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The BEC of Miatub, Tulunan, Cotabato:

A Case Study by Fr. Amado Picardal. CSsR


Number and Gender Make-up

The BEC of Miatub is a rural community. There are 56 families that make up the community and all of these are considered members of the BEC. Each family normally has four to five members.

The community is further divided into 5 family groupings with ten to eleven families per grouping.

However, the number of those who are actively involved in the various activities of the community varies. Thus, we can look at the whole community as composing three concentric circles. There is an inner circle of 15 persons who make up the leadership and the core group. These are the people who are very active and who are always present in all the activities. There are around five men and ten women in this group. Then, there is the middle circle consisting of 35 persons. These are the people whose attendance and involvement in the community activities are not regular or consistent. The rest are found in the peripheral circle. While they are aware of themselves as members of the community, they are not actively involved in the activities. They turn out on very special ocassions, like the Eucharist, the fiesta, Christmas and Holy Week.
 

Socio-Economic Background of the Members

Most of the members are farmers. They belong to the lower class in society. While their standard of living has improved, they remain below the poverty line.

They depend on the soil for their living. They grow rice and corn. Each family has a carabao, pigs and chickens. Some have cattle.

Not all own the land they till. Some are tenants. While there is a communal farm, it is only 5 hectares.

The people are at the mercy of the unpredictable weather. They were affected by the drought caused by the El Nino in 1996. They were not able to plant. Many had to subsist on root croops and wild plants in order to survive. Many were forced to sell the cows that were given to them by the government in order to buy rice. Thus, the cattle dispersal program failed.

The Multi-Purpose Cooperative has not been doing well. The consumer cooperative went down due to mismanagement, corruption and the failure. Due to the lack of trust in the manager, the people stopped paying their debts. The people accused the manager of anomalous transaction. They filed a complaint to the government and he was jailed for several weeks. The community forgave the manager but they sacked him.With the construction of a new warehouse and a store, there is a renewed effort to revive the coop. Since there is still P2 million left from the government grant, they have applied for funding for a new transportation and capital for a marketting and credit cooperative.
 

Frequency of Gatherings

The community gathers weekly for the Bible-service. Attendance varies. The average is 40 persons. Sometimes it goes down to 20 and at other times it goes up to 50.

Filipinos are family oriented and this can affect the attendance in the community activities. When one member of the family is present, he or she represents the whole family. That is why, when the wife is present, the husband and the children would just stay at home. When both parents cannot come, they send of the children.

The family groupings are supposed to meet once a month but not all are able to do this. There are only two family grouping who meet regularly.

The Eucharist is celebrated once every two months. When the priest comes to celebrate mass with them, the entire community turn up.

There are also annual/seasonal activities when majority of the members of the community are present: the fiesta and the nine-nights novena leading to the fiesta, Christmas and the nine days of bible-service as preparation, the Holy Week.
 

Pattern of Leadership

The leadership structures appear democratic and participative. There is a Kapilya Pastoral Council which is the leadership council headed by the Pangulo sa Kapilya (leader of the community) . There is also the Peace Zone council headed by the Peace Zone chairman.

Thus, the emphasis is on the council as a body rather than individual leaders. Decisions are made with the active participation of the members of the council.

It seems that the Peace Zone chairman, Nonoy Jacin, is exercising a more influential role than the Pangulo sa Kapilya.
 

Relationship with the Parish and Diocese

The commmunity of Miatub is part of a network of  BECs within the parish. There are 47 communities in the parish and these are clustered into 4 districts. The Miatub community is part of the first district that encompasses 10 BECs. The leaders and core-groups of the various communities in the district hold regular meeting once every two months. The parish priest normally attends these meetings. There is a member of the parish staff that oversees and monitors the communities in the first district.

Since the late 1970s, the Diocese of Kidapawan has adopted as its pastoral thrust the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities. These communities now exist in all the 15 parishes of the diocese numbering over 700. The structure and activities of these communities are similar to the one in Miatub. Thus, the BECs are considered as the most basic ecclesial unit in the parish and the local Church.

The diocesan commissions (Formation, Worship, Social Action/Justice & Peace, Youth, etc) are all geared towards the promotion and support of the small Christian communities.

The Diocesan General Assembly (DGA) is usually held every three years. The preparation for the DGA usually begins at the level of the BEC up to the district level, the parish level, the vicariate level. The BECs are represented in the DGA. The decisions, goals and thrust of the DGA are also implemented down to the parish level and the BECs.
 
 


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A Letter from the BEC of Miatub




May the peace of the Risen Lord be with you!

We are basic ecclesial community of Miatub, Tulunan, Cotabato, located in Central Mindanao, Philippines. Our community is part of the Zones of Peace which comprise 4 communities.

We used to be members of the BEC in Tuburan. This community was formed in the late 1970s with the help of Fr. Peter Geremiah, PIME, an Italian foreign missionary. Fr. Geremiah and his team gave a series of seminars about BECs. There were over 100 families who made up this community. We would gather every Sunday in the community chapel for bible-service.

In the early 1980s, the area in Tuburan and the neighboring communities became the scene of armed clashes between communist New People’s Army guerrillas and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. There were many military men who died as well as guerrilla fighters. We were caught in the crossfire. This affected our livelihood since we could no longer go to our farms to plant and harvest our crops.

In 1986, a group of paramilitary forces, led by the Manero brothers murdered our parish priest Fr. Tullio Favale. The killing took place not far from Tuburan. The killers claimed that Fr. Favale was a communist supporter. The brutal murder of our parish priest angered a lot of people and consequently, the spiral of violence escalated. Military operations were conducted against small Christian communities that the government suspected of aiding the guerrillas. Many leaders of these communities were arrested and some were also murdered.

In 1989, the BEC in Bituan, was harrassed by the military. The homes of the people were burned and they had to transfer to an evacuation center. With the support of Fr. Ronnie Villamor, the parish priest, they decided to negotiate with the government and the military so that they could establish a Peace Zone –- an area where no armed group, whether government or guerrillas, could enter and where no armed clashes could take place. They also communicated through radio their intention to the New People’s Army and received assurance that their decision would be respected. Thus, in 1990, the people had their exodus from the evacuation center to the Bituan Peace Zone. A few months later, the neighboring BEC of Alimodian followed suit by establishing their own Peace Zone.

Inspired by the establishment of the Peace Zones in Bituan and Alimodian, some of us belonging to the BEC  in Tuburan wanted to declare our own Peace Zone. However, the community was divided. Out of over a hundred families, there were only 40 families who supported the idea. We decided to separate from the community and establish our own Peace Zone in Miatub.

In February 1991, after negotiating with the government and the military, we relocated to Miatub and inaugurated our own Peace Zone. One of the first things we did was to build our own community chapel and to organize ourselves as a small Christian community. We asked the parish priest to recognize our new community in Miatub. In March 19, 1991, we celebrated the fiesta of our patron saint, St. Joseph. This was the first time that the parish priest celebrated the Eucharist with the new community in the Miatub peace zone.

Since 1991 up to the present (2002), we have lived in peace. No armed group has entered our area and there has been no armed clashes between the government forces and the communist New People’s Army guerrillas. Through the years, our community has continued to grow and develop.

As a BEC, we gather every Sunday for the Bible-Service. This is led by the Kaabag –- a lay liturgical leader—who has been be chosen by the community. The five family groupings take turn in sponsoring the Bible-Service. A family grouping that sponsors the liturgy comes together a week before to prepare the liturgy. The members go over the readings, select the theme, compose the introduction and the prayers, and select the persons who will share their reflections during the Bible-Service. The Bible-Service has two parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Communion-Service. The Liturgy of the Word is similar to the first part of the Mass. Usually after the readings, the Kaabag and some other members of the community share their reflections. After the prayers of the faithful, the second part follows – the Communion-Service. Since there is no consecration, prayers are said that recall the Eucharist that is being celebrated in the parish church. After the singing of the Our Father, we receive holy communion from the Kaabag. (The Kaabag usually go the parish church the day before to get the consecrated hosts).

There is a community assembly once every two months. This usually takes place after the Bible-Service. During the assembly, matters affecting the community are discussed and decisions are made.

The parish priest celebrates the Eucharist with us once every two months. This is for us a very joyful event. This is the time when almost all the members of the community gather at the community chapel. After the Mass, we have the opportunity to talk with our parish priest, Fr. Fred Palomar, and let him know what is happening in our community.

Our parish priest also celebrates the Eucharist with us during our community fiesta in honor of St. Joseph. Nine nights before the fiesta, we gather in the chapel for the fiesta novena. The fiesta is the time when we share our food with one another and with our guests.

We celebrate Christmas as community. For nine mornings before Christmas, we gather at the chapel at 4:00 dawn for Bible-Service. During the Christmas day, we have a Bible-Service in the chapel followed by a Christmas party.

During the Holy Week, we have our own liturgical celebration in our chapel led by the Kaabag. On Palm Sunday, we gather in the chapel and bring our palms to be blessed as we recall the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. On Holy Thursday, we have Bible-Service and the washing of the feet to commemorate Christ’s last supper. On Good Friday, we celebrate Christ’s passion and then have the Via Crucis around the area. On Easter Sunday, we come together very early in the morning for Bible-Service to celebrate Christ’s resurrection.

During the month of May, we celebrate the Flores de Mayo. The children would bring flowers to the chapel in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the members of the Formation committee would give them catechism every afternoon. At the end of the month, the whole community comes together for the culmination of the Flores de Mayo and we would have a common meal.

The BEC  is led by the council of leaders -- the Kapilya Pastoral Council (chapel pastoral council). This is composed of the Pangulo sa Katilingban (community leader), the Kaabag (lay liturgical leader), the secretary, treasurer, the leaders of the family groupings and the persons in charge of formation and the justice & peace. The council meets once every other month and as the need arises.

Since our community is part of the Peace Zone, there is also a Peace Zone Council with nine members (3 representatives of the small Christian community, 3 representatives from the local government unit and 3 representatives from the people’s organization and non-government organization). The peace zone council is headed by the chairman of the peace zone.

Since we are mostly farmers, we spend our day to day life working in the farm. We have mutual-help system called dagyaw. Whenever someone plants or harvest rice and corn, the other members of the community come and help out. So we help each other. During times of need, we have system of lending rice to each other. We can borrow rice from our neighbors and repay them with rice later. Whenever a member of the community is sick, he or she can borrow from the community common fund.

After we declared our area as a Peace Zone, we have been receiving financial assistance from the government and various Non-Government Organizations. In 1996, the government declared the Peace Zones as special development areas. A grant of 5 million pesos was allocated to our community. We have used part of the money to buy the land on which our houses stand. We also bought 5 hectares of land which we use as a communal farm. We bought farm equipments that we can all use. Water and electrical facilities were also installed. There were several livehood programs that we started such as cattle-raising and carabao dispersal. We recently built a store and a warehouse for our cooperative. We will be buying a small truck that will bring our produce to the town.

This is the service that we have offered to each other and to other communities in the Philippines -- bringing about peace and development in our area. This can provide an example of what communities can do in the midst of armed conflict.

Recently we celebrated our BEC day. We all spent the whole day and evening in the chapel with Fr. Fred Palomar (our parish priest) and with the members of the parish team. In the morning, Fr. Fred gave us a talk on the significance of our gathering. He reminded us what it means to be a BEC -- a witnessing, worshipping and serving community. After him, a member of the parish team gave a talk about Vision-Mission-Goals of the Diocese of Kidapawan which was finalized in the Diocesan General Assembly last year. The goals and recommendations were discussed. In the afternoon, we had a workshop on how we can concretely implement these goals and recommendations in our BEC especially in the area of formation, worship and service. In the evening Fr. Fred celebrated the Eucharist with us. Then we had an agape -- a common meal. The rest of the evening was spent in socials and cultural presentation. It was, indeed, a very enjoyable event for all of us.

We will now share with you our reflection on today’s readings (2nd Week of Easter: Acts 2:42-47, Jn 20:19-31)

The Gospel relates to us the encounter of the Risen Lord with his disciples. His greeting to them: "Peace be with you!" Peace is the gift that the risen Christ brings to all. The first reading shows us the effect of the encounter of the risen Christ with his disciples and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They lived in a new way as a community, in union with one another, listening constantly to the teachings of the apostles, praying together, breaking bread together, and sharing their material resources. Through their life as a community they gave witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

We, too, have experienced the risen Lord in our lives and received the gift of peace. We too have experienced our own resurrection. On February 19, 1991, we established the Peace Zone here in Miatub. This is the fruit of our encounter with the Risen Lord. After being dominated by the power of sin and death, after experiencing a lot of hardships due to poverty and violence, we have risen to a new life – a life of peace and development. We now live in peace.

Like the early disciples, we too, are living as a BEC. We live in unity and friendship with one another. We come together to listen to the Word of God and share our reflections. We pray with one another and celebrate the presence of the risen Lord in our midst. We share our material resources with one another. We help one another so that no one is in need. By living in the Peace Zone as a BEC, we give witness to the presence of the risen Lord in our midst.

Sincerely,

Tony Pamonag - Pangulo sa Katilingban (Leader of the Community)
Nonoy Jacin – Chairman, Miatub Peace Zone

April 7, 2002

(drafted in English with the help of Fr. Amado Picardal)