Today’s Inquirer magazine profiles the Philippines’ “running priest”, Father Robert Reyes. Father Robert is temporarily based in China teaching English, after having been virtually banned from political involvement by a Church that has grown tired of his relentless activism.
Robert Reyes has his detractors. Some feel he should be more selective in the causes he espouses and that his presence at virtually any radical event dilutes his message. Others see him as a self-promoter.
I suspect that many of his critics have never met Fr. Robert and that they might feel differently if they did. When he started his fast in protest at the electoral fraud that was revealed by the Hello Garci tapes, I couldn’t really see the point. Still, as he had been supportive during the battle for Arroceros Forest Park, Frayed and I decided to pop in to see him in the makeshift tent he had constructed by the Aguinaldo monument on EDSA. He was then into his third week of hunger strike; pale and weak but still lucid. After 5 minutes talking to him he had completely won us over. It was not just the arguments he used, though these were strong. It was his quiet determination and his faith in its broadest sense.
As for the fact that he supports many causes, what’s wrong with that?! Having a prominent figure associate himself with your movement is tremendously invigorating for Filipinos, who, as Reyes says in the profile, are “made to look resigned and without choice or alternative”. Reyes’s presence not only validates the thankless work of activists, he also has an unrivalled network to draw on (it was thanks to Fr Robert that the wonderful Governor Grace Padaca spoke at Arroceros Forest Park last year). Reyes is an energetic and positive guy, not afraid to rile up the establishment, a quality that every successful activist needs.
Also, what choice does he have? Someone like Reyes is besieged all the time for assistance, and there is no shortage of worthy causes. This was why he chose to take a sabbatical outside the country: “because whenever I am in the Philippines, people will also ask me for help and I may not be able to refuse.”
Someone as brave and committed as Fr. Robert is desperately needed here, where (as in many other countries) the prevailing mood is apathy and despair. I hope he returns soon, the country needs patriots like Fr. Robert Reyes:
• The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair. -- H.L. Mencken
Thanks for the quote Yaw and Mog.