By Father Brian Gore
Columban Fathers Brian Gore, and Niall O’Brien, along with
six lay church-workers were released from jail on 3 July 1984. Fr Vicente Dangan,
a priest of the Diocese of Bacolod, had been released some time before that.
These men had become known as ‘The Negros Nine’.
In 1983 three priests and six lay workers in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental,
were charged with multiple murder. Over the next 14 months of trial and
imprisonment they become known worldwide as ‘The Negros Nine’.
These trumped-up charges were meant to stop the work of the Basic Christian
Communities (BCC) in which the Nine had been among the forerunners in Negros.
The goal of the BCCs or the Kristiyanong Katilingban (KK) was the non-violent
transformation of Negros society through total human development.
The Negros Nine had also became a voice for the poor, as encouraged a few years
earlier by Pope John Paul II in Bacolod City in 1981 when he said ‘the church
should not hesitate to be the voice of those who have no voice’.
The Negros Nine Human Development Foundation, Inc
was set up in the year of the
Great Jubilee (2000) and bought twelve hectares of titled land in the mountains
of Kabankalan at a place called Bantolinao to help the surrounding subsistence
farmers, many whom were members of the ‘KKs’ started in the 70s.
The situation of the farmers continues to deteriorate as their land becomes more
and more eroded and unproductive. The poor
cannot afford to experiment or take
risks in their farming methods as it could mean certain hunger if they failed.
The demo farm was set up to show that changes need to be made and that new and
better ways are possible. The farmers are being introduced to sustainable
methods of agriculture. Not only are these cheaper but because they are organic
they are healthier for them and the environment. Sustainable agriculture uses
local resources without endangering the needs of future generations.
Even if farmers are able to improve their production they can be at the mercy of
the middleman in the selling of their products. The only chance to get a better
price is through a cooperative effort. This is especially so if you are in a
The farm has a good water supply from a natural spring in a small area of forest
on the property. In order to protect this valuable resource, forest land
surrounding the farm has been acquired by buying the rights of the ‘owners’.
This land has been mostly cleared and is not suitable for cultivating. Hardwood
indigenous varieties, local to the area, are being planted to build the area
into a mini forest of around 20 hectares. This will help prevent erosion,
protect the water sources and bring back the native species of plants, birds and
animals that have all but disappeared. The members of the co-op are undergoing
seminars on agro-forestry and bio-diversity. They are also being encouraged to
plant trees in their own farm lots, both for their personal use and for the
The target for this year is to plant 3 to 4 hectares. This will be done by the
members of the co-op who have undergone training for this purpose. They will
also be able to earn some money during the lean months and so help feed their
Money for the first part of this project has been given by the Irish Government
as they move to meet the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations.
Fr Brian Gore is now in charge of San Columbano Mission House in the Diocese of
Kabankalan, Negros Occidental. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Background on The Negros Nine
You can read more about The Negros Nine on the website of the Negros Nine
Development Foundation, Inc if you click on ‘Background’.
There are short extracts from the Australian TV documentary on Father Gore,
White Monkey, here