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.

Students from Sacred Heart College of Lucena join the anti-coal march in Quezon.

Students from Sacred Heart College of Lucena join the anti-coal march in Quezon. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

Youth from the coalition Quezon Laban Sa Coal, hold a banner that reads: "We thought that Quezon is meant for agriculture, why did you construct coal plants?" Photo: Fread De Mesa

Youth from the coalition Quezon Laban Sa Coal, hold a banner that reads: “We thought that Quezon is meant for agriculture, why did you construct coal plants?” Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

The march was organized by leaders from both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches who have been working to form common witness to social issues as the Quezon Ecumenical Movement. Photo: Fread De Mesa

The march was organized by leaders from both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches who have been working to form common witness on social issues as the Quezon Ecumenical Movement. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

Nuns, priests and pastors are at the forefront of many community-led resistance against dirty energy projects in the Philippines. Photo: Fread De Mesa

Nuns, priests and pastors are at the forefront of many community-led resistance against dirty energy projects in the Philippines. Photo: Chuck Baclagon

 

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.

A United Church of Christ, pastor leads an ecumenical prayer at the of the entrance Provincial Hall. Photo: Fread De Mesa

A United Church of Christ, pastor leads an ecumenical prayer at the of the entrance Provincial Hall. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

Many among the crowd join the prayer rally as a manifestation of their obedience to Pope Francis' recent encyclical. Photo: Fread De Mesa

Many among the crowd joined the prayer rally to show their obedience to Pope Francis’ recent encyclical. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

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.

The crowd was quick to respond to the appeal to halt the exit of the board members. Photo: Fread De Mesa

The crowd was quick to respond to the appeal to halt the exit of the board members. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

Vehicles got to a sudden stop as people sward to the driveway exits to block them. Photo: Fread De Mesa

Vehicles went on a grinding halt  as people sward to the driveway exits to block them. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

The impromptu blockade was able to stop almost all of the board members from exiting, with the exception of one vehicle. Photo: Fread De Mesa

The impromptu blockade was able to stop almost all of the board members from exiting, with the exception of one. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

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.

Fr. Raul Enriquez, pleads with the officials to exit their vehicles and speak with the crowd. Photo: Fread De Mesa

Using the protests’ P.A. system, Fr. Raul Enriquez, pleads with the officials to exit their vehicles and speak with the crowd. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

Fr. Raul Enriquez holds a banner that reads: "Vice-Governor show yourself". In front of the vehicle that carries the vice governor. Photo: Fread De Mesa

Fr. Raul Enriquez holds a banner that reads: “Vice-Governor show yourself”. In front of the vehicle that carries the vice governor. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

Security personnel in plain clothes confront the protesting priests. Photo: Fread De Mesa

Security personnel in plain clothes confront the protesting priests. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

After several heated exchanges negotiations were able to progress as the priests were able to convince the board members to meet with them. Photo: Fread De Mesa

After several heated exchanges negotiations were able to progress as the priests were able to convince the board members to meet with them. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

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.

Youth participants positively welcome news of the dialogues outcome. Photo: Chuck Baclagon

Youth participants positively welcome news of the dialogues’ outcome. Photo: Chuck Baclagon

 

Police keep close watch as the crowd start to march towards the governor's mansion. Photo: Fread De Mesa

Police keep close watch as the crowd start to march towards the governor’s mansion. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

After discerning that the protest was peaceful, the police make way for the march by keeping a safe distance away from the crowd. Photo: Fread De Mesa

After discerning that the protest was peaceful, the police make way for the march by keeping a safe distance away from the crowd. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

Fr. Warren Puno (far left) was one of the Filipino delegates that 350.org sent to join the One Earth, One Human Family: climate march in Rome, last June. Photo: Chuck Baclagon

Fr. Warren Puno (far left) was one of the Filipino delegates that 350.org sent to join the One Earth, One Human Family: climate march in Rome, last June. Photo: Chuck Baclagon

 

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.

The crowd congregates in front of the governor's mansion. Photo: Fread De Mesa

The crowd assembled in front of the governor’s mansion. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

A view of the protest from the governor's mansion. Photo: Fread De Mesa

A view of the protest from the governor’s mansion. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

Priests and a community leader hang a blown-up copy of their demand letter to a tree in front of the provincial governor's office. Photo: Chuck Baclagon

Priests and a community leader hang a blown-up copy of their demand letter to a tree in front of the provincial governor’s office. Photo: Chuck Baclagon

 

Ministers lighting candles in front of the governor's palace. Photo: Chuck Baclagon

Ministers lighting candles in front of the governor’s palace. Photo: Chuck Baclagon

 

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.

A representative from the governor's office receives the list of demands. Photo: Fread De Mesa

A representative from the governor’s office receives the list of demands. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

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.

Members of clergy in the protest have their photos taken by members of the media, before heading back to Sacred Heart College, for the Mass.

Members of clergy in the protest have their photos taken by members of the media, before heading back to Sacred Heart College, for the Mass. Photo: Fread De Mesa

 

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.

Students of Sacred Heart College, light candles to shine light in their struggle for a coal-free Quezon. Photo: Chuck Baclagon

Students of Sacred Heart College, lit candles to shed light in their struggle for a coal-free Quezon. Photo: Chuck Baclagon