By Chuck Baclagon
I was supposed to be on leave yesterday, and I have already imagined an uneventful day when I suddenly came across a short-noticed invitation to an anti-coal activity in Quezon, province which I was elated to join.
It was totally unplanned and unexpected, after a hectic morning I suddenly found myself having lunch and listening to Fr. Raul Enriquez, of Pagbilao, Quezon, sharing the story of Hermano Pule, the great revolutionary hero of Quezon, who led a major revolt against Spanish rule of the Philippines based on a struggle for religious freedom and independence in 1841.
After our meal we proceeded to join several hundred students from Sacred Heart College in Lucena, as they prepare to converge with delegations from other parts of the province. Within a few minutes the crowd swelled to a thousand people, and proceed to march towards the provincial hall.
Occupy the provincial board meeting
The Quezon Provincial Board’s meeting was abruptly disrupted as more than a thousand people from across the province trooped to force them into dialogue with their appeal for the Board’s withdrawal of its support for coal in the province. Chanting: “No to coal, yes to God”, praying the rosary and reciting ecumenical prayers for the care of the environment, the participants requested an audience with the board members who hastily adjourned their session to evade the crowd.
Someone from the negotiating team exclaimed: “They’re making a run for it! Block their cars!” What followed was a loud thumping of footsteps as the people at the back rushed towards the facility’s driveway to halt the rushing exit of vehicles.
After that sudden rush I’ve anticipated pandemonium to breakout as there was a few minutes of stand-off between the protest organizers and the provincial board members who refused to engage in dialogue. But what happened next was far from chaos as the priests who were with us in blocking the cars were finally able to force the board members to go out of their vehicles and meet with them.
While waiting for the dialogue to finish the crowd occupied the entire building complex to make sure that no one from the provincial board will try to elude the meeting, which lasted close an hour. Once the negotiating team got out of the building the crowd was informed that the board members were pressured to return to the negotiation table to listen to and receive the people’s petition for the withdrawal of their coal endorsement.
Lament at the Governor’s Mansion
Later the crowd got back on their feet to hold a procession that made a short stop-over at the Governor’s Mansion to hang an blown up petition at a tree in front of the mansion. Four black candles were lit symbolizing the four corners of Quezon lamenting over the proliferation of deadly coal plants in Quezon.
After our short program a representative from the governor’s office went out and received our campaign demands and assured the crowd that it will be given due consideration.
Lighting candles for an energy revolution
The interfaith rally followed from the provincial capitol to Sacred Heart College where a Holy Mass was celebrated in thanksgiving to Pope Francis’ eco-encyclical Laudato Si on the care of our common home.
The day culminated with the a candle light vigil where the light of the candles glimmer to celebrate and to renew our commitments to the struggle –to our dreams.
I’d like to believe that the flickering candles at dusk serve as beacons for an energy revolution in the way we use, produce and distribute energy. A revolution that lays down the foundation for a sustainable future not only for Quezon, but for the Philippines. A revolution that not only addresses environmental concerns about energy but also seeks to address climate change and the system that created it by putting justice as the basis for solutions.