April 12, 2016
by Arman Toga
Negros Daily Bulletin
The Diocese of Kabankalan paid tribute to the late Atty. Francisco B. Cruz, a
human rights lawyer, for his commitment and legal services to the victims of
abuses during the Martial Law years.
KABANKALAN DIOCESE TRIBUTE. Left to right, Manuel Fortun, Jaoquin Fortun,
Jenna Cruz-Fortun, Julio Cruz, Lita Cruz, Kerl Cruz, Kerr Michael Cruz, Bishop
Patricio Buzon and Fr. Eryl Agus.*
Led by Bishop Patricio Buzon and Fr. Eryl Agus, director of the Commission on
Social Action, the April 8, 2016 ceremony at St. Pope Pasul Pastoral Center at
St. Francis Xavier Parish in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental was attended by
Atty. Cruz’ family.
To mark these two occasions and to give more substance to them, I decided to
organize the widows and widowers around San Columbano Retreat House,
our former Columban Central house in Negros. This had been in my mind for some
We are calling this organization, in the language of the island (Illongo), “Asosasyon
sang mga Balo ni San Columbano” or in English “Association of the
Widows and Widowers of Saint Columban”. In Illongo the word for widow and
widower is the same – Balo.
MANILA, Philippines - As “My City, My SM, My Crafts” continues its series of
road shows around the Philippines, it showcases not only the best of traditional
arts and modern Philippine design, but also creative community-based crafts that
have become a source of livelihood for many Filipinos.
Negros Nine Human Development Foundation’s Fr. Brian Gore with weavers Bernalyn, Jonathan and Danila at the My City, My SM, My Crafts event at SM City Bacolod. Through its Abaca Weaving Project, the foundation which is run by the Columban Fathers, provides livelihood opportunities for a community of weavers in Kabankalan City.
It is hard to believe that it is thirty years since the story of an Irish Missionary priest facing death in the Philippines hit the headlines in Ireland. It was a story that captured the headlines not only in Ireland but also, in many other countries around the world, especially Australia and the United States. Lots of things have happened in the intervening period for the Catholic Church, not all of them positive stories, but the story of the Negros Nine should not be forgotten and for all the right reasons.
I was a young reporter in RTE (Ireland’s National Radio and TV Station) when the story broke. Two Columban missionary priests, one secular priest, and the six lay leaders had been arrested and charged with the murder of a local Mayor on the island of Negros in the Philippines. I can vividly recall Niall O’Brien being interviewed on RTE Radio from his prison-cell in a place called Bacolod, telling how he and his two fellow priests, Australian, Brian Gore and secular priest Vicente Dangan, along with six lay leaders, were facing a possible death sentence on a trumped-up charge.
In essence this was a simple story of priests siding with the local sugar-workers on the island of Negros, helping them in their struggle to get better conditions. For their efforts, they were framed with the murder of the Mayor of Kabankalan, Pablito Sola. Even though the Mayor had been killed by members of a rebel group called the New Peoples Army, it suited the local ‘sugar barons’ to accuse them of the murder.
Negros Nine Human Development Foundation has recently received an invitation from SM City Bacolod through their PR Manager, May V. Castro. The invitation states that the “Negros Nine Abaca Weavers” has been selected as one of the participants to take part on special promotional campaign of Negros Occidental’s best products.