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Media Ministry Helps Poor in Philippines

 Abril Villarreal-Medina
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mindanao-crossFather Jonathan Domingo O.M.I. is the head of a large, multi-channel media empire in the Philippines.  But he doesn’t talk or act like a typical chief executive officer. “Most media companies are accountable first to their shareholders and to advertisers,” said Fr. Domingo.  “We are accountable only to God and the people.”

Father Domingo leads the Notre Dame Broadcast Corporation (NDBC).  A ministry of the Missionary Oblates, NDBC includes radio, print, television and Internet media.   These outlets provide news, education and religious programming with a vision of being “compassionate, boundary-breaking and reconciling for peace.”

The Oblates run eight radio stations in the Philippines and are affiliated with more than a dozen other stations.  Most of the stations are in the southern portion of the country where there has been decades of conflict between Muslims and Christians.  The stations promote nonviolent solutions to religious, social and political conflicts. The Oblates have been involved in the print media since 1948, when they published the first issue of The Mindanao Cross.  Known as “the Little Paper with a Big Cause,” The Mindanao Cross is a weekly community newspaper that promotes peaceful solutions between different ethnic groups and the importance of preserving the ethnic identities of indigenous tribes.

Recently the Oblates expanded their media ministry into television by starting a small t.v. station in Jolo.  The station provides a forum for an exchange of ideas to foster inter-religious and inter-community collaboration. Supporting all of these media outlets is i-Watch, a video production company started by the Oblates in 2006 that features a team of journalists who document injustices and the plight of the poor.

“More than a journalist, I am a priest,” said Fr. Domingo.  “We have to look behind the headlines, we examine the causes of poverty, hunger and homelessness.  We are missionaries.”

The Internet is allowing the Oblates to reach more people in the Philippines and around the world with their positive messages.  Annually, more than one million visits are made to the NDBC online news portal, www.ndbc.com.ph.

The website includes an abundance of information, from breaking news around the world to tips on how to get rid of rats (sprinkle black pepper).  It also provides viewers with daily liturgical and biblical readings.  The website is interactive, allowing visitors to post comments, opinions and suggestions.

Sixty years ago, the Oblates’ “media empire” in the Philippines was one radio station and a small weekly newspaper.  Today their broadcasting corporation is a major source of news and information for people throughout the country.  But the core purpose has not changed during those many years.

“My being a journalist does not hinder me and my mission as a priest,” said Fr. Domingo.  “The media should be guided by apostolic vision and a missionary way of life to become a voice of the poor.”