Alpbach, Sunday 13th January
On Sunday 13th January 1991, I went to a wake. Narciso Pico, a 43 year old priest of the Philippine Independent Church, had been murdered, a martyr for justice.
On Thursday, 10th January he had been drinking coffee at a roadside cafe with friends. After finishing his coffee, he had got on his motor-bike to go to a monthly clergy meeting. As he was trying to start the motor-bike, two gunmen walked up to him and shot him repeatedly until he was dead. They then sped off on his motor-bike.
To stand beside his coffin was a humbling experience, his bishop said, “You must go and tell people outside about this”.
Pico had lived his life in the knowledge that speaking for justice would one day cost him his life. Speaking for the poor had brought him constant death threats. He was forced to change parishes and saw his wife and son only once a week because he feared for their lives.
Narciso Pico comes to mind in January each year because he remains for me a reminder of the cost of true discipleship.
The writer Bino A. Realuyo captured a sense of the mood at Pico’s funeral.
In memoriam, Father Narciso Pico, human rights activist
Air descends in spirals. On a street,
a flock waits, not in their usual Sunday white
but black, a long line, spiraling as well.
Their sweat you can’t see.
Their faces would make you wonder what really
matters to them-the wait or the destination,
something you often asked: the now or what comes next.
In this village, whoever dares ask that question
does it in murmurs, in twists of fingers,
like their ears and eyes, attentive to every house
they pass: who still lives there, who doesn’t,
what’s gone, what remains, their names, mentioned
every time they think of yours.
They recognize the thoughts behind fallen lips,
sunken skin: where does a dead priest go,
the one gunned down for leaves and soil-
tell them, if not, they would simply guess, if there is an
opening in the sun, then there, into its eye, to watch
shovels rise above the ground, your own, the sprinkle
of soil over your casket, of dust, prayers, and names,
once again, the names of those who will fall next to you.
How many of us who call ourselves “Christian” would have been prepared to fall next to Narciso Pico?
Good point. Not me I suspect unless it was a member of my family. I’m not sure it’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees but then, I’ve led a priviledged life. I still think it strange that what goes on in Asia and the South Pacific is largely ignored by the rest of the world.
fr. ian, i came across this post. thanks for connecting my poem to your experience. could you please email me? firstname.lastname@example.org? thank you so much. – yours, bino/manhattan