Sixteen days. 1,500 kilometers. Possible danger. A much-needed call.
These were what priests and parishioners had in mind as they sent off Fr. Amado Picardal of Baclaran Church and his companion, Chito Generoso, on their biking journey from Manila to Iligan City on Wednesday.
Dubbed “Bike for Life and Peace,” the trip is the Redemptorist priest’s advocacy to call for an end to alleged extrajudicial killings under the illegal-drug war, the resumption of peace talks with communist and Muslim fighters, and the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.
Picardal said violence and martial law were not solutions to the illegal-drug problem or insurgency.
“Let us focus on the healing,” he said. “We have to continue the [peace] process, kasi mayroon nang mga breakthrough sa socio-economic reforms. Malapit na. That’s why we should not stop kasi may mga ambushes na pinapatay. We have to be patient.
“ ‘Yung martial law, hindi nakakatulong. Saka we don’t need that in Mindanao. It will open human rights violations, the spiral of violence. It will close the avenue to peace talks."
Picardal and Generoso will stop at churches along their route to rest, celebrate Mass, and preach what Picardal dubbed as “the gospel of peace.”
“It’s not just ako o kami. Sana in our own way let’s work for peace and work for the respect of life,” Picardal, 64, said.
Picardal said this is his fifth and possibly last long-haul biking journey before retiring.
He once biked from Davao to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, and also across the Philippines for various advocacies.
“This is special kasi I’m leaving Baclaran. I’ve been here 6 1/2 years, so it is like a departure. This could be the last, kasi mag-hermit na ako after this, a life of silence and solitude. So this will be the last advocacy. At the same time this is dangerous. May mga threats to my life,” he said.
“Running priest” Fr. Robert Reyes ran alongside the two from the church door to the gate after a morning Mass where they were prayed over.
Reyes also gave his own blessing to Picardal and Generoso, saying he would later catch up with the two and run to express his support.
Reyes and Picardal have long been outspoken about the deaths in the illegal-drug war.
“Kaming mga pari, hindi kami irrelevant. We do running, biking, and anything that ordinary people do in order to be with people and to make them feel tao rin kami,” he said.
Reyes decried what he called a serious threat to democracy and the cheapening of life. He called on Filipinos to also pray for the safety of Picardal and Generoso.