Tell it to SunStar: Honoring two icons of national democratic movement

Tell it to SunStar: Honoring two icons of national democratic movement

Bayan Negros gives its highest honors to Monsignor Felix Pasquin and Fr. Romeo Empestan, two of the consistent national democrats, who have been active in various capacities and levels in the national democratic mass movement on the island of Negros.

The two were among the thousands of clergy, laymen, and women, members of Basic Christian Communities, religious men and women of different denominations, Aglipayan, and other ecumenical churches, who formed the core of a broad progressive Christian movement on the island, consistently working for a truly just, nationalist, and democratic society.

Monsignor Pasquin and Fr. Empestan were products of their own times – the wind of the Church of the poor spurred by the Vatican II, the brutal Marcos fascist dictatorial regime that caused the death and dislocation of hundreds of thousands, the massive plunder of our resources, and put our country under stronger puppetry to US imperialism, and the structural violence of the monocrop sugar-based economy of Negros society ruled by few big landlords in cahoots with big capitalist compradors forming the biggest and well entrenched political dynasties in the country.

Amid the deplorable conditions and the pressures of martial law regime, Monsignor Pasquin and Fr. Empestan have not hesitated to put themselves on the frontlines of people’s democratic struggles, immersing themselves in the realities of the Basic Christian communities while painstakingly remolding their middle-class conveniences and vacillating political standpoints.

On many occasions, in various parts of the island, the two have risked their security and lives by defending the sugar workers, farmers, and urban poor from fire from the state security forces.

The two likewise demonstrated their dedication and intellectual brilliance in developing servant leaders; for Fr. Empestan in helping guide the potential leaders and trainers of Basic Christian Communities, and also in initiating the establishment of non-government institutions dedicated to basic sector concerns; for Monsignor Pasquin in giving inspiration to aspiring priests and sisters, enlightening them on the dynamics of the redemptive mission work; and in invigorating the social communication and media of the Diocesan churches of Bacolod to one that truly espouses truth and justice, and inspirational “Vincit Omnia Veritas," truth conquers all.

In the ups and downs, twists and turns in the life of the Diocese and the national democratic movement, as well as in the post-Marcos regimes to the latter part of their senior life, Monsignor Pasquin and Fr. Empestan have never waivered their commitment and dedication to the national democratic movement and the causes of the basic sectors, though in a more quiet and sober way.

For no less than 50 years of their lives in the service of the poor, oppressed, and exploited, Monsignor Pasquin and Fr. Empestan have exemplified that Christians, in times of peace and war, must remain steadfast, innovative and dynamic in fulfilling God’s transformative liberation of mankind.

Today, our economic, political, cultural, and environmental conditions have remained substantially the same 50 years later. Consequent contradictions of such conditions are rapidly sharpening and polarizing, and the people and Christian churches are faced with the burning issues of the day, especially the worsening food crisis, the energy, water, and transportation crisis, the human rights violations, justice and accountability, the climate crisis, the legitimacy of the Marcos Jr. administration, and the impending charter change moves of the administration and the elites.

With no fuss or muss, Bayan Negros calls on all Christians, patriotic and democratic forces, to stand up and emulate the life of Monsignor Pasquin and Fr. Empestan – a life of living, working, and praying like Jesus, seeing the world from the eyes of the oppressed and exploited, and transforming the world in the ways of the apostles and the prophets.

Bayan Negros also calls on the Christian churches to remain firm in their mission as prophetic consciences and servants of the people and Philippine society.

In grateful recognition of the contribution of the two, Bayan Negros and the national democratic movement on the island, give the highest honor to our brothers and friends, Monsignor Pasquin and Fr. Empestan.

Farewell, and padayon kita! (Bayan Negros)


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