Saturday, July 24, 2010

PPCRV in Tagaytay

I just came from the airport from an out-of-town official business trip. Around 170 delegates from all over the Philippines gathered at Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay City last July 21 to 23, 2010 for the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) 2010 Post Election National Conference and I am one of the participants. Ms. Ana de Villa –Singson, PPCRV’s National Media and Communication’s Director, presented the PPCRV 2010 Election Report divided into following sub-topics : PPCRV : its history, vision and mission; the report also emphasized our mandates during the last election including the results of our Voter’s Education, Poll Watching and the conduct of Unofficial Count including the Command Center Operations. The report also covers a review of PPCRV’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The report was indeed comprehensive. And everything in the hotel is cool. From amenities, furnitures, scenery, food, etc. Including those neatly dressed young ladies moving around the hall watching and assisting us.

Towards the end of her presentation, Ms. Singson informed us that the PPCRV was awarded a citation by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for its “invaluable contribution to the conduct of the national elections of May 10, 2010, which represented a historic milestone in being the first automated election as well as outstanding exercise of popular democracy and an inspiring testament to the sovereignty of the Filipino people..” The presidential citation was given on the occasion of the 112th Anniversary of the Declaration of the Independence of the Philippines. A waiter suddenly offered me something to drink and I politely told him, “No. Thanks..”

The experience was best described in the opening part of our Conference Statement : “ with the scenic Taal Lake locking in dew-dressed embrace Taal Volcano as our backdrop, we listened to each other recount our experiences… And we take pride in having been a vital part of it. A part that was wrought with crosses, but also with many little triumph."

What’s in store now for PPCRV? Indeed we saw the need to identify key issues for us to focus on as the bases of our updating and our new thrusts and initiatives. Based on our Conference Statement, these key issues would allow PPCRV to be self-sustaining in its operational and financial concerns on the local and national levels; promote with “new fervor, new methods and new expressions” continuous education through new post election modules on political evangelization; integrate security of PPCRV volunteers in election work plan/roadmap; establish a election complaint system inclusive of protocols and sites; continue enhancing the technology skills and readiness of local units through basic training on AES-related IT, with access to basic pertinent equipment; and engage the youth aggressively in PPCRV’s political and electoral ministry.

In the report a mentioned a while ago, PPCRV National Chairperson, Ambassador Henrietta T. de Villa has this to say : “(I am ) Happy that our elected 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines rekindled our hope with his pronouncement : dito magwawakas ang pamunuang manhid sa hinaing ng taumbayan… kung saan kayo at ang pangulo ay magkasundo sa pagbabago… Happy especially that our new President in his inaugural address unequivocally proclaimed : Kayo ang boss ko. Thereby restoring anew the true meaning of democracy which is the rule of the people. The PPCRV is impelled by this will start designing simple and easy to put into practice modules on responsible voting and responsible citizenship, especially on how the citizens can think, speak and act like true bosses, marangal na anak ng Diyos, mabait sa kapwa, at mabuting mamamayan..”

I cannot help but feel sad because these words best describe a Filipino-Christian "heartist" who passed away that very day when we at PPCRV are having our conference In Tagaytay. The one who brought Christ’s face not only in his work but in the hearts of its lookers and the society in general. Not unlike the PPCRV.

Go with the Lord, Joey Velasco and keep the fire on our faith, PPCRV…

(Photo : Painting entitled "Lingkod" softlinked fro

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Of Foolish “Charismatics” and “Activists”

Hope you still remember that I am into a formation process called Christian Life Program or CLP which is required to all individuals joining the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professional in the Philippines or BCBP. BCBP is a Catholic charismatic renewal organization fully recognized in all diocese where it operates nationwide.

We had our Baptism of the Holy Spirit session and all of us candidates are asked to render testimonials on our previous activity. My sharing was unusual, brief and it bothered me a lot. Was my testimony really inspired by the Holy Spirit? You be the Judge. Here’s what I’ve said direct from my recollection of the important parts of what I’ve said yesterday afternoon:

By way of introduction I told them, “Bago pa man umpisahan ang ating gawain kanina ay sinabi ko sa ang aking sarili : “Charismatic na nga yata ako.” Then I continued, “Pero alam ninyo, may panahon sa aking buhay na ang mga charismatic ay tinatawag na “sira-ulo” ng mga Katolikong aktibista. Gayundin, ang mga aktibista ay tinatawag ding “sira-ulo” ng mga charismatic. “Sira-ulo” daw ang mga charismatic sabi ng mga aktibista dahil sa gitna ng mga karunal-dumal na kaso ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao at dangal ng tao ay wala nang ginawa ang charismatic kundi ang mag-“praise the Lord”: Bible sharing, prayer at umawit ng papuri at iba pa. Wala raw kongkretong aksiyon ang mga charismatic para baguhin ang lipunan. Labanan ang kawalang-katarungan at iba pa.” They are all eyes and all ears on me but the expressions coming from their faces vary from one individual to another.

I had a short breather and went on, “Sa kabilang dako, sabi ng mga charismatic, “sira-ulo” din daw ang mga aktibista sapagkat wala na silang ginawa kundi mag-rally, manggulo sa lipunan at hindi man lamang pinahahalagahan ang pagdarasal at ang kanilang personal na ugnayan sa Panginoon. Pinupulitika na raw ng mga aktibista ang pananampalataya.” Some of them clapped their hands.

Then at the middle of my sharing, I do not know why I suddenly remembered that brutal massacre of a young Mangyan couple and their children in Magsaysay some years back. The so-called Blanco Massacre was perpetrated by some elements of the Philippine Army. And I almost cried. Is the Holy Spirit has something to do with these? I do not know.

In parting I said, “Pero sa magkaparehong ka-sira-uluhan ay tiyak na pareho ring kinikilusan ng Banal na Espiritu. Ang pagiging tunay na Kristiyano ay batbat ng pag-aalipusta pero ang Banal na Espiritu ang nagbibigay sa ating ng lakas ng loob at tapang na magpatuloy…” I can see relief in their faces and they gave me a very brotherly, warm and sincere appreciation through hugs and other gestures,- specially from women members, that I am not used to. They congratulated me for being newly-baptized in the Holy Spirit. “Welcome to BCBP”, said the BCBP-San Jose Chapter top honchos. I had a hunch that next month, I will be a bonafide member of BCBP, a (charismatic) renewal organization with social responsibility.

During the last election, BCBP officers in San Jose Chapter has been a mission partner of our local Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in all election-related activities. They (or shall I say “we”?) are active in their/our Be Honest Campaign which is an advocacy campaign for good governance and anti-corruption. But there are still a lot of things to do especially in the area of going into the pastoral concerns of the local Church and its parishes. The BCBP must find itself and be relevant in the mission and program of our diocese. Or else, it would wastefully reduce itself to a social club or an organization of the Church-going elite aimed only at socialization. In finding itself with the pastoral concerns of the parish and its different ministries and committees,- we can have a charismatic approach, in particular, to social action or ministry of a certain bigger community like our diocese or parish.

Since the early 1960’s, the word “charismatic” characterized a widespread renewal movement in various Christian churches. A essential core of the movement has been the experience of gifts or charismata of the Holy Spirit, namely the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of the spirits, speaking of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. During the early years of the Charismatic movement, the emphasis was very much on prayer, Bible study and spiritual growth of an individual. On the other hand, the theology of social action, in some ways, became a reaction against a one-sided or over emphasis on the individual.

Yes, those “charismatic activities” are necessary and must be sustained but it should not stop there. It should not stop inside an individual but go beyond that,- to the bigger society, to something that has something to do with the social structure. That is the difference, at least as far as the its tenets as an organization, of BCBP in many of the charismatic movements in the past for it includes in its mission, “professional excellence, community and nation-building, practice of justice,…” And that is why I like it here.

By the way, I realized this morning that there is a common thread between the “Catholic charismatics” and the “Catholic activists” : A conscious sense of the Holy Spirit’s initiative and intervention and the conviction that faith is not something we humbly receive but something we do bravely. So, we are all “charismatics” and “activists” if we bravely understood the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As brave as the fool doing foolishness all the way…

(Photo softlinked from BCBP website)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona expressed in one of the interviews that there should be equal promotion of all family planning methods, whether natural or artificial, in the country. The chief health officer further stressed that all methods should be made available to couples if only to aid them in practicing responsible parenthood. Ona, a Roman Catholic, emphasized that, “Responsible parenthood is the responsibility and the decision of a very well-informed couple, considering whatever religious beliefs.” While Ona welcome the use of artificial contraceptives, his Church vocally opposed it. Church representatives have often equated contraceptive with abortion. Contraception, in the eyes of the Church, allows men to use women as objects and for pleasure without responsibility of birth. The original purpose of procreation and unity was replaced with selfishness and convenience, according to some of its apologists.

With his view and stand on the issue,- in the eyes of the leaders of his Church, is Ona committing a sin like the biblical Onan? Just asking.

We are all familiar with the story of Onan in the Book of Genesis. What was Onan guilty of, social or sexual sin? According to the earliest interpretations of scholars, how he frustrated the purpose of levirate marriage was irrelevant. What Onan had done was a grave dishonor to his late brother and not being true to his obligations. His sin, based on plain reading, was his refusal to provide his dead brother with an heir. The text focuses more on social and legal dimensions.

But when ancient religious authorities try to legislate morality at around 100 BC to 300 AD, rabbis and early Christian fathers sought other explanations for the sin of Onan, focusing more on the sexual act itself. The rabbis interpreted it as birth control through masturbation and ultimately they came into conclusion that what Onan have done was wasteful but not a severe sin and the punishment should be left to God alone. In general, the rabbis recognized that intercourse need not always result in pregnancy or procreation and there could also be purpose even in pleasure, or any act beyond simple reproduction.

On the other hand, early Christians saw it differently. The Christian church determined that man's sexual duty was to procreate and replenish the earth, no more no less. Sex for pleasure was a weakness, if not an outright sin. Thomas of Aquinas (1225-1274) have written volumes of materials about sexual subjects and these thoughts dominated Christian teaching for centuries. In one of his teachings he taught that any sexual activity that does not lead to procreation was deviant, even within the bonds of marriage. Sex without procreation was lust,- directed solely at venereal pleasure. Other sexual sins, according to Aquinas, includes adultery, rape, and incest. Theodore of Tarsus in the 7th century even distinguished onanism from masturbation or self-stimulation. He felt onanism was a form of contraception, not just a pleasure-giving act.

The Church today,- as far as I know, does not teach that a couple must ‘seek’ to have a sibling from each and every sexual act or love-making. Instead, it teaches all the married couple NOT to suppress the life-giving and life-nurturing power that is an essential of marriage and of their being one in flesh. Sex is holy. It was created by God for two purposes : Procreation and Unity (in all aspects of life). Pleasure is a consequence and not a purpose and if we remove one of the purpose, we defile the marriage bed. That is all I’ve got from my not so vast knowledge of the topic.

But there’s are two things I am certain : the Story of Onan was one of the factors behind Church’s evolving attitude towards sex and contraception. Similarly, the latest pronouncement of Ona, being an alter ego of President Benigno C. Aquino, III,- is also perceived to be a great factor in Philippine Catholic Church’s attitude towards the latter's new administration…

(Photo of Ceremonial Turn Over soflinked from Department of Health Gallery)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Cabinet members of President Benigno Aquino III are reported to undergo training on how to properly deal with the media. This announcement by no less than the president himself came after his spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, had a heated exchange with some Palace reporters over the delayed conduct of press briefing. In another incident, Education Secretary Armin Luistro told the media not to ask too many questions on the controversial sex education issue.

First, a disclaimer from me. I have never been a media relation officer for a particular organization or a spokesperson for a certain public figure. Aside from answering some queries from my friends from the national media, I’ve never been into a lengthy and important appearance as a resource person on a radio or television show. I have never been ambush-interviewed ever. All I am sure is I watch a lot of ambush interviews over CNN, BBC, ANC and GMA-7, to name a few TV network. To reiterate, I am not an expert on dealings with the media. But I have read some materials on the subject and the most helpful, as far as this blog entry is concerned, is the book written by Archbishop Emeritus Oscar V. Cruz, JCD, DD entitled “Media in our Midst”. My other writing tool for this one is my childhood memory of a television series called “Combat!” starring Vic Morrow and Rick Jason. Specially the scenes how my favorite G.I.s survived ambuscades.

There are three general ways for a public official to land into the news : through pre-arranged interviews like press conferences; written statements or press statements, and,- the kind that we are about to discuss : ambush interviews.

Just like the real “ambush” in military parlance, ambush interview is a game or war of quick decision. The potential target of such tactical offensive have to decide as fast as a piercing bullet if you want to be ambushed or not. And if your answer is on the positive, learn to “fire back”. Meaning make the most of it (the interview). The two things to remember is, one, public office is a public trust and a public figure is a public property. Second, the people has the right to know or the basic right to information. But everybody, including you, the resource person or the interviewee, have also the right not to accept the invitation for an interview under certain circumstances. We will discuss it later.

This is the fundamental rule of the thumb : “No one can force or coerce us to be interviewed.” It lies in out own creative way how to convey this to your perceived interviewer if you turn her/him down. On the other hand, if we want to be ambushed and willingly be part of the information-giving process, it is but important to know (his/her company and personal) and understand your “ambusher” and be patient with her or him. Keep in mind that all journalists are trained to have a “nose for the news” and they are out in the field look for stories (or preys!). That’s their job and reason for existence. In “firing back” and in saying that we must make the most of it, I just would like to emphasize that there is no substitute for objective and healthy exchanges that are aimed to unearth a news story together. The story or the truth that been denied and buried by powerful individual newsmakers or groups for their vested personal interests and survival. Including unscrupulous media practitioners or extortionists.

Speaking of such misdeeds of erring media people with checkered personal and professional background, try also to be patient and understanding. Including those who have unshakable ideological, religious or personal biases. Just answer their questions in direct, candid and brief manner.

To both the good and the bad media practitioner, show them respect. After your first interview with the good ones, try be a true friend to him or her but stay away from the bad people of the media. The unscrupulous and the extortionists.

In whatever circumstances, be clear as your canteen water on the messages you wish to convey because the moment when the news come out, you are figuratively out of the picture already. You can do nothing about it like a rocket-propelled grenade going to you direction. The saddest this is this : any rejoinder or disclaimer or correction is discretionary to the same media outlet where the interview came out.

There are at least three valid reasons to turn down a request for a interview : One, if you may put yourself in difficult or losing end or adverse position. Or be led into the landmine of embarrassment and/or imminent danger; Second, if you are not at the liberty to discuss matters that would put in danger other people’s (read : whistle blowers’ and witnesses’) life and limb or if you are tied to the promise to confidentiality or to a classified or top secret information; Third, common sense dictates that if you do not have the grasp of the nature and consequences of the subject matter, simply keep your mouth shut.

Allow me to add these. You are a dead meat if you engaged in an ambush if you carry a heavy mental or physical backpack or any baggage. In such encounter, you had a great chance of being riddled with bullets for you cannot move carrying that burden! Instead of a backpack, wear a bulletproof vest.

During the ambush, make sure that your visions are clear to have at least a view where the enemies and the booby traps are. Be precise in hitting your target. Clarity and precision require counter clarification on issues that are not clear to you when you are being interviewed. Let your interviewer define particulars and details that are unclear to you.

Do not ever use the much used and abused usual “No comment” reply to any ambush interview question, including facial expressions like a smile or a frown, for like your “No comment” they are all subject to millions of interpretation and may backfire on you! The easier and safest way to survive an ambush is to lower or bow your head down, cover it with you helmet or any hard material and move away from the site.

Just like those scenes from “Combat!”…

(Photo softlinked from

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Laity According to Congar

On the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose last Wednesday, Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD,DD officially declared July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011 as Year of the Laity. The circular letter was read by our Chancellor, Msgr. Mario Ronquillo during our Mass held that day.

The term “laity” is understood to mean ALL the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state approved by the Catholic Church. That is, the faithful who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ, and are placed in the People of God, and their own way share the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ, and to the best of their ability, carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world (Lumen Gentium, 31).

Therefore, everyone,- man or woman, sinner or saint, young or old, here or abroad,- by virtue of baptism, has a mission to accomplish and a service to fulfill within the Church : humble service to others remembering that the whole life of Christ was such a ministering to others. Our every action is an act of evangelization.

Paul VI, the pope during my childhood years, said it beautifully : “Evangelization, specially in the wide and complex arena of politics, sociology and economics as well as other fields such as human love …the practice of various professions and relief of human suffering … are areas where the laity are called to build up the Kingdom of God and to bring salvation in Jesus Christ.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 70)

This reminded me of another great mind from France named Yves- Marie Congar. Cardinal Congar published an impressive number of theological books and his contributions influenced the drafts of two main social documents of the Church, Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes. We consider these teachings as two hidden springs of knowledge and inspiration to us workers of the social action arm of our local Church.

Congar foresaw, years before Vatican II, the importance of the laity in Church’s mission. In his classic work published in France in 1953 entitled “Lay People in the Church” he wrote : “Lay people are not solely the object of hierarchal ministry; they have each according to his state, an active function of bringing the world of History to God in Christ.” Congar, by the way, wrote this during the time when lay participation and cooperation are considered by some conservative sectors as “intrusion” if not “invasion” to offices and functions “exclusive” to the clergy. Today in almost all of the Churches in the world these became a big shift from clerical dominance to active involvement of the laity in the apostolic and pastoral works of the Church.

The final point which I wish to recall regarding the prophetic insights of Congar is his view of community where members united and at peace with each, other aside from sharing our life and mediating on the affairs of society. Here’s Congar again : “When the Church is no longer considered as formed by the faithful but is seen chiefly as a mediating institution, then the mission and the motherhood of the Church find their locus in external legal acts, instead of being drawn from her Christian existence of love and prayer by which her members live” (Theological Burning Points : Volume II).

I just would like to emphasize that both the clergy and the laity are called NOT to compete but to complement each other. We the laity need to be constantly and religiously inspired and spiritually nourished by our pastors in order for us to share the one Priesthood of Christ according to our distinct identity and role in the Church and society (cf. PCP-II; 418). Keeping in mind our limitations, when our priests are busy, the laity must have the initiative to take charge. And let us not forget that mediocre following of Jesus is out of the picture!

If I were only to draw two major themes for the Year of the Priest in our Vicariate, the two words are DEDICATION and CONVERSION. In our work and career, we are motivated by our desire to constantly advance our profession through personal skills-enhancing trainings, placing ourselves under processes for promotion, hard work, honesty, etc. Are we as lay ministers, catechists, lectors, parish officers, leaders of religious organizations, pastoral workers, community leaders and members, altar servers, commentators, choir members, Catholic school teachers, sacristans, etc.,- are also that serious in building a Christian community in Occidental Mindoro united in worship, in service and in witness of Christ? Are we that dedicated?

And I do not want to speak of conversion anymore for this kind of topic or theme and conversion itself is best reserved for priests! Seriously, my most simple and direct definition of conversion can be summed up into three words : conversion refers to a moral change, turning or returning to God and avoidance of sin. I just do not know if Congar would agree with me on this if he is still alive.

Therefore, I, Norman A. Novio, do solemnly swear to do my duty of rendering a specific service done on a sufficiently stable basis (though being compensated in accordance to the existing minimum wage ordinance of the Labor Department of the Philippines) and do my best for this work and vocation, in working in the name of our local Church and the pursuit of her mission. So help me out…

(Photo of Congar from Google)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Reading Compared to Love-Making

Book reading is like meeting and exploring the very depth of a person. When an author writes, s/he spreads himself or herself over the pages and the reader gets to know him or her with intimacy. Both the reader and the author are lovers,- lovers of wisdom, lovers of knowledge. With this, reading can be compared to a foreplay!

By the way, when I posted this note in my Facebook account on my 48th birthday, somebody accused me of entertaining Freudian thoughts instead of him wishing me luck on my natal day. Today is the 27th anniversary of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose but instead of writing something about our local Church, I insisted on posting about sex and reading. Maybe my friend is right about me now being a Freudian. Or about me getting old.

As we ponder on love-making or carnal union in general, I remember what our Judicial Vicar, Msgr. Hermogenes E. Bacareza, SVD, wrote in his book entitled “Psychological Incapacity : A Gift From Heaven?”. Bacareza informed his readers that two ancient scholars,- Johannes Gratian (1140) and St. Thomas of Aquinas (1256) have two different views on sexual intercourse in marriage. Gratian, considered as Father of Canon Law, asked : “Let us ask ourselves this question : what kind of consent constitute marriage? Is it a consent to intercourse or cohabitation or both?” For Gratian, the essence of marriage is the mutual transfer of power over each other’s body.

Aquinas on the other hand took up the same question and answered that what makes marriage is the consent to marriage itself, not just the carnal part of it, but the whole of marriage.

Allow me now to lead you again to Jean Guitton’s “A Student’s Handbook to Intellectual Work”, the book I just finished reading yesterday : “Nothing is more touching that to see a book lying open at a page someone is reading attentively and to wait for the sound of the leaf that will not be turned.” But I am putting it this way : “Nothing is more touching to see your lover’s body lying naked ready to be discovered or rediscovered,- its every single detail, and wait for the sound of her last moan.” This intimate moment bring excitement and utmost anticipation to the ultimate expression of love between them.

To singles out there, keep in mind that the books (read : partner) you should keep by your bedside are the ones that can, no matter what happened, give you guidance or helpful stimulus not only in bed but especially in life. Me and my wife knows that.

Incidentally, my wife and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary last Sunday. Nothing special. We didn’t go out. We just read the whole night. Honest. And we read aloud!

Speaking of oral reading (no pun intended!) or reading aloud, one of my instructress in Early Philippine Literature had this advise to her students : “In order for you to completely understand the contents of a book, it is advisable that you lend it voice. Practice oral reading…” She further stressed that our ancestors are said to have read aloud even when they are alone. The rapid and silent reading,- meaning with eyes and not making a sound, is an invention of a modern man. This kind of reading (and yes,.. love-making) makes you unresponsive and untruthful to that basic human need or act (Disclaimer : words in bold letters has nothing to do with my former English teacher. It’s mine alone!).

“Read” aloud but please avoid immoral and scandalous action or situation. Going back to the title of this post,- between the two and under normal situation, only book reading is allowed inside the library...

(Photo of a painting called “Woman Reading A Book” (1845) by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875), a French painter)