Fr. Picx begins 56-day bike “for life and peace” around the country

Several other bikers, including another priest, were expected to join them along the way from the Archbishop’s House along Torres Street to Bankerohan, Matina, Ulas, Mintal, Calinan all the way to Buda – but how many of them would make it to the boundary of Bukidnon-Davao (hence the name, Buda), about 88 kilometers from downtown  is, as of presstime, still unanswered.

Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla sent off the bikers with a blessing that biking is a form of self-sacrifice. “If people make sacrifice for peace and life, our country will be transformed,” he said.

Picardal has dubbed his 56-day, 5,000 kilometer bike journey as “Philippine Bike-Tour for Life and Peace: Preaching the Gospel of Life amidst the Culture of Death.”

The Redemptorist priest who also serves as Dean of Academics at the St. Alphonsus Theologate here, had biked “for peace” across the country for 18 days from Davao to the northernmost part of Luzon in 2000 and for 21 days around Mindanao in 2006 “for life and peace.” He will bike alone most of the time  in the next two months but will be accompanied by local bikers who share his vision and mission.

On Day One, the Davao-Buda leg, Picardal was accompanied by Bishop Bagaforo; Bong Dublan, parish priest of GSIS Village; Melvin Maglana of the San Pablo Church and. Fr. Amado Dice of  the Archdiocese of Cotabato. Capalla said Fr. Dioscoro Saniel was joining the team in Ulas.

Picardal brought with him a backpack containing a Soutana, a Bible,  prayer book,  Pope John Paul II’s  Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) which Picardal describes as “my inspiration,” change of clothing and a palmtop to allow him to blog his journey.

He will drop by Malacanang after his northern Luzon journey on April 27 to deliver a letter to President Arroyo. He showed reporters the sealed envelop containing the letter, the contents of which he will read outside Malacanang that day.

“Today I begin my journey around the Philippine on a bicycle. I will be pedaling around 5,000 kilometers in 56 days – from Davao across Central and Western Visayas  to the tip of Northern Luzon and traversing the Cordilleras on my way back to Davao through Southern Luzon, the Eastern Visayas and Eastern Mindanao. I will be biking the entire distance alone but I will be accompanied at times by local bikers as I pass their cities and towns,” the opening paragraph of his departure statement read. (see full text)

“In every parish where I will stay for the night, I will celebrate the Eucharist and preach the gospel of life and peace. I do this because we live in a land where the value and sanctity of life is disregarded, a society where the culture of death and violence prevails. There are various manifestations of this culture of death and I would like to focus on the following concerns: abortion; ongoing armed conflict/war in the countryside; spate of killings of militants, journalists and suspected petty criminals; environmental destruction and graft and corruption,” he said.

“These  are manifestations of the culture of death in our country. They cause so much suffering and death to our people. They manifest a total disregard for the value of life. It is in the midst of this culture that I wish to preach the gospel of life. Life is sacred. No to abortion, no to war (whether people’s war or the counter-insurgency war), no to the extrajudicial killings, no the destruction of the environment. No to graft and corruption,” he said.

Picardal said he is dedicating his bike tour to “the victims of this culture of death” which he listed as “the millions of the aborted – the unborn children murdered in their mother’s womb,” the “casualties of the armed conflict – combatants and non-combatants,” the “militants, journalists and suspected petty-criminals who have been executed,” and the “millions affected by the destruction of the environment.”

Picardal also appealed to “women with unwanted pregnancy, those doctors,  nurses, and hilots involved in abortion: Stop killing the unborn human beings.”

“Abortion is not a right. It is crime, it is a grievous sin. Choose life not death. Allow the children to see the light of day. If you cannot care for them, let others who can take care of them and shower them with their love. Let us build a society that is child-friendly. Children are not a curse, they are a blessing. They are the hope of the future.”

He urged government and military leaders and leaders of the revolutionary movement, “especially the NDF/CPP/NPA and the MILF: No more war. No more killings and destruction of property. Resume the peace negotiation without precondition and come up with a peace settlement that addresses the roots of the armed conflict.”

He also appealed to ordinary citizens, civil society groups and the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) to be peace-makers. “Let us build up the peace movement, help create more peace zones and pressure the government and the revolutionary movements to pursue the path of peace,” he said.

He asked the leadership of the “government and military”  to “put an end to extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances and bring the perpetrators to justice” and to “Respect the rule of law and human rights.”

He also appealed to the public to  “respect and defend the environment. Impose a total log ban nationwide. Repeal the mining act. Ban aerial spraying in banana plantations” and to “stop corruption at all levels of society – from top to bottom.”

“Life is precious, life is sacred. Let us put a stop to this culture of death, violence and corruption. May the fullness of life and peace of the risen Christ prevail in our land,” he wrote. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)