Sunday, April 25, 2010

Voices From All Over

We have been hearing different voices coming from different people now that May 10 is near. Voices from the loudspeakers of a mobile propaganda team of a certain politician or a political party that roam around our streets. Voices coming from the media amplifying political advertisements. Voices from political sorties be it proclamation rally or miting de avance.
These are voices that made us deaf as a nation and as a people of God.

Last week, we have conducted a series of Candidates'Forum dubbed, "Kaunlaran ng Kanlurang Mindoro, Dangal ng Mamamayan", but as usual, most of the things we got are pointless words and voices.

Sadly because of this earthly voices, we somehow forgotten the voice of Jesus that hardly finds attention in our present situation, specially today that election time is just a few sleeps away. The clearest voice we hear and understand, it seems, are the ones coming not from the Risen Lord but from the political lords in our midst.

We have forgotten Mary Magdalene, a woman of ill repute, fearlessly went to the tomb with her oils to show once more her love for Jesus who loved her and showed what real love meant. After her frustrating search, Mary was called twice by name and she recognized the Risen Lord’s voice. In this encounter, what Christ said about the shepherd and the sheep is fulfilled. Remember what Jesus said : “I am the good shepherd. My sheep know thy voice.” With this encounter, Mary Magdalene is considered "apostle of the apostles".

It seems that the staunch supporters of our two local political titans in Occidental Mindoro follow other voices rather than the voice of the shepherd. By the way, the Good Shepherd is the Risen Lord that is why we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday (and that is today!) within Easter. Indeed Mary is a good member of Jesus’ flock so she recognized her Good Shepherd.

By the way, happy fiesta today to Fr. Rod Salazar, SVD and his parishioners in Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro!

From Mary Magdalene, let us go to Peter. Peter as introduced to us by the evangelists is the apostle who denied the Good Shepherd in order for him to save his (Peter’s) life. But Peter ultimately became a changed person. Unlike most of the politicians we hear a lot today. They never changed their old bad ways and becoming worse each year. Many of them remained corrupt and self-centered.

Three times Jesus told Peter : “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep”, thus Peter became a new person with a new mission. On the contrary, the traditional politicians here in my place of birth just became “same dogs with new collars”, they say. They shift loyalties from one patron to another. They slander each other like pagans of yore. They treat people like cattle they have to own.

Peter is tasked to start a new history,- not unlike what we expect from our future political leaders, for the Good Shepherd will be no longer be around physically. What the Good Shepherd is saying is this, I presume : “You Peter will now be in-charge of my sheep but I want emphasize that they are MY sheep. I am not giving you a sheep of your own. They are mine.”

This insight on Mary Magdalene and Peter is supplied by Imus Bishop Luis "Chito" Tagle in one of his books but its title skipped my memory.

But my favorite is the image depicting Jesus carrying lost lamb over his shoulders for it conveys that leaders must also impose punishment against an erring black sheep (?). Somebody told me that during those times, shepherd break a leg of any member of his flock who go astray in order to give the animal a lesson. If that is so, the Good Shepherd is telling us that as a leader, it is imperative that we appropriately employ discipline to anyone who commit serious misdeed. After this punishment, I am certain that the Good Shepherd took extra care of his “prodigal sheep” until it’s back to normal life again,- walking and rejoining the rest of the flock.

In a way, the Good Shepherd is calling all the political leaders,- including political aspirants, of today to die for the sheep but they will not own anything and anyone. In short,- for me, here’s Jesus’ timely call : “Do the task of the shepherd out of pure service!”

The Risen Lord-Good Shepherd, as I see it is telling us,- voters and politicians including election officials, the words he told Peter, "Follow me"...

(Photo from Edith Escalante's collection)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Candidates I'm Supporting

I am supporting the candidacy of eight leaders from our Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) who are vying for local political positions, as town councilors, for three southern municipalities of Occidental Mindoro. From the Good Shepherd Parish in Magsaysay Conchita Soriano, Eddie Wagan, Ben Arroza, Gorio Rosete and Geraldine Mendez. All of them are endorsed by the BECs from the Good Shepherd Parish in Magsaysay. They are known as “Swarm” in their locality, the group’s acronym. Among the aspirants are Rogelio “Boy” Fallorina and Jose “Joe” Vidal from Saint Joseph Parish in Brgy. Central of San Jose town, likewise Noel Callanta from St. Peter Parish in Rizal. They are members of their respective Parish Pastoral Councils (PPCs) assigned as lay ministers and community leaders. Eddie Wagan is a Mangyan leader from Brgy. Purnaga in Magsaysay. Though they filed their Certificate of Candidacy (COCs) as independent candidates, they call themselves “Lakas ng Pamayanang Kristiyano” (Christian Communities’ Power).

The role of the church as a hierarchy is indeed to hold up moral values and not to provide specific blueprint for translating those values into political choices. Pope Benedict XVI in his trip to Brazil said, “The church is the advocate of justice and of the poor, precisely because she does not identify with politicians nor with partisan interests,” Benedict continued. “Only by remaining independent can she teach the criteria and inalienable values, guide consciences and offer a life choice that goes beyond political sphere.” Clerics and religious are prohibited to join (partisan) political activity but not the laity like you and me. Like those candidates I just mentioned above.

In times like this, the church calls on the laity to take its prophetic role for change and nation building for change is the call of the time and different social forces are moving to effect the changes they perceive are necessary. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in their pastoral letter last July 2009, called for the lay participation in politics and peace. According to the Filipino bishops : “ …indeed our present situation poses a great and urgent challenge for active lay participation in principled partisan politics.” In one of the Vatican II document it is stated : “Those (laity) with the talent and noble art of politics … should prepare themselves for it, and forgetting their own convenience and material interests, they should engage in partisan political activity” (Gaudium Et Spes, 75). Because politics, being a human activity, has a religious and moral dimension which Christianity cannot ignore. In short, as faith and life cannot be separated from each other. Same true with politics and religion. How we live mirrors our convictions and our convictions should guide our every action. Our political role is key for the evangelization of society.

Yes, I openly campaign for these honorable men and women of Occidental Mindoro. To campaign for them, personally for me, is a Christian obligation. The church,- especially the laity, must be involved in politics. Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian once said : “the Church ceases to be the Church if it shrinks the political problems of the time. All this requires a completely new attitude towards the relationship of religion with politics… As for the saying that religion and politics do not mix, Church critics are overlooking the fact that the Gospels are full of accounts of Jesus’ ministry, championing the poor and standing up for the rights of the underpriviledged and marginalized in the community. This cannot be characterized in any way a being apolitical.” What can you say about it?

Remember their names : Conchita Soriano, Eddie Wagan, Ben Arroza, Gorio Rosete and Geraldine Mendez (Magsaysay); Boy Fallorina and Joe Vidal (San Jose) and Noel Callanta (Rizal).

Good luck to all of you…

(Photo from

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lecturing Sophia

You’re in a way already a media practitioner when you were born at Mt. Carmel Maternity and Lying-In Clinic near the San Jose Public Market. Because it was then when you first cried to your parents and to Dr. Rosendo Nueve and his assistants and communicated to us that you were alive. Your mother can be considered as a media practitioner too. Right after recovering from birth pangs and pains, she communicated to her co-teachers at Mabini I Elementary School about the good news of our dear newborn babe.

So I was not amazed anymore when you told me last night that you want to be a TV reporter or journalist. My dear, you would not be able to land on such prestigious network if you do not enroll or take any media-related courses. And when you do this, Sophia, you do not intend to follow your father’s (earlier) footstep with that silly dream of yours.

Remember, my dear, that I,- your father, is not a true blooded media practitioner since I do not have any formal schooling on journalism or mass communication unlike the rest of the anchors and DJs you love to listen to over the radio. Besides, I do not want to be remembered as a local radio announcer because I don’t possess a quality voice. I want to be remembered as a social communicator as a whole. Media is but a vehicle, a means or an instrumentality or a means of communication. But to tell you the truth, I don’t want to be closely and completely identified with the known media personalities I am telling you a while ago who are used by powerful elites, specifically politicians, for their selfish political purposes and agenda. Because to my mind and contrary to what I see from them, media is to communicate informational data, convey formational factors and promote transformational values. As simple as that, Sophia.

Your father in no way claims to be holier than those people, Sophia. As a person and as an accidental radio personality, I also have horns like a sinful devil. But these horns keep my halo,- like that of an angel, in proper place above my head!

Okay, okay, so you really want to be a media practitioner? Clarity before else is the most important thing whenever you face the microphone or a camera. Whenever we present issues over the air, what is said should be intelligible. Also, you must express everything in a light manner. You may sometimes inject some humor and rumor or be naughty at times, but over and above, those must be accompanied with meekness. It would indeed be a disgrace if our words were marked by arrogance, the use of bare words or offensive bitterness. Remember, when you are already a TV or radio personality, that what gives you opinion its authority is the fact that it affirms the truth,- an example of virtue, avoids peremptory language and makes no demands. Unlike words some politicians are using over the radio, specially nowadays.

You must also be peaceful without using extreme hurtful tactics and methods. Just be patient under contradiction and incline towards generosity. I am sure you want to ask this : “Why are those who talk over the local radio do not promote friendship and intimacy instead of hostility and divisiveness?” Yes, Sophia, what is to be aspired is,- and I won’t get tired of saying this again and again, what should unite us, journalists of Occidental Mindoro, our mutual adherence to common good and thus shun all self-seeking things.

When you are already in the “big league”, my dear, please do not be a social liability and an enemy of truth. Do not be a big shame to your father and a big discredit to this noble profession and sublime vocation.

Allow me to put everything in a capsule. Please turn to page 90 of the book “Media in Our Midst” by +O.V. Cruz, JCD,DD : “Let it be here explicitly and categorically stated that media’s fundamental allegiance is to truth – to nobody and to nothing else. In fact, media is at its best when it adores no “sacred cows”, it bows to no “superior humans”, it is blind to the “glitter of gold” and deaf to the “sound of silver”. Media practitioners themselves know this only too well. The moment media becomes the purveyor of part truths if not downright lies, this would be the height of the social liability it acquires, such as being an enemy of truth, it also becomes the enemy of the people, the cancer of society, the shame of its practitioners.”

This is what exactly happened to us in Occidental Mindoro, my dear. But they (the local media practitioners) are not alone to be blame. They are just corrupted by the selfish politicians in our midst. They are willing victims of this bad political system and culture. This I would not be tired of repeating.

But Sophia before taking up Mass Communication, get rid of you milk bottle first for in June, you are already in Grade One…

(Photo from

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Empty Talk, Empty Tomb

A badmouthed local political patron keeps on insinuating that three of his political opponents are homosexuals : two incumbent members of our legislative board and an aspiring candidate for Congress.

Attitude towards homosexuality have began to change in recent decades with the birth of modern psychiatry, social theories, including sociological and biological studies. In 1960’s, gay activism became a civil rights movement who asserted their rights and took pride of their sexual orientation. While some attitude change, prejudice against gays (men or women) or homosexuals still exists.

In the United States, gay political candidates had been elected to office, ranging from city councils to the House of Representatives. Here in Occidental Mindoro, I do not think that the issue of homosexuality should be treated as such. In the first place, is the political patron sure that there is no homosexual (open or not) in his ticket? So, it is nothing but an empty talk. No more, no less. It does not prove anything. Like the empty tomb of Jesus.

Regarding the empty tomb, a theologian named Walter Kasper author of the book, “Jesus the Christ” has this to say : “The important point is not primarily the emptiness of the tomb; it is rather the proclaiming of the resurrection, and the reference to the tomb is intended as a symbol of this faith to resurrection. This ancient tradition is not a historical account of the discovery of the empty tomb, but evidence of faith.”

The faith of the disciples, needless to say, is faith in the raising of Jesus, not in an empty tomb. Let me add that Jesus’ first appearance was to Mary of Magdala. It is the women who followed him, unlike his male disciples, to his very death. Women provide the element of continuity between death and the discovery of the empty tomb. Their conviction must have been very crucial and influential in nurturing the infantile stage of the early Christian movement. But these contributions were downplayed because of the still prevailing patriarchal status of the Church.

When will we, as a Church, truly acknowledge the role of women in the ministry of Jesus and the contribution they made to the post-Easter proclamation? We, as Jesus’ disciples, must not only simply state what Easter means, we must incarnate it.

Politician or not, gay or straight…

(Photo from www.brokenman)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Holy Thursday and the Call to Service

Occidental Mindoro politicians who are aspiring for different local positions are on the road for their campaign sorties even during the Holy Week. I am not only referring to the so-called Performance and Dream teams but even the “independent” candidates.

The whole province has 226, 971 total registered voters and San Jose has biggest number at 60,552 voters as of January 15, 2010. Second is Sablayan with 35,367 and Mamburao ranks third at 20,344. Looc has the lowest number of voters at 7,121. And here are the numbers for the rest of the municipalities : Abra De Ilog – 14,446; Calintaan – 12,085; Lubang – 15,126; Magsaysay – 16,788; Paluan – 8,899; Rizal – 17,426; and Sta Cruz – 18,817. These are not just statistics but a group of unique individuals with body and soul who are willing not only to be served but to serve. If properly motivated.

Today, Holy or Maundy Thursday, is the day of commemorating the institution of the Eucharist. However, today’s gospel is about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Both the institution of the Eucharist and Service (the washing of the feet) indicate the vocation of the Catholic,- as voters and politicians. Thus, we need to understand our call in light of the two readings we just mentioned. These are the intensive summation of his whole ministry, his pro-existence. His death, which faces him as a direct consequence of his life of service, will itself be freely accepted by him as an act of loving service on behalf of all.

Unlike many of the politicians in our province who only think of personal gains including their lapdogs or barkers who are willing to betray the integrity of their profession (as media practitioners) in exchange of thirty pieces of silver (read : perks, prestige and other gains) from modern day authorities.

After the Holy Week, a multi-sectoral group specifically from my hometown San Jose will hold an initial conveners meeting to iron out plans for a non-partisan and independent post-election phase activities aimed at credible, honest, accountable, meaningful and peaceful or CHAMP elections.

In his text message to us, Msgr. Ruben S. Villanueva, my boss, sums it all : "Sa krus sinukat ang lalim at tatag ng pag-ibig ni Kristo. Maraming mga hamon ang pananampalataya. Patuloy ang paanyaya ng krus ni Hesus sa isang ganap na pagtataya ng ating mga sarili bilang lingkod ng kanyang inibig na sambayanan."

Holy Thursday is challenging us to seek always a deeper participation in the Church’s liturgy. This participation to which the Second Vatican Council referred when it called us to a full, active, conscious participation in the liturgy is an invitation into which we all must enter each time we celebrate the sacred mysteries. The action happens at the altar but must find a resonance in our hearts and minds, in our family, community and society.

Also in the realm of politics and during election time…

(Photo from