Monday, November 30, 2009

Student, School or System?

I am not a product of a Catholic school and now I deeply regretted it. I bolted out of the Divine Word College of San Jose (DWCSJ) as a Bachelor of Arts (AB) student in early 80’s simply because of financial hardships. Also, I am bored on attending retreats and recollections including subjects concerning religion and spirituality. Nobody in our subjects and gatherings openly talk about the US military bases, about academic freedom and other burning issues of the day then, or anything negative about the dreaded Marcos government. Over and above, my poor parents could not afford, financially-wise, to keep me there. As expected, I suddenly dropped college and find work for a living. I felt like the poor man Andres Bonifacio, who was unable to go to any of the learning institutions dominated by the “ilustrados” during his time.

But outside the walls of DWCSJ are nameless teachers, rich experiences and supportive co-learners from streets, workplaces and rural communities. People who do not have to wear Levis and puff Philip Morris to gain awe and respect. A learning institution spelled L-I-F-E, where you could enroll with nothing but sheer courage, hard work and enthusiasm to discover the academy itself. From the motor pool of a DPWH project in Laguna sub-contracted to E.E. Lite Corporation, the construction site of the PAF Satellite tower in Tagaytay, in South China Sea as an apprentice fisherman, the dirty kitchen of NFA canteen as errand boy, to the picture lab of Kodak-Premier Photo,- I was in those places.

DWCSJ is the most prominent,- particularly when it comes to number of enrollees, Christian academic community in the province. Here is their mission statement : “DWCSJ commits itself to provide the students a Christian liberal education with technical and professional competence in line with local, regional, national and global development goals. It also binds itself to develop and enhance the intellectual, spiritual, moral and physical capabilities of the members of the academic community through its religious, educational and administrative services towards professionalism and competence.” There are other Catholic schools in Occidental Mindoro, actually called Vicarial schools : Holy Family Academy in Central, San Jose, Colegio de San Sebastian in Sablayan, West Mindoro Academy in Mamburao, San Rafael High School in Abra de Ilog, and Stella Maris School in Lubang.

DWCSJ and the rest of the Catholic schools are “an educational power” where the past pupils and alumni are potentials for social transformation and conversion. An institution, I presume, where ethics before knowledge is emphasized. But sometimes it’s hurting to find out and realize that there is a mismatch between what is learnt inside the classroom and what is done in society, therefore what is learnt in school does not lead to social transformation and Gospel-inspired spirituality. There are known politicians and private citizens, for example, coming from prominent Catholic schools in general who support or sponsor vices and all forms of gambling. There are those who graduated in Catholic institutions who are involved in crime and other wrongdoings. There are also businessmen who only think of their profit neglecting social responsibility. There are some who prostitute their talents for bad politicking thus sustaining the traditional political culture and its evils. Some willingly abhor to the will of their political patrons or bosses instead of using their abilities and sense of duty taught by missionary priests and scholastic nuns during their youth. Former priests (and seminarians) included. Now, who says that schooling is a cure or solution for social phenomenon (criminality, immorality, etc.) which we do not like? Surely, those are just few bad tomatoes in a huge veggie basket called Catholic education. Or, they have their own personal reasons for it, so might as well respect them.

To my mind, there are still things needed to be done in Catholic education system, to wit : First and foremost is to recognize the critical importance of teachers. They must be periodically re-educated and trained not only on skills but especially in moral and religious education. Faculty and students must collaborate or establish network among civic, advocacy groups and organizations and this must be strengthened and sustained. Active teachers from Catholic schools are also expected to participate in charitable and social action works of Catholic-run institutions or get involved in the pastoral works of their respective parish,- like membership in religious organizations or taking part in liturgies,- to mention a few.

In 1987 I went back to college. I loved being in a place where discussions on socio-political issues are open and allowed, in and off campus. Along with our teachers, we discussed national situations and we organized ourselves into a potent force which toppled of our school administrator via ala-EDSA People Power fashion. I am so proud of my alma mater,- the Occidental Mindoro National College or OMNC.

But I really wish I finished my AB at DWCSJ because I believe in what people say that education built upon Christian values prepares the future public servant (or those who are destined to wield power and authority) for the tough job ahead. We have high expectations on these Christian Catholic leaders because we believe that they believe that the kind of education which forms character and produces faith in sound principles of life comes through personal influence and example.

I truly regretted not being a DWCSJ alumnus. Instead, I sent my eldest there four years ago for his secondary education because his mother told me that every student from a Catholic school is expected to acknowledge the immense role of the Holy Spirit as a silent worker telling her/him where to go, how to act (or not to act) in any given situation, whether in their private or public life.

I am just taking this as a consolation for me : academic superiority or any achievements in school enhance the power obtained and shared by our mentors, but the ethical value of it depend on how we use it. Any school work or academic endeavor opens an opportunity that a thing may be, but the probability that it will happen depends on the individual person, and it may be nil or contrary to what is expected or desired. May my only son live to the ideals of DWCSJ all throughout and like Andres Bonifacio, may he rise above his personal needs for the sake of higher and greater cause – freedom and justice based on the teachings of the Church. For both he and Bonifacio share the same birth date today.

Was it really depends on the student, the school or the system?...

(Photo: aerial shots of DWCSJ from Jamil V. Estorninos’ Facebook album, “For Those Who Miss Home”; This picture drove me to post this blog entry -NAN)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Maguindanao Massacre and other Real Life Massacres

While the whole world led by the United Nations, through its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, is condemning the mass slaughter of 46 people – including women and journalists – in a poll-related Maguindanao Massacre last Monday, I am recollecting the accounts of known brutal and senseless mass killings from my memory.

There are at least four massacre stories (excluding those turned into movies by Carlo J. Caparas) that I could remember well : the Escalante Massacre and the Mendiola Massacre. I’ve also read from history materials another group killings in the Philippines that gained international attention like the Jabidah Massacre happened in 1968 (which was, by the way, made into film by Jerry O. Tirazona in 1990, starring the late Anthony Alonzo). And another incident of disrespect for life and peace happened in Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro more than 6 years ago – the Talayob Massacre.

In brief, here are the stories : The Escalante Massacre was an incident on September 20, 1985 in Escalante City, Negros Occidental where Regional Special Action Force (RSAF) and the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) gunned down civilians engaged in a protest-rally in commemoration of the 13th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. The crowd composed of sugar workers, farmers, fisher-folk, students, urban poor, professionals and church people staged a noise protest in the town center.

The Mendiola massacre, also called “Black Thursday” by some Filipino journalists, was an incident that took place in Mendiola Street, San Miguel, Manila, on January 22, 1987, in which state security forces violently dispersed a farmers' march on Malacañang Palace. Thirteen of the peasants were killed and many wounded when government anti-riot forces opened fire on the marchers. Some farmers from Occidental Mindoro belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Philippine Peasants' Movement) or KMP were also wounded.

The Jabidah Massacre, also known as the Corregidor Massacre, refers to an incident which occurred on the night of March 18, 1968 on the Philippine island of Corregidor. It was on this night that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) massacred at least 28 Moro Muslim recruits under their supervision. The Jabidah Massacre is widely regarded as having been the catalyst behind the modern Moro insurgencies in the Southern Philippines.

Lest we forget the Talayob Massacre where entire Mangyan family was fired upon by army soldiers from the 16th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines last July 21, 2003 in So. Talayob, Brgy. Nicolas, Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro. The poor victims who died from the indiscriminate firing were Roger Blanco who expired on the way to the hospital, his wife Oliva, who was then eight-months pregnant and their two sons John Kevin, 3, and Dexter, 2.

All of the four incidents were perpetuated by armed state agents and justice was not rendered to the victims up to now. The whole Filipino people are appealing to concerned authorities to restore justice to the situation. The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in a Press Statement on Maguindanao Massacre issued November 24, 2009 signed by its president, Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, has this to say : “We join the appeal to rightful authorities to restore justice in the situation. We likewise appeal that the common good as well as respect for human life be uppermost in the campaign for political ends. May this painful situation be a strong reason for further pursuing the ongoing peace process in Mindanao.” In the four incidents, especially in Talayob Massacre, our justice system is totally cannot be depended on.

The massacre of about 50 + people in Sharik Aguak reminds us that political syndicates and warlords can take away innocent lives for a partisan political cause. Some quarters also blame AFP for these political warlords, according to them, were used by the military in their counter-terrorism campaigns in Mindanao. Some politicians elsewhere also coddle terrorists and rebels. Politicians as “tactical allies” of these armed non-state groups can now be classified as real terrorists by becoming indirect instigators of these senseless and brutal mass killings. Others say that the massacre is just part of the long time “rido” (clan wars) between the Ampatuans and Mangudadatus and it has nothing to do with the government, elections and ideological or religious groups but it cannot deny the fact the blood of the victims will forever haunt us as a nation.

Last July 5, 2009 in his talk on the Devotion to the Most Precious Blood of Christ addressed to the priests in his office, Benedict XVI said, “Dear brothers, it is written in Genesis that the blood of Abel, killed by his brother Cain, cried out to God from the earth (cf. 4:10). And, unfortunately, today as yesterday, this cry does not cease, since human blood continues to run because of violence, injustice and hatred. When will men learn that life is sacred and belongs to God alone? When will men understand that we are all brothers?”

Indeed, life is sacred and belongs to God alone. In the Bible, life is blood. God answers the taking of human life with the giving of the Blood of His Son. The Blood of Jesus pleads on behalf of all: those who are the victims of violence including massacres,- and even those who perpetrate it, that they may be converted and live.

For Jesus taught us : “Vengeance is mine”…

(Photo from ListOwn.Com : Maguindanao Massacre pictures)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Two Kings

Everyone of us is familiar with the story of King Midas. Yap, that mythical king with a touch of gold. Even the beautiful flowers in his garden turned gold. The king grew hungry and thin, for each time he tried to eat, he found that his meal had turned to gold. His lovely daughter,- at his loving touch, turned hard and fast to gold. His water, his bed, his clothes, his friends, and eventually the whole palace was gold.

King Midas saw that soon his whole kingdom would turn to gold unless he did something right away. He asked Dionysus to turn everything back to the way it had been and take back his golden touch. Because the king was ashamed and very sad, Dionysus took pity on him and granted his request. Instantly, King Midas was poorer that he had been, but richer, he felt, in the things that really count.

The local political leaders who support,- directly or indirectly, the Pitkin Petroleum Ltd and the Intex Resources, the two mining companies operating in the island of Mindoro only think of the economic side of the coin. Just like King Midas before his wish was granted by Dionysius.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on January 29, 2006 issued a document called “A Statement on Mining and other Concerns” and with these words CBCP reiterated their stand on mining in the whole country : ”We reaffirm our stand for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995. We believe that the Mining Act destroys life. The right to life of people is inseparable from their right to sources of food and livelihood. Allowing the interests of big mining corporations to prevail over people's right to these sources amounts to violating their right to life. Furthermore, mining threatens people's health and environmental safety through the wanton dumping of waste and tailings in rivers and seas.”

Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King and it's the end of the liturgical year for us Catholics. Next week we begin a new year with the first Sunday of Advent. And this is the perfect time to reflect on who really is the King of our life. Lumen Gentium describes Christ’s Kingship in these few words, “to reign is to serve.” To translate this in political term, “authority is service.” This is what we, citizens and taxpayers, want to ask our aspiring candidates in the forthcoming local elections.

Let us reflect on these points today : “Who is the King we choose to follow?” “Who are the people of this kingdom who cry out to be remembered by us?” “Who among our political kings (and queens) consider Jesus in their every public and private action?” God’s Kingship is not about self-serving, ruthless power, but about a God who is infinite love. Accepting Christ as King means that we strive to live like the Good Shepherd.

Jesus’ Kingdom is not about ruthless power (i.e. public display of rudeness and arrogance, etc.), or royal attendants (i.e. the “majestic” paid propagandist and “barkers”), or all those things we think of when thinking of kings (like palaces, horses (read: luxuriuos vehicles), knights (read: bodyguards), etc.). Matthew Gospel sums it up best,- I think, when it says: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, to give his life as a ransom for the many” (Mt. 20:28).

Pope Benedict XVI has remarked that Christ's Kingship is not based on "human power" but on loving and serving others. May today’s Feast of Christ the King change and influence the way we think, we work,- the way we spend our free time, the way we pray, and the way we vote come May 2010.

Viva Cristo Rei!!…

(Photo :The statue of Cristo-Rei (Christ the King), overlooking the city of Lisbon, portrays the Sacred Heart inviting all of humanity to come and follow Him. Taken by Teresa T. from

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hunger Strike Vs. MNP

This hunger strike reminds me of the same protest made by a Canadian named Donna Dillman which I stumbled upon from a website months ago. Dillman, a grandmother to four kids, began her hunger strike outside of the gates of the uranium protest site in Frontenac County, Ontario, Canada, on October 8, 2007 calling for a moratorium on uranium mining in Eastern Ontario two years ago. The woman legislator survived 68 days without food.

The anti-mining advocates from my island of birth are gathering today in Manila for a hunger strike scheduled this week (November 16-18, 2009) to vehemently oppose the issuance of a clearance by DENR Sec. Joselito Atienza to a mining firm operating in the whole island of Mindoro. The hunger strikers will be joined by representatives from the local government units of two Mindoro provinces led by governors Arnan Panaligan and Josephine Sato of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, respectively. Representatives from the Church led by Calapan Bishop Warlito Cajandig, DD together with CBCP-NASSA Chairman and Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, DD will say Mass for the strikers on Nov. 18. Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD, DD will be represented by Msgr. Ruben S. Villanueva, Vicar General of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose.

The protest activity is meant to pressure DENR secretary Joselito Atienza to revoke the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued to said mining firm. Intex Resources Philippines, a division of Intex Resources ASA of Norway, has been granted an ECC by DENR last October 14, 2009 to operate the Mindoro Nickel Project or MNP that will extract and process nickel laterite ore and its by-products, such as chromite, cobalt, zinc, sulfide and ammonium sulfate. The mining site lies in a critical watershed area which supplies irrigation water for Mindoro’s rice fields.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez of Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN) and Mangyan Mission said in a statement that the move of DENR to grant permit to the mining company was a “brazen act of betrayal of public trust.” A statement from ALAMIN states that : “Instead of coming to rescue our fragile ecology, the DENR shamelessly pursued the national policy agenda of the Arroyo government to promote mining industry, with utter disregard to the risks posed by the destruction of Mindoro’s critical watershed through the risky large-scale, strip mining operation of Intex Resources ASA.”

In our interview with Rep. Diogenes Osabel of ALAGAD Party List over DZVT yesterday , he said that representatives Rodolfo G. Valencia (first district) and Rep. Alfonso V. Umali, Jr. (second district) of Oriental Mindoro already signed a resolution for the revocation of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by the DENR, while Deputy Speaker Amelita C. Villarosa of lone district of Occidental Mindoro opted for another round of legislative consultation on the issue. Osabel rendered his privilege speech on Mindoro Mining at the Hall of Congress also last Tuesday. For Villarosa, hunger strike should not be made as an option against mining in Mindoro. You may click and read the news item here.

While the events are unfolding in Manila, back in Occidental Mindoro, the Provincial Board headed by Vice-Governor Mario Gene Mendiola spearheaded series of public consultation and hearing in municipalities of Calintaan and San Jose geared towards the finalization of a 25-year moratorium ordinance for large-scale mining in the whole province of Occidental Mindoro. In his powerful speech during the consultation, Fr. Carlito M. Dimaano, Parish Priest of St. Michael Parish said : "Hindi natin papayagan ang anumang uri ng mina na papasok sa ating lalawigan". ("We will oppose any form of mining in Occidental Mindoro") Let us keep our fingers crossed. By the way, lunch is served elsewhere after the public hearing courtesy of Mayor Lily Estoya.

Going back to hunger strike, definitely one can live a long time without food, but clean water is essential to all life. Food and eating are symbolic of wellbeing and we are hoping that this activity would help increase awareness among our people, specially those who are still reluctant to fight for environmental protection. With the immediate revocation of the ECC, the hunger strike will end at once.

Here are worth-reflecting words from Donna Dilliman, a federal councilor that time in Frontenac County, Ontario : “As a society, it is time we grew up and realized that we live on a finite planet; that we must begin to live on Earth as if we want to stay.” What an inspiring nugget from a woman, from a grandmother who undoubtedly care for nature and her constituents' survival.

Unlike that big gramma whom I know ….

(Photo from by Wolfe Erlichman and Sandra Hannah)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dialogue's Power

I was out for a while to attend the community-based dialogue sessions on human rights promotion and protection between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), and civil society organizations (CSO) and local community held at Ponte Fino Hotel in Batangas City last November 10 - 11, 2009. The event organizers are people from Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Foundation, Inc. and the Alternative Legal Group or ALG headed by Atty. Marlon J. Manuel. Around 100 participants from the provinces of Region-IV attended the dialogue.

As a result of the alarming rise in unresolved cases of alleged extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the recent years, the Philippines got the attention of the international community and the government was prompted to initiate concrete actions to address the situation. On February 2007, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, visited the country to conduct and inquiry into the killings, and, thereafter, submitted his report and recommendations to the UN. The Supreme Court hosted the National Consultative Summit on Extralegal Killings which was attended by 400 participants from government and non-government institutions. During the early part of 2007, the AFP activated the AFP Human Rights Office (AFP HRO) and in June of the same year, the PNP created the PNP-HRAO under the office of the chief PNP.

The activity I mentioned a while ago is part and parcel of the project which aim to focus on creating venues, through a series of dialogue between AFP and PNP and CSO and local communities towards human rights protection and promotion, where the citizens to monitor the performance of said law enforcers against their avowed human rights promotion objectives. Top brigade and battalion officers of the Philippine Army were there as well as respective provincial PNP directors and their officers from all over the region were present. The IP, farmer and fisher folk leaders including leaders from the religious sector were in attendance.

We devote our first day to what we call preparatory caucus where related problems were initially put into the open including issues and gaps in relation to HR promotion and protection. The second day of the activity was the dialogue session proper. The forum provided a venue to discuss and share information about the efforts of the participating agencies and institutions in said areas of human rights.

It’s a fresh experience for me discussing human rights issues and concerns in front of high military and police officers. Our facilitator did a great job of setting principles before the workshop by emphasizing our rights, responsibilities and skills during the activity proper. Indeed, for true dialogue to occur it needs to take place within a protective environment of mutually accepted rights and responsibilities, rooted in two fundamental values: respect for the human person and trust in the process of dialogue. Dialogue works best when the participants are willing to develop certain skills that facilitate the process. And we kept that in mind during our workshops.

As a Church worker, I was exposed to various dialogues in Occidental Mindoro between sectors of society. In one of his writings, Fr. Charles Morerod, OP, a dialogue expert, said that one basic rule is to pre-suppose the other point of view – even when it seems simply stupid – might sense. Of course one must also be convinced that his own point of view makes sense, otherwise he should change it.

My personal reflection on the recently-concluded dialogue on human rights protection and promotion,- which I was so blessed and lucky to be part of it, is a little something like this : Dialogue is not simply a way to mutual knowledge. For me as a Church worker, dialogue is imperative in every social involvement.

What is needed is clarity for everything said must be intelligible. To magnify my point I want to share you this. Pertaining to a topic in one of my posts, an anonymous commenter posted, “Be factual.” without elaborating what she/he mean by that. I tried my very best but I cannot comprehend her/his comment, really. During my college days, you cannot go away with those “abstract” words without me throwing back arrogant remarks on you. But now, everything has changed. Now that I know that a true dialogue is accompanied by Christian meekness even in disclosing evil ways. Only two decades ago did I realize that a dialogue marked by arrogance, the use of foul, subjective words or offensive bitterness is such a disgrace. Also in a true dialogue, we must all be brave and fair to introduce our self or disclose our identity to the person whom we criticize or when we shoot his message or the ideas sponsored by him.

How could one develop confidence (which is one of the basic characteristics of a true dialogue) if the other party hide his true self? By the way, confidence can be mirrored not only in the power of one’s word, but in the goodwill of one party.

A true dialogue promotes intimacy and friendship on both sides. The dialogue I have attended last week in Batangas brought a giant footprint of unity in our mutual adherence to human rights. At least to us, participants.

Suffice to say that a dialogue is an apostolate and in some way, making spiritual contact…

(Photo : From AVSJ-SSC File; Dialogue between Mangyan Leaders and the Philippine Army (PA))

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Health-wise, Vote-wise

During election time, one criterion often overlooked is the health status of a candidate. Only few Filipino voters, except maybe those in the field of medicine and perhaps those in the health/medical profession, care about it. Even politicians themselves do not give emphasis on this aspect. Though I am not from both fields, as a voter, I am beginning to contemplate on this issue and its political importance.

American President Franklin D. Roosevelt was crippled by polio, but the press abided by an unwritten rule that he was never to be photographed from waist down. But Mr. Roosevelt withheld an even graver medical condition. On Jan. 20, 1945, as he was being sworn in for a record fourth time, he was already suffering from severe hypertension and arteriosclerosis. Yes, he did not disclose his real health condition to the public and he died in office three months later.

There are three mayoralty aspirants so far come May 2010 in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. Here in our locality, health problems are not discussed and considered as anathema for politicians and a taboo subject for most of the local media, especially those owned and influenced by the the two local political giants. They focused more on senseless propaganda, mudslinging and pointing at each other’s shortcomings and blunders.

Here in the Philippines, there is no specific law mandating,- under the principle of right to information, a politician to full disclosure of her/his health record or status. But who wants a mayor who is serving his term die of diabetes or lung cancer and will not be able to complete her/his term of office? Many of us believe that the health status of a candidate is not an issue anymore. My friends told me that all we have to do is to dump the idea in the dustbin of electoral concerns. And just recycle it if time comes when our legislators are no longer dominated by traditional politicians and the traditional political culture. For us ordinary voters, the issue is as insignificant as a dew falling in a vast sea of local political events.

But here’s another vital question : “ Are the local media practitioners and election watchdogs in Occidental Mindoro ready to snoop on the medical records of our politicians (read: their bosses and patrons or even the rivals of their bosses and patrons)?” Media practitioners who are expected to be truth-bearers and champions of right to information. The local media in Occidental Mindoro, I think, is not yet ready to discuss said concern so in such climate, what the politicians have to do is to conceal their sickness or medical problems. In the first place, there is no such law mandating the candidates to reveal their authentic medical records. It is one of their campaign’s best kept secrets, so to speak.

And I am not buying this sort of crap from political and health authorities: “We must protect the sanctity of the medical records. It is very confidential.” There is a big problem. Medical records are not confidential, and they haven't been confidential as far as I could know based on my personal experience. Medical records have the same pattern of widespread use. When applying for a job, driver’s license, scholarship program, etc. If you are hospitalized, nurses, doctors and other hospital employees may see some or all of your records. Records may be shared with labs, x-ray facilities, nursing homes, physical therapists, pharmacists, and others involved in treatment. When claiming a medical benefit from SSS, the medical record of a patient can be scrutinized by anybody. Now, tell me what confidentiality are we talking about? Maybe you would say : “As medical treatment, yes. But not as an electoral criterion.” Whew! Truth is always not on our side, electorates.

Doctor-patient confidentiality stems from the special relationship created when a prospective patient seeks the advice, care, and/or treatment of a physician. It is based upon the general principle that individuals seeking medical help or advice should not be hindered or inhibited by fear that their medical concerns or conditions will be disclosed to others. But let us not forget that the duty of confidentiality is not absolute. Doctors may divulge or disclose personal information, against the patient's will, under very limited circumstances. For example, the case of Alvin Flores, the notorious criminal who just had a facelift to evade authorities. I think his doctor could not assert this thing called doctor-patient confidentiality. We, the electorates are always victimized by this epidemic called election!

As far as I know from the past local elections, no candidate have ever disclosed his medical records or health status in public. There is only one political bigwig in the province whose condition landed in pages of a national broadsheet that can be clicked here.

Anyway, the only mayor who died during his term in office is Bibiano Gaudiel, Sr., who served only for five months, due to cardiac arrest. Gaudiel was also the president of the Mayors League of Occidental Mindoro and died while rendering his speech in Ligaya, Sablayan in 1951,- if I were not mistaken. He was succeeded by his vice mayor, Ricardo Pascasio who was in the medical profession way back at the Philippine Milling Company in Central. But Gaudiel’s death was not due to a lingering illness. It was a sudden death.

I wonder if the physician who is also a mayoralty aspirant should dwell on this public concern in his campaign sortie aside from the Admittance and Discharge Policy of his hospital? Just asking.

Maybe I am getting OA but I hope someday, the Commission on Election (COMELEC), specially our national legislators should consider it …

(Photo : From the Rotary Club of San Jose at

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Centennial Gimmickry (Part 2)

I am writing this from my training, formation and opinion as a community organizer for I am not a historian in the strict sense of the word. Personally, I hate people who are valuing the good side of history too much. They overvalue history by not exposing the present and past evils of society. By using the very same credulous structures (the corruption-ridden LGU) and personalities (at least some) as vehicle to convey historical facts, programs or projects. Because if we cannot co-relate or juxtapose the past and the present,- the good and the evil in our midst, (i.e. in the formulation of a syllabus integrating local history to the educational curriculum) the teaching of local history in general can always be set aside. Or, might as well to forget totally.

When an elementary pupil is asked : “Who is Lawrence Cooper?” and his reply was, “He was the first municipal mayor of San Jose.”, it is in no way connected to his being a good (or bad) citizen in the future. His ludicrous ignorance (or exemplary knowing) of history proved nothing. In short, no amount of study of our town’s history could make us better citizens. What I am saying is knowledge of history,- no doubt, is indeed a fine or good accomplishment, academically or otherwise, but ignorance of it does not hinder our success in our career, profession, our line of work or vocation or our societal position. You may disagree with me on this point but I believe that the masses and their children in general, do not appreciate history neither care much about it. Much more with the history celebrations. We have to creatively dig up why but not put entirely the blame on them. They say, "history has nothing to do with me or with my stomach." It is the duty of the historian to explain its connection or its paralellism.

Many historical bodies do not employ social criticism as a historical approach or an approach to history in their once-in-a-lifetime endeavor such as this. Criticism, for the activists as taught by their experience, is our only guarantee against delusion, deception and superstition even misapprehension of ourselves and earthy circumstances. It is the cornerstone of our,- to borrow from Moron Savant, “existential bias”. Our critical faculty is a product of our training and formation, a mental habit and power. Having said that, the historian themselves must develop and enhance this faculty. Thus, history approach or study under this faculty is the one we can truly say that develops good and responsible citizens. I salute all of the activity participants for sharing their time and talent, amidst criticisms, for such self-sacrifice and self-giving especially the youth. May your enthusiasm in cultural and theater arts transcend to the streets, in a mass action against a particular social concern or vice-versa.

In short, historians (and history students, if you want to separate the two) must wage war with the status quo and must facilitate the formation of historical awareness through exposing and opposing societal evils and their “sponsors”. This is what’s happening in actuality : the evil ways,- say for example, of a politician or a person in authority, educate faster and deeper than lessons or curricula in history. And the masses, the people in the midst of these evils either join them in their evil ways and be perpetrators of injustice or allow themselves to be willing victims of such evil acts (i.e. graft and corruption, human rights violation, etc.). A systemic wrong that requires counter systemic response. “But it is NOT our job to go out of the streets and oppose the STL, the mining companies, the unscrupulous politicians and every social ill under the sun. We will just watch you activists and report the event as it happen. As a historian we are primarily a chronicler only destined to write and compile record of events and not to swim against the tide.” To proponent of this argument I rest my case for I've done more than enough to prove my point and need say no more.

Eunice asked me, “So what kind of celebrations and activities are you proposing?” This is my reply : “Nothing.” Remember, I just rested my case…

(Photo of the San Jose Cathedral by Ronet Santos from Flickr)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Diarrhea and Purgatory : An All Souls Day Offering (?)

I was sidelined by diarrhea in the last couple of days and during those times of ordeal, there are two things I cannot put down : a roll of toilet paper and a write-up on Eschatology by Edward Schillebeeckx. The material speaks about heaven, hell, and yes, purgatory (which is I think related to diarrhea for it came from the Latin ‘purgare’ meaning “to cleanse").

Whenever I go and visit my departed loved ones at the San Jose Public Cemetery when a was a teenager I always wonder : “Ilang kaluluwa kaya mula sa mga puntod na ito ang pinarurusahan sa impiyerno?” (How many of these souls are made to suffer in hell?) It was the time when I was still unaware that purgatory, hell and heaven are not places but are state of being. That they are state of being that cannot be easily described by an ordinary believer without using theological and spiritual lenses. Those were the wild days of my life finding ourselves snatching food offerings from the tombs of wealthy people,- specially Chinese, for our own Halloween party that often us cause us, you’ve guessed it right, diarrhea.

But there is really a place or estate of being called hell where God punishes evil or bad souls? First, according to Schillebeeckx, “All men have faults and imperfections and no one is as sinless as Jesus Christ. Even if we do good most of the time in our lives, we are still sinners. Even if a person dies in a state of grace, he or she remains a sinner”. Thus, God’s forgiveness is our final ticket to heaven.

But if someone rejects God and the idea of eternal bliss with the Lord, who do evil in a definitive way, who do evil with final intent, their physical death is also their absolute end. That is what I’ve learned from said Belgian theologian while lying on my bed and sitting on you-know-where.

This state of being of a sinner who refused to ask forgiveness of God would end even their own spiritual existence. They cannot have the grace of God for all eternity. And this is as damning as the picture of hell being painted into our imagination by our teachers in Religion subject when we were young. Or what was depicted in the Bible as a “lake that burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8). Hell in this notion is an eternal separation from a blissful and divine relationship with God. And this spiritual death is not a punishment. Ours is a loving God and not a revengeful God, if I may repeat.

On this view of purgatory, Schillebeeckx has this to say : “God’s first act of love in heaven is an act of illumination. God projects his light on human beings, illuminates them and purifies them. It is a kind of rooting in God, the first moment of the beatific vision. So all men and women go through purgatory before entering into the beatific vision of God”. And prayers from us the living, especially during All Saints day or All Souls Day is imperative in this purification process.

This is unthinkable : while joy and happiness pervades in House A (heaven) there should be people in a not far away House B (hell) on the point of expiring in the midst of infernal and eternal suffering. For Schillebeeckx, the final fulfillment is exclusively positive. There is no negative eschaton like the eternal suffering of souls. It is against the nature of God who is love for human beings to be punished for all eternity.

Thought-provoking, isn’t it? Next time, I will also read the writings of notable theologians who opposed or made revisions on this point like Karl Rahner and Tielhard De Chardin. Including other readings regarding Eschatology.

That is only if diarrhea engulfed me again…

(Photo : Inquirer.Net)