will continue unless we make a move to form a network of principled individuals and groups to change the system and revive the noble purposes of our pioneer leaders.

MOVEMENT FOR CHANGE INITIATIVES

Our gathering today is not the first effort for change. There has been attempts in the past mostly initiated by younger ones. Unfortunately, seldom has been sustained. I could still recall there was movement of progressive pastors in 1980’s, some seminarians in Panay in 2000. In Negros, a movement of young pastors showed their consolidated strength by daring to challenge the veteran leadership in Negros and foretasted success when they captured the leadership in Kasapulanan in 2006.

After the CPBC election in 2006, kasapulanan presidents also organized themselves to protest the fraudulent election practices. Even the whole assembly has made resolutions to review, redefine, reorganize the CPBC structure, relationship, programs and services as contained in the 2005, 2006 Assembly Resolutions. However, while there are few who patiently continued, many were either coopted of gave up due to the hassles encountered, being vulnerable to institutionalized repression, retaliation and black propaganda from the notorious Dirty Tricks Department used by various groups.

Personally and through the CBMA, I attempted to present the agenda for change entitled IMPROVED MINISTERS: DEVELOPED CPBC (I’M D CPBC) during the CPBC Board of Trustees (BOT) Meeting in 2006 but it was laid on the table. Revised, presented and subsequently endorsed by the CBMA BOT, it was presented again during the February 2009 meeting for CPBC BOT action. Part of the document was also used during the Round table discussion during the 69th CBMA Assembly. But two CPBC administrations have gone, the documents are still kept in the archive.

The situation calls for a deliberate and sustained organizing effort to consolidate the gains and coordinate/synchronize other initiatives for change and set the principled direction to break the cyclic bondage. There is a need for revival of the original purpose and focus of the CPBC. The call to Reclaim the Visionary Intentions and Value system (REVIVAL) represents the aspiration of pastors, as well as lay leaders and youth. The direction is to reclaim the inherent CPBC avowed purposes chartered by our founders.

THE CALL FOR SOLID ORGANIZING AND COORDINATED NETWORK

The REVIVAL Network will advocate to reclaim these as priority concerns for the CPBC, as well as the value system based on Jesus declaration in John 14:6 – His being “the way, truth and the life.” This value system was exemplified by our forefathers/mothers in faith and pioneer leaders who have the spirit of missionaries not mercenaries, truthful and transparent in their service not for personal gain or profit. They served as shepherds, not hirelings, that are concerned with life and not destruction. Truly, they were leaders not dealers who led properly and in right way, not by manipulation. By reclaiming this value system, we will put an end to patronage politics, as those in the leadership positions will truly serve to attain the CPBC tripartite avowed intentions. These are (1) train the Filipino ministers and lay leaders in Christian leadership; (2)organize and establish more Baptist churches of good standing; (3) establish charitable and religious institutions such as schools, hospitals and Christian centers.

Apparently, the CPBC was organized not only for the work of churches but also for the development of ministers and lay leaders, as well as for the establishment of other institutions. Let us emphasis the seemingly neglected CPBC purpose (Article II, Section 1e): “To work with member churches and related institutions in securing the well-being of all its ministers for strengthening of the pastoral ministry and missionary work.”

However, we know that this is not an easy task. The system has been perpetrated for decades. It will take probably equally same length of time to change the system. Hence, the network will be known as REVIVAL 1020 to emphasize a decade of protracted struggle. But we should not forget that successful movements worldwide started small but with sustained commitment. Our Christian faith is a concrete example of this. Moreover, to be specific, we have also experienced success story through the Katipan Hall in Camp Higher Ground. At the start only few believed the possibility to finish the project while more had reservations. But in the process of campaign and construction, the participants have experienced God’s power and provision as church leaders, members and even the public gave their support. Also we realized the beauty of restoring trust and confidence and the power and strength in unity.

With these experiences and many more, we know we can if we will. Because our motives are not selfish. Our basis of unity is in line with God’s will and purpose for the CPBC.

REVIVAL 1020 Network is basically an advocacy network to consistently push for the REVIVAL agenda thru the following: CPBC

Consciousness raising thru information-dissemination of Revival Network’s existence, thrusts and direction, as well as the significant historical role of pastors, lay and youth in the life of CPBC and related institutions and the current realities and trends in CPBC.

Prayer and participation in various groups and CPBC related activities including electoral exercises to support principled leaders for the CPBC Board and Corporation of related institutions who subscribe the principles of the REVIVAL Network

Building of network to coordinate various initiatives for change and development and provide support system for the Network members and others who are persecuted for truth and advocacy work.

Call for transparency and participatory governance in CPBC and related institutions/organizations.

From here, we will take action, strengthen our network, expand our reach and expect REVIVAL in the CPBC. “For if God is with us, who can be against us?”

*Opening Statement during the Organizational Meeting of REVIVAL 1020 Network, April 19, 2010 at Central Philippine University.

PADAYON KATIPAN (Keep up the Covenant)

(Article first published as open letter for Baptist Pastors on Pahayag, official publication of the Convention Baptist Ministers Association, January- March 2011 edition)

Two words that capped my SONATA 2010 (State of the National Association Address) as a clincher to six years of service as your president. The best years I have ever given to a particular cause in my lifetime. Years that witness the commitment and dedication surpassing my other endeavors, paid or likewise voluntary in nature.

It will be recalled that PADAYON was the word used to close the successful conduct of our 68th National Assembly in 2009. Inspired by your overwhelming responses, I was looking for a punch line to sustain the momentum in delivering the concluding remarks. Then came the text message from my *Ihado when the worship leader innovatively asked us to write a message to a person of choice. All the notes coming to me have common message of encouragement to “keep up the good work.” My ihado gave me a note with one word which captured all other messages: PADAYON

KATIPAN, on the other hand, has become a symbol of our unity and success. It bespeaks of the realization of collective faith and action (Katumanan sang Tingob nga Pagtoo kag binuhatan). It sums up our victory in reclaiming the spiritual heritage of the Camp Higher Ground as icon of serenity, spirituality and renewal. Katipan has even galvanized our relationship bringing our association to the door step of the leadership and politics in Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.

KATIPAN was added during my swan song in SONATA 2010. Purposely as a recognition of our collective success, it also serve as reminder to stay true to our covenant. I thought that was the last time I would be using the two words, cognizant of the end of my term and my unstable health condition. Not until our CBMA Coordinator invited me to write an article for the Pahayag. I immediately said yes. For I want to use the opportunity to officially thank you for the support you have extended me and my family in the most trying moments in our life. Although not fully recovered yet, the delay has been compensated by the inner healing and renewal which strengthened my faith and determination.

Excited to communicate with you again, I found myself overwhelmed with all the journal, thoughts, insights which accumulated for more than a year of reflections. This is the second time it happened. The first was last February, while making reflections on the 25th Anniversary of EDSA Revolution. Extracting from aforementioned references, those two words dominantly flashed back in my mind.

The significance of EDSA has been carved in the innermost part of my soul. It was the turning point of my life. When I left seminary in 1984, one semester before graduation, I thought it was a goodbye. Aware of the risk of full time solidarity work during the intensification of the people’s struggle, I was not expecting to see the dawn of the new day. By God’s grace, I have seen it and more. After the historic EDSA ’86, I decided to go back to the seminary to resume my studies. Thereafter a paradigm shift in my direction took place. The rest is history

EDSA Revolution is a product of respective struggles participated in by the basic masses gaining support from 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. Just like the rainbow. With only three primary colors (red, yellow, blue), a beautiful multiplication of colors takes place when they link, interact, and overlap. Try to separate one from the other, and the beauty of rainbow is gone.

Such is the message of PADAYON KATIPAN. The collective faith and action must be uphold in order to sustain the unprecedented success, the changes, the development in our association. The moment we cease to keep up the covenant, we will be condemned to repeat the past.

I decided to keep silent for a year, not just because of my health. But to give more time for my successor to establish his leadership. Although the last quarter of 2009 was a transitory period when my illness confined me to an electronic leadership through text and internet. At that time, Pastor Francis Neil G. Jalando-on and Rev. Rustom B. Ola were already taking the lead together with the CBMA Board.

Undeniably, however, my productive terms had embedded on the organizational culture. More so, with my closeness to him, being in the team leading the change. Hence, a year of rest and silence was the best option for a transition which became effective. For it was marked with the establishment of Pastor Jalando-on’s leadership. The only thing I contributed to him was the turn over of records and unfinished tasks and assurance of my prayer support.

My illness has given me sufficient time to rest, pray, meditate, read the bible, reflect and write. All the wonderful experience my previous hectic schedule deprived me. But it’s lingering effect exposes my vulnerability. There were times when I had already resolved to go to the beyond bringing with me thoughts of our collective success.

The only thing that holds back is the commitment made on that haunting day when I was about to respire my last breath: “Not now, Lord… for my family… the CBMA…there are still evil to fight and conquer.” I believe God took notice of that appeal and sincere desire as manifested in the extension and subsequently slow but sure healing process.

This is the commitment that keeps me going despite the pain and vulnerability experience for more than a year now. It is in this context that I now view your decision to bestow on me the title of President Emeritus. A providential niche for my lifetime commitment to CBMA. As long as I live, you can assure of my service to the CBMA. Let us continue our collective faith and action. PADAYON KATIPAN, ANO MAN ANG ATON MADANGATAN. (Keep up the covenant, no matter what.)

*Wedding godson