Episcopal Commission on the 
Biblical Apostolate

Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines

FROM THE DESK OF THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

EASTER MESSAGE


Our faith tradition is a beautiful one because it speaks to us of life, hope and joy.

During the Lenten season we journeyed together with Jesus in every step of his Passion until his cruel death on the cross. We followed and listened to his last words on the cross as recorded by the evangelists and may even have felt the pangs of suffering which his disciples and Mother Mary felt then while they watched him hanging on the cross, dying slowly. Death followed with his last cry of submission, “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.”

Death, perceived to be the end of everything by people then, was a fearful state. The powers that be, killed Jesus to get rid of him thinking that the values and principles of the kingdom which he fearlessly preached will die with him. Even his disciples were distraught, discouraged, disappointed because the person whom they thought will save them died… died a shameful death.

Our story of faith goes on with Mary Magdalen who, though grief stricken took courage to go to the borrowed tomb of Jesus intending to take his body and prepare it for a proper burial. But the body was not there. She rushed to the apostles with her news of the empty tomb. The apostles led by Peter went to the tomb themselves to check and when indeed the body was not there, they left the place. But Mary Magdalen stayed on with a ray of hope that she will find the body. She pleaded with the “gardener” to please show where the body was taken. It was in that very sorrowful state that her name was called by a familiar voice. Recognizing it to be that of Jesus, she turned around with amazement. Her broken heartedness vanished instantly and was replaced with incomparable joy as she turned to Jesus who cautioned her to keep distance. We can imagine how her face wet from sobbing was transformed to one glowing with surprise and dumbfounded joy. How sweet of Jesus. How kind of him… coming to the rescue once again of his friend from whom he cast out seven demons. Now he cast out all her fears and apprehensions. He is not lost. He is not dead. He lives and he sends her to announce this Easter message. He is alive!

Yes, this is the Easter message we live with year in and year out. Death is not the end. In fact, St. Paul challenges death > “Where, O death, is your victory? Where O death is your sting? (1 Cor 15:55 NABRE). Jesus conquered death. There is life after death. There is a resurrection. There is forever. There is hope so there is joy. Jesus is with us in our miseries and frustrations, disappointments and broken heartedness. He calls you and me by our names. When we respond we make the encounter happen. And then we are sent. Happy Easter to all !
AN EXPERIENCE WITH THE BEC EXCHANGE IN NORTHERN LUZON

February 25-27, 2018

In the NCR National Bible Month celebration, His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle admonished the Bible Apostolate leaders to join other commissions in their celebrations. Heeding this advice, I accepted the invitation of Rev. Fr. Anthony Addauan, the BEC diocesan coordinator of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya to be a guest and a participant in the Northern Luzon BEC Exchange held on February 26-28, 2018. The registration and welcoming rites were done at the Lunduyan Pastoral Center with representatives coming from Laoag, Bangued, San Fernando, Nueva Segovia, Urdaneta, Alaminos, Lingayen-Dagupan, San Jose of Nueva Ecija, Bontoc-Lagawe, Baguio, Tabuk, Tuguegarao, Ilagan, and the host diocese of Bayombong. The participants were given guidelines for their exposure and exchange in five different areas namely; Quirino Province, Kayapa, Villaverde, Belance and the sitio in Magsaysay, Bayombong.

We were assigned at random to these different places but I was privileged to choose where to go. I chose to join the group for Belance, Nueva Vizcaya in the St. Joseph the Worker Parish where I have never been to. We were 43 participants for Belance of more than 200 registered members. We occupied two vans with the car of the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Jaime B. Notoleading the way. It took us about 2 ½ hours to reach the place but to me it seemed like 5 hours. We were heartily welcomed with smiles from the people led by the head catechist, Mrs. Paz Balinggan. She gave us a glimpse of the history and story of the parish. It was a relocation area for those who were displaced because of mining concessions in Benguet and they were later joined by other tribes from Ifugao and Bontoc who were also looking for greener pastures. The original settlers in the area were the Bugkalots, who, like other tribes in the Cordilleras were called “head hunters”. The CICM missionaries reached these far flung areas in 1975 and along with evangelization, they put up chapels in the barangays. The birth of the parish according to Mrs. Balinggan was in 1988 when it was linked with Dupaxdel Sur, a bigger parish. Then in 1992, they were given their first parish priest, Fr. Vicente Tugadi who is now Msgr. Vic Tugadi, parish priest of St. Louis Beltran, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.

After a very short tour in the small town we were served a hearty dinner of fresh veggies, native rice, native chicken and native pork, to our hearts’ delight. The host families came to fetch us and another stretch of about an hour finally brought three of us to a house in the mountains where men and women were waiting in silence but obviously eager to know and see what we had to offer. Everyone present shyly introduced themselves and a prayer service followed. I was awed and surprised that each one was spontaneous in his/her prayer and their sharings demonstrated their deep faith in God notwithstanding many trials and difficulties in life. They asked us (3 visitors) to deepen the meaning of the readings and what it truly means to be a BEC member. Our sharings ignited many questions which brought us to the wee hours of the morning of the next day. Not contented with the evening and the morning sessions, some came back for more questions. Rain and a sleepless night were no obstacles for people hungry for the Word of God. When we got back to the parish, everyone was gone except our van with everyone in it worried with what would have happened to us.

The St. Dominic Seminary was our next venue for the plenum and sharing of experiences, learnings and insights by the different groups and representatives. Ms. Estela Padilla and her team from Bukal ng Tipan gave input for the participants to relish and reflect on as members of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in their respective parishes. They challenged each one to dig deep into their innermost selves to find out what keeps them going in the BEC and what is it that they have to let go for BEC to continue. Bishop SofronioBancud and Bishop Valentin Dimoc were present to grace the occasion and inspire the representatives of different dioceses. In his homily, Bp. Bancud congratulated all the participants and of course the organizers for a fruitful BEC exchange and underscored the role of the Word of God in sustaining BECs. He pointed out that there will always be difficulties but we should never be discouraged and led astray by challenges. Instead we should pray for those whom we are complaining about and in God’s time his work will be brought to fruition.

From the ECBA commission we say Thank You to the BEC Committee for welcoming us to experience with you God’s mercy, compassion and unconditional love.

To God be the Glory !
2018 Message from the ECBA Executive Secretary and CBF-SEA Coordinator

To you dear co-disciples and apostles immersed in Word of God in various capacities, warm greetings from the Episcopal Commission on Biblical Apostolate of the Philippines. This greeting comes after all the greetings that you received during the Christmas season and the New Year. This is done on purpose to allow you to answer them all that no one may feel abandoned. For Christmas is about caring, loving, listening, compassioning, including, making peace, all in one. I hope that all our year-end experiences led us closer to the Incarnate Word through Mary our Mother.

After 2017 another year is gaping before us with a smile.

A smile can mean many things. What is the meaning of the smile of 2018 for you? Mine has two meanings: one is a smile of gratitude to the Trinitarian God for everything we received during the past year (and previous years as well) and second, to all of you for your active participation in the furtherance, study, deepening and appreciation of the Word of God. Your involvement, no matter how simple is highly appreciated by your recipients and co-workers and of course by your leaders: Pope Francis, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, our general secretary, Fr. Jan Stefanow, SVD and all our bishops in the Bible Apostolate. The second meaning of the smile of 2018 for me is that of Hope. Together we tread on with hope and trust in a loving and compassionate God doing what we are supposed to do as lovers of the Incarnate Word. Notwithstanding natural and human calamities we try to make a difference with our positive attitudes, our generous contributions in various forms (time, talent, treasure), our openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, doing what is expected of us as disciples and apostles of Jesus. I invite you to be like Mary, our model who said her unconditional Fiat and lived it to the end. When there are things we cannot unravel, decipher, decide on, let us be like Joseph. We pray and sleep over it trusting that when we wake up there might be answers from up above. When we feel stressed, let us go for desserts of our choice for that is the opposite of stressed spelled backwards. Let us all welcome 2018 Bible Apostolate with smiles. Happy celebration of Epiphany everyone!!!

Culmination of the Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities

November 27-29, 2017 was the National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Coordinators in the Diocese of Tagbilaran to celebrate the culmination of the year of the parish as communion of communities. There were five bishops from five dioceses present namely Most Rev. Alberto S. Uy, D.D. of the Diocese of Tagbilaran, Most Rev. Patrick Daniel Y. Parcon, D.D. from the Diocese of Talibon,, Most Rev. Jose A. Cabantan, D.D. from the Diocese of Malaybalay, Most Rev. Crispin B. Varquez, D.D. from the Diocese of Borongan and Most Rev. Gerardo A. Alminaza, D.D. from the Diocese of San Carlos. The gathering was well attended with the presence of representatives from the CBCP commissions (Laity, Nassa, Youth and ECBA), Couples for Christ, the Episcopal Provinces of Lingayen-Dagupan, San Fernando, Manila, Lipa, Caceres, Capiz, Cebu, Palo, Jaro-Iloilo, Cotabato, Davao, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, Ozamis, Nueva Segovia, Tuguegarao, the Apostolic Vicariates of Jolo, Taytay, Palawan, Puerto Princesa, FABC Office of Laity and Family, Institute of Pastoral Development, Daughters of Charity Sisters and Redemptorist priests and brothers.

The celebration commenced with the Holy Eucharist at 5 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Cathedral with Most Rev. Alberto S. Uy, D.D. Bishop of the Diocese of Tagbilaran as presider and homilist. He welcomed the participants with joy and invited them to reflect on the gospel reading of the day which had to do with the poor widow who dropped two small coins into the temple treasury. He emphasized three points: a) that generosity is not measured by how much we give but by how much we keep for ourselves, b) generosity is always associated with humility and c) generosity is a paradoxical reality, i.e. the more we give, the more we receive.

Dinner was graced with a cultural presentation from the Lungsuranon Performing Arts Ensemble (LUPAE). Government officials likewise welcomed the participants who were fetched by their respective host families after the show.

The next day proved to be very informative with the small group sharing and reporting by region. The issues discussed had to do with programs, structures and activities. The participants identified the lasting and sustainable programs and structures with deep impact on the BEC process in the parish and legacies to foster communion and participation among the laity and the baptized. After the reports, the participants went on to share the graces they received during the year of the parish, the insights and learnings they got from the reports and the trends they see on the BECs in the Philippines. The day was crowned with the celebration of the Eucharist with Most Rev. Patrick Daniel Parcon, D.D. Bishop of the Diocese of Talibon as the celebrant and homilist. He highlighted four points for reflection from the day’s reading namely: a) building the kingdom, b) the on-going work of evangelization, c) personal encounter with Jesus, d) BEC, the kingdom and Blessed Virgin Mary. He ended his homily with a quote from Pope Francis, “The kingdom of God is humble like a seed; humble but it grows large by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is up to us to let it grow.”

The third and last day of the gathering spotlighted the BEC programs of the dioceses of Tagbilaran, Boac, Mati, Novaliches, San Carlos and the Prelature of Marawi. Panel discussions, planning and meetings followed in the afternoon and ended with a summary of the challenges mentioned in the discussions and the role of the Church in these challenges. The thanksgiving mass was officiated by the chairman of the BEC committee, Most Rev. Jose A. Cabantan, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Malaybalay. His homily began with gratitude to the Lord and to all participants and committees involved in the gathering. He reiterated Pope Francis’ prayer intention, “we need to be animated always with the mission of Christ so as not to stagnate and/or be in the “maintenance mode”. Elaborating from the reading of the day, the bishop emphasized the importance of faithfulness in the mission. He expressed his admiration for the prophet Daniel and urged his listeners to be like him, courageous in the midst of danger. To be a prophet, he said, is to be prepared for persecutions, rejection, and abandonment like what happened to Jesus. He gave examples of local leaders who were killed because of their stand on Christian values. Prophets, he said, are not for profit but for truth. He ended his homily quoting PCP II, no. 166.

The whole gathering was a success because each assigned committee did its best to do their tasks well. We in the CBCP commissions thank the organizing committee headed by Bp. Jose Cabantan, Monsignor Manuel Gabriel, Fr. Amado Picardal, staff and consultors for inviting us to this momentous gathering. It was a learning, inspiring, thought provoking experience. Thank you for this blessing.



The First Diocesan Bible Congress of the Diocese of Tarlac

I was invited by the diocesan Bible Apostolate Core Team of the diocese of Tarlac headed by Rev. Fr. Anthony George Bergonio to be one of their speakers in their First Diocesan Bible Congress held at the Hacienda Gracia Hotel and Resort in Sta. Maria, Lubao, Pampanga on November 3-4, 2017. Since I had to commute to the venue, I brought along my assistant, Ms. Remedios Alma Alberto (Remy) who joined us in ECBA last September to help out with ECBA workshops, programs and additional tools for Bible sessions.

We were fetched on time where we alighted from the bus to join in the opening rites which started with a creative Bible Enthronement. The theme of the congress was “The Bible: Hope for the Community’s Progress”. It was attended by 198 participants, not counting the seminarians and the members of the youth commission who took care of animations, the sound system, documentation and preparation for the liturgical celebrations. It was very encouraging to see how everyone participated through active listening and assisting one another with their respective needs.

The talk assigned to me was on ECBA’s Vision and Mission. Rev. Fr. Jess Layug, the Regional Bible Apostolate Director spoke on “The Bible as a Way of Life”. He gave emphasis on the fact that knowledge of God’s Word should be manifested in our lives. “The Role of Mary in the Bible” was expounded by Rev. Fr. Melvin Castro. He gave a narrative on the role of Mary from Genesis to the Book of Revelation depicting Mary as the role model for all of us especially where listening and discerning the will of God is concerned. The Eucharistic celebration was the climax of the first day of the congress celebrated by the Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on the Biblical Apostolate, His Excellency Sofronio A. Bancud, SSS, D.D. His homily focused on the readings of the day and challenged the participants to make a choice – to see things and people like the Pharisees portrayed in the gospel or to see situations and people with the eyes of Christ. He encouraged everyone present to familiarize themselves with the Word of God so they can be channels of grace in their respective communities. The evening was a celebration of impromptu presentations ending with Taize led by the diocesan youth. In spite of drizzles from the heavens, all went well on the first day.

The second day commenced with a morning prayer led by Rev. Jeffrey Gramonte followed by the usual animation gimmicks of the joyful youth. The plenary talk on “Reaching the Grassroots: How to start BEC” was expertly presented by Mr. Emiliano Ibera, a professor on Pastoral Ministry at St. Vincent School of Theology. Using both of his academic and experiential expertise he used the national language to explain what BEC is all about, the steps needed in organizing BECs, factors to consider in community organizing and ended with the admonition that the building of communities should be part of Jesus’ mission. Inspired by Pope Francis’ EvangeliiGaudium he also challenged the participants to be part of the PCP II’s dream of building basic ecclesial communities. A sequel to his talk was that of Mr. Andres Mendoza, “The Bible as a Tool for BEC Building”. His wit and humor kept the audience attentive and participative. He zeroed in on the characteristics of the early Christian communities as found in Acts 2 and Acts 4.

For the participants to bring home something they can do and start with, I was able to introduce them to Lectio Divina before the arrival of Most Reverend Enrique Macaraeg, D.D. the bishop of Tarlac who officiated the Eucharistic celebration. He congratulated the organizers for the success of their Bible Congress and advised all the participants to hear, listen, read, study and live the Word of God because the Word of God has the power to transform lives. Congratulations to the core team – the team who were in Laoag for the Bible Congress last year. Truly, you worked so hard and your labor bore fruit. We in ECBA deeply appreciate your efforts Rev. Fr. Anthony George Bergonio, the diocesan Bible Apostolate Coordinator and his angels, Gloria Lugtu, Lourdes Briones, Teresita Yusuico, Aleta Aquino, Loida Espinosa, Lourdes and Edgardo Mendoza. To God be the glory. God bless you more.



DECEMBER 4, 2015 UPDATES

December 1, 2015 is the first day of His Excellency Sofronio Bancud, SSS, D.D. to serve as the elected Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on the Biblical Apostolate (ECBA).   This was formally celebrated in a simple but meaningful ceremony where His Excellency Pablo Virgilio S. David turned over his duties and responsibilities as the outgoing chairman of the commission.  Along with the ECBA flag, Bp. Ambo (as he is fondly called) also handed over the ECBA Manual,  the 20 ECBA National Bible Workshop (NBW) Statements,  the audited financial reports, and the minutes of the executive committee meetings from 2011 to 2015. read full text

The Mahayag Experience
March 8, 2015 Updates

The Marbel fever is still on for many participants in the recently held National Bible Workshop. It was the 21st with lots of memories and sharing of experiences among parishes, dioceses and regions. With the use of the Appreciative Inquiry method facilitated by Bp Rene Mayugba, the IPD team headed by Mr. Augusto Arguelles and the trainees in the September 11, 2015 workshop, we were able to identify our dreams and courses of action for this year and the years to come as we look forward to 2021, the celebration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. A team was designated to spell out specific courses of action and methodologies relevant to the statement made after the workshop. The team will meet on Easter Wednesday after which the template agreed upon will be disseminated to you for reflection, action and integration in your respective places of  mission. A highlight in the video message of His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle is the challenge to work along with other commissions to inspire everyone with the Word of God.


Answering this challenge, the diocese of Pagadian held its First Gagmay ng Simbahanong Katilingban (GSK) or BEC Congress at the St. Michael Parish in Mahayag, Zambooanga del Sur on March 5-6, 2016 with 765 participants. They started with a parade of Bible verses around the town as early as 7:30 in the morning, followed by the Bible Enthronement. The theme “The Word of God and the Eucharist Strengthens the GSK” was elaborated through a three-hour lecture by the executive secretary of ECBA. The afternoon session was a delightful one by Bro. Noe Dora who spoke the language of the people. He narrated his struggles in searching for the truth which finally led him to the Catholic faith.  Although a former pastor he now embraces Catholicism and goes around to announce his discovery and conviction. His tales of woe related to his conversion moved many to tears but ended with smiles as he spiced his talk with anecdotes. He is the head minister of pastors converted to Catholicism and has expressed his desire and that of his group to be affiliated with ECBA.


It was amazing to observe the enthusiasm and commitment of the participants who came from different parishes some of whom stayed overnight for the celebration of the Eucharist and the open forum the next day. The church was not enough to contain all participants for like the loaves of bread and fish, there was a multiplication of people in attendance the following day.

Congratulations to their lay woman organizer Mrs. Remy Artiaga, the parish priest Rev. Fr. Ramonito Hilot and his assistant, Fr. Fred and of course to the diocesan coordinator, Rev. Fr. Salvador Banga and their diocesan lay coordinator, Mr. Pablo “Bong” Siasico and his very supportive wife Flor. Congratulations likewise to all participants for their attendance and participation.


The Spirit is moving in surprising and dumbfounding ways. Praise the Lord !