(1903). All Saints Mission School in Bontoc, Mountain Province – part of one of the pioneer stations of the Philippine Episcopal Church in the Northern Island of Luzon. (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution)
A History of Development Work in the Episcopal Church in the Philippines
(an excerpt from the E-CARE Foundation Manual of Operations)
The Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) traces its beginnings to the American occupation of this country in 1898 when chaplains from the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., joining the occupation forces, landed on these shores and celebrated the first Episcopal service. Three years later, the Missionary District of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA (PECUSA) was established in the Philippines with Charles Henry Brent as its first Bishop. Initially considering himself as a chaplain to an occupation force, Bishop Brent intensified missionary work in the country. Following a policy of “not putting an altar over another altar,” he made the decision to move into the hinterlands, wherein lied the un-churched peoples or un-`altar’ed places. That missionary strategy largely explains why the ECP – which now includes around 170,000 members spread throughout 593 local congregations – is largely concentrated among indigenous peoples in the Cordilleras of the northern part of the country as well as in the island of Mindanao.
Bishop Brent found in these un-churched places indigenous communities (generally called Igorots in the north and Lumads in the south) who had resisted and/or escaped subjugation by the Spanish colonizers during their nearly 300-year rule over the islands. These communities had not been brought into the mainstream of Filipino colonial society and thus had maintained their distinct ways of life.
Life for these indigenous communities was a constant pitting of brawn against the harsh forces of nature. Theirs was a subsistence-based agricultural economy that relied on raw human force and some crude farming tools – all held together by a system of beliefs and values that expressed a unitary worldview. Inter-tribal conflicts were often resolved through tribal wars and head-hunting was a common practice in many tribal communities. But by their own standards, these were self-reliant and self-governing communities with a system of managing resources that emphasized community sharing and stewardship. Such a resource management system has proven to be effective and has ensured the livelihood and survival of these people since time immemorial. Accordingly, however, Bishop Brent made a compelling decision to extend mission work among these indigenous communities because of his perception that “they (the Igorots) were in the position of Adam and Eve – after the Fall.” Hence, “theirs is the greatest need, and no one had held out a helping hand to them.”
Mission work was pursued through the three-fold strategy of ministering to: a] the spirit, through the establishment of churches and congregations; b] the mind, through schools and other educational institutions; and, c] the body, through hospitals and clinics. Community development, through the latter two strategies, was therefore integral to their conception of mission.
“The Igorot picturesqueness is painful and depressing, because it is the picture of a lower order only half successfully becoming man, not that of men stooping to the freedom of the lower order. Compare the peasantry of this place with the peasantry of the Italian vineyards, or of the Swiss valleys or of the French fields; there you have people who are primitive, here you have animals who are advanced.”
(One of the first actions of Bishop Brent after coming from his first trip to the highlands was to order a shipment of soap from Procter & Gamble, with which to wash the natives of grime and paganism.)
Pursuant to the ensuing “Christianization process”, the faith was supposed to be embraced and practiced in the setting of a western way of life. Christianity was supposed to come hand-in-hand with western civilization and so the natives, in order to be converted into the Christian fold, had to completely shed-off their indigenous cultural ways. A school principal, referring to the native children at the time said, “They must stay in our dormitories until living like an Igorot for them becomes an impossibility.”
Confronted with a combination of the missionary church’s economic resources, technical knowledge and skills, coupled with their disdain for native culture, the indigenous communities psychologically developed a kind of cultural inferiority complex. This mentality in subsequent years and until perhaps in recent decades made them feel ashamed and even scornful of what was supposedly the “heathen” and “savage” ways of life of their forbears. Certainly, the human jaws that resulted from head-hunting expeditions and that adorned the walls and brass gongs of many native communities gradually reduced as the practice of head-hunting was denounced into oblivion. But so too consigned into obliteration have been many positive features of the native culture and indigenous values that were life-affirming and life-sustaining. One example of this is in the importance placed on water. Indigenous peoples valued and cared for any source of water for they believed there was a spiritual being who inhabited the place and gave them water. There were various activities that were prohibited to be done within the premises of the water source, such as allowing animals to enter or disturbing the surrounding vegetation, etc., lest people incur the ire of the spiritual being who would then dry up the source. The missionary church however assailed this belief, claiming that it was “anito-worship” which was also tantamount to worshipping the devil. Because of this teaching, people eventually lost their reverence for the water source and, at present, many people today do not have any values relating to the care of water sources and would not hesitate to do any of the erstwhile prohibited activities if the same promoted their self-interests.
In place of these indigenous values was an uncritical acceptance of the western way of life and even the policies and interests of the American government which became colonial baggage held by many Filipinos even up to now. In 1991, at the height of the debate on the fate of the U.S. military bases in the country, a group of older priests declared, “If we are to vote on the issue of the U.S. bases, we will go all out for retention.” What was most unfortunate was that their position was not the result of an objective consideration of the merits and demerits of the issue, but solely on the fact that it was the Americans who brought the Christian faith to this “world of darkness.” Thus, their military bases should be among the good things they have brought in the country.
Conversion to the Christian faith resulted oftentimes from materialistic ends. Free foodstuffs, clothing, buttermilk and chocolates were distributed by the missionary Church so frequently and in such large amounts that it led to the development of a strong sense of dependency as the converted communities came to regard the Church as a very rich institution from which material benefits could be derived. This sense of dependency and mendicancy continues up to this day and is one of the biggest challenges to community development work.
To uplift the marginalized conditions of the converted communities, formal education and training were offered as the key to economic salvation. But while these have enabled many “Christianized” folks to take a great leap in economic status by finding gainful employment elsewhere or practicing certain professions, the beneficial results have been highly individualistic. Indeed, while education and training have raised the economic standards of living of some individuals and their families, it is unfortunate that their contribution to the over-all uplifting of their native communities has been very minimal. In fact, in many cases, the “educated” had to leave their local communities to the cities or to foreign countries where their training found application or where they could gain bigger material benefits. Two of the very few persons who availed of medical scholarships offered by the Church in the earlier years for instance soon established their practices in the United States. At one point, the great Dr. William Henry Scott commented that one mission school established by the Episcopal Church may possibly have had the highest percentage of graduates at the time working or living in the U.S.
From being formerly self-sustaining and self-reliant, the bulk of the communities that then formed the congregations and mission centers of the Episcopal Church faced a growing problem. Being supported by livelihoods which remained backward and crude, they found themselves vastly unable to support the requirements and costs of the structures and operations that sustained mission work or, further, the “cravings, desires and necessities of a western civilization” in which the missionary Church then operated. It would have been very difficult for these communities to have become self-supporting parishes due to the nature of the way these church structures and operations were defined and understood in the American Church and mechanically applied in the Philippine setting. This gave rise to the `phenomenon’ of an annual grant subsidy from the mother Church, the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA), that became the main source of support for the Philippine Church for more than a century.
At a time when the Philippines was reeling from unending economic and political crises in the 1970s and 80s, the Church (known at the time as the Philippine Episcopal Church, or PEC), was supported by a PECUSA grant subsidy, and was therefore relatively well-off financially. At the height of the crises in the mid-80s, massive protest rallies filled the streets of Manila almost everyday as thousands were thrown out of jobs and widespread hunger stalked the land. In the midst of this chaos however, the PEC literally closed the gates of Cathedral Heights (its national headquarters in Quezon City) and continued living in relative luxury. The crises had no effect on its cash inflows and it in fact benefited from the economic downward spiral as the continuing rounds of devaluation of the Philippine peso meant higher returns for its dollars.
This was an anomaly that the Philippine Church itself realized as the social conditions in the country soon found their way onto its pious doorstep. Overwhelmed by the challenges posed by the social landscape, the Church began to ring the bells of concern over the problems and aspirations of its flock. This process of opening up came hand-in-hand with the realization that the Church cannot forever rely on the grace and support of its mother church.
In the latter half of the 70s, the Philippine Church began to seriously look into building up its capacity for financial self-support. It formally set up a Development Program that established business ventures or income-generating projects operated by the dioceses or local congregations for the purpose of generating funds for institutional Church support. Many economic projects were set up ranging from poultry projects and rice farms to a hotel, movie-house and transport businesses. Unfortunately, however, almost all of these projects failed due to technical problems, lack of management skills, poor feasibility planning, and, most significantly, the lukewarm support for these ventures from the general membership. People had always considered the institutional Church as a rich entity and sacrificing their time and talent to support its business ventures in order to raise funds for such a wealthy institution while most of them were wallowing in poverty seemed to be an anomalous situation. And so without any support from their congregations, it was not uncommon to hear of priests actually operating the movie-house, cutting grass for the cattle and plowing the fields from Monday to Saturday. The ventures were seen as ends in themselves and not as means to social transformation. So, while these projects were intended to enable the proponents to develop self-support and self-reliance, they instead had the opposite effect of reinforcing dependent attitudes and paternalistic relations that had developed through the years as a result of the missionary strategy.
“The poor, by definition, are almost powerless, deprived and suffer from socio-economic disabilities which operate to perpetuate their poverty. Hence, the availability of opportunities for them to build up their capacities to overcome the disabilities and to initiate and manage development actions for life improvement is central to a process of poverty alleviation. Capacity-building is basically an empowerment process which enables the poor, hitherto excluded, to enter the mainstream of development. It is a process which enables the poor to make the transition from objects (subservient to and manipulated by others) to the status of subjects and active agents of change capable of operating both autonomously and in partnership with governmental and other agencies.”
According to Tilakaratna, the process of empowerment of the poor may be considered as consisting of the following elements:
· Building a knowledge base to support development actions.
· Building participatory organizations which the poor have effective control over, and which they could use as instruments of action for bringing about changes.
· Mobilization of own resources for the initiation of actions for change.
· Acquisition of technical and managerial skills.
· Assertion of legitimate entitlements and obtaining access to resource flows from outside, improvement of bargaining power, claim-making and receiving capacity.
· Capacity to sustain the development initiatives on a self-reliant basis.
Within this context of empowerment of the poor Tilakaratna adds, “the role of an outside agent is basically to assist the poor to build the above capacities through a careful process of interaction with them, that is, by operating as animators, facilitators, change agents, catalysts or community organizers and using a non-dominant and non-bureaucratic mode of interaction.”
The program grew over the years and has reached out to more than 200 communities nationwide, with projects ranging from potable water and sanitation systems, agricultural support projects, irrigation systems, cargo tramline, micro-hydro power projects, among others. Concomitant with the intensification of the CBDP was an education and advocacy program whereby the ECP declared and pursued its positions with respect to social issues that affected the life of its flock.
The program also evolved in terms of approach and emphasis as it incorporated learnings from experiences, such as the following:
1) Values Formation. With the achievements of development work measured in terms of financial or economic viability, successful projects revolving around “money matters” have tended to weaken positive values and have brought about self-centeredness or self-focused worldviews while at the same time heightening divisions among the people. CBDP underscored the fact that development intervention must contribute towards the formation or strengthening of systems and relationships that embody the values of the Kingdom of God. The program then gave programmatic emphasis and support towards building an authentically caring, loving and just community through the fortification of values of cooperation and helping one another so that each person will be able to exercise and pursue his or her full potential – physical, social and spiritual.
2) Deliberate implementation of programmatic expressions of the Church’s bias favoring the “poorest of the poor”. Households in the poor communities where CBDP operated ranged from those who had small landholdings, small business ventures or regular employment to those who had no real assets whatsoever or those who relied upon seasonal or temporary jobs. It was observed that projects had offered more benefits to the economically-blessed members (e.g. micro-enterprise or water projects which had opened up economic opportunities to those who had more since they have the means to avail of such opportunities; coop members with higher share capital who availed of higher loans, etc.) CBDP addressed this by pursuing and implementing programs specifically designed for those whose access to the benefits of the project were rendered nugatory because of debilitating poverty while giving support to the entrepreneurial poor through access to credit facilities or such vital services as water, power, irrigation, etc.
3) While it had been the desire of the CBDP to implement a vision-based, as opposed to project-based, community organizing or development intervention – mobilization of the community-beneficiaries had proven to be much broader and more effective when organized around specific projects that provided immediate and concrete benefits to the members. Yet, specific projects can also actually serve as the rallying board for the pursuit of a more strategic community vision. As discerned in the impact evaluation of CBDP projects, a single activity can actually be programmed in such a way as to cover a host of interventions and thus intensify impact upon the community-beneficiaries. CBDP then pursued an integrated approach to development intervention which meant that in each target community, programming covered the various significant developmental aspects that were complementary of each other, such as: social awareness building, health, education, gender-sensitivity, economic benefits, values formation and spiritual growth.
From these experiences, the program built up and enhanced the following enduring features:
1] A development philosophy that has proven to be valid and effective and that is broadly understood and appreciated within the Episcopal Church and used to direct actions and set priorities;
2] Access to social capital that enables the program to easily connect with and which merits the respect and appreciation of partner communities, thus vastly expediting the process of enhancing community cohesion and advancing community interests;
3] Staff with varied competencies, primarily motivated by a solid commitment to development work (as can be gleaned from the low staff turn-over despite the fact that the ECP salary structure is among the lowest);
4] Capacity to attract multi-year funding for projects from various sources, including mobilization of counterparts of partner communities;
5] A computerized financial system with established controls and regular audits, clear and transparent accounting and active cash-flow management and with regular financial planning linked to the program’s strategic goals;
6] A sound organizational structure which has formal and clear lines of decision-making and which holds the CBDP management fully accountable.
The first three years of CBDP, following its establishment in 1987, became Phase I of the said Program. It is now on Phase VIII which started in July 2012 and will end in December 2015, following a six-month extension from the original closing schedule of this particular phase in June 2015.
The past five years of CBDP saw some fundamental changes in the program that led to its re-structuring and re-visioning into what is now known as “Episcopal CARE Foundation, Inc.”