Tagudin Mission Struggle (2000-2010)

Tagudin is a town situated at the southernmost tip of Ilocos Sur, doorstep La Union province, gateway to the Mountain provinces. Tagudin inherited her religious faith upbringing from the CICM/ICM missionaries. After almost a century under the auspices of foreign missionaries, St. Augustine Parish in Tagudin was turned over to the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia.

As fruit of the missionary consciousness imbedded in the awareness of the people in Tagudin, the people were somehow “critical” to the political system. Evident to this, was the “infamous arsoning” of the two school buildings of St. Augustine Schools (SAS), the genesis of mission journey of the CICM/ICM in the North Luzon area. The two SAS schools buildings that were turned into ashes and dusts were obvious singns that those in political power were rocked by the radical mission stance of Tagudin Parish during those times. That “arson” was chilling message from the political lords, “you stop, or you regret”.

To magnify the threat, a building of St. Agnes School in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur and an edifice of Maryhurst Seminary in Baguio City were likewise inflamed. There were no strong evidences to prove that these incidents were closely connected, but scrutinizing deeper the events, it can be safe to say that these cases cannot be also isolated from each other. No culprit was ever identified and made to answer these dastardly acts. This explains that indeed there was “someone powerful” who ordered the commission of these aggressions. Most people knew that this was politically motivated.

These arson events were not accidentaland were not isolated with each other, but were retaliatory strategies of the political power to water down the mission, disturbing and unsettling them at that time. Judging from the perspective of the liberating mission, these events can be seen as “impact” of the radical mission. Edifices can be burned down, but the mission consciouseness cannot be “arsonned”. It remains in the “spirit” of the people.

Such was the brief history of the mission seed implanted in Tagudin. However, when Tagudin Parish was returned to the leadership and management of the “archdiocese”, the political power of Ilocos Sur sensed a weakened mission stance, because they knew the entry point to penetrate and conquer local religious leaders. The political lords reinvented their manipulative strategies and put up their entrapment designs.

What is there in Tagudin that attracts the interest of the political lords? The geographical location of Tagudin, is a strategic place to support a political agenda. The town is vote-rich and it commands massive influence to other municipalities in the “uplands”. This lures the political lords to impose political clout in Tagudin. Conquering and controlling Tagudin is a “plus factor” for politicians. This explains why the mayoralty in Tagudin at that time of BEC, was closely allied to the “political lord” of Ilocos Sur. And this was the context wherein the BEC in Tagudin revolved, until it reached the heights of MISSION STRUGGLE against the enemies, from outside and inside forces.

A. A. Mission Seed Germinated (2000-2006)

· The Mission Seed implanted in San Vicente, germinated and flourished in Tagudin. Gimong as BEC adhered to the same liberating framework, following Jesus in His Kingdom Mission. Gimong as way of mission experienced in San Vicente provided for an eloquent roadmap gearing towards the Kingdom of God. San Vicente experience never went for naught. Instead, it expanded in Tagudin.

· The seed mission initially implanted by foreign missionaries and which was met with aggressive resistance by the political lords was given a new life, new orientation, new focus. Of course, some of the remnants of “foreign culture” which has influenced the faith sphere of the people were still evident and needed dramatic change. This was the first struggle of the Gimong as BEC in Tagudin. To localize the alienated faith-culture.

· The initial mission consciousness implanted by the foreign missionary, merged with mission framework from San Vicente experience, had helped inception of Gimong as way of mission in Tagudin. Purok or Sitios were identified to become Gimong, with new mission orientation and focus. Faith practices inherited from foreign missionaries, was gradually re-invented.

B. B. Vision of Fullness of Life was shared, Radical Mission was introduced.

· As anchor of the Gimong way of mission, vision of fullness of life was shared in the same way that the radical Kingdom Mission was introduced as a strategy to concretize the Vision. This laid out the foundation of the Gimong as BEC in Tagudin.

· Fullness of life is identified as economic independence, not charity dole out. Fullness of life is political liberty, not subservient to oppressive political structures. Fullness of life is cultural integrity, not patronage, passivity and silence. Fullness of life is Dignity and Liberty.

· Radical mission was also clarified as doing the Prophetic mission to instill liberating consciousness, denouncing the exploitative and sinful systems and structures and proclaiming to the Poor, the Good News of the Kingdom. To fully realize the radical mission, Gimong as BEC has to confront and address the prevailing political complexion and undercurrents. The political situation is the overarching , systematic deterrent to the realization of the vision of the Fullness of Life. Therefore it must be the context of Gimong as mission.

· However, it must be stressed out that this mission context is NOT purely “political renewal”. It is more on the transformation of consciousness and shifting of paradigm of the Families, which is KEY to integral renewal towards the Kingdom of God. This framework shall define and clarify the principles, activities, systems, mission orientation and focus of the Gimong as BEC.

C. C. The Radical Mission attracts and repels.

· Expectedly, the radical mission has attracted the poor victims of oppression, in the same way as it repelled those who benefitted from the exploitative systems. This was another struggle in the Gimong as way of mission. Staunch detractors have aggressively mounted their attacks against the mission, while those who embraced and owned the mission, remained faithful.

· The radical mission did not only attract and repel, it also surfaced and emerged new breed of leaders. Traditional leadership occupied by the learned, poblacion people, benefactors and religious organizations, was eased out. It is not because they were driven away by the Parish Priest, but because they cannot exist alongside with the mission orientation and focus. This paved the way to the emergence of new crop of leaders, fitted to the radical mission.

D. D. Changes Intitutionalized.

· The jumping board of Gimong as way of mission was first and foremost initiated and institutionalized in the Parish Liturgical and Sacramental celebrations where the principles of equality, simplicity and mission are to be followed, doing away from the “double standard faith”

· Leadership roles, task and decision making process were no longer a monopoly of the religious movement, the learned and those in the political power, but became as an opportunity for the families in the Gimong to participate.

· Meetings, activities, Parish celebrations like patronal fiestas, ordination anniversaries, birthdays and other social events were done in accordance with the mission principles of equality, simplicity and participation.

· Homilies, prayers and songs in the Eucharistic celebrations were designed as strategies to instill mission consciousness. Parish financial system as Sagut-Pamilia was established as an opportunity for Families to participate in the mission, and more importantly, to discourage solicitation of funds from the political power which could compromise the proclamation of the radical Gospel. Honest accounting and Transparency were cardinal rules in the management of the parish finances.

· Parish commissions which used to be “exclusive groupings” isolated and competing with each other to catch the attention of the priest and get merited with accomplishment of projects, were given new orientation and focus , to become ministries at the service of the Gimong as a way of the Kingdom mission. As expected, all these were met with criticisms from the side of the enemies of the mission.

E. E. Active Participation of Families.

· Gimong as cluster of families and at the same time a way of mission became the way of life to the families in the base communities. Most activities which were de-centralized to provide opportunities of participation by the families. Couples-Facilitators (Langen-Agassawa) were emerged, tapped, formed and trained to be tasked as animators of the Gimong.

· There are 43 barangays in Tagudin. Each barangay has an average 5 Gimongs. Activities in the Gimong are facilitated by the Langen-Agassawa. Consistent and regular activities have encouraged more participation of families. Most important of all, these activities became venues and strategies to articulate, transform and deepen the consciousness of Families.

F. F. Building Equal Relationships.

· Relationship based on equity is fundamental to Gimong way of life. Dignity became the basis of relationship, not title, not educational attainment, not possessions and not positions. Gimong as way of relationships is counter to the culture of arrogance imposing itself as the norm of relationship, creating a widening gap between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless. This kind of relationships hyphenated social grouping, where the poor are always marginalized.

· To enhance equal relationships, simplicity in family celebrations was also given emphasis. Principle of equality in all the Sacramental and Liturgical celebrations was likewise observed. The rich and the famous can no longer avail for a “special favor”, as it has been in the traditional church. This was welcomed by many, but was resisted by the few rich, who were used to have “special treatment” in exchange of a “special price”.

G. G. Encountering the Liberating Word:

· Traditionally, October devotion of block rosary was a common practice by mostly old women. The Gimong way of mission introduced Tongtongan-Gimong (Awareness Sessions) incorporated in the Ranud-Ebanghelio (Gospel Sharing). This was a relevant breakthrough in the traditional way of life of most of the families, which was confined in mere “devotion”.

· Regular Awareness sessions facilitated by Langen-Agassawa gradually instilled liberating consciousness and shifted the paradigm of the families in the Gimong. Awareness session incorporated in the Ranud-Ebanghelio, has ushered the families into becoming a “critical mass”.

· Families have become comfortable in asking the questions; What is the prevailing situation affecting the life of the families? What are the dehumanizing effects of these situations? What are the root causes of these situations? And what can the families do to respond and transform these situations? Analysis of situation was always anchored on the Gospel and focused on the liberation of the poor from the grip of oppression. This became the liberating consciousness of the families in Gimong.

H. H. Creating Ministries to Respond to Community Needs and Concerns:

· Deeper impact of consistent Awareness sessions in the Gimong is manifested in the Families surfacing and identifying their needs and community concerns. Liberating consciousness evolved from consistent Tongtongan-Gimong has enabled the Families to be proactive in identifying and responding to their own community needs and concerns, no longer dependent on civil authorities and religious patrons.

· To strategize collective responses and mobilizations, ministries were created at the base communities. Unlike in the traditional set up, ministries are response to the identified community needs, not simply duplication of imposed parish commissions. Before, ministries were simply “compartmentalized organizations”, doing activities as exclusive groups competing with each other to gravitate the attention and approval of the parish priest.

· As result of consistent Tongtongan-Gimong, concerns for the formation of the youths were surfaced and addressed in the BEC level. Organic farming method was likewise identified and started as response to the situation of most of the farmers being impoverished due to commercial and chemical farming. Family men being lured to prostitution dens were abated as result of the collective stance of the Gimong against operation of prostitution houses in the nearby towns.

· Most importantly, Tongtongan-Gimong has evolved an analytical and liberating consciousness making the families critical about the prevailing political complexion of the town in particular and of the province in general. This radical mission consciousness has differentiated the kind of BEC (Gimong) in Tagudin, from other “BECs” which simply replicated the traditional, enslaving institutional religion.

I. Setting Up Linkages for Collective Mobilization:

· Gimong as BEC in Tagudin maintained its linkages with the Church through the Eucharist, Leadership and Mission. However, the Gimong did not depend on church leadership for its persistence and existence. It simply stood strong on its belief that the radical mission is stemmed from the Gospel and rooted on the Kingdom Mission. Gimong at the service of the Kingdom sustained its liberating consciousness and this invited more adversaries from the political lordship and those allied with the political power.

J. J. Conflict as Essential to the Kingdom Mission.

· Consistent activities of the Gimong have galvanized their liberating consciousness. Tongtongan-Gimong, Rambak Gimong, Youth Formation and other related activities have become venues and opportunities of gradual formation of consciousness. Paradigm of the families in the Gimong had shifted from being passive into analytical and critical. They have become keen to analyzing the situation affecting their life and have become more proactive in responding to their community needs and concerns. The liberating consciousness of the families in Gimong can be manifested in their resistance of political manipulation and the situation of political dynasty gripping the people province wide.

· As the Gimong sustained its liberating consciousness, the political lordship has become more disturbed and unsettled. The political power singled out the Gimong as deterrent to its power perpetuity. Therefore the political power must design its strategies to counter the growing consciousness of most of the families. The liberating consciousness of the families anchored on the mission orientation of the parish, has provoked a necessary conflict with the political power. But this conflict must be seen as essential to the Kingdom Mission.

K. K. Transformed Families.

· Families in Gimong crossed over the boundary from being passive to being radical. These transformation can be illustrated by the way of life of the families. Before, family celebrations were extravagant and show off. But when the Gimong way of life was initiated, family affairs became simple and anchored on equality.

· Before, leadership was a monopoly of the learned, the rich and the powerful, using the dominating style of leadership. But when Gimong way of life was introduced, animating leadership became the method being practiced by Couple Facilitators of BEC. More importantly, families in the Gimong have learned to distance themselves from any form of oppressive structures and systems by the political dynasty. Faith has leaped forward to a new dimension and paradigm.

L. L. Deep Spirituality Rooted in the Gospel.

· The mission orientation of the families in Gimong can be mis-interpreted as ideologically motivated and could be branded as lacking in religious spirituality. However, the mission orientation of the families is borne out of the desire to be emancipated from the grip of enslaving and dehumanizing political system. The mission orientation of the families aims to realize and concretize the Kingdom of God where Dignity, Liberty and Fullness of life are the main features experience and shared by everyone.

· Families in the Gimong adhere to the Kingdom way of concretizing the Kingdom of God, not by arm struggle and power grab, but by transforming the slavish culture and extricating themselves from the exploitative systems of political lordship. Families in the Gimong admit that cultural transformation is elemental to liberation. By transforming the culture, the families can be spared from the lures and machination of political lordship. The families have embraced the fact that the Kingdom Mission has its prices like suffering, persecution and a possible death. But the Kingdom of God shall prevail.

· This is the spirituality of the families in the BEC. Patterned from the radical spirituality of Jesus, who denounced the social ills in His time espoused by the prevailing political power. But Jesus did not merely denounced the exploitative political reign, He also announced to the Poor the Good News of the Kingdom. The Good News of the Kingdom as the core of Jesus’ mission in Liberty from tutelage, in order to experience Dignity and Fullness of Life. In so doing, Jesus got the ire of political power and the religious hierarchy, this caused His violent murder. However, He resurrected. The Kingdom of God triumphed.

M. Tools and Learning Process that Facilitated Transformation.

1. Tools:

· In order to gradually shift the consciousness and paradigm of the families in the Gimong, several modules were created and used. All learning activities of the Gimong and the Parish level were guided by modules. To contextualize the learning experience and to solicit proactive responses, modules were merely not copied and borrowed from outside sources, but were crafted from collective analysis of the situation.

· To transfer the skills of the module crafting as one essential in sustaining BEC, the MaPPa (Parish Animation Team) underwent series of training on Skills Analysis and Module Crafting.

2. Learning Processes:

· Transformation of consciousness and paradigm shift was not simply imposed, but underwent a tedious process. Starting from analysis of the prevailing situation and discernment about the possible prospects, to the crafting of appropriate modules intended for formational activities.

· Modules and proactive programs were designed as response to emerging situations. MaPPa will facilitate the modules in the different Sunday meetings in the Parish levels. Afterwards, copies of modules shall be reproduced to be distributed and used in the Gimong level via the Tongtongan Gimong (Awareness Sessions), Rambak Gimong (Community Worship), Tubay Agtutubo (Youth Formation) and other related activities in the Gimong level, where trained Couple Facilitators are tasked to animate.

N. Behavioral Indicators of Transformed Families as Effect of Gimong.

1. Critical Mind and Liberating Consciousness.

· One significant effect of the Gimong way of life and Mission is the gradual shift of paradigm among the families in the BEC. Families became more analytical and critical about the social issues affecting their lives. They have learned to distinguish what is enslaving and liberating. This transformation of consciousness is the foundation of integral renewal towards social justice.

2. Relationship and Simple Celebrations.

· Transformed consciousness can be manifested in the way the families relate with one another as community and in the manner family affairs are celebrated. Relationship as way of life of the families in the Gimong is anchored on equality. Human Dignity has become the parameters of relationship, no longer on the basis of education, title or degree, position or possession.

3. Participative Learning and Animating Leadership.

· From the old and enslaving method of learning which is lecturing by the learned, participative learning as community building, has become the main style of learning together. Participative learning as experiential has restored dignity and has encouraged more active participation in the learning process. Animating leadership has likewise redeemed the confidence of the Couple Leaders. Regardless of educational attainment, position and possession, Couple Facilitators (Langen-Agassawa) has embraced the active role of leading the activities in the BECs.

4. Participation of Families.

· Before, religious organization with old women members had the monopoly of participation in sporadic religious activities. But when Gimong as a way of life and mission has been institutionalized, most families in the grassroots level were encouraged to participate actively in the pastoral mission.

5. Liberating Faith Action.

· Faith practices which merely centered on popular religiosity and devotion, has evolved into a liberating way of life of the families. Identified needs and concerns surfaced by consistent in depth analysis, were proactive responded to by the families after discernment and planning for collective mobilization. Prostitution, illegal fishing, illegal collection of garbage fees, to name a few, were examples of community concerns addressed by the families in the Gimong.

· Most significant of all, the families were strongly critical about the oppressive system and manipulative strategies of the political dynasty. This infuriated the political lord who has been remote controlling the political reign in the province.

6. Passion for the Mission Stance.

· Against repressive resistance on the part of the political lords who were unsettled by the growing mission consciousness of the families in the BECs, the families who imbibed the liberating mission paradigm remained passionate and steadfast in the mission stance. In the thick of obvious persecution, humiliation and isolation brought about the mission stand point, the families were resolved to stand on the side of the mission rooted on personal and collective conviction on the transformative spirituality of the Gospel.

O. Assurance of Continuity of the Mission.

· As the liberating consciousness became integrated in the way of life of most of the families in the Gimong, the fear of discontinuity of the Gimong Mission was also brewing among the families. The reshuffling of priest was approaching and this somehow was unsettling the families in the BECs. They were apprehensive whether the Gimong Mission which had touched and transformed their lives shall be continued by the incoming priest.

· The continuity of the Gimong Mission was assured by the Archbishop when he declared on August 29, 2005, during the patronal fiesta of the Parish that Gimong as BEC shall go on in Tagudin as started. The Archbishop vowed that he will look for a priest who will continue to work on BEC as Gimong. “If I cannot find a priest to continue BEC here, I’ll be the one to come and continue it.” The bishop further announced. This promise of the Archbishop has inspired the families in the Gimong. However, this vow by the Archbishop shall be reverted in the coming years.

P. Strong Character that Sustained the Mission.

· For the Gimong Mission to continue, it needed just a deep conviction and a strong character of a Priest. Strong character is a necessary firewall to combat several attempts to weaken and erode the mission. The liberating mission implanted in Tagudin, had the good prospects, when the Priest chosen to be assigned in Tagudin, is equipped with the needed conviction and character.

· On the other side, enemies of the mission welcomed the reshuffling of priests to be a “favor” on their camp. But they were wrong to perceive that because the Priest who will be assigned in Tagudin had no other thing in mind but to continue the Kingdom Mission that has already been implanted.