Fr SergeThe Farmers of the Philippines

Fr. Serge C. Maniba

(On 11 November 2016, Fr. Serge C. Maniba gave this presentation during the Missiology Forum held at the Institute for Consecrated Life.) 



This talk is about mercy and compassion: the essence of mission in Asia. The focus of my talk is about the farmers of the Philippines. In this talk I will try to answer the following questions: Who are the farmers of the Philippines? What are their faces? What is their situation? How should mercy and compassion be communicated, preached, shared with them?

According to Dr. Marilyn Elauria, in her paper submitted as a country paper for the International Seminar on Cultivating the Young Generation of Farmers with Farmland Policy Implications,1 May 25-29, 2015, MARDI, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia, of the 30 million hectares total land area of the Philippines, 9.67 million hectares is an agricultural area or about 30 percent of the total land area is cultivated by almost 5 million farmers. These farmers are spread all over the country from Luzon, down to Visayas and Mindanao.

I don’t intend to cover all the farmers of the Philippines because that is impossible to do. Instead, I will limit my scope to the “faces” of the farmers of Antique, of whom I am part of, and with whom I share life and ministry with. 



There are different kinds of farmers in the Philippines. A few who own a vast track of land and hire hundreds of workers to work in their farm: these are the rich farmers of the country. There are also farmers who are not so rich but own a considerable size of land and enjoy the fruits of their labors the whole year round without worrying where to get their food for their families. These are the middle class farmers and those others who live above the poverty line. And there are farmers who work hard in the farm but don’t own a land because they have no resources to buy their land. Either they are legal tenants of land owners or squatters in the land, or those we call illegal settlers because they cannot afford to reach even the level of legal tenancy. These are the poor farmers who are hired by land owners to work in their farms and receive a little from their labor; or the farmers who scour the land after harvest time to pick up and gather whatever is left in the farm, or those refuse that had fallen back to the ground after harvest time. These are the marginalized farmers, often faceless because they are unknown, thus nameless, and the poorest of the farmers.

Of these three categories of farmers, I will share with you something about those poorest, faceless, nameless, unknown farmers of the Philippines, specifically situated in Antique, a place where mountains meet the sea.

I am a rural boy and I carry with me different faces of farmers. I have beautiful memories of the life in the farm as well as the sad voices of groaning and suffering of farmers and their families that echo in the country side, filling every corner of the farmlands.

I was born in a family of farmers. I know the season of planting, growing, and harvesting. I know how to feed animals like goats, cows, carabaos, etc. Early in my life, I was privileged to experience what it means to be a child of farmers and to work by tilling the land. I volunteered, together with other children, to work during planting season so that we earn a little more for our school allowance because we get little from our parents. I know how to wait for the rice we planted until they yield their fruits on harvest time. And the time of waiting means shortage of food in the table of farmers, increase in loans as they have to borrow money to buy rice and other basic needs of their families, and hungry stomach for many children when their parents cannot anymore find people who will lend them more money.

When I was ordained as priest of the Diocese of San Jose, Antique, these “faces” of the farmers, and “faces” of the fisher folks as well, who are also faces of the poor, became clearer to me. The villages of the parishes I served are both situated in the mountains and near the sea. When I visit the mountain villages, I see farmers tilling the land either under the heavy down pour of the rain or under the scorching heat of the sun. Their physical built, small stature and wasted bodies, and the color of their skins already tell the tale of their stories: stories of poverty and their search for liberation and fullness of life. Taking a little time to listen to their stories, I heard the “cry of the poor” echoed in the groaning of these farmers.

Back in the comfort of parish rectory, the poor, most of them farmers, will knock at my door bringing with them a list of their needs, hoping the Church can provide them answers. 1. Money to buy seeds for planting; 2. Money to buy fertilizers when planting is over; 3. Money for the tuition fee of their children in school, as well as for school supplies, uniforms, and other miscellaneous fees. 4. Money to buy rice, oil for their lamps, fish, salt, etc. 4. Money for medicine or pay for hospital bills as many of them are sick and have no money to buy medicine or to pay the hospitalization. 5. Money for the casket and the burial of their sick who died due to lack of proper care, food, and medicine. The list is long and endless.

Encountering these marginalized farmers who belong to the category we call “the poor”, the face and names of these faceless and nameless farmers begin to emerge:

1.The small, dark-skinned, thin, “men”, head of the families or male children able to work in the farm.

2.The small, dark-skinned, thin, women, mothers nursing their malnourished kids, from a breast emptied of milk due to malnutrition.

3.Small, dark-skinned, malnourished, children crying for milk or food because their stomach still feel empty.

4.Small, dark-skinned, wasted physically, young people, going to school walking long distances, hungry because their breakfast has to be eaten later in the morning to serve as their lunch as well. They call their meal “brunch”: combination of breakfast and lunch. Many of them drop out of school when harvest season arrives because they have to go to the farm and help in harvesting the crops.



These are some of the faces of poverty of the farmers of the Philippines as revealed by the farmers of Antique.

There are many factors that cause the poverty of these farmer. One comes from the cycle of nature as the Philippines is visited by typhoons more than twenty times each year. Farms and the crops of the farmers, costing millions, are destroyed and lost in just a day or two when strong typhoons come. Worst and tragic of all is the loss of thousands of human lives that had been recorded just a few years ago. This week of, Yolanda victims, still carrying the wounds and pains of the tragedy, are commemorating the strongest typhoon that hit the Philippines (November 8, 2013) and had destroyed the thousand lives in Visayas.

Then comes the human factors that aggravate the situation of the poor farmers. Government policies and programs that are designed to alleviate the poverty of the people are riddled by corruption that siphoned the resources of the government, meant for the basic services of the people, into the pockets of unscrupulous politicians in cahoots with a few greedy individuals and their shadowy business transactions. Families of the victims of typhoon Yolanda continue to complain that government help comes so slow, while other victims of previous typhoons had lost the hope of ever receiving the aid promised them.

Corruption in the Philippines has many other faces than what I had mentioned. But sufficed to say here that natural calamities and corruption in the government have been the greatest cross the poor Filipino people, majority of them are farmers, have to carry each day.

Given this situation of the poorest of the farmers of the Philippines, revealed concretely in the many faces of poverty of the farmers of Antique, what is the mission of the Church towards them? And how should mission be done with them, among them, and for them?

As the theme of our forum today says: Mercy and Compassion is the essence of Mission in Asia. Pope Francis says: “The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person.”2 With these words Pope Francis invited the Church to celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which is a pilgrimage, a journey to the mercy of God. This journey is traditionally symbolized as a pilgrimage to Rome, during which the pilgrim crosses the threshold of the Holy Doors, at the four great basilicas in Rome.3 Here in the Philippines, Churches had been declared as pilgrim sites, just like in Rome, where people can go and cross the threshold of the Holy Doors of the Church as a symbolic act of crossing the threshold of God’s mercy.

Doing mission with mercy and compassion towards the farmers of the Philippines, is first of all, a spiritual journey into the heart of God, the source of mission. It is first an invitation to experience that mercy and compassion had been given us. Interpreting the invitation of Pope Francis, Mark-David Janus says that “crossing the threshold means leaving behind doubt and fear and allowing God’s love to embrace us. It is a spiritual journey representing the journey of our lives, a journey through our self-understanding, a journey that leads us to a complete and final trust in the love God is for us.4 There, in the merciful and compassionate heart of God, the individual believer and the Church as communion of believers, are transformed. We experience conversion, which is the transformation of hearts effected by the embrace of the merciful and compassionate Father.

This merciful and compassionate heart of God is revealed in the Sacred Scriptures. In Exodus 3: 1-22, when God called Moses through the burning bush, he said to Moses in verse 7: “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land and to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” The groaning of the suffering Israelites had reached heaven, had penetrated the heart of God, and evoked his mercy and compassion. Moved by their suffering, God had come down to deliver them from their misery caused by their fellow human beings, in the person of the Egyptians.

The farmers of the Philippines had been crying out in pain year after year. In faith we can say that their cries had reached heaven, heard by God, touched the heart of God; and as he came down from heaven to deliver the Israelites from their slavery, so God does today for all the suffering people of the world, the farmers included. His saving mercy and compassion had never been withdrawn since the time he had done it to the Israelites. The Sacred Scriptures recorded this enduring mercy and compassion of God translated in concrete through the mission of Moses, the prophets of the Old Testament, our Lord, Jesus Christ, his apostles, and the Early Church.

The essence of mission in Asia today is the nothing but the same mission that flows from the merciful and compassionate heart of God. This mercy and compassion is fully revealed in the life, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis said that “the message of Jesus is mercy…it is the Lord’s strongest message.”5 In the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on December 8, 2015, Pope Francis reminded the Church that “Mercy is very foundation of the Church’s life. All her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.”6 He continues to say: “The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”7



This is the Church that is born out of the heart of Jesus on the Cross: a missionary Church, as Jesus is the Missionary Son born out of the heart of a Missionary God. In Evangelii Gaudium 27, Pope Francis shares his dream of a Church that moves away from “conservation mode” to the “missionary mode;” from “mere administration” to “permanently in a state of mission;” an “outward-looking, rather than an inward-looking, church; a church more concerned about affairs “ad-extra” rather than issues “ad-intra” (EG 27-28)- preferring a “church bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security” (EG 49).8

This Missionary Church takes the poor, here the farmers, at heart and embraces them with mercy and compassion. The deepest and ultimate reason for this, according to Pope Francis, is the fact that:

“Our faith in Christ, who became poor and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members (EG 186). Each individual Christian and every community is called to be instrument of God for the liberation and the promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully part of society (EG 187). That is why, (says Pope Francis), I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us…We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization, (which is based on mercy and compassion), is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the center of the Church’s pilgrim way (EG 198).”9

The “mercy and compassion as essence of mission” transforms the Church to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open.10 Concretely, it means that the doors of our churches and parish rectories, are wide open to welcome the poor farmers with their long list of needs, even if we know we cannot answer all of them. It means welcoming the small-dark skinned, thin, men, women, young people, and children into our table and share with them our food as guests, friends, brothers and sisters, and not as beggars. It also means, we are willing to go out the doors of our comforts and enter the homes of the poor/farmers in the mountains and farmlands; to share a meal with them; listen to their stories of suffering as well as their dreams for a better life; and willing to stand up and walk with them as they claim their dignity as children of God, members of the household of God, in a society that had rejected them and relegated them to the margins of social, political, economic, and religious life.



To conclude this talk, let me quote the epilogue of Mark-David Janus, in his book Crossing the Threshold of Mercy. He said:

“God has chosen the path of mercy as the road Christian walk. During this holy year, we have been pilgrims on this road, journeying to the mercy of God. This is not a geographic pilgrimage, there were no mile markers, no fixed destinations, and this side of heaven, there is no end to our travels. This is a pilgrimage of the soul. We make the journey only to remind ourselves what we seek: the mercy of God, which by God’s mercy we already possess. We pilgrims make the journey together to encourage ourselves to keep believing in this merciful love, to believe it so deeply that we live it, to believe it so deeply that we bet our life on it, this life and our life hereafter.

Mercy is the path we aspire to walk; only mercy gives us the strength to live a life of mercy, and that same mercy leads to our ultimate destination, the last threshold we shall ever cross:”11

“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new…I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, I will be their God and they will be my children.” (Revelation 21: 3-7)”



1Marirlyn M. Elauria, “Farm Land Policy and Financing Program for Young Generation in the Philippines” (2015-06-09), http://ap.fftc.agnet.org/ap_db.php?id=448 (accessed November 9, 2016).

2Mark David Janus, Crossing the Threshold of Mercy (New York: Paulist Press, 2015), 1.


4Janus, Crossing the Threshold, 1. 

5Andrea Tornielli, The Name of God is Mercy, translated by Oonagh Stransky (London: Bluebird Books of Life, 2016), ix.

6Ibid., 39

7Janus, Crossing the Threshold, 5.

8See Antonio Pernia, “The Stranger and the Poor: Two Challenges to the Missionary Church in Evangelii Gaudium”, in Missio Inter Gentes vol. 1, no. 1 (January 2015), 37-56. 

9Ibid., 39. 

10Janus, Crossing the Threshold of Mercy, 5. 

11Janus, Crossing the Threshold of Mercy, 151-152.


















Fr Moraleda

Fr Moraleda2












Fr Moraleda3

Fr Moraleda 4












On this solemnity of all the saints, we declare our faith that truly, our communion with God and with one another as believers has no boundaries – whether space or time or culture or language. The liturgy today stretches our sense of time and sense of identity as Christian people and this fills us with hope.  We are part of a bigger whole, of an immense circle of holiness that we cannot even imagine now. Multitudes in the past, in the present, and in the years to come are mystically joined together, sharing a common salvation story in Christ, our Savior.  

In ICLA, we remember on this very day, the 8th anniversary of Fr. Domingo Moraleda’s tragic death on the road in 2008.

As the Founder and First Director of ICLA, he was a great visionary and missionary. He was man who was moved by compassion, and for that reason, he was always on the move. His burning passion was to gather together in this institute many religious men and women and laity from different Asian countries that they may receive higher education and experience transformation in Christ for mission in this region.

Despite his many imperfections, the message of his life was loud and clear: first, great faith in God and energy for the mission; and second, big, compassionate, generous and caring heart for people, especially for the ICLA community. People experienced him as both a fathering and mothering director. His love was felt, and it was so strong!

 Our being here today is a fruit of his many dreams, hard work, travels and prayers.The Moraleda legacies of self-sacrifice for mission, tender – mercy and vibrant community spirit continue to live on in this place, and will always be the hallmarks of ICLA education. To these we will commit.

Fr. Moraleda, pray for us in a special way as we continue our retreat.May God grant all of us the grace of awakening to who we truly are in God’s sight – already blessed and beloved daughters and sons of the Merciful One, whom you now behold, face to face.  

Prepared by Ms. Menchie Rojas

Fr Moraleda and Dianne

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Annual Retreat 2016





















On the 28th of October 2016, Fr. Paulini Zhai, SJ introduced the 8-day Ignatian Retreat to the ICLA resident students. An annual retreat is part of their integral formation as they pursue their masteral or doctoral studies in the Institute. As contained in the Vision statement of ICLA, the Institute is "an academic-formative community of higher learning..." The retreat is being held at the ICLA campus.

Assisting Fr. Paulini are nine Spiritual Directors/Companions to whom the retreatants go for spiritual direction/accompaniment. This is an important part of of the Ignatian Retreat. There is only one conference (45 minutes - 1 hour) and the rest of the day is spent in private prayer, except the common Eucharistic celebration in the evening, and spiritual accompaniment. This is a silent retreat and it is very inspiring to observe the students being silent each day. 

The Spiritual Directors/Companions are Fr. James Kannanthanam CMF, Sr. Cecilia Claparols RA, Sr. Vicky Palanca ICM, Sr. Nori Marquez FI, Sr. Li Lanxiu RSCJ, Sr. Amelia Vasquez RSCJ, Ms. Tessa Rosana, Sr. Elvie Camilion FCJ, and Fr. Fred Saniel SVD. Each retreatant goes for spiritual accompaniment during the retreat at least every other day. Some meet their spiritual companion every day.

We thank all of you who are praying for us during the retreat. Today, 1st of November, is the 4th day of the Ignatian Retreat.

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Written by Fr. Joseph Ly Van Thuong, OP


We are living in the spirit of Laudato Si', a very topical Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on "Care For Our Common Home".

Fortunately, all students of Spirituality and the Environment: JPIC of ICLA, AY 2016 had a nice opportunity for a two-day visit to the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, a green museum in Baguio City of the Philippines, on October 14 - 15, 2016.

I would like to share some aspects of my own personal experience about the interesting journey of our class.

First, Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary is situated in a 2.8-hectare land in the heart of Baguio City. It is not a wide place compared to many other places, but it is a very peaceful location covered by green pine trees, bamboos and other trees and decorated by many different kinds of multi-color flowers. Here, we breathe in and out the very fresh air, and we seem to hear the whispers of our mother earth through the rustling and fluttering of pine leaves. Here, too, we raise our voices with the birds' singing and insects' chirping of "Praises to the Lord."

Second, Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, as a green museum, encourages us to become more conscious of the earth's limited resources and be aware of how our actions affect their power to sustain life. “The earth's resources are being plundered… The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future…” (Cf. LS, no. 32).

Third, Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary not only enlightens us to love nature and to live with the simple and natural things that are very familiar to us in our daily life. A small landed house with its thatched roof and without the material conveniences of the modern world remind us about the spirit of Christian poverty, as the example of "the poverty and austerity of Saint Francis [to be] no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled" (LS, no. 11).

Fourth, as its mission, Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary not only promotes a holistic understanding of the Earth through scientific data, but also preserves the values of ancient customs and traditions of the indigenous cultures and the rich spiritualties of all great religions of the world through the language of symbols. In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and cultural traditions and true religions of the peoples all over the world (Cf. LS, no. 146).

Finally, visiting Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary help us to love all things that God created with the spirit of deep thanksgiving, to live a peaceful mind and to be satisfied with simple things in life in order to deeply sympathize with the poor and share the suffering of our mother Earth. In other words, to live the ecological spirituality we are invited to sacrifice a part of our life to God, to the happiness of others, to the fraternity, to justice, to peace, to human dignity, to the universal cosmos and to all God’s creatures. In short, to be close to nature is to be closer to God.





A retreat is a special time in our community life in ICLA to consciously focus on our Lord Jesus and let him be the center of our lives and our vocation. In our annual retreat on this Jubilee Year of God’s Mercy, may we encounter the Lord in a surprising way, that we may see everything more clearly, love God more dearly and follow him more nearly, especially at this stage of our spiritual journey.

The resident students’ annual retreat is one of the highpoints of ICLA’s academic year. It is usually held on campus for five days and the retreat master chooses the theme and designs the dynamics taking into consideration the students’ needs and the recommendations of the CARES staff. In the past 4 years, the organizers invited retreat facilitators from India (2012) the Philippines (2013), Belgium (2014), and Japan (2015). This year, the Institute has opted for an 8-day (October 29 - November 5, 2016) silent, directed retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. The Retreat Master is Fr. Paulini Zhai, a Jesuit priest from China but residing in the Philippines. During the preparatory meeting with the CAREs staff, he emphasized that this particular style of retreat is not so much about listening to “great input” or “power – talks.” Rather, it is primarily about making a wide space for God who is already here and who wants be found, encountered in all things. Generosity in prayer, openness to the Spirit and to the spiritual director/ companion can help in making the retreat fruitful and effective.

The Holy Spirit is the real director of the retreat, but the role of Spiritual Directors or Spiritual Companions is so vital in the process. The students will meet individually with a spiritual director for about 30-45 minutes every other day (or four times during the 8 days), to share their experience of prayer or about whatever is going on between them and God throughout the day. For majority of the ICLA students, going for Spiritual Direction is something new, but those who already have been seeing their Spiritual Companion on a regular basis attest that it has been helping them grow in knowing the Lord more closely, having self-awareness and in integrating prayer and life. Serving as Spiritual Directors / Spiritual Companions during this retreat are competent spiritual guides. They are men and women who have personally undergone Ignatian retreats and received training in the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises.

ICLA Director Fr. Sammy Canilang, CMF hopes that this very first experience of a silent, directed retreat will help the ICLA students to truly experience God in a more personal way and deepen their relationship with Christ. He also envisions that the different forms of prayer that they will use during the retreat such as Lectio Divina, imaginative contemplation and praying over one’s life-experiences will enable them to be grounded in God amidst their daily activities.

Prepared by Ms. Menchie Rojas





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