Fields of Hope: Stories of Hope

(This is the preface of the book, Fields of Hope: Stories of Inter-religious Dialogue and Peace-building which Fr. Roberto C. Layson read at the launching Friday at the Royal Mandaya Hotel in Davao City).

“Pads, let’s publish these stories in book form,”

Carol Arguillas of MindaNews suggested to me one day. She was referring to some of the articles that I published in my column “Fields of Hope” in MindaNews.

In the countryside, story-telling is the medium of communication. You are most likely to be understood by your audience if you use stories to convey your message. I found out it is also true even in the metropolis. Indeed, story-telling is a powerful way of sending a message. It’s based on human experience which makes it easy for your audience to relate. It’s a particular experience but carries a universal message.

“It’s not yet time, Ca,” I told Carol.

I have been keeping these stories for sometime now. Some of these stories I have written way back when I was assigned in Tawi-Tawi and Jolo. But most of the stories in this book are experiences in Pikit where I stayed for 10 years as coordinator of the Inter-religious Dialogue Ministry of my congregation and the Archdiocese of Cotabato.

I decided to publish these stories after spending time reflecting, writing, re-writing and editing them during my sabbatical year (June 2008 to May 2009). Just like my first book, In War, the Real Enemy is War Itself, this book is supposed to be part of our advocacy campaign. But unlike the previous one that simply took into account the images of war, this one, I pray, will bring hope. The stories contained in this book have one message: that inter-religious dialogue and peace-building are not entirely impossible.

Actually what we are doing on inter-religious dialogue and peace-building at the grassroots may just be small initiatives. The results may not be noticed right away.

One thing I love to do as a priest is going to the barrio to say mass. There, I would pass by the vast fields. In May, when the rain starts to fall, you see the fields practically totally bare. It does not mean, though, that nothing is happening just because you don’t see anything on the ground. Actually, the seeds have been planted and soon they will grow. (Fr. Roberto C. Layson spent the first 20 years of his priesthood  — 1988 to 2008 — as parish priest of Bongao in Tawi-tawi; Jolo in Sulu and Pikit in North Cotabato.   He has been parish priest of Kulaman, Sultan Kudarat since 2009).