Robert Reyes

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Fr. Robert Reyes
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Born: Tondo, Manila
Parents:
Other Name/s: Running Priest
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Roberto Reyes, more popularly known as Father Robert Reyes, is a Filipino Catholic priest known for his social and political activism. Popularly labeled by mainstream media as the "Running Priest," Reyes has initiated marathons, hunger strikes, and prayer rallies to raise awareness about a variety of social and political issues. His activism has been a source of both criticism and conflict, notably with conservative members of the Catholic church hierarchy in the Philippines.

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Life

Reyes was born in Tondo, Manila to an accountant father and a schoolteacher mother. He is the eldest of four children. At the age of eight, Reyes already knew that he wanted to become a priest who travels and does missionary work in different countries. In 1970, Reyes entered San Jose Seminary School in Novaliches, Quezon City and eventually became a priest. After serving in numerous parishes, he became head of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice at the University of the Philippines.

National Activism

Reyes was thrust into the national scene in 2000 when he did solo marathons to drum up support for a campaign forcing President Joseph Estrada to step down. At the time, he was always seen in Catholic schools and universities, speaking about political reform and good governance.

In 2002, Reyes surrendered to the police to face libel charges filed by Cagayan Rep. Jackie Ponce Enrile, whom Reyes allegedly implicated in the murder of his nephew during Martial Law. He was immediately freed after two days of incarceration through the help of the members of Parish of the Holy Sacrifice.

At the height of the Hello Garci Scandal, Reyes was also visible in numerous protest activities supporting the call to remove President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from Malacañang. On November 29, 2007, Reyes was arrested and imprisoned for 15 days at Camp Crame for his participation in an attempted coup d' etat known as the Manila Peninsula Rebellion. In 2008, a year after his incarceration, he published his prison journal entitled Prisons... Manila Pen and Beyond, narrating his reflections on his fifteen days in prison.

Ministerial Works Abroad

At the peak of his protest activities against the Arroyo's government, Reyes was advised by the Catholic Church to take an indefinite leave. He went to southern China, where proselytizing is prohibited, and spent a year teaching English. A year later, he moved to Hong Kong and taught anthropology of religion in a university. Since 2007, he has been working for the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission while celebrating masses and interacting with many Filipinos around the area.

Reyes is also involved in missionary work, including administering to sick and dying overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). His experience was chronicled in a book "Vincent, Dying and Living," which contains his personal reflections and recollections as he detailed the struggle of his brother who died of lung cancer, as well the struggles of many OFWs in Hong Kong whom he had met and ministered to in the last days of their lives.

Cyber Parish

On 21 September 2008, Reyes launched Parokya sa Web, the first virtual parish in the Philippines, where his reflections on daily Bible readings, his homilies during Sunday masses, and inspirational messages are posted and shared with everybody. According to Reyes, the aim of Parokya sa Web is to spread spirituality and reach out to the millions of Filipinos working in other parts of Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. The Philippine Online Chronicles, a weekly online publication managed by Vibal Foundation, hosts the website.

Organizations and Causes

  • GOMBURZA - a cause-oriented organization of priests, nuns, brothers and laity, committed to the struggle for justice believing it is an essential part of witnessing to the gospel. It was founded in 1987.
  • Buhay Ka - a support group for cancer victims and survivors in Hong Kong.

Runs and Protests

  • Run for Life - Drop the Debt - 21 August - 23 September 2001, in ten cities in Australia. Cause: Debt cancellation for third-world countries.
  • PADYAK - bike-and-run events held in 2004 and 2005. Cause: Environmental advocacy.
  • Ábadilla 5 case - a silent protest last June 2008 in front of the Supreme Court. Cause: For a review of the case of five men convicted for the murder of retired Col. Rolando Abadilla in 1996.
  • Manila Pen siege - 29 November 2007. Cause: A protest against the "perceived sins" of the Arroyo government, and a call for its ouster. The call to action ended at Bicutan and Camp Crame. Father Reyes were one of the civilians who went to the Manila Peninsula Hotel and who was later incarcerated at Camp Crame.

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Reference

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