Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Mangyan Christmas Connection

You cover your noses when we pass by while running away from us as if we are inflicted with communicable disease. You drive us away with words and gestures we hardly know but we do understand what you feel. You considered us nuances when we are in a crowd or public places. We know we are different in ways though we breathe the same air and share the same island. Rivers, mountains, forests and cultures made us apart but do not forget that we too share the same dream of living in harmony with nature and of unity. You laugh at us and you lined the generic term “Mangyan” with negative words in your dictionary but still we keep on daring dangerous terrains and risk our lives and limbs only for this season you call Christmas. At times we are objects of your insensible jokes and ethnic slurs. Even though, we cross angry rivers and life-threatening cliffs and sleep in the cold and dark forest just for this occasion. By the way, would you dare do that in return to reach us and celebrate with us in our rituals? I’m afraid not.

I feel sorry for the inconvenience, you who considered yourselves civilized, every time we beg for your leftovers and loose coins while you are eating in food courts or anywhere this Christmas. We do not have those kinds of stuffs in the mountains. They are good smelling foods of various tastes, colors and shapes that we also love to try once in a while. Like how you are delighted in seeing the exotic orchids and tasting the distinctive taste of our yellow ginger as one of the ingredients of your menu or in the comfort of lying on a hammock that we made.

We regret to annoy you while you enjoy. We beg you for food, clothing and money not only because we need them badly back in the upland but we also want to continue the tradition your great grandparents have started centuries ago. Christmas originated from your beliefs not ours, remember? Isn’t this tradition this time of the year was initiated by wealthy powerful lowlanders who grabbed our land and displaced us from our former haven? The natural resources that our ancestors nourished for generations are now within your reach thus under your care. Hope you care for it like what they have done for you are in such advantageous position having practically all the power, responsibility and the legal authority to protect them from intruders and exploiters and to promote them through environmental programs and projects. It is emphasized in our culture that the tribes are profoundly interconnected to our Creator, to others and to all creation.

At least, we always celebrate Christmas with you despite of everything and we both know that it allows us to feel that you are people of faith who care for the least of your brethren. Christmas connects us even if we always spoil your strolling around the plaza including your holiday revelries and parties wherever it is done with your loved ones and friends. But that’s the only way to connect and interact with you for, as I have said, we are world apart. You are not fully aware of our rich customs and traditions for you did not sincerely immerse with us. Who would be interested with irritants or inferior people, anyway? Oftentimes you people in government treated us as objects instead of subjects of progress and development. You only absorbed negative things about us using your own standards of looking at things. Looking through many spectacles that you designed and wear, we are inferior if not abnormal people based on every aspect of life.

We both don’t expect discussions on news of the day, the country’s present political feud, the global socio-political reality or the latest rumor in the entertainment world including the recent developments in modern technology and gadgets. For sure, you will not allow us to dive and swim on a pool with you and your beautiful kids or allow us to enter the privacy of your homes, to join you in your banquets inside air-conditioned halls. Thanks but no thanks, we are not interested in any of those either. We have our own swimming pool in rivers and we also throw parties of our own when we give thanks to the creator and we have homes where we share our blessings for all. Our homes are communal and even strangers are most welcome. Chances are, you would not be interested if I let you know how to catch wild pig or get honey from a beehive, to know what particular herb heal certain sickness or any of our economic activities, our own music, poetry and art, and the rest. There are indeed a lot of barriers between us specially language. But we have to acknowledge that there exists a “language” which we both speak and compassionately understood today: the hand gestures of asking and giving.

We may be nasty and dirty, foul-smelling and yucky minorities or natives (in fact, we do not want to be called as such) but please do not judge us. To borrow from your pop goddess Lady Gaga, we are “born this way”. Also, we were told that that long-haired man in g-string and was born surrounded by animals inside your churches is in no way judging on man’s appearance but the sincerity of one’s heart. How people share each other’s experience and how they define and refine their relationships, soul and spirit.

It shows that in five hundred years of our recorded history we have been abused. Your governments, past and present, does not truly help us restrain our rights and foster economic developments for us. But Spartan as we are, we have survived. We still celebrate and connect with you at Christmastime even you considered us as its mega-spoilers. Isn’t irritation at times wonderful than solitude? Truth to tell, annoyance is preferred by most people of my kind than being alone and lonely.

We are not acquainted with legal and political customs of your society and we let you took our land which is our life. We did not resist for we love peace. That was long ago but still we are discriminated. I cannot help too but wonder why you hate each other and why you can afford to hurt and kill your fellow citizens for senseless reasons. Why you forsake your own brother over petty temporal things such as finances and related processes. This way, we are more human than you are and forgive me for saying it. No wonder why you treat us differently. You cannot be at peace even with your own kind! How about us? We always avoid conflicts and we survived for centuries. Our main concept of justice is healing of broken relations rather than punishment. Consist of eight ethnic groups we never waged war against each other. Violence never be, never been and never will be a Mangyan norm. Have you forgotten that Peace is one of the major themes of your, or could I say our, Christmas?

When will you realize that Christmas is not celebrated to display your supposedly modern culture of excessive individualism and the obsessive pursuit of personal gains? The small amount of money, the used clothes and the crumbs from your table and everything you give us are keys that would free us from your chains of isolation and neglect. Even for a moment we feel freedom and relief, belongingness and acceptance. And we owe you a sack load of gratitude for that which words alone cannot express. To tell you the truth, it is more redeeming to embrace us with compassion than to discard us and therefore reject the connection that we begged and aimed for. We hope that one Christmas you come to realize that the things, both big and small, you hold in your hand placed on mine, whether as gift or alms, is a symbol of our interconnectedness. If you would only analyze you will know that you are not always the giver and we the receiver. We handed unnoticed important contributions from our culture to your great men such as missionaries, scientists, journalists, academicians, sociologists, scholars and community workers and the institutions or organizations where they belong. Since we are the ones who have direct contact with our endangered, beautiful flora and fauna including our wild animals and watersheds, we take good care of them the best way we can according to our culture, tradition and beliefs including legislatures that wherein our rights as indigenous peoples are written. Those are the things we humbly offer in exchange of what you are giving us this Christmas. Most importantly, we gave identity to this island we both cherish. Let this sense of interconnectedness brought about by Christmas lead us to similar acts of love displayed by that half-naked man wearing g-string, like me, inside your grandiose churches.

The man whose birth also annoyed the rulers of His time and made us all interconnected today…

(Photo : Education Ethnic Mangyan Center)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Junking Childish Junks

I have reached this age but it is only now that I completely realized that it’s insane to argue with a hard line political partisan and arguing with them is like arguing with a two-year old. Most of them are childish, just like a child of two who cannot yet distinguish between fact and fancy. To that toddler, Santa Claus is real no matter what he is told. He do not give a damn if his patron owns the meanest mouth in town as long as he’s is included in the “list of special gifts”. They are all praise to “Santa” the whole year round and especially during the holidays because if they don’t, their fat bellied giver would warn each one of them, “You better watch out…” But what really makes Santa so enticing to a young child? By nature, children are egocentric or self-centered. A child of this age believes in everything that will bring fulfillment to his desires, or “ambitions”. They are told: “Do not be naughty. Santa will not give you a toy for Christmas!” So, everybody in the kiddy station behave nicely but only to each other. But anyone to those who belong to other nursery will be the objects of his savage fury and hitting. When they are told not to heart and respect each other for they belong to same profession, they will even accused you of siding with the other group. It is indeed, useless to argue with a baby, or with people having traits of a baby, no matter how old they are.

Arguing with your opponent or somebody that are blinded by political eye-pads is very much the same with arguing with a baby. If we put different objects, both nice and mean, in his crib, say; a pacifier, a hacksaw blade, a leaded toy, a bottle of milk, a candy, a box of pin, a running chainsaw, etc., you cannot tell the child to treat them differently. All of your arguments will be in vain because for a baby - not unlike some of the political partisans in Occidental Mindoro - anything can be judged by whether or not it can be put into the baby’s mouth and eaten. Political partisans, on the same vein, have only one way of judging every issue, whether or not they can be swallowed by their patrons! As I have told you, it is only now that I fully understand that it is stupid to talk to a wall like where the stupid egg named Humpty Dumpty sit and fell.

Grown-ups like politicians usually “answer” arguments by vituperation and slander. They counter allegations with harsh words no matter how truthful they can be. According to Frederick Faber, “The art of saying appropriate words, especially in public, in a kindly way is one that never goes out of fashion, never ceases to please and is within the reach of the humblest.” They as leaders who attended Catholic schools supposed to know that. How can we communicate objectively our ideas if we use arrogant and foul words against our rivals or anybody who do not have same opinion as ours? The communication of ideas is impossible when all of the logical argument is inefficacious.

Me? I have learned my lessons. Fulton J. Sheen once wrote (the title of the book skipped my almost “golden” mind) that discussion and argumentation are useless with certain people. There are some souls that are incapable of understanding spiritual truths. Indeed, the late cardinal is right. He stressed farther, “As Christ was silent before Herod, there are some with whom discussion is futile because of their behavior, so, too, discussion is useless with certain minds because of their abnormal mentality or obsession with lies they created and repeated until they believe that they are the truth.” That childish junk should be junked like Santa Claus in proper and appropriate time.

Learning that sometimes arguments with someone is pointless, Jesus said, “Cast not pearls before swine,” since swine are not capable of appreciating pearls

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Timely Words from Future Cardinal Chito

Among his many credentials and achievements, Luis Antonio “Chito” G. Tagle, was a member of the International Theological Commission (Vatican City) prior to his ordination as bishop of the Diocese of Imus. He was here in our diocese some years back to ordain two diocesan priests, his former students as seminarians, and in his homily he constantly reminded the candidates of “pagpapakababa” (humility) and “pagpapakumbaba” (humbleness). The San Jose Cathedral was filled with laughter for reason that I prefer to keep to myself. Now, I had mixed feelings of laughter and pain whenever the anecdote crosses my mind. One thing is certain, Cardinal Chito, wherever he addresses the public he continues to bring light lightly.

Manila Archbishop Chito Tagle formally took over his archdiocese during solemn installation rites at the Manila Cathedral yesterday morning attended by more than 1,500 priests, religious men and women, and lay faithful from his previous diocese.

In his speech entitled “Priestly Communion” delivered during the National Congress of the Clergy held at the World Trade Center in Metro Manila last July 5 to 9, 2004, the prelate emphasized that, “A priest exercises his authority effectively when he finds, especially in difficult times, what the Church holds in common and lives by them…. He searches for what he holds in common even with his enemies, those who want to exclude him and whom who might want to exclude him in turn.” True enough, with constant rediscovery and rooting of a precarious bond among the priests would lead to dialogue, discernment and unity. He said that the practice of consultation and dialogue with other gifted people are to be intensified. We do not need a dynamic and intelligent bishop like Cardinal Tagle to understand that what we currently need as a local Church is the constant and intensification of consultation and dialogue among the clergy. All of us, friends and foes alike surely have things in common, and he jokingly added, “Ah, there they have something in common – they dislike each other!”

If you would ask me what would be the local realities to achieve unity and communion in my workplace and my diocese, I’ll just borrow in verbatim the words of Bishop Tagle: “A priest of communion cries with others until their common tears become the Church’s lamentation. He smiles with others until their common smile becomes the Church’s ode to joy. He is frightened with others until their common fear becomes humanities longing for trusts. He is poor with others until their common poverty becomes the world’s cry for justice. He loves with others until their common love becomes creation’s paradise. He is with others in order to be for them. And by being for them, he becomes more with them. And the Church becomes more what is meant to be.”

By actively doing her usual advocacy works and charitable programs within her ecclesiastical territory, we locate the Church where she belongs, not in the four-corners of our offices but in faith communities...

(Photo from Rafael Alfonso's Paintings)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Flying Priest and Nuns

Everybody knows that on December 12 we Catholics will be celebrating the Feast Day of our Lady of Guadalupe but only few are aware that in Honduras of the 80s’, there was a revolutionary priest nicknamed Guadalupe. People call the late Fr. James Carney as Padre Guadalupe, an expression of his deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. That time the most striking reality in Honduras was the degrading poverty of the rural peasants. Carney turned his back from the comfortable security of the priestly world to immerse and identify more deeply in the world of the poor. In his book “All Saints” (p. 404) author Robert Ellsberg has this to say on the American Jesuit: “Over the next decade Carney became increasingly committed to peasant struggles for land and justice.”

The author further wrote, "Grossly inequitable distribution of land left the majority of the rural population in the status of indentured servants – hungry, illiterate, living in shacks, resigned to watching their children die of malnutrition and disease. Meanwhile, the owners of the haciendas made a show of their Catholic faith, appealing to the bishops to bless the status quo and to denounce communism. But when the bishops began to talk about social justice, then the rich spoke of betrayal, heresy, communist subversion! Carney was a particular scapegoat.” He was stripped off his Honduran citizenship and was exiled to Nicaragua. Carney told highlights of his life in his autobiography called “To Be a Revolutionary: The Autobiography of Fr. James Guadalupe Carney” which was published by Harper and Row in 1987.

In September 16, 1983 after his armed band of Honduran guerillas (He served as chaplain of the Central American Revolutionary Workers Party or PRTC) was captured by the government forces, he was taken up in an army helicopter and hurled out, alive, to die on the mountainsides below. His remains was never recovered, wrote Ellsberg.

Getting thrown out of an aircraft seems the favorite execution method in Latin America that time. In Argentina way back in Advent of ’77 there was this story of the “flying nuns”. Sisters Alicia Domon and Leonie Duquet, both French nationals and members of Toulouse Institute of the Sisters of Foreign Mission, are said to have been tossed out of the airplanes over the Atlantic Ocean and like Padre Guadalupe, their remains were not been recovered.

The incident was confirmed later by a retired Navy commander, Adolfo Scilingo who confessed his role in the “death flights” of the “flying nuns” (a joke and rumor moving around that time in military camps). The former military officer testified that he did not know that the bodies are those of nuns and he said he is just following orders. And this is the saddest part: when he confessed his actions to a military priest, he was told the killings “had to be done to separate the wheat from the chaff!” Violation of human rights was so rampant in Argentina that time but the conservative Catholic Church remained largely silent those days. As silent as our local Church that did not even initiated a diocesan-wide and concerted campaign against the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.

Before her disappearance and way back in Buenos Aires, Sr. Alicia Domon became closely involved with a courageous organization of women called Mothers of the Disappeared. Several months before her disappearance, according to Ellsberg, she had written to the archbishop of Toulous, “I would not ask you not to do anything to save me which could endanger others. I have already made the sacrifice of my life.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe was proclaimed “Patrona de las Americas y de las Islas Filipinas” in 1565 by Pope Clement VII. For all the Christians in Latin America and the Philippines, this feast is a reminder of Mary’s importance as type and mother of the Church and that crosses all cultural boundaries like the three internationalists that we have studied. The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe was clear: the church must not serve as the religious arm of colonial oppression. Today the message is still relevant but in a new context: the church should not allow herself used by politicians towards their selfish ends. Instead, conversion must be rooted in the experience of the poor and become a vehicle for their cultural and spiritual survival. This is the message of the Our Lady in Juan Diego’s ayate (cloak). This is the same message that was imprinted in the hearts of our “flying priest and nuns”.

Well, not all priests and nuns are the same. Some are even putting down the lowly and raises the mighty high above their thrones, an exact opposite of Mary’s protest in her “Magnificat”. ..

(Photo from

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dreaming Immaculately

This coming Thursday will be the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception and with present socio-political situation we are currently facing, may we as a Church be challenged by this Marian feast to exhaust all our energy to wake up from deep slumber, to revitalize her concerted pastoral action, take her prophetic role and stand against the social ills in our midst like gambling, the power crisis, good governance and the likes. Just like before. We have to be once again socio-political deterrents and detergents that would keep her mantle clinging to her social principles immaculately spotless and not to allow gossipers and mudslingers stain it. Let us be visible as prophets and make our pastoral programs – both charity and advocacy - felt by the people. Are we allowing the Church to be ridiculed forever and its leaders are subjects and objects of intrigues? As before, let our intentions be holy and immaculate like Mary, the patroness of our diocese. In case you are interested to know, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was officially promulgated in the papal bull “Ineffabilis Deus” by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854. It declares that Mary was born free from original sin because she was destined to become Mother of God.

In the global scenario, Mary is in perfect solidarity with the needs of women in all ages, and especially those that suffer under severe systems of oppressions. Author Megan McKenna describes this solidarity in her book “Mary: The Shadow of Grace”: “Mary is all the women, one third of the world’s population always on the move, fleeing starvation, war and disasters of flood, earthquake and drought. She is the woman who mourns the slaughter of the children, the execution of the state, the torture and disappearances of men and women.” Back here at home we are currently, as a faith community, facing uncertainties brought about by broken relations, pastoral stagnancy, gossips, cowardly crafted poison and hate letters, mudslinging, etc. Mary is with us as Simeon foretold the headaches and sorrows that she would have. But despite of her headaches and sorrows, with Our Mother’s help, we could crush the cheating and lying serpent under our feet!

In affirming Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we can trace back to a simple peasant girl in Nazareth who knew that love of her God demanded action for justice. With prophetic passion in her “Magnificat”, she prayed that the mighty are put down, the lowly exalted, and the hungry filled with good things (Lk 1: 52-53).

While the symbol of original sin points to unfaithfulness, the symbol of Immaculate Conception shows that even the accumulated sinfulness of the world cannot overcome God’s desire to serve. To put it in our present context, what’s hindering us from voicing our protests, say against social ills that the people are experiencing, in singing Mary’s “Magnificat”? Indeed, while the “Magnificat” is profoundly religious, it is also political. According to a well-known theologian named Dietrich Bonheoffer, as cited by Elizabeth Johnson’s book “Truly Our Sister” (p. 267): “It is at once the most passionate, the wildest, one might say the most revolutionary Advent song ever sung. This is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary whom we sometimes see in paintings …. This song has none of the sweet, nostalgic, or even playful tones of some of the Christmas carols. It is instead a hard, strong, inexorable song about collapsing thrones and humbled lords of this world, even the power of God and the powerlessness of human kind. These are the tones of the women prophets of the Old Testament that now come to life in Mary’s mouth.”

In celebrating the Feast Day of Immaculate Conception we profess that in a woman we realized the true meaning of purity and obedience and in her we see what it means to be redeemed. We can only be socially redeemed if we put down the mighty and exalt the lowly if we make our social advocacy works back to life again. This would be once again our unifying factor. Just like how the Church initiated (and was participated mainly by multi-sectoral groups specially the Mangyans from all over the province) that historic march against the bogus Mindoro Nickel Project community consultation in Mamburao some years back (Please click here.). Are we not missing that kind of unified, sensible, sanctifying mass mobilization and campaigns? I am missing it, very much.

The Immaculate Conception is a symbol that summons us all to political and ecological actions and reminds us that we may not take a neutral position. In Mary, we see the future and destiny of our local Church. Our hope as community of believers in Occidental Mindoro is strengthen and may we in not so distant tomorrow, see a Church that is, “without wrinkle, or any such thing, that she might be holy and immaculate” (Eph. 5:27). And finally “all are one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28). Did I hear somebody say, “In your dreams”?

And to borrow from a line from a famous song of John Lennon, who was assassinated on the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception in 1980, I maybe a dreamer, “but I am not the only one”…..

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Empty Seedbed and Priestly Departures

All of the seminarians from the Saint Joseph College Seminary (SJCS) here in our province are calling it quits and have decided to get out this semester without hinting if they would come back or not. Though their school is not directly affected physically by the recent fire at the Chancery, they moved out en masse together with their rector, confessor and some personnel. The seminarians have expressed their sentiments through a Manifesto they have signed before they left. They have cited, among other things, guidance and care from the bishop and the urgent settlement of disputes among priests. That’s all I can impart so far for I am not in authority to explain its content. A move that I believe they will do in the succeeding days to a proper time and venue. Report on the incident appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday that can be accessed here.

The SJCS was established in 1984 while the SJCS School of Philosophy, second in MIMAROPA, came into existence barely three years ago. Occidental Mindoro’s first bishop, Vicente C. Manuel, SVD,DD just months after our local Church separated from the Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan, opened it and clearly manifested that priestly ministry was our late prelate’s foremost concern. Among other pastoral offices, seminary formation is on the top of his “what-to-do-first list” then of pastoral priorities.

The action made by the seminarians was criticized by some quarters headed by faculty members especially those who are identified with the other faction of diocesan priests. They accused the rector, the registrar, their confessor and some of its lay staff of tolerating if not influencing the future priests, all minors, in their move. Majority of the teachers and few parents even sided with the accusers and they are also doing some counter actions as of this writing instead of proposals how to resolve the deepening factionalism among the clergy. Only one thing is certain: whether the allegation is true or not, the Church’s seedbed has been polarized and became voiceless and so quiet. It is now empty physically, of purpose, relevance and of meaning. My heart bleeds not only for the seminarians but especially for the future of priestly vocation in our province and the fate of our homegrown clergy.

Being a father of a seminarian I can feel the suffering brought about by inaction to settle the long lingering feud of the priests that never been attempted to resolve by the higher-ups. My wife and I offered my ONLY son to the cause of the vocation but those influential men in cassocks disappointed him. He was disillusioned and demoralized by this problem of priests’ factionalism. Yobhel is expected to graduate next school year but we do not give a damn and we let him go. He is not used to this kind of quarrel for way back home we always make it to the point that we settle differences before bedtime. My son is so vulnerable to this kind of silent but hostile environment. His decision came two weeks before his brothers and classmates at SJCS walked out. We are both misty-eyed he telling me his ordeal that made him - or us – frustrated and disappointed. Though he is not a signatory to the Manifesto, without doubt he supports his brothers’ cause. I raised him not to be indifferent and arrogant. For me and my son, a consistent academic topnotch, believe that a Cross, wherever it is planted, inside the church or outside of a sacred place or even in a hellish pigsty, it will always be a symbol of redemption and a way to salvation. People of influence can anytime uproot us but not the Crosses in our hearts. Those Cross in our hearts that lightens the cross rested upon our shoulders.

Many SJCS alumnus have already left priesthood and I do not want to reveal their number much more their names and other identity, including those seminarians who, for one reason or another, went out of the seminary door. Let us leave it at that and throw them blankets of privacy. One thing cannot be denied: the Church needs priests and its seedbed is the seminary and the seminarians, the seeds (Have you ever noticed that the word “seminary” has its roots in “semen”?). What would happen if Church leaders would experience shortage of it, I mean, the priestly vocation?

Pope John XXIII, according to a book that I will cite later, when asked his intention for convening the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) said, “[I] simply moved to a window and threw it open, to let in draft of fresh air.” Sylvia H. Guerrero of UP Diliman who wrote the Preface of the book added, “As the Second Vatican Council set for the Church on the path of ecumenism and dialogue, renewal and change, in an effort to unite all Christians, it also (as someone puts it) ‘threw open for doors allowing those inside the Church to exit’”.

The book I am referring to is a good read even for us laypeople to understand the priests we know who left their priestly vocations and ministry and the psychological and sociological reasons behind this phenomena. It is written by a clergy named Emmanuel R. Fernandez entitled “Leaving the Priesthood: A Close Reading of Priestly Departures” and I can well relate to his story of a dedicated priest whom he know that left the ministry: “That dear priest’s departure from the priesthood was my first encounter with the reality of priestly departures. And it was for a young seminarian like me a very painful and bewildering experience. I saw how that well-loved priest was suddenly disowned abandoned by his so-called friends. I witnessed his radical transformation from a well-respected public figure to pathetic object of ugly gossip. The experience led me to a painful realization that began to haunt me for the next several years: if it could happen to a very holy and dedicated priest like him. It could happen to any priest.” Fernandez took this study for his doctoral dissertation in Sociology where sociological and socio-psychological theory provided the framework. Recent developments here in my diocese made me guess that already there are priests who are now entertaining the thoughts of entering the “departure area” but let us all pray that they, especially those who are competent, able, dedicated and loyal pastors, would (and could) hang on. Without forgetting that in the end and still the last say lie on the lips of the subject priest and he is the most responsible for his formation and vocation but other factors are not to be counted out like his relation to his brother priests and local ordinary.

The book talks about a thing called “Lazy Monopoly Syndrome”. In brief, Fernandez stated that, “An organization can be considered a ‘lazy monopoly’ if, among other things, it can afford to lose its clients and personnel because it knows that their ‘departure’ will not significantly hurt the organization.” From the looks of it, this concerns not only the priests but may also apply to a lowly lay employee like me!

But do not get me wrong. I am NOT, repeat, NOT, calling anybody's resignation or ouster neither I am supporting such radical move. I am only for the urgent "Win/Win" resolution of the problem for we all belong to the Church as Christ's Body. "For no one ever hated his own body; he provides and cares for it; and that is how Christ treats the Church, because it is His Body, of which we are living parts." (Eph. 5:29) The priests should resolve it first and not the parents including its faculty members.

The role of the bishop is extremely crucial especially when priesthood is at the verge of trouble. “At such times, a fatherly handling by his bishop could go a long way in terms of encouraging him to persevere. It would hardly help to handle him in strict compliance with the precepts and guidelines of Canon Law. A purely legalistic approach to a priest in crisis would only worsen matters. What is needed is to temper what the Canon Law say with the flame of fatherly love,” says Fernandez from p. 263 of his book.

Our disunited diocesan priests need to sit for a dialogue and high officials should be allowed intervene and settle this biggest and scandalous vocation crisis in recent history of the Philippine Church. Or we will be a doomed flock of Zechariah. The shepherd’s duty was to take care of his flock and cannot afford to be careless. As in the Old Testament story we have cited, they were scattered and they became food for all the wild beasts including those wolves that prey while they pray. But with a brotherly reconciliation, we could overcome this situation. If the captain could only guide all his crew in a table and locked them in inside his cabin and have a heart-to-heart talk. In that way they cast the anchor into the deep in the middle of the cruel storm. The anchor stays in the deep until the tempest is gone.

Going back to the importance of the seminary among other offices, Pope Pius XII in his encyclical “Ad Cathoici Sacerdotii” has this reminder to local ordinaries: “The seminary is and should be the apple of your eye …. It is and should be the chief object of your solicitude.”

But sometimes, we are worms in somebody’s apple and our eyes are blinded by specks …

(Photo: One of the designs of SJCS' basketball uniform)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Of Lighthouse and Advent

One of the many tourist attractions in the beautiful town of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro is its centuries old lighthouse. Lighthouses have many uses. It gives signals to navigating sea vessels or ships to avoid dangers and to convey messages. But while it gives light to distant targets, it’s too dark at its foot. Its watchman is more concerned with distant occurrences than what is happening right at his very nose. Few people are aware that the word “govern” and “government” comes from the Latin “gubernere” meaning “to steer a ship”. The groups where we belong can be very much compared to a travelling ship for our “captains” could make it land in a safe port or fatally towards an iceberg. A certain individual can also be compared to a lighthouse if he only sees his enemy’s foolishness but not seeing his own (Like the foolishness of not knowing the English word for “Parola”!).

We tend to look at things distant from our groups, more so those we consider “not with us”, but failed to act on negative things happening inside our very own backyard. No question that the Lord is telling us now to be constantly on the watch and be on guard (Mk 13-32) on events to come from faraway seas but not to the point that we are neglecting the present situation unfolding right at our very own doorsteps.

On November 27 we will be celebrating the First Sunday of Advent as we begin a new liturgical year. To re-emphasize, Advent is a season for waiting, waiting in anticipation. We wait because we are holding on to a promise that the Lord would return. While waiting, we try to fulfill the tasks and responsibilities He has entrusted to us like making our backyard free-of-dirt caused by stray animals which just littered around it; spread the red carpet of spirituality on our doorsteps; and clean our nostrils so that we could smell foul odor lingering in the air, all in preparation for His anticipated coming right at where we stand. Even though no one knows when He will come back except for the Father, this is the only thing certain: He is already here in time and space where and we act as His responsible disciples, be He from Seven Seas or just from our lawn. We shouldn’t be caught moonlighting or having an extended recess when the Emmanuel finds us.

We do not have to fetch the Lord from the Airport so the luxury vehicles in our possessions are useless for His coming. His flock will be more pleased if you put stickers on those pick-ups signifying that your office owned them and only for official use as provided in the Commission on Audit (COA) Order on the use of government-owned vehicles. In economically tight times like this, luxury vehicle is something that government officials do not really need but can’t do without. They received luxuries along with the cars!

The command is this, “Stay vigilant and be responsible.” Our utmost responsibility, as civil servants and opinion leaders is to acknowledge God as our King and Master specially during times when “He is away” (meaning, when we are doing things that doesn’t concern much about our spiritual growth like when we are in our workplaces or doing economic activity or job), when He placed us in-charge, in times when He entrusted everything to us, like in Jesus’ short parable about the travelling master and his servant. Over and above our mentors or tormentors, curers or cursers, is the ultimate truth that the Lord is our Master. We should serve and be involved with Him rather than them.

People who are well prepared for Advent do their duty of working for the common good and not their (or our earthly masters’) vested interests but even in places where the Lord is seemingly not there.

Like inside my Bravado or Navara if I have one, this Advent season going to Sablayan…

(Photo : Google Images)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occidental Mindoro Kingpins

One of the many things I really missed in Tagalog movies are those stories where the real life gangsters are glorified, I mean, portrayed. The most prominent thug in our nation’s history was Nicasio “Asiong” Salonga. In 1961, Joseph “Erap” Estrada portrayed the notorious gang leader from Tondo. Estrada zoomed to stardom appearing in a long list of so-called Philippine Gangster movies extending to most part of the 60s portraying infamous and notorious underworld characters. It was directed by Pablo Santiago and co-starred by Guia Gomez, later became mother of JV Ejercito. The flick was remade twice starring Rudy Fernandez in 1978 and another by George Estregan, Jr. in 1990. To read news clippings and see pictures of that tough guy, you may click Video 48.

And for the upcoming 2011 Metro Manila Film Festival, a third remake of said movie is one of the official entries to the festival, produced by Viva Films. The film "Manila Kingpin : The Untold Story of Asiong Salonga" is directed by Tikoy Aguiloz starring Laguna Governor ER Ejercito (formerly known as George Estregan, Jr. and also starred the second remake), nephew of the actor-turned president. It was entirely filmed in black and white. "Black and white, because it's a remake of the old film, so I want it to look like the old film," Aguiloz explained. Its full trailer can be watched here.

The modern gangsters in our midst are no longer armed with Thompson submachine guns and Grease Guns (AKA the M3 American .45-caliber submachine gun and called as such owing to its visual similarity to the mechanic's tool.) but with gossips and intrigues. The usually dark slum areas are no longer their realm but air conditioned radio booths. Many of them made us a community of snoops. These gangsters are gossipers and gossipers are robbers of somebody’s good name and an institution's good reputation. They could also be double-crossers or butterflies flying from one flower to another, testing which has the abundant nectar. Like gangsters, gossipers have also common traits: talkative, pseudo-secretive, negative, intrusive, deceitful, vicious, superficial and self-righteous. But why are we gossiping? To sow unkind motivation and to be socially accepted and to lick our patron’s ashes (I had a spelling problem nowadays!). They usually make a mountain out of a mole hill by adding some dirt. Gossipers are gangsters feeding more wood to the fire without realizing that without wood a fire goes out and without gossip a quarrel dies down (Prov. 26:20).

Gov. ER Ejercito stressed out that his movie does not entirely depict violence but rather, give more importance on its moral lesson which is, “A person who lives by a gun dies by a gun”. A person who lives by gossips ad intrigues dies by gossips and intrigues, if I may paraphrase figuratively. We have many kingpins, indeed, but we have only one King and His Feast Day is on Sunday. He is the originator of the quote cited by the actor. He said, “Those who live by the sword die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52).

The Solemnity of Christ the King signifies the end of the present liturgical year but its beauty lies in the fact that it is immediately succeeded by another fresh new year in Advent. This feast day is regarding Christ’s glory and power but we must honor Christ the King that He is in others and within us especially the downtrodden like those victims of oppressive systems and structures and one-sided treaties and agreements. The kingpins in our midst boastfully claimed that they are on the side of the “righteous” and “winners”, their boastful and ill-mannered principals. The End of Days is the focal point of next Sunday’s readings where the strong will be destroyed and be shepherded rightfully.

Like gangsters in the movies, the earthly kingpins (and queens) in our midst are slaves of their own affiliations, status and achievements…

(Photo : Video 48)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Parable of Manny Pacquiao’s Talents

Waiting hopelessly for the much awaited Pacquiao-Mayweather encounter makes us all crazy. As I’ve told you before, Pacman’s fight with Juan Manuel Marquez on Sunday, November 13 at Las Vegas, even it’s a trilogy it is expected to be an all Manny show though it's more exciting than the Pacquiao-Mosley like what I have said in a blog entry before. If Marquez would not climb up the ring with Zorro carrying a sword - the only Mexican legend Manny did not execute – the El Dinamita is pulverized after round six if not earlier. So, let us focus on Floyd Mayweather, Jr. because he is the more exciting opponent for Congressmanny.

As usual, let us connect it to our Gospel come Sunday. Jesus’ Parable of Talents is reminding us that fear and indecision can surely cripple us thus allowing our “talents” to be wasted. This is in a way our, I am referring to boxing enthusiasts like me, reminder to Floyd, Jr. As disciples who are entrusted with the saving work of Jesus, we have to act decisively and boldly with the “possessions” or talents that we have. Our perseverance aimed at increasing and nurturing our talents lead us to even more wondrous “possessions” and bring about our “master’s joy”. The fans, specially their avid supporters or compatriots, and not the promoters nor the coaches or the training camp members, are the true “masters” of every man and woman of spectator sports, but of course, next only to God.

Like the third servant in the parable, the Mayweathers (if I may include the father) took their talents as risks and not as gifts. We are doing the gravest things if we keep them for our own egos and if we waste them. Proud of himself, the undefeated champ similarly used none of it in its intended purpose, facing Manny Pacquiao ASAP. The third servant, not unlike the American fighter, kept intact to the last penny. Just like Floyd Mayweather, Jr. who just want to keep, and afraid to put at stake his clean win-loss statistics. How could we praise the big-mouthed champ on that? Another thing is, God is not judging us on our win-lose (read: success-failure) record but how faithful are we in using what talents (or treasures) we have, or are given to us.

Like the third servant, he is lambasted by his “masters”. I, being their master gave all my boxing hopes for that most anticipated fight of a lifetime. Elsewhere in the Bible Jesus said, “The one who save his life will lose it, the one loses his life – like what He did – will save it."

But suppose the third servant, like Mayweather, tried to face the challenge, increase the talents, but have failed losing the only one he had been given. How would the master have treated him? No doubt that the treatment is more mild or lenient than what the master did. The issue at stake here is NOT failure but the FEAR that keep us from facing fear, from trying, by clinging on to crazy alibis and verbal barbed wires.

Any shortcomings, specially my stupidity for connecting the Pacquiao-Mayweather brawl to the parable, are mine alone. Forgive me if I have sinned. I must also admit that this is a strange and confusing gospel but its message is not something like allowing the poor, say promoter, to get poorer and the rich promoter, richer.

If you figure it out that way, you must be named Bob Arum…

(Photo : UniTV)

Friday, November 4, 2011

DZVT and Chancery Burning: Psychological or Demonic?

Somebody told me that after the last week burning of DZVT and Chancery Office, it is proper for the local Church to under go exorcism. The comment drove me to amazement not because I do not believe in the physical domination of evil spirits in paranormal sense but for me it’s somewhat "out-of-bounds" at this early stage. Even Rule No. 3 of the official Roman Ritual of Exorcism states that, “He (the priest performing exorcism) should not believe too readily that a person is possessed by an evil spirit; but he ought to ascertain the signs by which a person possessed can be distinguished from the one who is suffering from some illness, especially one of a psychological nature.” And I believe that it pertains not only to an individual but even to an organization or a social institution. “What do you think, Father, was it demonic or psychological?” “Maybe both,” he retorted. Later that day, I just found myself in a dilemma trying to figure out if I'll take his comment seriously or fall from my seat, laughing.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in the existence of the devil and no doubt that the world is an arena of spiritual warfares and indeed prayer is our most potent weapon and defense against these fallen angels. Since we were young, we are told that the greatest deceit of the devil is making us believe that he doesn’t exist. True enough, priests and pastoral workers – specifically those who are belonging to charismatic communities – must not ignore it for such gesture is dangerous not only to our faith but even to our whole being. We have no other choice but to, “Resist him and [be] solid in your faith.” (1 Peter 5:8-9a) Maybe our man of cloth is right. The culprit or the mastermind may be psychologically deranged or spiritually under demonic spell, or both. One thing is certain : the Devil is at home in the hearts of men and women where selfishness and other grave sins were there as its permanent fixtures. Sinners who prefer to demonstrate innocence than acknowledging their unworthiness. A world-acclaimed exorcist, Fr. Carl Vogl in a documentary entitled “Be Gone Satan!” has this to say: “It is precisely through cooperation of sinners that the devil has such power on earth.” Well, to let you know, I have learned a lot about the subject matter while browsing recently the pages of “Exorcism: Encounters with the Paranormal and the Occult” written by Fr. Jose Francisco Syquia, director of the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism.

But while they exorcise, they should not underweight the criminal intent of pure human hands and brains behind this horrible act of arson. Not unlike evil spirits, soul-and-flesh human puppeteers, like any other human controllers also employ various disguises and often, those disguises are accepted by many in our society. Indeed there are people who love to control (in the negative sense) because they cannot control their own feelings, loves to control what other people feel. To those who are not familiar or were not able to detect evilness in a person, these earth-bound devils may appear as angels from above, a redeemer from poverty and even initiator of development and progress. In the end we would feel very sorry because we failed to see his true colors, his motives and intentions early on. The devil, if I may add, may also be pretending to be our BFF (best friend forever) and allies or leaders. Having said that, most often than not, beyond paranormal situations, what people need are firm and competent leaders rather than exorcists!

Reading said book on exorcism taught me one important thing and this re-affirmed my faith: Only in the name of Jesus can there be authentic liberation and deliverance and the demon is controlled, defeated and subdued in the name of Jesus but none of the demons will obey an exorcist when he command him in the name of the any president, senator, congressman, governor or mayor.

What if this particular case does not concern exorcism in the technical sense of the word but in-depth criminal investigation? Well, with that, the Fallen Angels will just become fall "guys"

(Photo : Mystery of the Inquity)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reflections Brought About by Chancery and DZVT Ashes

Right after the deliberate burning of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose’s two prominent entities or ministries, her Chancery Office and radio station DZVT, everyone in our place (including netizens from our province) instantly, at least figuratively, turned into fire and crime analysts and investigators. Different and contrasting theories and opinions that do more harm than good subdued the air like those ugly and suffocating smoke from a forest fire. They just added fuel to the flame and in a way continue the suffering of the people of God here in Occidental Mindoro, the believers of Christ. He is the same Christ who, according to the Apostle’s Creed, “…suffered under Pontius Pilate”.

A mere ocular scanning of the crime scene in the Chancery Building in Seminary Compound in Mabini St. Extension you would notice the crucifixion figure of Christ, about two feet tall, still hanging on the wall undisturbed despite of the horrific and evil devastation. The first time I saw t its aftermath and seeing that huge crucifix from a distance reminded me that the Passion of Christ did not end in Golgotha but continues to dwell among us. It continues to exist in our present history and in every hour of our life as a believer. This very tragic occurrence is a concrete example of our encounter with evil regardless if it dwells from the inside or outside of certain realm. This twin attack on the local Church - or its heirarchy, the priests, the nuns and the laity - placed us all, people of Occidental Mindoro, in what I can call as “Foot of the Cross” situation. Every one of us under its shadow, are telling what we really are. There are many of us made a mockery out of the event, playing games for fun and for other gains and use the situation as an opportunity to attack their enemies or to condemn known religious and political personalities. But let us not forget the majority who truly, physically and mentally suffer with the Church. The members of the Pamayanang Kristiyano, or the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) who truly agonize with Him and his Church during high-magnitude chaos like this. The former are those UNDERNEATH the Cross while latter are ON the Cross. Situations that make this tragedy and human suffering go on.

We have learned from Jesus that after (suffering from) the Cross comes Resurrection but we, clergy and lay especially those from the BECs, have to be united. It is written, “When anyone is united to Christ, there is a new world. The old order has gone and a new order has already begun” (2 Cor. 5:17) for God is not a God of burned things and ashes, of dead things but of renewed things.

Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD,DD is bound to issue a Pastoral Statement tomorrow from the pulpits of every churches and chapels in the diocese. Hope this will bring enlightenment and we will be informed of the official stand of our local Church on this issue to avoid speculations and shed light on the matter.

Though we all admit, human as we are, that there are tragedies which we are all powerless, especially those that are natural, this one is man-made and sure enough we will be able to conquer this particular tragedy and suffering. Our particular Church, the men (ordained or not) and women of faith in our province, are called to generate solidarity now more than ever and accept it, no matter how painful are they. This cross of tragedy and scandal that we are presently experiencing as a people is not only a cross or a problem to be investigated and to be solved but a cross to be picked-up to our hardened shoulders like a heavy yoke, a yoke that teach. Incidentally, our Gospel tomorrow is (Mat. 23:1-12) focused on our roles as teachers. Experience is the best teacher, remember? And if I may add, Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those things that hurt, instruct."

Somebody has to have a closer look to his flock and (re-)know his sheep individually and properly wield his authoritative rod of guidance and correction…

(Photo from 4Bp.blogspot)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nonito Donaire’s Prior Victory

Long before his tomorrow’s scheduled match (some said it’s a mismatch!) with Argentina’s Omar Narvaez, world bantam weight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire, the latter is already a winner in many ways. Am I talking here of his power of the purse? Nope. It’s something else and it’s more important to many.

It was Thursday, March 11, 2011 when Nonito made the most remarkable victory of his life. After a 3 year-feud, he finally reconciled with his father and former trainer, Nonito, Sr. Nonito Jr. and his wife Rachel blamed some sports media for allegedly destroying his family on exaggerated news reports. He said then, “My dad was always there to protect me. He’s always looked out for my benefit.” He further stressed, “What has been said in the media was… blown into something really big.”

Here in San Jose, we are all be trooping again to our favorite hang-outs - watering holes and hang outs- to watch the fight. It’s a tough fight for our guy but we all hope that extend his 25-match winning streak. But do not worry, The Flash gave us all assurance, "If I hit the right spot, if I hit the right point, it can end any moment.” Let us all keep our fingers crossed that come Sunday, our boxer would hit that whatever spot (was it the “Gee Spot”?) he is referring too. When we go to mass tomorrow morning, let us all pray not only for Nonito’s victory but for the two boxer’s safety.

Going back to the two Nonito’s reconciliation some months back, I presume that the negative relational crack between them, when glued together, became durable at powerful than ever. Mt. 22:34-40 is the Gospel this Sunday and it’s about strengthening of relationship. Among any other law and rules, the Law of Love is ever valid and true. It is the basis, not only of actions but of all laws on earth. Including perhaps the rules that they will be using and observing in the Donaire-Narvaez fight in the historic Madison Square Garden just less than 24 hours from now.

Even in a training camp, all of the team members are expected to strengthen their relationships for a particular mission. The reason is very obvious: Lack of unity and discouragement doesn’t inspire people that they have touched and inspired. All team members are expected to stay close and lean on with each other than pushing each other away with unfriendly gestures, cutting comments and angry attitudes, and they should know how good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity (Ps. 133:1) in a particular mission or for life.

Win or loose tomorrow against Narvaez with no loss record, Nonito is already the undisputed defending champion. At least in his father’s heart…

(Photo from World Boxing Council WBC)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wanted: Godly Caesars

Since I cannot find fresh examples from my diocese for this blog entry, allow me to import them from elsewhere. When eight bishops from the Bicol region, led by Archbishop Leonardo Legazpi, urged President Benigno Aquino III to immediately enforce the law banning all big commercial fishing companies in their area, can it be considered violation of “Separation of Church and the State”? Or when Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo pressed P-Noy for the passage of Freedom of Information (FOI) bill?

In Mt. 22:15-21, Jesus himself asserts the duty of paying one’s dues to the State, but without in any way reducing the claims of God: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and the things that are God’s.” In my own reflection on tomorrow’s (October 16) Gospel, our faith is not prohibiting us to be active members of our community or as citizens of the republic. We are not a bunch of believers detached from worldly affairs and its social dimensions. On the other hand, we ought to change them according to God’s plan. And a “package deal” at that and not only depends on our (especially priests’) tastes.

My favorite interpretation of Mt. 22:15-21 is the one I have read in the book “Being Church in Asia: Volume 1” edited by Fr. John Gnanapiragasam and Fr. Felix Wilfred: “If the State exercises authority by virtue of divine commission, for the very same reason the exercise of this authority should not be absolute, but should respect God’s sovereign power and authority in its various expressions in the society. The statement of Jesus regarding the problem of giving tribute to Caesar could be understood as a statement about the approach one should take towards the political and social structures. Caesar’s realm or the social political order of the Roman Empire was in Jesus view part of the larger order of creation whose only author is God. Therefore, the Roman social patterns were to be evaluated against the social patterns desired by God, and supported or not on this basis.” (p. 106)

True enough, the “Separation of Church and the State” is about mutual autonomy and the respect of that autonomy but rooted on cooperation from both the Church and the State for the common good and welfare. The Church does not expect the State to disrespect her moral teaching and directly attack her. We have no other choice but to defend it not only against relativist ideologues but even from de-orbited Catholics in our midst, in many religious organizations around us. We cannot afford to have a siesta on this.

The “Separation of Church and the State” is strictly defined in the 1987 Constitution referring to two points only: “1) that no religion may be established as the official religion of the State; 2) that the State may not favor one religion over others. No favoritism. At the same tie, if I may emphasize, the State shall forever allow the free exercise and enjoyment of religion and shall not require any religious test for the exercise of civil and political rights. It does not require division between belief and public action, moral principles and political choices. Rather, the “Separation of Church and the State” protects the rights of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life. This thing is called “Religious Freedom.”

But come to think of it, even Caesar belongs to God. And if God would take everything that are God’s from Caesar, there will be NOTHING left for the king.

Including all the edifices built under his name….

(Photo : Tocqueville Forum)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Lord’s “Dress Code”

Halasz and Koschinski. These surnames obviously are foreign-sounding for Ludwig (Luis) Halasz and George Koschinski are German priests assigned in our province. The both came from the same congregation, the Society of the Divine Word or SVD. Both served in Occidental Mindoro for a very long period of time, specifically in the towns of Sablayan and Magsaysay, respectively. And despite of their shortcomings as human beings, they came to the wedding banquet fully observing its dress code (Matthew 22:1-14 [tomorrow's Gospel]), so to speak.

Well, I will share to you a little something about these two great men who became part of the journey of Christian communities of Sablayan and Magsaysay. First is a little anecdote when Fr. Ludwig Halasz’ first set foot in Sablayan and the late Fr. George Koschinski’s poem called “Walking Tall”, the author’s short reflection on the “death-defying” position of a bishop, among other things. Well, in short, I am just giving a little tribute to the two great men of faith that in one way or another, touched the lives of multitudes in the parishes where they were assigned.

On Ash Wednesday in 1958, Bishop Wilhelm Duschak, SVD on a breakfast table told Fr. Ludwig Halasz, SVD, “I like you to proceed to Sablayan and be the parish priest there, and I wish you God’s blessings.” In his write-up which appeared in the Souvenir Program for 50th Anniversary of the Canonical Erection of San Sebastian Parish (1953-2003), Fr. Halasz wrote that he do not know then where Sablayan was when he accepted the appointment realizing what are the challenges ahead of him. In recollection, he imparted, “From Calapan, I proceeded first to Manila, and on Saturday, Feast of the Good Shepherd, I reached Sablayan on a boat carrying prisoners for the Penal Colony, celebrated my first mass in Sablayan together with the inmates and employees.”

“After lunch, I boarded again the Colony’s truck and under the heat of the sun, was brought again to the shore where we first landed, and took a small boat in the direction of the town. Small children guided me to the convent. Fr. Albert Cook, SVD, awakened from his nap, heartily and brotherly welcomed me. After he has read my appointment apparently as the in-coming parish priest, he said, “Good, I know, I told the Bishop that I can no longer remain in this post. I have to work somewhere else, where I am needed.” From his words, I felt that the hard works and loneliness await me, with only a motorboat as a connection with my Society brothers.” Fr. Halasz was alone for many years in his work as a missionary in Sablayan. Under his pastoral and administrative care, additional chapels in the barrios and school buildings were built and the Catholic school grew known today as the Colegio de San Sebastian or CDSS.

In 1968, the Sta. Teresa de Avila Parish in Barangay Sta. Teresa, Magsaysay was created and Fr. George Koschinski, SVD was appointed as its first parish priest. He stayed in Occidental Mindoro, particularly in Magsaysay, for many years, not unlike Fr. Halazs. In his little humorous book titled “Macaronic Doggrels” published in the late 80s’ we can read a poem called “Walking Tall” (from page 7) and I am sharing you this word for word:

It is a true matter of fact:
Being a bishop is a balancing act.
Because of high riding position,
More so if somewhere out in the mission.
Let us pray for those walking tall,
That they never, never may fall
May they go down in history,
But never in filibustery…”

Through Fr. George Koschinski, the Particular Church teamed up with the local government in many social projects aimed at improving the living condition of the people in this part of the province.

Like in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, all of us are invited to the wedding, saint and sinners alike. And to say the least, we would be unworthy to even come near the door of the banquet hall if we are “improperly dressed”.

Wearing the “proper garments" of worship and service just like what Halasz and Koschinski and the rest of us did in our province…

(Photo : Wow Sablayan)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Enemy of Enjoyment

The TV ad is very helpful especially for a parent like me who has two teenage children. Almost all of us now are familiar with the lines, “Sabi ng tropa, ang tunay na lalaki ay binibinyagan muna bago magpakasal” and “Ang tunay na lalaki ay marunong maghintay.” Indeed, the message is getting more meaningful every time we watch the commercial which is actually a component of the Lucky Me! advocacy campaign called “Kainang Pamilya Mahalaga". It aims to encourage parents to frequently eat dinner with their children and be involved in their lives. Click here for further information.

Allow me to have a clarification and a confession. What I will be declaring in this entry are not mine alone but taken from the book “The Ten Commandments: A Modern Interpretation” by Prof. Theodor Herr and translated from German by Fr. Leo Muehl and published by the Divine Word Publication in 1995. Second, when I was young, the succeeding topic is no big deal for me.

Pre-marital sex is very prevalent today and as if already the “rule of the thumb” and no longer considered as forbidden but propagated- especially by the macho culture- as a desired aim. New norms more or less sound like this: Do not suppress the sexual instinct but let it free, let it soar high and burst it freely and live it fully. People of today, not only the young ones but even their parents, believe that self-realization and even freedom can fully be achieved by living to one’s (sexual) wishes and to them, restraining human desire is inhuman and repressive. Of course sexual desire is part of human being’s existential condition and disposition; it is the expression of love. But all human desire, not only those are sexual, at the same time, is an ambivalent phenomenon. It can take on destructive forms and degenerate into unrestrained sexual passion, into greed of possessing things and people into self-destroying desire for pleasure.

The book pointed out with precision: “Human beings obtain sovereignty in the use of her/his freedom, not by full consent giving in to momentary feelings, to spontaneous wishes and instinctive impulses. On the way to full human self-realization, the way of control and cultivation of the forces cannot be by-passed. It is not a question of body-hostile suppression but a liberating culture of sexuality. But this cannot be obtained without a prudent asceticism that mean, without self-renouncement, without hygiene of the imagination and without discipline.” To us grown-up and mature people, the author, Prof. Herr, has this to add, “He who keeps this truth from the young, seeking men (who are still on the way), has done them bad service.”

The way I see it,the message of that TV ad is this: “Let you not be dominated by you desires and passions! Do not indulge yourself to a thing so entirely that afterwards you cannot get rid of it, thus losing your freedom.” I'm sure I am right this time for I've already been wrong once in my life.

At least I know now that to wait for the right time is a big deal because being in a hurry is a mortal enemy of genuine enjoyment. …

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sharing Electric Dreams with Women of OMECO

While sitting in a meeting of the provincial Multisectoral Electrification Advisory Council or MSEAC held in Buenavista, Sablayan last Saturday, September 17, as guest together with three women employees of Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (OMECO), I began to read the pages of a book co-authored by Edicio G. dela Torre, ex-priest, one time leader of the National Democratic Front (NDF), a native of Naujan in Oriental Mindoro, ex-political detainee and former TESDA chair during the Estrada administration. I have known the man since my early years in the (human rights) movement. Our man of the hour was already laicized so I call him “Manong Ed” and every time he addressed me as “Mr. Pamatok” is an affirmation that I am indeed a blogger. Truly, he is one of few former national democrats that I admire and respect most and became an avid follower of his blog called “Between Honesty and Hope”.

The book is called “Electric Dreams” and it has two sections. Its first section deals with de la Torre’s experiences, insights and reflections being an advocate for rural electrification. Generally it provides a look-back on important events of the rural electricity in the land. It also deals with the sweet-bitter "love affair" of the NEA and the ECs. Actually, it is written to commemorate the 40th anniversary of rural electrification in the country. No doubt that “Electric Dreams” is for member-consumers especially to those who are willing to step forward, to those who walk the talk, as leader-advocates for the cause of electric consumer protection just like us members of Serve OMECO Movement or SOM. Manong Ed hit the nail right on its head: “Ordinary consumers do not usually get involved in the affairs of the electric cooperatives (ECs) or consider themselves part of a national rural electrification movement. Their interests are simple – access to reliable power, the lowest possible rates and quick service response to any problem.” Manong Ed is the lead convener of ECAP (Electric Consumers’ Advocacy in the Philippines) where my big boss, Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD is the interim national chair.

On his title of choice, de la Torre explains, “It [Electric Dreams] describes what the dream is all about. But there is an added reason for choosing it, and it is in another line of the song: “We’ll always be together/However far it seems…”

The second section of the book is equally interesting for it talks about struggle of women in the electric field. To me as a student reader of “Mulieres Dignitatem”, it is the first book that I’ve read mentioning women as pioneers and pillars of rural electrification in the country. The section entitled “Iluminadas” (“lumen” in Latin is “light”) is written by Marianita C. Villariba. By the way, “Electric Dreams” was published by Education for Life Foundation (ELF) in 2009. To Villariba, “Iluminadas” tells herstory that made the role of Filipino women more visible and valued.

I gladly shared the outline of the book part to Elsa Bawayan, Mylene Acotina and Marian Gotoy, the three OMECO women employees I am with and jokingly asked, “How about if I write a book on OMECO women employees?”, and they just smiled at me. And my follow up question, “How about womanizers in OMECO?” they all laughed in gusto. I immediately informed them that I’m not serious with it but already sensed what made the question very funny.

Ms. Villariba’s part was divided into 4 sub-parts: Women in Electric Cooperatives; Women in the National Electrification Administration (NEA); and, Women’s Leap into the 21st Century. Among other relevant information on the subject, Ms. Villariba made me aware of women around the world that made exemplary achievements or inventions in the electric domain such as Herta Aytron (1854-1923), Mary Ebgke Pennington (1872-1952), Beulah Louise Henry (1887) and Edith Clarke (1883-1959). “Iluminadas” also featured 13 short stories about women who pushed rural electrification and the cause of electric consumers in their respected provinces in the Philippines from the 70s’ to the 80s’.

The story of the struggle of the women employees of Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) in 1986 brings inspiration. BENECO men and women held a protest action carrying placards and steamers declaring, “BENECO, milking cow of BENECO Board.” A woman labor leader named Myla Salbador led the rally from Magsaysay Road to Session Road. In retrospect Salvador said, “We are protesting against unnecessary expenditures, questionable contracts … activities detrimental to survival of cooperative.” The BENECO women were at the frontlines of the barricades that they set against the military and armed men of Aboitiz Group. The BENECO employees are against privatization attempts by the said corporation that time.

In “Electric Dreams” Manong Ed is very hopeful that the struggle for electricity and electrification can be an open door to other dimensions for he wrote, “There is also possibility that as our member-consumers become more active and aware, their experience in participating in the processes of the EC may inspire and enable them to apply what they have learned to their role as active citizens …. Is that too much to hope for? That can be part of the future that is bigger, better than our past.” And that is the reason why I did not turn down the invitation of Ms. Corazon Agustin, OMECO’s membership services division (MSD) to attend the MSEAC meeting. If I may add, half of the provincial MSEAC participants are women. They all have potentials.

In the book twice quoted these words from Clay Shirky, “Revolution doesn’t happen when a society adopts a new technology, it happens when society adopts new behavior.” Women and men of Occidental Mindoro should always be “together in electric dreams” more than their sweet embrace in the darkest hour of power outage….

(Photo from file of Malu Sarmiento and Kristine Cajilig, also women of OMECO handling the employees cooperative)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Three Cross Nails of Mining

Anawim, my 18-year old daughter, and I were watching our favorite soap over ABS-CBN Channel 2 when the TV ad of Philex Mining Corporation appeared on the screen. She looked at me teasingly and said, “See, Tatay, There’s Life in Mining.” Said mining corporation recently launched an advertising series on what they call as “responsible mining” dubbed – you’ve guess it right – “There is Life in Mining”. In a news report, Denis Lucindo, vice president for business development of Philex Mining, stressed the importance of mining in one’s life, “A lot has been said about mining with diverse opinions regarding the industry and its impact on the country.” According to Victor Francisco, vice president for environment and community relations of the company further said, “Responsible mining is the kind that values the environment, the community, the safety and welfare of the people involved in the mining projects. It adheres to the law and is intent on giving back to the host community and the environment.” But is there really responsible mining in the Philippines, really?

Here in Occidental Mindoro, one of the towns that will be hit best by the Mindoro Nickel Project of Intex Mining Corporation is Sta. Cruz (where the company’s plant is targeted to be constructed in Brgy. Pinagturilan) and today, September 14, is the parish’s feast day. Yap, today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) and today we Catholics honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world.

Before going further, happy fiesta to people of Sta. Cruz!

The impact of mining operation in the Philippines is three-pronged like nails in the cross and the “There’s Life in Mining” ads over ABS-CBN failed to expound on these:

Nail one. Economic benefits (or should I say “life”) are raked by mining corporations. Consider that 100% foreign ownership of mining projects are allowed in the Mining Act of 1995 allowing foreign company to have concession area of up to 81,000 has. on shore and 324,000 has of shore. Philex Mining may not be a foreign corporation but I am more referring here to foreign companies such as Intex and Placerdome. This includes 100% repatriation of profit, a five-year tax holiday later to be extended to eight and deferred payment are allowed until all cost are recovered by the mining company. They also have the enjoyment of easement rights and other auxiliary rights in the mining concessions. Mining lease for 25 years is allowed extendable to another 25 years and losses can be carried forward against income tax, among others. On the other hand, affected areas and communities remain in the quicksand of impoverishment.

Nail two. The impact of mining is irreversible and places the environment at risk even increases the vulnerabilities of people and communities. Philippines is one of the 18 megadiverse countries in the world. Majority of plants and animals species are unique and cannot be found anywhere else. The country’s species are among the world’s 10 in terms of endemism. Unfortunately for us, mining is being done in key biodiverse areas like here in Mindoro and Palawan. A study commissioned by the European Union in 2005, “showed that legal and illegal mining operations posed serious threats to forest and local rivers because of forest clearing and release of toxins.” It was also indicated that many of these concerns stem from the failure of many small and large-scale mining companies to adhere to globally defined standards of “responsible mining” if ever there exist of such a word.

Nail three. People still pay the cost of externalities through taxpayer’s money when among other things our government has to respond to disasters induced by mining, consider the Rapu-Rapu and Marinduque disasters.

These “cross nails” are not originally from me but from one of the speeches of Mario Ebite Maderazo of the Philippine Misereor Partnership (PMP) Inc I just read from the PMP Newsletter. The partnership supports the struggle of affected communities in the context of large-scale mining operations in various parts of the country.

All I can add is this : The cross of Jesus Christ must be our constant source of inspiration against mining and other environmental threats because it is also the burning focal point of our renewal as His disciples.

And Anawim already knows that, I am sure…

(Photo from

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mary : Born This Day

Today, 8 September, is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the source of the story for her birth cannot be found in the Bible but in the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal gospel written about A.D. 150. From it, we learn the names of Mary's parents, Joachim and Anna, as well as the tradition that the couple was childless until an angel appeared to Anna and told her that she would conceive.

Based on what we have read from various authors, Mary was a daughter of middle-class family who is unimportant social status-wise, in this equally unimportant town of Nazareth as the elite of Jerusalem would call it. She’s quite unknown outside this little town though she was completely familiar to her neighbors in their district. While Mary had the advantages of staying in the Temple, her education had been like that of any other Jewish girl of her time. In the Temple, though her main task had been to keep the sanctuary tidy, she had a great, happy chance of being exposed to the truth of the Scriptures. And, lo and behold, she practiced her faith wholeheartedly!

Since we have a very little or limited accounts of her birth, we can only speculate little Mary was an exquisite child who bring joy and cheers to her aging parents, not unlike Sophia, my youngest child. As it was in the beginning, Mary’s “only” goal in life was to be a child that God wanted her to be: to be a perfect person. And again, lo and behold, she achieved it with flying colors!

She was with her Son when he came into this world and built the entire economic system on the existence and inferior position of the poor and the downtrodden of their time. Since the wedding at Cana, Mary brought Jesus to the concerns and issues of society and not only to the world. Just like Mary, we are duty bound to bring Jesus in our every struggle, say against abusive power-wielders here and now. If we bring the incarnate Word in the unjust situation that we are currently in, we are assured of victory simply because we let Him in.

In our struggle against the dark forces (who are the main culprits why we are experiencing the power shortage that we are currently in Occidental Mindoro), God is with us. I am sure for it is obvious that Jesus’ agenda for us people who are facing the hardships of life and powerlessness (both electrical and political!) be redeemed from the claws of greedy bureaucrats-capitalist in our midst, especially those in the energy sector (others prefer to be called mere “talkers” than to be in the company of those people). And the most powerful expression of this Gospel truth is the Magnificat, that startling song of Mary: “He has put down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the lowly and has filled the hungry with good things and set the rich way empty” (Lk 2:46-55).

Mary as a mother, I just presume, fully realized that the gracious power of Christ cannot be limited to the personal and interpersonal realms alone, but include the body politic, the socio-economic system that we are in, which we create and which in turn form us …

(Photo from Catholic Resources)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Of Ceasefire and Rheumatism

Almost 25 years ago and that was November 1986, the Occidental Mindoro Provincial Ceasefire Committee (PCC) composed of provincial multi-sectoral representatives formally launched series of meetings and consultations and the first major activity along the goal of getting into the peace process was the holding of an activity at the San Jose Town Plaza. The vent became my first and only encounter with then two of the top New People’s Army (NPA) cadre operating in the whole island of Mindoro, namely (and obviously these are aliases or nom de guerre) Ka Adong and Ka Bambi together with more than half a dozen of other ranking guerillas carrying and slinging high-powered handguns, rifles, grenade launchers and assorted ammos. The supposed ceasefire with local communist forces lasted for about 60 days. The Marxists-Leninists-Maoists armed groups just capitalized the occasion for their show-of-force parading both their potent resources in firepower and manpower. Representatives from the now defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC), the Philippine Army and the Integrated National Police (INP) commands didn‘t show up and it became an all-NPA “roadside show”. Instead, government security forces and their officials sent intelligence operatives and undercover agents to spy on for perceived sympathizers for the reds fighters especially those belonging to student and farmer groups among the crowd. Both the security and the rebel groups accused each other of insincerity. As we all expected, the talks and the ceasefire went puff like a plastic balloon, so to speak. I was a teenager then working as a newsman of our campus paper and my well-oiled knees are still in order.

Now that I am just a year shy from half-century mark and already suffering from rheumatism, though the possibility of outright cessation of hostilities between forces of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP) is almost impossible, I believe that peace is our right as a people and peace-building is a responsibility of all and not just those people who carry arms. I, too, believe that the observance of the ceasefire during the peace talks is imperative. The former increases trust and confidence for both parties. This situation is also favorable to the people living in far-flung communities, especially in our case, the Mangyans. The peace process must also be open and transparent and mechanism towards this end must be set by two parties.

Last 25 August 2011, during the National Assembly of Sulong-CARHRIHL Partners held at a fine hotel along E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City, no less than political analyst Ramon Casiple, executive director of Institute for Political Reform (IPD) shared with us the prospective and perspectives of the GPH-NDFP peace talks. According to him, “Every conflict has to end and range of courses should be mapped out. It is time now to find middle ground or neither side can win…” In Casiple’s mind, it is now high time for the CPP to go on political reforms by joining the electoral processes. He even added that the Philippine political atmosphere is no longer revolutionary. But is the NDFP, the CPP and the NPA are ready to accept this? Things hang in balance for them: parliamentary struggle or armed struggle? Casiple informed us further that in Nepal, Communist Party members recently won the parliamentary elections.

On the other hand, in a statement dated 20 August 2011 of Fidel Agcaoili, spokesperson of the NDFP negotiating panel accused the GPH in prolonging the peace negotiations through long interruptions and violations of agreements since September 1992 when The Hague Joint Declaration (THJD) was signed by both parties. Part of Agcaoili’s statement reads: “The GPH must exercise strong political will in addressing the roots of the armed conflict. It must agree to carry out basic social, economic and political reforms in the country… It should formally reply to the proposal of the NDFP for a round of formal talks in Oslo in September 2011 and to the other offer of the truce and alliance on the basis of the ten-point Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace or CAIJP.

The success of every peace effort and peace talks lies in the genuine engagement and sincere commitment of both parties. We citizens should claim our voice on the process and stand up and be counted.

Stand up even when we are already rheumatics...

(Photo from OPAPP)