IN CELEBRATION of its 20th year in the newspaper industry in this part of the country, Sun.Star Davao bestows the prestigious Gawad Dabawenyo Award to a church worker and a respected anthropologist, artist and peace advocate based in Mindanao.
Bro. Carlito M. Gaspar, Ph.D CSsR, simply Bro. Karl to his colleagues and friends, has been cited for being "a true authority on life's purpose and spirituality."
Bro. Karl joins past awardees, namely: Perfecto Yasay, former Security and Exchange Commission chair; Davao-born songwriter/singer Joey Ayala; civic leader Irene Santiago; the late staunch advocate of peace and federalism Rey Magno Teves; Mother Ma. Assumpta M. David RVM, and former Philippine Women's College of Davao president lawyer Rosa Santos Munda.
A Redemptorist brother, Bro. Karl is also a poet-songwriter, a professor, a prolific book writer especially about the indigenous peoples and a political detainee at the height of the Marcos dictatorship and still standing up for peace decades hence.
He is described most by his colleagues as a man with spirituality that embraces the poor and the oppressed.
Born on June 8, 1947 in Davao City, Bro, Karl completed his doctoral degree in Philippine Studies from the University of the Philippines (UP) in Quezon City in 2001. He is a post graduate of Master of Science in Economics from Asian Social Institute in Manila in 1971, and a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Ateneo de Davao University in 1967.
Bro. Karl grew up in the cities of Davao and Digos. His parents Salvador and Josefina Gaspar, who originated from Capiz and Pangasinan, respectively, decided to transfer to Davao City just before the outbreak of the World War II.
"Being a brother has always been my first choice when I thought of my religious vocation. I did not want to become a priest. Why a brother? Mainly because the choices of a brother are much better and wider than becoming a priest," Gaspar, in an e-mail, said.
As a writer, Karl has authored several books, including novels, and contributed a number of articles and essays to various publications in the Philippines and abroad.
"I also wanted a greater sense of freedom and not be ne confined to doing parish work or maintaining sacramental duties. As brother, my choice of ministry is also much wider. Thus I could be a professor, a non-government organization (NGO) worker, do grassroots work among the poor, and be a journalist, among the others," he added.
Bro. Karl was a victim of Marcos Dictatorship. He was arrested on September 23, 1972 and placed under house arrest for three months. Then, he was arrested and imprisoned overnight in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato in 1974, detained for 22 months at Davao Metrodiscom stockade, acquitted by Regional Trial Court (RTC) and released in February 1985.
It was in 1985 when Karl joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorist) as a Religious Brother.
At present, Bro. Karl is also a lecturer, resource person, evaluator and consultant of various educational institutions, church and non-governmental organizations with several awards and citations.
He considers travelling different parts of the world as his greatest achievement, saying he had visited places which he only dreamed of when he was a young boy.
But at the same time, he said: "I have also reached practically all corners of the Philippines and Mindanao, thus I could claim to have been able to be familiarize with what is Filipino, what is Mindanawon. To have been able to actually live among Muslim and Lumad communities, know their culture, be in touch with my roots and yet remain a strong advocate for their rights to their land and their struggle for self-determination."
Bro. Karl also said that he is extra proud of the fact that he has hundreds of close friends representing various cultures, faith traditions, genders, races, ages, classes and able to appreciate the richness of Mindanawon cultures, adding that in his advanced years, he was able to mentor young people so that they too are inspired to continue the struggles for justice, peace and integrity of creation.
When asked if he is already happy and contented with his life, Bro. Karl said: "By and large, I am most happy with my life right now as I am still able to do things I love to do including to travel, strengthen my family ties and my vocation as a redemptorist brother, meet new friends, write books, do art work, nurture a garden work, nurture a garden of flowers and herbs, deepen my spirituality and find time to have fun and enjoy the blessings of life."