Thursday, June 14, 2012


BGM Hobnobbing With Future Pope Chito Tagle 
“You cannot preach Christianity to an empty stomach.”

As a young student, I was part of a group called Christian Social Movement (CSM) and another one named Laymen’s Association for Post Vatican II Reforms (LAPVIIR).

In the first group, I was lucky to get exposed to intellectual giants like Sen. Raul Manglapus, Fr. Horacio de la Costa, Fr. Francisco Araneta, Fr. Jose Blanco, Justice Jose Feria, Dean Jerry Montemayor, Trade Secretary Jose Concepcion, Banker Hadji Kalaw, F. Sionil Jose, Mrs. Teresa Nieva, Zenaida Quezon Avancena and many others. CSM’s ideals were based on the Papal Encyclicals Populorum Progresio and Rerum Novarum. Until today, I can still recite its credo:

“I believe in a just and human society – based on human dignity, built on justice, and dedicated to progress – where every man may develop and fulfill himself according to his ability and in the service of his fellow men.”

Our youth arm called YCSP (Young Christian Socialists of the Philippines) launched several projects, the most noted of which was the “Congress Vigilantes” which monitored the movements of Congressmen and Senators in and out of Congress by YCSP students armed with cameras and notepads. It drew support even from the wives of some legislators who were caught going to “day clubs” or sleeping during sessions.

We also demanded government reforms and conducted lie-down pickets blocking the gates of Malacanang. Even City Hall was not spared by our Operation: Basura showing our concern not only for what we saw and heard but also for what we “smelled”.

In the second group, we pushed for the accelerated implementation of the Vatican II Reforms. Working with us were priests, seminarians, nuns, students, business people, farmers, jeepney drivers, and many other sectors of society.

Our 89-day and night picket at the Pro-Cathedral predated the present Occupy Movement. Within the period, I was chosen to represent the YCSP in the world conference of the International Union of Young Christian Democrats being held in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Since the Italian Christian Democrats financed my trip, I had to pass by Rome for some meetings. Arranged by Dean Jerry Montemayor, I was able to meet with the Vatican State Department and discuss our concerns as expressed in our on-going lie-in pickets.

Also during this period, our research showed that the Archdiocese of Manila was the 5th richest diocese in the world and the 4th largest contributor to Rome. Yet, poverty was everywhere and the Cardinal/Archbishop of Manila had a Rolls Royce; the diocese owned most of Escolta, substantial shares of major corporations, and in control of at least 3 banks. So, a major demand accompanying the faster implementation of the Vatican II Reforms was precisely to pour in more money for poverty alleviation.

We eventually saw priests saying masses facing the parishioners with dialects the latter could understand, the elimination of 1st class, 2nd class, etc. of wedding, baptismal, and funeral ceremonies. Of course, more money was spent on the poor people through the Catholic Charities.

In a capitalistic society, money begets more money. So it is safe to assume that the Catholic Church remains as rich as ever. To the institution on whom “much is given, much is required.” Consistent with the principle we enunciated at the start, the Church’s commitment to poverty alleviation should, therefore, be greater than ever.

The same responsibility goes to the other religious organizations but since about 80% of the Filipinos are Catholics, most of the targeted poor are assumed to be cared for by the Catholic Church. If the other religious sects provide assistance to their own members, then we should expect less poor people.


When you donate to your Church you get certain rewards. Materially, the donation is tax deductible. Spiritually, you feel good hoping that you get rewarded in the Great Beyond at the end of your material life. As what happened to many, you get back your contributions a thousand fold.

Of the private sector-run anti-poverty warriors, Gawad Kalinga is one that attracts many of us. Personally, I like its leader and many of its members and supporters.

Gawad President Tony Meloto was an American Field Service (AFS) International Scholar at a time of social and student unrest in both the United States and the Philippines.  Exposed to the best and worst of America during turbulent times and nurtured as a teenager forced to assume social responsibility, academic excellence, and international diplomacy, he definitely broadened his horizons dreaming to make a difference in a “dog eat dog” world.

I should know. I was an AFS student too during those challenging times. We heard Robert Kennedy popularizing the quote of George Bernard Shaw; “Some people see things as they are and say, why. I dream of things that never were and say, why not?”

Tony Meloto was and continues to be a dreamer. He was a better and more effective and efficient planner, organizer, leader and controller.

Any one who inspires and motivates somebody like Jane Singson Fields must be a good leader. The latter was a warrior not only for a politically free Philippines but most especially an economically democratic and poverty-free Philippines.

Any one who inspires and motivates an outstanding Rotarian like Ernie Delfin to form one of the first E-Rotary clubs in Asia called Global Kalinga e-Rotary Club, must be an outstanding leader. Combining Rotary’s and Gawad Kalinga’s goals and anti-poverty programs with the ability to reach both beneficiaries and benefactors worldwide in real time via the wonders of online communication, Ernie converted into reality what many could not even dream of a decade earlier.

Okay, as my barber would say, “You are biased. Tony Meloto was an AFS Student like you. Jane and Ernie are your personal friends.”

Consider what Gawad Kalinga commits: “Through creative leveraging resources, every peso you give is multiplied at least four times over because of the sweat equity of the beneficiaries themselves, volunteer services, and donations in kind, like land and land development, provided by corporations, government and other partners.”

In past governments, only 80% of your tax contributions go to programs that serve you. In Gawad Kalinga, your contributions even increase 400%.

Study GK’s Programs such as Feed the Families for Life; Nurture the Young; Provide Basic Healthcare; Build Infrastructure; Empower the Residents; and Care for Environment.

Directly or indirectly, they are all proven tools or weapons in our Battle Against


Next Series:  Community Organizations,  Individuals; "Little Miracles" (Technologies)

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