Tuesday, November 27, 2012

WHERE IS THE RUNNING PRIEST? (Third of five parts) (April 23, 2012)


Vim Nadera: What are your other interests?

Robert Reyes: I enjoy traveling. Thanks to my early political involvement. When I became too controversial in my homilies against the Conjugal Dictatorship, and when I was assistant parish priest at UP Diliman from 1982 to 1983, Jaime Cardinal Sin sent me for further studies in Rome. That was also the beginning of an interest in foreign peoples, their cultures and languages. One of my favorite stops when I
visit a new country is a park, a botanical garden, or a zoo. It is there that I satisfy my appetite for gardening and landscaping. I enjoy looking at wild animals. One day, people began giving me wild animals from snakes to crocodiles which evolved into the Likas Buhay Ecological Center for Children, a program that lasted for 14 years and moved from Cubao to UP Diliman and, finally, in Project 4.

As a young seminarian in San Jose, I discovered a book on Christian Yoga written by French Jesuit -- Fr. J.M. De Chanet. From 1970 to 2007, I studied and practised yoga personally until I decided to study it professionally in Hong Kong and finally in Manila under a Yoga Works’ Instructress from Los Angeles. I have given yoga workshops to urban poor leaders as well as priests. Recently, I teamed up with a friend and taught yoga to the inmates of the Women’s Detention Center at Camp Karingal in UP Village.

As a young seminarian I learned playing the guitar and eventually became a seminary guitarist at mass. Eventually, with another classmate, I started playing the guitar accompaniment at liturgical concerts featuring Fr. Eddie Hontiveros’ songs. This led me to deepen my interest in guitar by enrolling at the UP School of Music as a classical guitar student under the late Senor Jose Pellecer.

VN: How do you practise your Doctorate in Anthropology?
RR: My dissertation used running as a form of social critique and research, which I called Patakbo-takbo. My usual classrooms are not in colleges and universities but streets. I have done countless runs with various sectors and groups. I still do runs up to now, if I am in Manila. I just did a run on 12 March 2012 from Mendiola to the Commission on Human Rights with the title We Run, We Remember, We Struggle.

Every 21st of the month until September 21, a run of remembrance will keep the Saling Diwa alive, according to Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) Director Max de Mesa. We who lived through Martial Law, survived it and continued to speak of its horrors and lessons would now want to pass on the spirit and consciousness that we have acquired through the last forty years. Aside from Running as an Academic Exercise I also write books and publish it myself. I have written a number of books about my work with the victims of human rights, cancer survivors and even a book about my various runs. I keep
a two columns in a tabloid known as Bulgar which for the last 10 years since 2002 has sustained my contact with ordinary Filipinos, the marginalized sectors in particular. Thanks to UP Diliman, and most especially to my mentor Professor Prospero “Poping” Covar and my persistent (tor)mentor I did not only earn another degree. More than this, I changed the way I looked at people and how they adapt and create meaning and direction in their lives. Thanks to UP for leading me to discover the University of the Streets where I have become -- like the “askal” or asong kalye -- a “paskal” or Pari sa Kalye whose life will forever be associated and enriched with the special locus of God’s grace called the kalye or street.

VN: Is rebellion included?
RR: I have been charged with almost all the political crimes in the books. Juan Ponce Enrile and Jackie Enrile filed a libel case against me in 2000. The case dragged for nine years at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court. I was charged with rebellion for my involvement in the 29 Novembe 2007 situation in Manila Peninsula. Last year, because of the support I gave to Ka Lauro Vizconde, I was also charged with inciting to sedition. Due to my Manila Pen involvement, I was slapped with a Hold Departure Order which was lifted as soon as my case was dismissed, thanks to former Solicitor General Frank Chavez.

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