Philippine Independence Day, June 12, 2001, Manila - Columban priest, FR. BRIAN GORE was in the Philippines at the launch of the
RUN FOR LIFE - DROP THE DEBT CAMPAIGN
6:30 am - We gathered at Monumento, a large monument to the Angel of Freedom in Caloocan City, one of the five cities which make up Metro Manila.
Our group consisted of runners and support people, around forty, and an amateur photographer - yours truly. There were also three support vehicles with banners on the sides.
6:45 am - As we approached the Monument, where official government ceremonies are held, a band of about thirty uniformed policemen assembled in a line, preventing us from moving forward to the shrine. Fr. Robert engaged the policeman-in-charge in conversation. They asked for our permit, but our only answer was that we never had a permit when the people rose up against Estrada last January. The police were friendly and had a long conversation with Fr. Robert.
7:00 am - The official ceremony started and our small band waited. Sensing action, the media arrived and started interviewing Fr. Robert. Then another group of police, with riot shields and batons, positioned themselves about 20 feet behind the first line of police. Of course this attracted more media and more interviews.
As we observed the over-reaction of the police, one of our group, a woman dressed in flowing clothes of the colours of the Philippine flag, started a rhythmic dance facing the police as if to mesmerize them. She did this non-stop for the next hour as crowds gathered to watch this amazing scene.
Fr. Robert continued to engage the police in friendly banter and I snapped away with my camera. What a photo opportunity!
7:30 am - A helicopter circled overhead and dropped leaflets over the crowd gathering around us. The leaflet contained words of thanks from the newly-elected mayor of the city. They were scattered all over the place making a huge mess on the road. Fr. Robert picked up a few leaflets and displayed them in front of the police near a sign on the side of the road which said "No Littering". This action of the helicopter drew more media.
Some of our group played gongs in the background accompanying the dancer. There was quite a solemn atmosphere as the runners stood to attention.
8:45 am - The official party left the area with sirens blaring and we were told that we could proceed when the place was cleared. The runners started to warm up readying themselves, for the "Run"
9:00 am - At last we moved to the empty Monument which was decked in memorial flowers. We stayed there for 20 minutes of interviews and more photos.
9:20 am - The police who formerly had blocked our way, now cleared the traffic for the start of the run. We were under way with a police escort for a run with no permit! This could only happen in the Philippines, a country of fantastic contrasts.
11:00 am - After an hour and forty minutes run, with sirens blaring, we were again stopped by different police who told us that we could not proceed to the Luneta as there were preparations going on for the afternoon ceremonies to be attended by the President. This stand-off went on for half an hour, which gave time for the runners to get their breath, and for Fr. Robert to give more interviews, while I bought small Philippine flags from a vendor to use in Australia.
11:30 am - We were again on the move, this time without police escort as we had only a few kilometres to go. Our destination was the house where the wife of one of the Filipino revolutionary leaders, Andres Bonifacio, lived. This house was chosen by Fr. Robert because for him and many others, Andres Bonifacio was the real hero of the war against Spain.
We were welcomed to the spacious old colonial home where our cultural group made a special presentation depicting mother Philippines still in bondage to foreign powers and debt.
TV and other media followed and more interviews were conducted. Fr. Robert has a knack of attracting the local media because he presents the opposite view to the politicians and he is articulate and challenging.
1:00 pm - At a nearby restaurant Fr. Robert treated over 30 of us to a simple but nourishing meal. After all this excitement it was time for me to take a long siesta!
There are photos of the inaugural run on the campaign web site at http://www.runningpriest.com
Note: Filipino historian Ambeth R. Ocampo discusses the contention between Aguinaldo and Bonifacio, Bonifacio's execution and the fate of his wife, Gregoria de Jesus, in two articles that appeared in Kasama Jan/Mar 1996, "Heads Balintawak, Tails Pugad Lawin: Where did Bonifacio Utter the First 'Cry'?" and "The Death of Bonifacio".