Fr. Robert Reyes: The Running and Excommunicated Priest

When Gerry Ortega an environmentalist was murdered , Father Roberto Reyes decided to run as an advocacy to raise awareness to the Filipino people about the need to love the environment by saving the forest, mountains and become concerned about Human Rights and Environmental killings.

“Takbundukan” Takbo para sa kabundukan” is the latest journey from Manila to Mount Makiling (Los Banos, Laguna) also with runners from Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) and members of Earth Day Network Philippines (EDNP).

Father Roberto “Robert” Reyes is encouraging all Filipinos to see the importance of spending time in the mountains rather than in the mall. He said “Instead na mag Mall, mamundok.” He also said that most Filipinos don’t love the environment and nature. DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said the advocacy run is also in conjunction with the observance of Proclamation No. 125 issued by President Aquino on March 15 declaring 2011 as the “National Year of Forests” in support of the declaration by the United Nations of the year 2011 as “International Year of Forests” with the theme: “Forests for People.”

Every 24th of the month, Father Reyes is making sure that he is spending time with his family and people of Palawan. This forms part of his advocacy to spread awareness about the environmental killings in which he said that a lot of powerful backers from the government and even the Catholic Church cannot do anything about it. He said that “Bishops or priest are humans only, pag binigyan na ng free hospitalization, may utang na loob na sa mining corporation.”

There are 350 Mining applications so far that was cancelled by President Noynoy Aquino and even ABS CBN Foundation Gina Lopez is gathering 10 million signatures to stop the mining in Palawan. Father Robert Reyes is well known as the running priest in the Philippines and encouraging everyone to have a more positive approach in dealing with life everyday.

Everyday, Fr. Reyes adds soil in a bottle, seeds and his bamboo cane to show to everyone the importance of nature. From U.S News Las Vegas, The three-day run from June 6 to 8 started from the DENR central office in Visayas Avenue, taking the Manila-Pasay-Las Pinas-Muntinlupa route to reach Laguna province passing through San Pedro, Binan, Sta Rosa and Calamba cities culminating at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB) where tree planting of “Balakat-gubat” (Balakata luzonica ‘vidal’ Esser), an indigenous tree species thriving in Mount Makiling, was participated in by the UPLB academe community and DENR-Region 4 officers and employees headed by Regional Executive Director Nilo Tamoria.

Father Reyes is doing a Pilgrimage to the Mountains. He said that our Nature is sacred. Lastly he said that “Ang tingin sa kalikasan (Ng ibang tao), a commodity very materialistic and that is lost of faith, we can go to church but without love in environment, it will be like an atheist, you cannot love Mammon (Money) and God. Mammon is slavery to material things. Mall start with letter of M, money starts with letter M, Mammon start with letter M.” He also said that he wants to connect those people in the mainland to go to the mountains . Most kids from Manila “ ay hindi pa nakakahawak ng lupa (soil). This run is a Nationwide campaign. When asked if may kinalaman ba ang mga politicians sa environmental killings he said “yes” because the masterminds are very influential in the society. He said that they control the courts and a large number of judges down to Regional Trial Court can be bought and that so far 128 Environmental martyrs has been murdered since Martial law.

He said that because he was jailed before in Manila for 60 days due to his political involvement, the bishop of Hong Kong excommunicated him. When he went back to that country, they didn’t allow him to do the Mass and asked him to vacate the room where he was staying. He said that because of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill which is the hottest issue right now and with respect to the involvement of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines (CBCP), the Bishops are so focused with the issue rather than the environment . He thinks the environment is in need of attention too and that some priest have close ties with the mining business and mining corporations.