Father Eduardo Vasquez, O.M.I. can sum up his ministry in just two words: “I watch.”
Since 2006 Fr. Vasquez has led a team of journalists who document injustices and the plight of the poor in the Philippines. As founder of i-Watch Media, Fr. Vasquez is a prophet of the digital age – awaking, educating and inspiring people through video production and presentations.
“We aim to motivate people to act together on urgent issues like poverty, environment, culture and faith,” said Fr. Vasquez. “We also aim to help people in their struggle for equality, peace and justice.”
In December Fr. Vasquez was honored by the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines with the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Fellowship for Professional Development. The honor was presented by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, who praised the Oblate priest for his bravery.
“He maintains that what motivates him is simple – that his documentaries give the poor a voice, that they allow the poor to be recognized in society,” said President Aquino.
Father Vasquez has incorporated the use of media into his ministry ever since he joined the Oblates in 1995. As a seminarian he worked as a news writer for a Catholic radio station. He also worked as a director and scriptwriter for a theatrical troupe that addresses social issues. He went to school in France in 2001 and earned a diploma in Social and Religious Communications.
After his ordination in 2003 Fr. Vasquez worked at a variety of rural Oblate parishes. Many times he would show videos before giving his homilies. His parishes were usually so poor that he had to use a giant cloth and a projector powered by a generator to show them.
In 2006 Fr. Vasquez received permission from the Oblates to produce videos about the people served by the Filipino Oblates and i-Watch was born. Soon Fr. Vasquez began training poor people in the missions how to operate video cameras and editing equipment.
Over the past few years i-Watch has produced documentaries dealing with socio-political, cultural and environmental issues. It has also documented humanitarian stories on the aftermath of battles between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
His new ministry has often placed Fr. Vasquez in grave danger. In 2010 his superiors required him to leave the province of Maguindanao after receiving numerous death threats.
Father Vasquez said he left Maguindanao not for fear of his own safety but because his collaborators were also being threatened with death. He continued to expose injustice in Maguindanao, but in a more prudent manner.
Today Fr. Vasquez’s documentaries can be viewed around the world. They regularly appear on television in the Philippines and on the group’s website, www.iwatchomi.com. In addition, i-Watch utilizes a variety of social media to spread its message. Photos and video footage are distributed to human rights groups for their international campaigns.
Despite the now global nature of i-Watch, Fr. Vasquez still sometimes relies on more primitive means to communicate his message. Occasionally he will load up a cart filled with video and audio equipment, hitch it to a horse or cow and bring the film to a remote village where it is shown on a wall or giant sheet.
“Despite our many challenges, I dream that we will be able to produce many more video documentaries relevant to the people we serve in our missions,” said Fr. Vasquez. I believe that this media form is a way for the Oblates to help be the voice of the poor.”