'Fight for the truth, speak about the truth, and be a promoter of the truth,' says Filipino Bishop
In an exclusive interview with Radio Veritas Asia, Bishop Marcelino Antonio Malabanan Maralit of Marinduque urged catholic social communicators to “fight for the truth, speak about the truth, and be promoters of the truth."
As he is affectionately known, Bishop Junie spoke with Kasmir Nema of Radio Veritas Asia about speaking and being a promoter of the truth after realizing that social media is rife with false news and misinformation.
The bishop urged social media users to commit to combating fake news and misinformation proliferation.
He said, “Make it a commitment in your life. Especially if you have faith to live and fight for the truth, if we are now committed to the truth, then we must discover the truth.”
Bishop Junie was born on May 18, 1969, in Manila. Pope Francis appointed him bishop of the Diocese of Boac on December 31, 2014, as the fourth Bishop of Boac.
From 1989 to 1994, he studied sacred theology at the Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. From 1999 to 2003, he studied ecclesiastical history at the Pontificia Universita Santa Croce in Rome.
The Diocese of Boac, on the island province of Marinduque, is 160 kilometers southeast of Manila. Marinduque is 959.2 square kilometers and has a population of about 200,000.
The diocese comprises fourteen parishes, four schools, and forty clergies. Other diocesan ministries include social action, formation, and church construction programs.
As Chairman of the Commission on Social Communication and Mass Media of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the bishop conveys the message to the youth currently utilizing social media to evangelize and spread the word of God to do more good because he has faith in the goodness of the youth.
“Young people, my dear friends, You know much better than I do how to use these tools. Just think about how much good you can achieve because I believe in the goodness of our young people, they want to do good.”
“Young generation has the capacity and the gift of social media, he said, adding that “ young people of faith do not belittle a small phone. It can change the lives of others.”
Regarding his live-streaming program, known as “thought for the day,” he narrated that it came with a simple dream to help people reflect daily on the gospel.
He said, “I never really knew the reach of social media, but suddenly I discovered how many people have been responding to that Thought for the Day.”
He explained that he had created friendships with people not even from his diocese but who have responded to a single message and will now message him directly via Messenger.
When asked about his regular exercise, biking, which has a missionary message, he responded that that activity has assisted him in meeting and interacting with new people, even helping promote the island through blogging.
“Bishops are normal people that we also do enjoy things like this. So, I started blogging,” he added.
The Third part of the interview, in which he talks about how to fight against fake news and misinformation and his message to social media users, particularly the youth who use the media as a means of evangelization, is published on YouTube:
Read the full transcript of the interview below.
VOICE OF ASIAN BISHOPS
RVA Interview with Bishop Marcelino Antonio Malabanan Maralit of Marinduque, Philippines, by Fr. Kasmir Nema from Radio Veritas Asia.
Fr. Kasmir Nema: You have an ongoing live-streaming program, a call thought for the day, tell us more about this program and who is the target of this program as well?
Since I became the chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Social Communications. One of the thoughts that I have had was What can I do as a chairperson because it's not only about running or trying to become a person who knows what's happening. But I think I had to act also, according to what I believe should be done by the commission. And one of the things I had to do first was to have, my own Facebook account because before I became the chair, I never had a Facebook account. I didn't believe in social media back then. But when I started as the chairperson of the Episcopal commission, I was asked to have my own Facebook account. So now that I had that Facebook account, I said for what, then my diocese and social communication, group, or team here, suggested Bishop, I think we can do something that could help our people here on the island. It was a small dream. My dream was to reach as many as 12 or I do. On the harmony, because I never had a social media account. So, I didn't know how much or how many people I can reach with my Facebook account, so they suggested letting us make a daily short reflection and in fact, my first reflection was like not even a minute. It was the day of the Assumption a few years back and I just created the good viewers if there were any I just simply said today is the feast day of the Assumption. Maybe we all want to go to heaven. Let us have the example of our blessed mother. So, I started with that, and the dream was very simple to help, people, and reflect daily on the gospel I never thought that thought for the day, would have viewership. That would go beyond what our diocese said. Well, I mean, I never really knew the reach of social media, but suddenly I Discovered, how many people have been responding to that thought for the day and I have created even friendships with people who are not even from my diocese but people who suddenly reacted to one message and they will message me directly through Messenger and they would ask questions and I would respond all of these interactions. We're part of the fruits of the thought for the day. And we are in our third year. If I'm not mistaken or fourth year, it's a daily reflection. Although, I have had some difficulties because I had to travel a lot and when I do travel, I suddenly had to evolve, or we had to evolve as a reflection for the day and what we did was ask priests from the diocese also to be part of the reflection. So basically, that was what the thought for the day was and we continue to try to use that tool that we have our instrument in social media too. Help people reflect on the gospel in a way that I believe this simple short. But at the same time, hopefully very helpful for them in their lives.
Fr. Kasmir Nema: So perhaps can you tell us about the process of production of these specific programs?
Okay. The production is very simple. You have a phone. We started with that. The phone didn't even have lights. We just went to a place in the office that had better lighting, we sat down, and then they started shooting, we didn't even have microphones. In fact, our first thought for the day was that had to Add some comments that said, the sound is not good, and the lighting is not good. My tummy was bulging. So we never had any clear idea of what to do, but it was very simple. It was found somebody behind the phone and myself, then suddenly little by little, we realized that we had to do it better. So from a phone, we had to buy microphones. Then from a phone, He suddenly discovers that there are apps that can be used for multiple shots. So we had to apply for a switcher account because the phone that we were using were iPhones and then suddenly, we realized that we needed something more so we had to buy tripods because at first, it was a shaking experience and then we had to buy tripods. And then from tripods, we had to buy lights. And then suddenly from having one phone, we had to use other phones and I remember people volunteering their phones. And then I remember also that suddenly if somebody had to ask me if I could greet people during the thought for the thing. So we had the paper and a ruler. A ruler was taped to the phone and then under it was taped a paper, a bun of paper that had names that I had to live at. So people notice that when I was deleting them. I was kneeling down. So from there they suddenly told us that there is that I don't know what that thing was but it was a thing that you had in front of the phone that would have the names and reflected. So you have to look at the phone and you can read the names so little by little and then there are people who suddenly volunteered cameras and everything. So from there, we evolved and it was very simple. I had added young people, from the social Communications Ministry who are so willing to assist me and give ideas. And from there we developed into something a little bit more complicated but still with a very simple objective and that is to bring the good news of God. And I think I hope and I hope it just simply shows to people that you don't need much. In trying to evangelize others and trying to bring the good news to others
Fr. Kasmir Nema: you know, besides your busy schedule. But also, I found one interesting feature on your Facebook you post a bicycle I like making a sweater. Can you tell us about this? You know this is just out of your exercise or is there any other missionary message behind biking?
Well first. I'm very athletic even when I was a seminarian, I played basketball, I played soccer, I played ping-pong, and whatever had me moving and having activities that are physical, I loved it. Then when I became a priest, I was assigned to the Seminary. So just think about it. I lived with a young man. So again I kept on being athletic and when I was sent abroad, it was the same thing. And I had my studies it was the same thing. I was surrounded by people who love basketball or soccer. When I became a bishop became different, I still tried playing basketball. I still tried engaging myself in a lot of sports, but one of the things that I've learned is, I'm getting old, and that's why it's getting harder when it's physical activity Or whether the physical activity has contact physical contact. That's basketball. But I still have bad playing basketball but the pandemic came. When the pandemic came, one of the things I realized it was getting harder to exercise back, then I love playing basketball. So that's just an exercise. But now, since it was prohibited to play basketball, my exercise was in my room. Some callisthenics if I may call it that way. But one of the things that my own family noticed is that I was gaining weight. And my, my siblings, my brothers and sisters and then he told me. Why don't you go biking? I said, no, I'm already home. I'm scared of that. I don't have the legs for taking the bicycle around the island. So, the first thing that they did was they gifted me a bike, which was an e-bike. The electric bike was a pedal-assisted bike so it made my life very easy. So when I had that bike or I went out, I went with priests who also go biking. I went with a lot of young people from the island who love biking but I felt during the first part of that experience that I was cheating them. Because I was the only one with an electric bike. Everybody was on a regular bike so I said, maybe I should get a regular bike and it just so happened that I have a nephew who grew so tall that his bike became so small that he offered it. To I said, Bishop, I have a mountain bike. Would you like to her? And I said, why not? So I had that mountain bike and one of the things that I keep on discovering is that as I go Biking, I get to meet new people. I get to bike with young people and I get to interact with them. So I started enjoying already biking and then from biking, well, the mountain bike, I suddenly felt so slow. So this time, I had to buy my own bike which is gravel by road and Well, typically in between the road bike and the mountain bike so that I can also use it through rough roads. And when I started doing that I said earlier. I thought, let me just also a venue for people to see that Bishops are normal people that we also do enjoy, we, please do enjoy things like this. So I started blogging. That's why you got to watch or see a picture of me on a bike because I started blogging. But again, I don't have the knowledge, and I don't have the technical skills so I used my cell phone at first, but the good thing is people watch it. And when some people were watching it, they told me, they messaged me, Bishop, are you not? Doing something Dangerous by biking and then having one phone in my hand trying to just film myself that I had to be sincere and told them when I don't have action cameras. So I have to do with my cell phone. Good thing I said that because they gifted me with two action cameras. So now I have action cameras which I'm using now inviting and I've seen that it's a thing that I have that it's two birds with one stone deal. One, I feel healthy when I do my biking because it helps me physically and it's best. The best part of my day is always after biking because when I bike, I have all the energy for the They did, I sleep? Well, I stopped biking. I find it hard to sleep, but when I am biking, I always find it very easy to sleep. So, that's one physical. But the second one is, again, it's an interaction with other people. And, in fact, I have some people say, I've been helping even our Island for it to be known. Why? Because when I go around, I do my blogging. Some people will message somebody I have Seen the blog of Bishop Maralit and wow, your eyelid is lovely. So with that, I think I'm helping others also know our Island. And then from there, I get to meet other people also. So basically, that's why I am on my bike.
Fr. Kasmir Nema. You serve as the Chairman of CBCP, Peace Commission on social communication mass media, what is your message to the Catholics? Especially the youth who are now using social media as a tool to evangelize and spread the word of God?
Well, as I have mentioned, the thought for the day was my first Venture towards trying to evangelize people through social media. Look at me. I'm 53 years old. I use the phone. I brought a message. Young people, my dear friends, my dear brothers and sisters. You know, much better than I do how to use these tools. Just think of the good can do with them. Just think about how much good you can achieve because I believe in the goodness of our young people, they want to do good. I have seen that here in my Diocese, one of the most active groups that we have is the young people. You challenge them. They respond. So, now, our young people are now listening. I'm challenging you. I don't know why I find it so hard to learn new things. You bring into new things; you are the president of the church as Pope Francis reminds us and I think and I think so much good can be done in this world. When you young people, use what you are being provided during this time, your generation has the capacity and the gift of social media. So much bad has been done through social media. We cannot deny it but remember this so much good is being done and can still be done through it too so it's up to us now young people of faith not to be little a small Phone when a phone can change the lives of others.
Fr. Kasmir Nema: Speaking of that social media Bishop, you know, they also have encountered so many who disinformation and fake news as Catholic and social communicators. How can we also fight this information and fake news on social media?
Okay, this is very interesting I've just spoken of how to use it for good. You have just now asked me a question about a lot of the bad things that have taken place. Social media. So if I am to be asked, what can we do about it? One first. First and foremost, please make it a commitment in your life. Especially if you have faith to live and fight for the truth, that's the first thing always believed that as our Lord has said before, is the way, the truth and the life. Without the truth, remember this? We will not know God. Because God is truth. So that's the first thing. So we have to commit ourselves to the truth.
Now, the second thing I would like to instruct people with if we are now committed to the truth, then we must discover the truth. And discovering the truth. Does not happen when you just simply listen. When you just simply absorb everything, others will tell you, I love the response of our Blessed Mother to the Angel, Gabriel in the Annunciation when the angel announced to her. The Annunciation announced to her. That she will become the mother of the Savior. What did you say? She didn't say Fiat. Me secundum beatum to immediately. What did you say? How can this be a question? So, do our young people to everybody who is using social media. Before you believe what, you read or hear or watch. First and foremost, ask the question. The question of whether is this true. And when you ask that question, you have to put effort into trying to discover if it is true. Try to validate just don't take their word for it. Be critical. Even if I'm talking to you right now, you can be critical about what I'm telling you but please do it for the truth.
The third, remember this, always Truth without charity is a broken stick. So when we read, when we watch things that are meant to destroy others, be careful already with that. Be careful that is already a red flag for you because we are Christians and our truth. Is founded on humility and charity. So do not forget about that. So I guess with that hopefully we discover the truth and hopefully, a lot of the Christian social media influencers will start speaking about the truth rather than just simply trying to be famous, use whatever you have been gifted with your influence to fight for the truth, speak about the truth, and be a promoter of the truth.
Fr. Kasmir Nema: Pandemic covid-19 has challenged the church’s communication to disseminate our mission, to the faithful. What are your thoughts on how the church should communicate in the Philippines and in your diocese, in The New Normal?
In The New Normal. Well, one thing I have to first, make sure that we all realize. Is that for us, the pandemic? was it a gift? Especially in the social Communications Ministry because before the pandemic the Social Communications Ministry was a Ministry that we had in our diocese, but we never really knew how important it was until the pandemic came. When the pandemic came, nobody was allowed. We were not allowed to go to church and yet we wanted to go to mass We were not allowed to go to homes, to teach them, Kathy cases, or go to schools. And yet we had to So how did we do that through a social Communications Ministry? So, with that said, one of the things that we keep on discovering is that in our times this generation, it is almost obligatory for churches and dioceses to be involved in the social Communications Ministry for evangelization. That's already obligatory. Now, with that said now if there is something that is clearly The New Normal, the church must not run away from this obligation. The church we church people, especially as Bishops, especially as the old ones. We need to learn that. These tools are there we need to use them, not only that we need to realize that our young people are. They're also they're the ones who know how to use them. So what do we do now? We have to support them. We have to help them be part of our evangelizing ministry. It has to be part of our ministry. We have to be used. Do it already. Of course, there have to be boundaries. That's why formation is very necessary. There have to be boundaries but at the same time, we need to break the boundaries that we have created before that prevent us from using these tools that are now. One obligatory second, they have proven to be especially useful during the pandemic and they will prove to be, very useful from now until the future.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.