Fr. Jerry Aquino, Poet and Revolutionary

Fr. Jerry Aquino, poet and revolutionary

By TJ Burgonio, Volt Contreras

(An excerpt from NEWSFEATURE, Remembering, healing and never forgetting, Inquirer, September 21, 2007.)

 We are posting about Fr. Jerry today to remember the person who had inspired young clergy, seminarians and the youth of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente to take the less travelled road of the national democratic struggle in the Philippines. Today, June 1, is his birthday.

Jerry Aquino was part of the Christian resistance to martial law.

While the head of the Philippine Independent (or Aglipayan) Church had backed Marcos, Jerry spoke out against the regime’s excesses while saying Mass in a church or on the road.

He opposed the construction of the Chico hydroelectric dam in view of the dangers it posed to the Cordillera peoples.

“He went to areas where there was no priest. He made the peasants aware of their situation, and of the need for them to organize themselves. He brought the Church to them,” his widow says.

“He had passion, and commitment.”

“I’m using my painful experience to keep me going,” Bernie says. “There’s never any closure because the things Jerry fought against are still happening. The poverty, violence, corruption–they are continuing.”

A Priest Forever Under the Order of Melchizedek

Fr. Jeremias “Jerry”  Aquino, 1981, Prison

Why did you choose me to serve as a priest, O Lord?

What do you really want from me; the son of a poor peasant?

From the slopes and foothills of the Sierra Madres

where I was born, you took me away.

You led me to the seminary with nothing.

For two years I kept quitting but you kept sending me back.

                I can’t understand all this, Lord.

You’ve tried to show me the world from east to west

And what a frightening spectacle of a groaning creation!

Everywhere, man is victim of man!

 It is hard to grope for essence in a world

Full of deceit and oppression.

But you always teach me that there is no other way.

It was painful, but you pulled me out of the comfortable

pews of the institutional sanctuary.

You plunged me into the acrid world of

oppressed men-slum dwellers, workers, and peasants.

Are these the tittle brothers you died for in this world?

Are they the apples of your Incarnation? Are they?

And I weep because you nod.

Woe is me!

For I have eyes but cannot see!

Woe is me!

For I have ears but cannot hear!

Woe is me!

For I have a heart but cannot feel!

Forgive me, Lord.

But why is it that the church you called

into being in this world has become a hard oak of an institution?

It has amassed vast capital and the least

Of our brothers are forgotten.

Why is it full of forms, O Lord, but devoid of content?

It thrives on dull celebrations,

business-like operations, plastic relations.

Oh, its heart is parched,

not even a mist of poetry dwells in its.

Lord, forgive me for these things that burn in me.

But where is the altar of sacrifice today, Lord?

Is it on ornate altars of marble where

Sunday alms are poured?

Or, is it on lowly bamboo tables of peasants,

Lunch counters of exploited workers,

pushcarts of famished scavengers?

Where, O Lord?

Where can find communion?

Where do you want me to celebrate

the great Paschal Mystery?

Yes, Lord.

Where else could I celebrate?

Since you sent me to the dregs of urban society

where else could I celebrate?

Since you sent me out to the picket lines,

where else could I celebrate?

Since you sent me up to quench my thirst by drinking

on the clearest mountain streams with brothers and comrades,

and sleeping with them under the one blue sky,

where else could I celebrate?

Since you sent me to prison,

where else could I celebrate?

It is excruciating, Lord. If you only let this cup…

But I often marvel at the way you instruct,

at the way you point out what’s priceless in life.


2 thoughts on “Fr. Jerry Aquino, Poet and Revolutionary

  1. thanks for your prophetic voice and passion! your spirit of resistance and hope so beautifully expressed in your poem
    inspires us.your legacy lives on!

    • yes. let us continue what Fr. Jerry had started during his time. let us not put to waste what our great forefathers have painstakenly fought for so we can truly be with the Filipino people in its struggle to emancipate from all forms of abuses.

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