Saturday, September 12, 2009

The journey is the destination

A few years ago, an international airline had this as their marketing strategy: “The Journey is the Destination.” How aptly this describes our journey towards faith-impelled social transformation. The journey towards integrity for the common good already reveals the contours of a transformed Filipino nation.
The past three months have seen a lot of journeys for two Dilaab teams, one sharing before the clergy of different local churches; another facilitating the CiDE (circle of discernment for elections) seminar-workshop known as the Mabolo seminar (after the locality of the parish in Cebu that first tried it).
The Mabolo seminar did not just appear out of nowhere. In 2008, Dilaab organized and facilitated nine circles of discernment of various groups in Cebu and Manila. Pope Benedict XVI’s insight provides much impetus: “I confirm the necessity and urgency of the evangelical formation and pastoral accompaniment of a new generation of Catholics working in politics.” This calls for beyond-the-usual engagement during elections, a call echoed by the expression “principled partisan politics” Two national consultations in April and June this year validated certain insights. A seminar was now ready to be shared.
The one-day Mabolo seminar has since journeyed to other local churches. The latest one was last 7 August in Bontoc-Lagawe. The journey is worth recalling.
Our Dilaab team had been invited to give the Mabolo seminar to BEC representatives to the yearly “Tongtongan” (Ifugao for “Dialogue”) of the Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe. The theme was: “Nation Building Through the Basic Ecclesial Communities.” We left Thursday afternoon 6 August from San Jose Seminary at the Ateneo de Manila, a little behind schedule.
There are two routes going to Bontoc from Manila. One is by way of Nueva Viscaya, the other through Baguio. The former takes 9 hours; the latter around 14 hours. We, of course, decided on the shorter route with Richard, our highly skilled, taciturn Igorot driver at the steering wheel. Typhoon Kiko, however, had other plans.
After a hearty supper at San Jose, Nueva Ecija, our vehicle encountered a problem at Caranglan, Nueva Ecija. Traffic had stopped due to a landslide. We quickly made a decision since the alternate route going to Baguio would take time. A text from a PNP contact revealed that the route would not be cleared any time soon. We were on to Baguio around 10 pm. A 9-hour trip eventually takes 17 hours.
Our driver steadfastly refused offers to substitute for him at certain stretches so he could rest. As we near the Mountain Province, a thick fog envelopes us. Only reflections from the cat’s eye embedded on the road and the arrowhead signals gives us directions, as the fog and the deep darkness prevents our seeing the sheer cliff, now to our left, then to our right. A concrete highway is actually under construction.

At such moments one realizes the beauty of certain prayers: “Lead Kindly Light amidst th encircling gloom. The night is dark and I am far from home…I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me…”
Around 5:15 am, we came to a complete halt. An uprooted tree was blocking our way. Just before it, a buckhoe stands idle. We reversed directions and come upon the driver having early morning coffee inside a makeshift shelter with his co-workers. Felix accedes to our request and removes the stumbling block.
Several kilometers later, a bigger landslide prevents movement. Suddenly a payloader appears and removes the barrier. Further on, another payloader is trying to define the road. The morning sun now reveals the cliffs. Rain continues to pour.
It was around 8:45 am that we finally made it to Bontoc-Lagawe where around 300 participants from 21 mission stations gathered. The group is very appreciative and responsive and there is much laughter and insight. The seminar has several modules: one for developing empathy for those in politics; another for articulating a spirituality; a third for brainstorming and consensus-building; and lastly, a planning module.
It is worth all the effort. The air is pristine and we saw sections of the world-famous rice terraces. No wonder the Jews believed that mountains where special places of encounter with God. We were in God’s abode!
Bishop Rudy Beltran and Fr. John Habawel, our contact person, made sure our stay was comfortable and meaningful. The following day began with another special affair: the 40th Episcopal anniversary of Bishop Francisco Claver, SJ. The man is a living legend in many ways, although, I suspect, he would cringe at the designation.
We participated in a Mass with prayers and songs in the Bontoc tongue. During the offertory, we got a glimpse of the Igorot way of giving thanks and offering their produce to God, as local people in their native dress processed with their farm produce. The red sticky rice food wrapped in banana leaves (“patupat”) is a supreme culinary delight. We returned to Manila Friday evening via Nueva Viscaya. The storm has abated. There are still surprises though along the way. But that’s for another column.

Truly, the journey is the destination. (For comments please email: