|FR. ROBERT REYES (SEATED, FAR LEFT) CELEBRATING THE 2ND ANNIVERSARY OF LAKBAY DANGAL WITH ITS ADVISERS AND MEMBERS IN HONGKONG LAST MARCH|
Vim Nadera: Do you eat death threats for breakfast too?
Robert Reyes: Yes, even lunch and dinner and sometimes dessert. I have fought not only with ordinary mortals but also with presidents, from Ferdinand Marcos to Fidel Valdez Ramos; from FVR to Joseph Estrada, and, finally, from Erap to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I have concretely experienced harassment from the spin doctors and operators of the powerful individuals that I have taken on. Because of this, running, yoga, prayer, and contemplation are of vital importance. I have developed a very personal way of communing with God. This unique form of prayer and communion is somehow echoed in the motto of my
three-year run across the Philippines. Thus, the Streets are my Pulpit, the Trees my Altar, and the Universe my Church.
VN: What is your typical day? What do you do?
RR: It depends on where I am and the task before me. Since I returned from voluntary exile in China and Hong Kong, I took residence at Bishop Pedro Arigo’s house in Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Whenever I
had extra time and money, I would fly to Manila to be with my recently widowed mother. I enjoy those quiet times in our home where I have my personal library, unfinished museum, and perennially evolving garden. When at home, I do a lot of reading, journalling, blogging on my Facebook site, gardening, and talking with my mother. From time to time, people will sense that I am around and ask me to support them in their cause. The week of March 19, advocacy wise was a typically busy week. On March 21, I did a run of remembrance from Mendiola to CHR in Commonwealth avenue. March 22, I celebrated mass at the Philippine Post Headquarters. The mass was dubbed Kalbaryo ng Karterong Pinoy. And finally on Friday, March 23 I accompanied the families of Abadilla 5 to the Supreme Court, Department of Justice, and Malacanang Palace in their 16-year long struggle for truth, justice, and freedom.
VN: What did you do in Hong Kong?
RR: After China, where I was an English teacher, I moved to Hong Kong in 2007 where I worked as a researcher-lecturer at the Center for Catholic Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Towards the
end of December, after I was implicated in the Manila Peninsula incident, and, finally, released in mid-December. I returned to Hong Kong only to find a letter from Bishop John Tong thanking me for my work and telling me to vacate my room as soon as possible. Without any benefit of dialogue, I was simply asked to leave the Diocese of Hong Kong. I left Hong Kong early February 2008 and returned towards the middle of March. A new job waited for me. I became a human rights researcher and advocate at the Asian Human Rights Commission or AHRC.
During my spare time I find creative ways to respond to the OFWs’ needs as I encounter these on my many encounters in the streets of Hong Kong. Three advocacies were born. One is a ministry to Cancer Survivors; a second, a ministry to those interested in Local Culture and History; and finally, the third, the ministry of Muslim-Christian Dialogue. Last January, Buhay Ka: Struggles of Mortality, Glimpses of Eternity, a book outlining the experience of Cancer Survivors and their volunteer caregivers was launched in Hongkong. Later this year, another book about the efforts of OFWs to learn and promote Local and Filipino Culture and History will be launched. The book will describe the experiences of a group of OFWs who call themselves Lakbay Dangal.