Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Father Jejemon (Not A Film Review)

The Philippine’s King of Comedy took hundreds of roles in various flicks he made in his very long showbiz career. Gay, cowboy, taxi driver, farmer, soldier,- name it, never in his decades-old career he portrayed a priest in a movie. It's his first time for such a role. In an interview, the 82-year old Dolphy said, "Yon na lang ang role na hindi ko nagagampanan, pari. Naalok sa akin 'yan ng uncle ko na pari na namatay na." In the forthcoming Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) that would run from December 25, 2010 to January 7, 2011, Dolphy’s own movie outfit, the RVQ Productions, will be offering an entry called “Father Jejemon”, directed by Frank Gray Jr. and written by Bibeth Orteza and Rhandy Reyes. It’s a good movie no doubt and a surefire hit not only for children but for the general public as well.

No problem came until the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) chair Grace Poe-Llamanzares received complaints that some scenes in “Fr. Jejemon” were “violative of Catholic sensibilities.”

In particular, some lay groups within the Catholic church were complaining a scene that shows the consecrated host falling on the cleavage of a woman. Another is the consecrated host getting stuck in a woman’s dentures. “OA naman ‘yang mga paring ‘yan. Anong masama kung ipakita na may nahulog na ostiya sa suso, nangyayari naman talaga yan,” says a middle-aged costumer who was watching news on TV inside a noodle house where I am eating. By the way, she’s wearing a crucifix.

Let us go back to the controversial MMFF entry. "Due to the feedback we received regarding the trailer of Father Jejemon, I have ordered a second review of the scene in the movie being questioned. Please note that the MTRCB board is given the autonomy to decide what rating to prescribe,” Poe-Llamazares said.

I have my own reasons to believe that the woman inside the Rizal Street noodle house is indeed a Catholic. Moving on, lay people are expected to speak up on issues that don’t respect the sacredness of the Eucharist, and that's why here I am jotting this. “They (referring to the two movie scenes) are negative, the movie does not give a good reflection on the priesthood,” former CBCP President and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said in a message yesterday. CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Social Commission and Mass Media (ECSCMM) executive secretary Fr. Francis Lucas said, “I think religion should be respected and (they should consider) the sensibility of people, things we hold sacred.” The two priests were interviewed by CBCP News yesterday.

To make fun out of religious and holy objects is sacrilege. Sacrilege means the profanation of something or somebody or some place set aside for the worship, glory and service of God. Sacrilege, whether acknowledged or not, is no longer the shocking things as it was for our Catholic ancestors, our grandfathers and grandmothers. It has become part of our daily life, as a matter of fact, in our present social setting - especially how it is employed in modern media – it is almost already normal if not fashionable!

Remember that many Catholics even cheered Carlos Celdran when he disrupted a Holy Mass at the Manila Cathedral just some months back?

Sacrilege in modern times is multi-faceted. Catholic faith and practice, morality and tradition are not only questioned, they are sacrilegiously derided and dismissed as irrelevant, or ridiculed by Catholics themselves. In modern day movies and television shows, we take “in vain” religious objects and sacraments. In the streets and casual talks, we coupled them with left and right blasphemies. How can people like them respect the law (of the land) if they do not respect or they are insensitive towards his/her own, or other people’s religion or faith?

But the rule is very simple : “Sancta sancte tractanda sunt” (Holy things must be treated holily) …

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My HR-RH Dilemma

It is International Human Rights Day today and it’s been 62 years since the United Nations (UN) passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). With all honesty, time came when I cannot grasp anymore and I am so confused about some human rights questions in my mind. This pertains to current discussions related to “reproductive health” in Philippine RH Bill. This is what I call then as my “HR-RH” dilemma. There was no such animal called “Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2010” or HB No. 96 during my days in human rights (HR) movements. When I talk of HR, I had only cases of violations in mind,- arrest and detention, summary execution, torture, involuntary disappearance, etc. Based on my recent experience, HR discussions now became broad and some are even wayward and that’s not unexpected.

I am fully convinced, then and now, that religion of whatever origin, Christians or not, cannot be taken away or excluded in any institution or instrument, like the UN and UDHR, which are aimed at establishing a social order respecting rights and dignity of the human person. This vision of life in this world can gradually be achieved if believers anchor it firmly into religious deep.

It is unlucky that the debate on the RH Bill, has focused only on whether it should be passed or rejected in its present form. To pass or to reject it would not be good for us as a nation, as some sectors would claim. The Catholic Church is firm in saying that the proposed bill has serious flaws that can lead to violations of human rights and freedom of conscience. So it must be rejected totally. On the other hand, pro-RH advocates want it passed also in its totality on the very same ground that through this legislation, human rights - particularly the right to maternal health - is enacted by the State. But here are questions that need to be settled the moment the discussion starts:

As it was in the beginning, the Church insists that protection of life must start from fertilization, is the State hold to same position regarding protection of human life? (It is not specified in the Constitution whether conception means fertilization or the implantation of an embryo in the womb.) For the Church, using contraceptive medications and devices prevent the implantation of an embryo. If the State take this similar stand, is it willing to conduct scientific evaluation and studies of medicines and devices provided by the bill and those with abortifacient effects be banned, regardless if the bill is passed or not?

For the purpose of protecting academic freedom and respecting religious traditions, should not the right of religious schools to write and implement their own sex education curriculum consonant to their religious traditions be respected? The Constitution allows religious instruction in public schools only if the parents consent in writing. Should a similar provision be enacted relative to sexuality education? Is the State amenable to respect the conscientious objection of individual teacher who refuse to teach subject on sex education that violates her/his religious beliefs?

Assuming that HB No.96 is already enacted into law as it is and you are a doctor in a public hospital; since this particular law prohibits the refusal of health care services and information based on a patient’s marital status, gender or sexual orientation, age, religion, personal circumstances, and nature of work; would you continue to administer an IUD to a minor who requested for it?

These are just three examples. The bottom line: Both the pro and anti RH Bill should initiate constructive and respectful dialogue leading to concrete actions that would correct it and somewhat soften their hard-line positions and make room for an open dialogue. This is a more positive move towards working for the good of our people, with special concerns for the unborn, the youth, women and families in problematic situations. The merit of the bill itself should be highlighted and not just distinct moral or legal rhetorical persuasions. Without totally surrendering what we believe in.

These are the main points of the authors of "Towards Critical and Constructive Engagement (Talking Points for Dialogue on the RH Bill)" a proposal issued jointly by Loyola School of Theology and the John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues few months back that can be read here.

As what the proposal observed,total rejection of the bill, however, will not change the present high rates of lack of health care among women, infant mortality, maternal deaths, and abortions. “Does the Catholic hierarchy want these dehumanizing conditions to continue?” pro-RH advocates rightfully ask. It is imperative that both the proponents and opponents of the bill sit and talk together to amend its objectionable provisions and retain those that can make a contribution to protection of the dignity of Filipinos, improve their quality of life and promote, protect and defend their human rights. Not without considering the importance of rich global experiences, references, views and trends related to it. Be it pro or con, to expand each other’s horizon. But of course we cannot be neutral in situations detrimental to human dignity and human rights of our neighbors.

Some years ago, reportedly many western human rights NGO have tried to insert into the UNDHR the term “reproductive rights” in order to export contraception and abortion globally and tie it to international aid poured into governments in the Third World or developing countries like the Philippines. Here at home, RH supporters insist that the bill is the solution to women’s rights and economic development for the poor and not primarily about population control or, as the HB No.96 terms it, “population management”. Using such language in international instruments can persuade and attract growing number of various feminist and women liberation movements and women rights advocates from all over the world. And it apparently did.

In his address to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly commemorating the 60th anniversary of the UDHR, Pope Benedict XVI challenged the UN and the rest of the world leaders: “This is all the more necessary at a time when we experience the obvious paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world’s problems call for interventions in the form of collective action by the international community.” The UDHR, according to Benedict, cannot be applied piecemeal “according to trends or selective choices” that actually compromise universal human rights. I am sure that these words of the Pope are rooted in human dignity that is usually subjected to the decisions of the few global elites, both in private and public spheres, of different ideological leanings.

Anna Halpine, founder of the World Youth Alliance - a worldwide coalition of young people committed to promoting the dignity of the person - wrote in an article entitled, “Philippines’ Population Bill Speak With Forked Tongue”: “Population control or population management relies on the assumption that government can and should curb population growth in order to provide the goods necessary for economic development: education, opportunity, housing, protection and stewardship of natural resources. But if the government priority is managing the population according to a schedule of targets and goals, what of the dignity and rights of the persons being “managed”?” She observed further that: “It is obvious to anyone who bothers to actually read the Philippines bill that population management tops the hierarchy of principles. The idea that it is primarily concerned with the promotion of human rights, or women’s rights is an illusion.”

If our legislators including concerned groups are bound to re-open the issue of reproductive health in different forum and venue, it must take-off from the bill’s terms and merits. In such a dialogue, aside from Church and government leaders, leading economists might be engaged and the data available from countless national population policies in the past, especially during the Marcos government, should be re-visited and scrutinized.

To summarize, what I want to emphasize is this: A population management bill should not be offered to citizens only if it is sugar-coated with necessary maternal health reforms or increased women’s health and rights. Women’s maternal capabilities and women’s rights are not only women’s true essence but liberating tool in this patriarchal world. Not merely icings on a legislative cake in the hands of neo-Malthusian bakers.

Why not call HB 96 plainly and simply by what it intends to do: “Population Control” Act? …

(Photo from Google images)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Complacency is Against the Spirit of Advent

Complacency is a sin and it haunts us all. Even as a Church worker, I am also personally guilty of committing this 8th Deadly Sin (Is “complacency” falls under “sloth”?). Most of the time I say, ”Pwede na ‘yan” or “That’s okay as long as it serves the purpose.” But I also believe - based on my observation on socio-political realities in Occidental Mindoro and as a member of the local media then - our most wicked sin as a people is also complacency.

In today’s Gospel (Matt 3 : 1-12), John the Baptist is telling us that as we, new children of Abraham, await the coming of the Kingdom, we cannot rest in complacency. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance,” John told the crowds gathered there at the Jordan River. This sermon no doubt, is a call out of complacency. He further said, “Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”. Presumably, John was just trying to “micro scare” the people maybe because they already had a long history of complacency that time. Not unlike today in our province.

Most of our people are guilty of apathy and indifference. For instance, only few civic organizations stood with the Church in its fight against the Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP) and the Small Town Lottery (STL) operation in the province before. Only few joined the PPCRV pollwatchers during the last elections, just to mention two of our current social concerns. The people act more diligently in self-serving activities initiated by their political patrons or political groups than those initiated by the Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) or their PAKRIS. It’s Advent time once again and may we be reminded that John’s sermon calls us to bear the fruit of repentance and it calls us into the kingdom of God.

As worker of our local Church, it is my Christian duty to go beyond my comfort zones (Here’s a very concrete example : What people do most of the time in Facebook,- finding, chatting, sharing, exchanging something unimportant or naughty with friends and relatives; joking and commenting to a thread, playing Mafia Wars and Farmville , etc.) and do things in line with my faith, with my beliefs, with my work, with my vocation. Whenever. Whether I go, physical or virtual. Because if I do not maximize the potentials of the internet in blogging about socio-political realities in my place, if I do not share news and updates to all the interested people all over the net, if I will not impart related social teachings and doctrines of my Church, I will be doing nothing and become irresponsible worker in His vineyard. For it is not only for what we do that we are held responsible, but also for what we do not do. Still, many of us do not consider the act of “not doing” as a sin. Both the laity and those belong to the ordained ministry who are not expecting intervention from God - and from themselves - to this saddening situation is also somewhat guilty of such a sin. Yes, we should not rely unduly on our competence. Strength lies in improvasion. But many leaders of social and religious institutions have overlooked this fact. Including mine.

But hey, let us set this straight for clarity. I am not insinuating that we aimlessly expect or look for something new. All I say is we must be prepared to anticipate something new rather than remaining where we are. We have to make change happen and not just waste our time in the waiting shed. According to Pope Benedict XVI, "It is important that the Catholic laity proficient in social communications take their proper place in proposing the Christian message in a convincing and attractive way." In a way, BXVI is giving us social communicators this challenge against complacency.

If I were right in saying that “Complacency is against the spirit of Advent”, so therefore, the opposite of expectation is also complacency. Because when we are complacent, we are expecting for nothing more, nothing better as believers and as human beings. Therefore, we are not expecting, anticipating the Kingdom.

Unlike how John foresaw something new in the person of the Emmanuel…

(Photo from ministrydepot.com)