human rights defenders

Remembering Father Amado Picardal: The cycling priest of peace

John Sitchon

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Remembering Father Amado Picardal: The cycling priest of peace

PEACE ADVOCATE, HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER. Father Amado 'Picx' Picardal (center) leads cyclists in the 2006 Annual Bike for Peace during Mindanao Week of Peace.

Father Amado Picardal Facebook Page

His friends describe him as a 'man of contradictions': Father Picx wished to have a long life but did not think of his personal safety when he exposed the extrajudicial killings of the Davao Death Squad

CEBU, Philippines – Father Amado “Picx” Picardal of the Redemptorist Congregation biked and hiked all over the country he loved to protest human rights injustices and to advocate for peace.

He fought tirelessly for the masses until the day he joined his Creator on Wednesday, May 29.

Born to Tony and Nicole Picardal on October 6, 1954 in Iligan City, the priest was the eldest of eight children. To his siblings, he was Mading and much like what his name meant, he was beloved.

To his friends, Father Christopher Romeo Obach and Brother Karl Gaspar, Father Picx was a lover of music and the arts, a poet, a shy and polite individual, and a man filled with courage and compassion for the poor. 

During his time at the Saint Alphonsus Theologate (SAT) in Davao City, Father Picx was a key figure in the Coalition Against Summary Executions. He helped document more than 1,000 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings orchestrated by the Davao Death Squad since 1998.

He was popularly known as the cycling priest of the Philippines. In 2000, he traversed 2,083 kilometers from Davao to Ilocos Norte, carrying his banner for life and peace across the country. He later organized an annual bike for peace in Davao during the observance of Mindanao Week of Peace.

He also loved mountain climbing and hiking. He climbed Mount Apo seven times and in 2010, he walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Europe, barefoot to honor Christ.

“The Pilgrimage did not end in Santiago de Compostela (the field of stars), it was not the final destiny…. Our whole life is a pilgrimage to our final destiny…the journey and pilgrimage continues – within ourselves and in our daily struggles to make this world a better place to live in,” Picardal’s diary of his pilgrimage read.

A survivor’s letters

The priest kept a record of every significant moment that happened in his life, including the darker days.

When Father Picx was studying philosophy at the University of San Carlos in 1971, Obach told Rappler that the priest was heavily involved in student activism and worked with fellow youth leaders in the days that led up to the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.

Picardal was arrested, tortured, and imprisoned for nearly seven months, from September 21, 1973 to April 15, 1974. 

In a chapter of Martial Law in Cebu, the book of veteran Cebuano lawyer Democrito Barcenas, Father Picx shared how he was beaten up multiple times by state intelligence officers, how he was threatened with a gun cocked in his mouth, and pushed to the edge of starvation.

During his detention, he was tattooed with a clenched fist with the number “1081”, a grim reminder of Proclamation 1081 that ushered in Martial Law in the country.

Years later, Father Picx wrote Psalm 1081, also entitled A Prisoner’s Psalm, a poem he dedicated to countless political prisoners like himself who suffered state atrocities during the Marcos dictatorship. 

Here is an excerpt of Psalm 1081:

Day and night they ask me all sorts of questions,
They strike, punch and kick me when I do not answer.
My fingers are swollen,  I cannot clench my fist
My ribs seem to  be broken, I cannot stand erect

My whole body is inflamed, it is getting numb.  
I was thirsty and they forced me to drink rum.
to loosen my tongue and reveal to them the truth.
They stripped me off my clothes and my dignity.

They are preparing the machine that will electrify my body.
And now I dread the sound of footsteps and the opening of the door.
I prefer this darkness than face the glaring light.
They said only I can end my suffering

If I confess to them everything and betray those
Who oppose this dictatorial regime.
How much longer, do I have to suffer?
How much longer can I hold on?

How much longer can I maintain my sanity?
Will I ever see again the sky and the sun?
Will I ever see again the faces of those I love and serve?
Or will they make me disappear forever?
Farewell, brave hermit

Despite the pain Father Picx suffered, the priest continued to participate in campaigns for climate justice and collaborated with peasant farmers in anti-logging campaigns in San Fernando, Bukidnon, in the 1980s.

In 1989, he built his own hermitage in the upland neighborhood of Busay in Cebu. This became his place of prayer and rest after doing a series of humanitarian work in other provinces. This is also where he spent time with his “furry” companion, Bruno

In a eulogy, Gaspar joked how Father Picx was a “man of contradictions” – he wished to live a long life but lived dangerously by defying the Duterte administration.

Gaspar also shared in a piece published by MindaNews, the media arm of the Mindanao Institute of Journalism, how he and fellow redemptorists protected Father Picx in their monastery when there were “signs” of suspected threats to the priest’s life.

“Beyond the contradictions, there has been no dualism in your life. [Father Picx] was a person of integrity with the core of his being fully-formed…. This was his gift to his family, to us, your brothers in the brotherhood and friends,” Gaspar said in a ceremony to pay tribute to the priest on Wednesday, June 5.

Gathered during the event were fellow human rights advocates, lawyers, members of the church, siblings and relatives, and Bruno, who mourned Father Picx’s passing.

In his tribute to his brother, Dongpicx Picardal said: “There is one thing Father Picx promised when I last spoke to him last Christmas. He said if you are sick, do not worry, He promised there was an afterlife and all you have to do was believe and prepare for it.”

“When Father Picx did the Camino de Santiago the second time, we all believed he lived a life well-lived and fulfilled,” he added.

Adult, Male, Man
MOON RIVER. Father Amado ‘Picx’ Picardal takes a break during one of his cycling trips for peace. Photo courtesy of OMPH-Redemptorist Church Cebu


Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!