Saturday, July 26, 2014

Treasure Finders

Have you ever heard of treasure finders named Paul and Peter?

Well, I remember the times when some of my town folks were lured into treasure hunting. That was after Rogelio Roxas allegedly found the Golden Buddha in 1971. Many people even believe that some portions of Yamashita treasure were buried somewhere here in Occidental Mindoro waiting to be unearthed or already have already been taken. Certain rumor circulated in Lubang, just a year or two after Hiroo Onoda surrendered, that a couple of Japanese nationals allegedly stayed in the island for quite some time and suddenly vanished along with their digging tools.

The story of Roxas and the Golden Buddha and the two stories in our Gospel reading this Sunday, July 27, 2014, are in some ways similar. They are both about a man and they found something very precious and of great value. Be it treasure or pearl, as we can read from Matthew 13:44-46.

The first story tells us about a man, probably a farm tenant, cultivating or digging the field until he found something beyond expectation or by accident. He is not sure whether the previous land owner have forgotten about them or perhaps the owner is now gone. In no time he did realize that the treasure has been there for very long time. He knows that he found something precious and he must keep it.

The second parable is the same yet different. Our man did not find it accidentally. He had been searching for it for a long time until he finally got it. He, merchant as he is, was looking for something real and authentic. Indeed, he knows exactly that he is hunting for fine pearls.  

Know what did they do after finding those precious things? Whether by accident or by tedious hunt, they have the same reaction: selling all they had, giving up everything else in order to get the treasure or the pearl. Many of us may think, “WTF! Did they really give up everything just for some treasure?” We may think that they are nuts, but for them, what is more important is an eternal and perpetual Return of Investment or ROI!

Jesus’ opening words in both of the story is this: “The kingdom of heaven is like…” Jesus is trying to show us here what's the worth of the Kingdom of God and what it’s like being part of this kingdom. Tellingly, the two parables lead us in knowing that Jesus is our greatest treasure.

If you would allow me, I would like to call the first one Paul and the other one Peter. Paul, not unlike our first man, found Jesus unexpectedly and on the contrary, Peter was already familiar with the Son of God. Paul (nee Saul), a former exterminator of his future Lord’s followers, found the greatest treasure on the road to Damascus while Peter discovered Jesus, after venturing on many spirituality and religious beliefs, when he journey with Him through thick and thin and finally found his pearl of great price. Ergo, Paul and Peter were both treasure finders who gave all their “T”s,- Time, Treasure and Talent, to get those divine treasures and in the end transformed by their find.

Me? My transformation is still being uploaded for I am still a freebie trying to open my search engine to find for Jesus rather than be stumbled upon the net or Googled by Him.

I am still a murky scavenger in this social garbage heap hoping to be a transformed treasure finder. Just like the treasure hunters in my place way back then...

(Photo: The Clipart Wizard)

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Right before typhoon Glenda hit the country at around 6:00 in the afternoon last Monday, President Benigno Aquino III delivered a televised speech defending the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Glenda crossed the Bataan-Zambales area Wednesday afternoon before exiting to the West Philippine Sea later in the day. Many municipalities were submerged with flood especially the coastal barangays and those near riverbanks. Classes at all levels were suspended and major thoroughfares across Occidental Mindoro were cut. Low-lying areas in San Jose are submerged with water. All over the country, Glenda has left at least 38 people dead with initial reports indicating damage to infrastructure and agriculture could be extensive.

No less than Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Ramirez-Sato, a staunch Aquino ally was, according to reports,  personally invited by the President to witness to the Chief Executive’s airing of 14-page, 23- minute speech. As one of her constituents, I am deeply honored seeing her with the president along with few selected officials and personalities personally handpicked by the president.

But while there are groups who believe that Aquino is liable for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust for authorizing the creation of DAP where key provisions of which have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the president’s local political supporters are right behind him in justifying his handling of the 149 billion DAP.

Upon seeing Congresswoman Ramirez-Sato on television right there when PNoy delivered his speech, these questions suddenly came to mind: Does the president, like in his home province Tarlac, have a pet project here in Occidental Mindoro under DAP? If yes, what and where specifically are those projects? Our people would be very happy if somebody from the concerned offices would educate us on this. Budget secretary Florencio Abad and even President Aquino himself claims that the DAP was designed to stimulate the economy but the people of Occidental Mindoro have no idea how it worked here, how we are benefiting or about to benefit from it or how it would help our local economy.

Pardon me but the first thing that came to my mind last Monday when the president speak about DAP is not the boosting of local economy here in Occidental Mindoro. What I immediately realized are the big allocations of money and transfer of funds among government agencies and the freezing of millions of pesos of money in some institutions’ coffer. Like the payment by the Bureau of Customs of its P2.8 billion debts to the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. and the payment by DepEd of its P4.1 billion debts to the Government Service Insurance System or GSIS, among others. My brain maybe selective but that’s how it worked that night.

While I believe that there’s nothing wrong with using the savings of the executive department to stimulate economy (assuming that Malacanan people are not lying and in good faith) the so-called power of the purse or the national budget belongs solely to the Congress. And being a veteran legislator, our representative definitely knows that. Any realignment of budget to other projects not provided in the General Appropriations Act or GAA should still pass through Congress in the form of supplemental budget.

They, the Aquino supporters here in my place, said that DAP and PDAF are different. They say, “Sa PDAF ni Napoles may kurapsyon. May mga pulitiko at mga bogus na NGO na nakinabang, samantalang sa DAP naman ay walang pandarambong na nangyari. Hindi naman kumita dito si Abad at si PNoy!” Sorry but I am into opinion that the DAP and PDAF  are one and the same in terms of demonstrated lack of respect for public funds, social and government institutions and the Constitution. Remember, not all unethical acts and scandals are categorized as corruption!

But I am not into PNoy’s impeachment, to make myself clear. For me, it’s just a waste of time and resources since impeachment is just a political process and in the end it is only the politicians, its main players, would play the numbers game. On the other hand, I am also not in favor of the filing of TRO against the recent Supreme Court’s ruling on DAP for it would result to more constitutional and legal vacuum if not chaos. But I’ll reserve that for another blog entry.

Now that typhoon Glenda is gone, DAP is expected to storm the nation if the president and his supporters overly assert it…

(Photo: Rappler)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Of The Lover’s Dictionary and Loom Bands

I was in Manila for an official travel when my daughter Anawim (or Shida) who just graduated from college last March asked me to buy her a book. She texted me while I was at SM North. After receiving her text message I went straight ahead to National Bookstore’s customer service booth and inquired about “The Lover’s Dictionary” written by David Levithan. The clerk who was sitting in front of the computer looked at me and threw me an intriguing smile. At the corner of my eye, I saw the cashier standing nearby giggling at us. The one facing the computer monitor then called somebody through the intercom and said, still smiling, “So may stock pa. Dadalhin mo ba dito o siya ang pupunta diyan sa puwesto mo?”  The one at the end of the line probably asked how s/he could identify me so the woman at the customer service retorted, “Lalake. Hindiii…. May edad na!” I did not hear what the response was over the intercom but there’s a sudden burst of laughter which I hear from point-blank range. Sensing that the ladies see “The Lover’s Dictionary” as material for young-adult readers and not for a middle-aged man like me, I told the customer care woman with an explaining smile, “Hindi po sa akin ‘yan. Sa anak ko. Pinabili lang.” Without a word and the smile in her face now gone, she entertained another client next to me. To cut the long story short, I got my book and said my thank you. She smiled again but it’s different this time. It has, as I can feel it, being daughter of her father herself, a drop of admiration.

Here’s another story: While in a passenger’s van on my way to Sablayan for work last Monday, I noticed the lady sitting beside me, aged 25 or so, looked at the rubber accessory at my right wrist then turned her eyes to mine and again, just like the women at the National Book Store at SM North, she threw me very a silent but intriguing smile. Probably she thinks that I am either crazy or already experiencing second childhood. Wearing loom band is a fad today among children and teenagers that’s why some of my friends keep teasing me about the bracelet I am wearing for almost a week now. But I am not giving a heck and I will wear my loom band as long as I like. Sophia (or Pipay) my youngest, 10 years of age, crafted it herself and gave it to me as a gift the day I was celebrating my 22nd year of marrying her mother. Tellingly, I even stumbled upon Philippine News Central a picture of Pope Francis wearing loom band bracelets, reportedly given by poor neighborhood kids during an audience at the Vatican. Ako pa kaya!

This latest craze was invented by a father named Cheong Choon Ng in 2011 reportedly to impress his kids. So, loom band’s origin can be rooted in a relationship among family members, so to speak. 

Lover’s dictionary and loom band. Parenting for me, is sort of a dictionary that gives meaning to little things, book or bracelet, banding them together in a loom called Love….  

(Photo; Squido Craft) 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Time Out for Richard Rorty

Our concerns for electric power in Occidental Mindoro is not only a complex and multidimensional issue and judging from the recent posts and comments from respected opinion writers in on-line discussion threads, this misunderstanding pushes us all at the verge of disunity. The energy problem each day (especially during night time) already devastated us and our common dream for a concerted attempt to solve this crisis which started only-God-knows when.

Nasty words flew from all angles and directions but no matter how intelligent, rational, logical and sane they are, they are empty to me. In the sincerity of my silence (meaning not involving in these exchanges, which I think the most rational thing to do in the middle all of those unfriendly gestures), I took part in the recent initiatives towards the realization of our common goal for a sustained, reliable and affordable electricity for our locality. But making public what we do now would be premature. We intend to announce it at the right and proper time and venue. Please bear with us.

Reflecting on the current negative exchanges between my Facebook friends compels me to write this piece. The exchanges made me realize that the will to be objective certainly WILL always remain subjective. Even the most sincere and truthful witness or whistle blower under oath cannot set aside his or her biases in his/her statement. We as netizens have our own biases over issues especially those that can be rooted to politics and politicians. This is no doubt can rightly be considered a political issue for it concerns public welfare that involves our rights as consumers and whether we like it or not, it involves political personages. So it must be elevated from emotional to gut level discussions. As posters in discussion threads, we all risk out commitment to objectivity and we must always expect response from others, be it positive or negative. It is very easy to accept this fact.

Their recent exchanges were full of wisdom, yes, but devoid of taste, to say the least. This includes some comments from the readers when they join the fray. They are like medicines in bacteria-infected vessels, so to speak.

Nobody has the complete grasp and conclusion of this problem that caused the frequent power outages resulting to economic and productivity losses and missed opportunities and untold misery and insecurities of the citizenry. The “whole truth and nothing but the truth” in whatever issue, will always be elusive and no single person or group can claim that s/he has it all.

So, this discussion about power problem in our province cannot be treated as a singular event. This is connected to all other socio-political dimensions: legal, personal, physical and technical. Be it moral and even spiritual. Though relying only from my background as a former church worker, I am into opinion that our friends and acquaintances judge our spiritual growth and worth not only on how we respond to approvals or agreements, but also on refutations and disbelief, both coming from our friends or enemies. The words we use and the tone we set. Intentionally or not, one cannot afford to be a fool who always endears himself to evil structures and systems and the devils who are the roots of this hellish debacle that we are experiencing. We must not fall to the temptation of evil,- the grand great snatcher and concealer of truth and half truths, the grand master of divide and rule tactics. By muddling the issue, by misdirection, we serve, knowingly or otherwise, as Devil’s acolyte.

We have to work together for Richard M. Rorty once said, “One cannot be irresponsible toward a community of which one does not think of oneself as a member.”  I believe too that overly finding or stressing the truth here is not of vital importance. Rorty, my “newly found” philosopher once said, “Insistence on the existence or the importance of truth seems to me empty, at least by comparison to insistence on the need of freedom." Our utmost need in this particular case is no other than freedom from power crisis, personal differences are just peripheries! 
Rest assured that this will be my first and last reaction on the heated arguments between my friends that saddened me. Hope they’ll put an end to this word war soon.

This is just a sort of request for perpetual time out from a teammate who just read Rorty's thoughts...


Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Reply to Fr. Dick

Last week, Fr. Dick Guillermo, a friend and a compadre (He's one of my Sophia's godfathers), wrote a very meaningful albeit long overdue reflection on the present thorny journey of our local church, the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose (AVSJ). I have read his piece from his Facebook Wall and it’s called “An Appeal on Father’s Day”. The author, a diocesan clergy, firmly and courageously breaking his “deafening silence” and publicly revealed, though not naming names, that a priest, I assume the present Vicar General, filed a case before the Prosecutor’s Office, against two of his fellow clergy in our diocese and Fr. Dick calling it an “insane” move!

He recalled from his memory the initiatives they have done to extinguish the small fire before becoming beyond control. To my mind, in almost four centuries of existence of Catholicism in the Philippines, there was never been an instance such as this. A priest brought to a civil court a case against his brother priest(s). The young priest from Mamburao aptly posed urgent questions and challenges for our reflection and consequent action as people of God:  “So where will AVSJ heading to? Perhaps what is happening now is more than enough reason to despair, to give up and to lose hope. After all, where can we find the solution? We all have been hurt and healing is nowhere to be seen. The future is dark, sunrise is not yet coming.” I am writing this as another reflection aside from the reflections I wrote since 2011, about the burning or DZVT and the Chancery Building and the close shop of the Saint Joseph College Seminary (SJCS) and every sad memories about the Social Action Center/Social Services Commission where I worked as a lay employee and spent half of my life in the pastoral program that once sustained me and my family, both materially and spiritually.

I firmly believe that the laity is part of this insanity, as what Fr. Dick calls it. This is in no way only about the priests involved in the case. We the laity are sinning by spreading around rumors that cannot be verified by records or facts. The influential and the powerful in our midst want to keep the Church out of social-political concerns. Majority of the church-goers prefer to be generous to celebrity and healing priests over our homegrown fathers and the fate of vocation of our very own seminarians.

Now more than ever, let us anchor ourselves to our theological method or Theology Spiral of See- Judge- Act which is a useful way of working to ensure the balance between reflection and action. I am inviting every member of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) and mandated religious organizations, personally and in the silence of our actions to reflect, stand and act on this issue to settle all of these through dialogue. If the laity is part of this problem, we are truly also part of the solution. Or, as I have said, we will be the doomed flock of Zechariah. To be silent in this present predicament makes us midwives to what the devils have bore upon us!

I am inviting you all to first reflect on these essential questions: What sort of message does it send to the fallen away Catholics who are already overly suspicious and skeptical whenever there is wind of anything adverse either brewing or potentially brewing within the Catholic Church?  And more importantly, what sort of message does this send to Jesus, Who, in fact is our Church? But let not be passive. Let us reprove and expose them in gentle but gallant manner (Ephesians 5:11). If I could be of help in whatever concerted action in the future, I am just a PM away.

To end this entry, allow me to echo Fr. Dick's hard as steel words: “I appeal for prayers and understanding. I appeal for reason. I appeal for change.” Amen and ditto…


(Photo: Grabbed without permission from JD Guillermo’s FB account)


Sunday, June 8, 2014

The (Mega) Voice

A young boy from Sablayan named Mega Frandio Oane (You Tube erroneously listed his family name as “Dane”) participated in The Voice Kids Philippines aired over ABS-CBN Channel 2 last night. Mega was not able to spin the seats of the judges-mentors namely, Lea Salonga, Bamboo and Sarah Geronimo. With the right choice of song, the little boy, they say, could have won the competition. But he succeeded by having a great fighting spirit to follow the footsteps of Jireh Lim, another homegrown talent, the original composer of “Buko”, the song Oane have rendered during the show's blind audition. No matter what, the people of Sablayan, the tourism capital of Occidental Mindoro, is so proud of you Mega. Keep on trying and we pray that next time you’ll land on the big, mega, league!

But all roads lead to Rome they say.

In Italy, the mega nun Sr. Cristina Scuccia topped her country’s version of The Voice last Friday in her rendition of “Flash Dance…What a Feeling”, that clinched her victory among the final four competitors during the four-hour finale. Watch her rendition of the song HERE. The 25-year old nun who sing and dance garnered a convincing 62% of the votes but not without some negative reactions from some quarters even from Catholic circles.

While Mega Frandio Oane is a son of the owner of Mega Pinoy Beach Resort in Sablayan, Suor Cristina became a novice in 2009 and reportedly worked for two years with poor children in Brazil before formally joining the order although she still has to take her final vows.

Of her wearing of habit and crucifix during the show, some viewers and fans raised concerns and question whether such exhibitionism is appropriate for a nun. Critical viewers see it as a gimmick to win attention and ultimately win the contest. I will leave it at that. When asked what’s up next, she said to the reporters: "I will go back to my priorities – prayer, waking up early in the morning, school service. That's fundamental for me to be able to begin something new later on." Sister Cristina was born and raised in Sicily.

But singing nuns are not new in the entertainment field (or call it “dimension” if you wish). There was once a song about Saint Dominic that made it to the mainstream musical world. I was singing the song when I was 8 or so but it was only 10 years later I did realize that it is actually an inspirational or religious song. It even outsold Elvis Presley during its stay on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is entitled “Dominique”. “Dominique" is a 1963 French language popular song, written and performed by Jeanine Deckers of Belgium, better known as Sœur Sourire or The Singing Nun. So, Jeanine Deckers was the original sin,..err, singing nun.

To every great artist, this is the mega truth: Our talents are gifts from God.

Win or lose….


(Photo: SBS.Com)