Monday, January 31, 2011

Respect Life, Regardless

February is Pro-Life month in the Philippines. Pro-life Philippines Foundation together with the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) and Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life (CFC-FFL) are spearheading various events nationwide to promote pro-life family values among the people. Near the entrance of the Saint Joseph Cathedral here in San Jose, anti-abortion photo exhibit can be seen by the Mass-goers and the public in general. Series of related activities aimed to highlight the value of the family and sanctity of life were laid by parishes in Occidental Mindoro. On Sunday, February 6, is Pro-Life day in the Philippines.

February as Pro-Life month was declared by the late President Corazon Aquino in 1987 when she issued Proclamation 214 stating, “February is Respect and Care for Life Month”. It is worthy to note that the celebration centers only on the aspects of abortion and euthanasia. While I recognize abortion, euthanasia and death penalty as different concern, all of them point to the same fundamental value: safeguarding the sanctity of life. But here in the Philippines, little is said on an equally important but controversial, issue of death penalty or capital punishment. While Catholics in general are battle-ready to defend our stand on these two life-threatening issues, the issue of death penalty is also part of it and it should not be overlooked in our present pastoral concerns.

Allow me to begin by telling you a story about a man who was sentenced to die by lethal injection in Texas on October 26, 2004. A book called “A Saint on Death Row” by Thomas Cahill centers on Dominique Green, 30, an African-American and the latter’s conversion from an angry and embittered boy to a man of forgiveness, compassion and generosity. Based on the book which was reviewed here, Green created a community among these isolated and desperate men, helping them to forgive, advising them on their legal rights and teaching by his own example. Green’s last message to the author is this: “What is important about a life is not its length but its intensity and direction.” Green maintained his innocence until the end but it is viewed that contributory to his execution was his being poor and black, unable to hire good lawyers and therefore unable to prove his innocence. That’s already Texas, how much more here at home?

With the rising heinous crimes in the country today, specifically the recent brutal killings of car dealers Emerson Lozano and Venson Evangelista, some sectors of society clamor for the re-imposition of death penalty. But many believe that the poor and the powerless will only be victimized by said proposal of re-imposition. In the 1998 data of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) showed that more than half of the convicts earned less than the government mandated minimum wage. In a survey conducted among 425 convicts that year, 105 or 24.7% were agricultural workers, 103 were construction workers, 73 were transport workers, and 42 were in workers in sales and services. Only 6% finished college while 32.4 % finished various levels of high school while the remaining did not go to school or have finished only elementary or vocational education. I am sure that this trend stays with death penalty around.

In short, social conditions of poverty and injustice which often provide the breeding grounds for serious crime. With the re-imposition of death penalty we opted not to consider Jesus in our practical and civic decisions and undertakings. Gut-level reactions may cry out for vengeance, but Jesus' example in the Gospels invites all to develop a new and different attitude toward violence. The education we got, especially from Catholic schools and our faith, encouraged us to embody Jesus' message in our everyday tasks as public servants, as citizens.

The United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference (USCBC) in November 1994 issued a statement called “Confronting a Culture of Violence - A Catholic Framework for Action” stating that, "Increasingly, our society looks to...increased reliance on the death penalty to deal with crime. We are tragically turning to violence in the search for quick and easy answers to complex human problems. A society which destroys its children, relies on vengeance fails fundamental moral tests....We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing....This cycle of violence diminishes all of us—especially our children."

That’s the call from America. Down here in the Philippines, this year’s theme and call for the celebration is, “Filipinos, Unite for Life”.

(Photo :

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Greenhorn Once

It was my 12th birthday when I watched “The Green Hornet” at Golden Gate Theatre along Gen. Dunckel Street here in San Jose, Mindoro. I remember that Bruce Lee, my childhood movie hero, had been long dead when the original film was shown. As a gift, my uncle gave me two pesos so I quickly ran across the street, lined towards the petite, old, fat lady with a big mole on her right chin who was inside the ticket booth. As I have told you before, aside from my favorite swordsmen, Bruce Lee, the first Chinese fist that shook Hollywood, also became part of my childhood memories. His last film, “Enter the Dragon”, has a little connection with important family predicament we are currently in.

If it’s Lee, it’s got to be martial arts all the way and the philosophy behind it in part. Because of Kato (Lee, as co-star), “The Green Hornet” – adapted from a radio serial in the ‘30s and TV show in the ‘60s – became popular in widescreens especially in Asia (During our days, even the 1974 ABC championship games were shown in theaters).

Today, January 23, is my birthday and the re-make of “The Green Hornet” is showing in major cinemas in Manila for five days now. According to reports, the film is raking money from the viewers and still a top grosser in the US and elsewhere. The picture sold about $34 million worth of tickets during the three days beginning January 14, 2011, said its distributor, Columbia Pictures. “The Green Hornet” 2011 edition is directed by Michael Gondry, starring Seth Rogen as “Britt Reid”, the callow cowboy, and the new “Kato”, his driver-mechanic and side-kick, is Jay Chou. Seth Rogen also wrote the story.

Based on what I’ve just seen from its short trailer on TV and reading from film critics throughout the net like Florence Waters of UK-based “The Telegraph”, the new “Green Hornet” is no longer Karate neither a Kung Fu oriented flick unlike the original. According to some movie critics, that’s where the big disappointment lies. The 3D gadget-weapons, SFX and such dimensions in this movie kicked into limbo the martial arts and martial art actors all the way. When I was young, the combination of body, mind and spirit is more important than any device, apparel or gadget.

Those were the days when I was still a greenhorn.

In this new version “Kato” is played by Taiwanese musician Jay Chou. In real life Chou can play piano, guitar, cello, flute, zither and jazz drum – but people doubt if in real life he can do push-ups using only his two fingers or break a wooden board using his bare fist.

What movie buffs like most about the original characters of “The Green Hornet” was their message: real super-heroes are not ego-centered individuals who don fancy costumes; they are clever but quick and humble. They use their inner-strength and they bow before they leave the crime scene. The people who first brought us “The Green Hornet” showed us and conceived and brought to world a martial arts hero in Bruce Lee. And the new “Green Hornet” gave us its exact opposite that almost made Lee and other martial artists who passed away rise from their graves.

But maybe times are changing now. People love gadgets more than their inner and physical strengths. People love machines and devices more than their fellowmen. There are instances that teen-agers are stabbed to death by snatchers for holding on to their I-pods and modern cellular phones. They will keep their gadgets even more than their dear lives. Or even kill to have them.

Or perhaps that’s really how things are today. I do not understand it because maybe I am getting old. Youngsters may call it generation gap but allow me to simply put it this way: I am no longer a greenhorn…

(Photo from Google Images)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Pacquiao-Marquez III That Never Was

I would rather see Manny Pacquiao fight against Juan Manuel Marquez than Shane Mosley. I may be wrong but I think that the Pacquiao-Marquez three-peat would surely add more emotion and drama and a great prelude to Pacquiao-Mayweather, the most anticipated fight in boxing history. It’s a dream fight where practically all of us in Boxinglandia would be very hungry to witness. Mosley is not the popular foe against our hero. But no doubt, Mosley is willing to fight and had a chance, no matter how slim, against Manny. (Remember that in boxing, a lucky punch can change everything by just a wink of an eye.)

In Filipino billiards and pool parlance, the recent matchmaking “shot” made by Bob Arum and Freddie Roach is called “plesing” (actually “placing”). It is a shot when the object ball is rolled or “placed” on a safe side. I am wondering why Mosley, with his age (he will be only 4 months away from his 40th birthday when he climbs the ring on May 7 in Las Vegas) and his lackluster performance against Sergio Mora that ended with a worth-yawning split draw, in Arum’s nose in this very hour, Mosley is the worthiest fighter among the three contenders in Juan Manuel Marquez and Andre Berto (27-27-0; 21 KOs). Mosley, no doubt, was a great fighter but his days are now over. While Berto on the other hand is just still in the middle of his career and still has a lot of punching ahead of him.

If only Arum were a painter, he is now painting a tiger out of a kitten model. In his recent public appearances, he’s falsely projecting Mosley as the type of opponent who can beat Pacquiao and the one that could generate large pay-per-view sales. But Arum and company just gave me and my drinking buddies something that we do not truly want. Well, majority of the Filipino fans, on the other hand are not mindful of matchmaking and other down-the-ring intricacies. Money matters in boxing such as these are immaterial to the ordinary Filipino boxing fanatics, it seems. What is of utmost importance for us is seeing our boy win and if possible, via the most spectacular victory in the sport: a brutal knockout.

But why I pick Juan Manuel Marquez over Mosley? First, I believe that Manny would win over Marquez and it will turn out to be tougher than the impending duel with Mosley. That man from Mexico who reportedly drinks his own urine will surely give the congressman from Sarangani couple of powerful combos and counterpunches. Second, and this is important : Marquez and Pacquiao have something to settle, to prove to themselves and to their respective countrymen.

The Pacquiao-Marquez III, for me is more emotionally-charged than what we are about to witness in five months time. True, Marquez was mauled by Floyd Mayweather,Jr. in their last bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in September 2009 but if the rematch did materialize and Manny won against Marquez - especially if via early round KO - this would add excitement to the much-awaited brawl between Pacquiao and Mayweather. I believe that the Marquez-Pacquiao trilogy will be entertaining and more enticing to the general public that the recent match booked by Arum, et al.

Maybe Manny and Floyd, Jr. are not really meant for each other (?) but let us all hope against hope.

Though Marquez acknowledged Manny as a great fighter, he said before his fight against Mayweather that, “He (Manny) does not want to fight me. I want the best pound-for-pound boxer, bring in Floyd Mayweather Jr.” Marquez wants the world’s boxing superhero very badly for the latter snatched the former’s WBC super featherweight title. That was three years after that controversial split decision in May 2004. Marquez wants vengeance. He wants no Zorro, the only Mexican legend that was never been defeated by the Pacman, in his training camp.

In addition, a win against Mosley would prove nothing except we will be more get used to Pacman’s winning streak. It would be same as usual while a win against Marquez will seal the deciding contest that endlessly haunt our champ. Some years ago, Ricardo Lois, a boxing expert from LA Examiner said, “Honestly, it’s Pacquiao who needs a third fight with Marquez. To remove the throbbing thorn Marquez has left in his kingly paw.” Maybe it’s not yet time for removal of such a thorn. It may come later, or never.

If not for Pacquiao-Dela Hoya, this unfinished issue could have been settled long time ago. And now that the fight against Mosley is already finalized, that golden opportunity, once again, slipped through the fingers of Marquez.

More than three months ago, Arum reportedly commented why he preferred the other contenders than Mosley, “He (Mosley) is going to be 40 and he’s in the lighter weights, where speed is so important. He’s on a show with guys … old enough to be his son.” According to Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports, Mosley got the fight, not only because he is the least likely to win compared to Marquez and Berto, but because Mosley is now officially out of the Golden Boy Promotions. Here involve the grand business tussle between rival promoters that most of us do not understand. But that’s how the wind blew in different direction and why Arum flip-flapped that fast. The Top Rank boss does not want to loose his baker, err, boxer, giving him his daily bread.

Well, if Arum only a wind instrument, he is a weather vane.

I can do nothing but to settle for this fight at hand. While with great anticipation we wait for the possibility of Pacquiao-Mayweather till eternity, we Filipinos deserve to enjoy the Pacquiao-Mosley fight - and hopefully the weather won’t be a spoiler - this coming May…

(Photo from Google Images)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bible Week and Doomsday

Do you know that there’s a certain presidential proclamation initiated by the late Ferdinand E. Marcos but continued by his staunch rivals and predecessors in Corazon C. Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos during their respective terms? It is the Presidential Proclamation No. 1923 signed by former initiator of the dreaded Martial Law on October 27, 1979. Since then, various Christian organizations in the Philippines – both the mainstream Protestant groups and the Catholics – celebrated the National Bible Week and the National Bible Sunday. Marcos, in said decree recognized the Bible “as an excellent source of principles for the development and personal discipline.” This was re-emphasized by President Corazon C. Aquino via Presidential Proclamation No. 44 in 1986 declaring every last week of January as National Bible Week celebration. This was later sustained by Fidel V. Ramos by proclaiming Presidential Proclamation 1067 emphasizing that “national attention be focused on the importance of reading and studying the Bible, in building the spiritual, moral, and social fiber of our citizenry.” In certain ways, this unity among Christian denominations and sects that we are trying to achieve is one of the mysterious ways how God and/of the Bible work(s) for us believers.

But here is the saddest thing: Majority of Filipino Christians, especially the youth, was more excited with the upcoming performances of Bruno Mars on April 8 and Justin Bieber on May 10 than learning from biblical characters even an inch from Aaron to Zophar. It seems today that nobody cares anymore about the Bible Week celebration much more with the Holy Scriptures itself. All the Christian congregations are expected to, among other activities, to organize an interchurch service honoring the Bible at which several passages are read, the hymns that pay tribute it, and the sermon addresses its influence not only in spiritual and moral issues, but in our art, literature and music. On their part, at least, city and municipal mayors may proclaim Bible Week in our city or municipality and feature the event to local media especially those they have direct hand. It is expected that those members of religious groups, Catholic or not, working in public offices such as LGUs initiate such activity in their respective work places.

This year’s theme: May They Be One: “Becoming One Nation in the Stewardship of Creation” is inspired by Psalm 8:3-6. As destruction and degradation of nature spring from greed, the church leaders unanimously agreed to pursue with the new government its thrust against graft and corruption, focusing on becoming better stewards of the country’s resources.

Contrary to the common belief among Christians, bibles are not all the same. Some Christians gradually removed seven chapters of the Old Testament book and some other parts that contradicted some of their teachings. So each believer should know which Bible is to be used. Even the “prophet (of doom) of the hour” Harold Camping and his followers at Family Stations, Inc. are using different bible for his prediction of the second coming of Christ this coming May 21, 2011. According to some reports, Camping fanatics are aggressively spreading the message of doom through billboards, benches at bus stops, the caravan, and mobilize volunteers to distribute pamphlets in various corners of the city, from Bridgeport to Little Rock, Arkansas. And to spread the message outside the U.S., they even have a group of volunteers who would go around Africa and Latin America. This church group is claiming that the prediction is based on their bible.

Well, as we all know, there’s nothing new with this sort of doomsday brouhaha. Camping himself predicted that the world end in 1994. William Miller, another world acclaimed religious leader had predicted the world’s end was on October 22, 1844 but, as we say, the sun still shines brightly to this day. The sun, just like the Bible, is true and essential for today as always.

Sacred Scripture or the Holy Bible is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. It challenges us to spread the Good News of salvation. It also continues to be relevant to both saints and sinners, to people like Ted "The Golden Voice" Williams then and now, to acclaimed bloggers and lowly lumberjacks…

(Photo from Philippine Bible Society)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Rabbits Who Stayed

According to Chinese calendar, 2011 is the year of the Rabbit and may all the Filipino here and around the globe lick our wounds brought about by the war-torn year of the Tiger. May 2011 become a year of magical persuasion rather than sheer or ferocious force and help us value things and people who were through the years, are still with us today while others just died, faded or simply went away.

My mother, more than 70 years of age, is from far-away Zambales and whenever she remembers the place where she was born and grew up, in her memory come a vivid picture of this big and wheeled “rabbit”. Yes, she’s referring to one of the buses of the Philippine Rabbit Bus Company (PRBC) operating to and from Manila and selected provinces in northern Luzon along strategic routes. To my mother’s memory, the Philippine Rabbit is a symbol of a new life because it was the first transportation that helped her find her luck here in San Jose and eventually met my late father and started a family of their own. The Philippine Rabbit is still alive and kicking through the years.

By the way, people say (perhaps from an urban legend), the name Philippine Rabbit was named by accident. They say that the first of its buses were mistakenly painted “Philippine Rabbit” instead of the intended “Philippine Rapid.” The PRBC went into dark times in the 90’s when its workers led a strike which resulted to temporary suspension of its operations. With changes in corporate decisions and management strategies, the company was able to survive until today though its area of coverage was narrowed. Indeed, it continues to strive to be competitive with leading and mushrooming bus companies in terms of number of units and providing quality and reliable service to its patrons, I doubt if this “rabbit” could regain its former status in the past. But the effort of the Philippine Rabbit to stay alive is still there as long as there are people who patronize and cherish them.

Just like how we, her children, cherished our mother.

We had a sari-sari store when I was a kid and this “rabbit” made me and my playmates salivate a lot. It is actually our favorite candy. It was the most popular candy during our time. The White Rabbit candy was born in Shanghai, China in 1943. In fact, in 1972, Premier Zhou Enlai even used White Rabbit candies as a gift to American president Richard Nixon when the latter visited China. Here in the Philippines, its distributor is Cheng Ban Yek & Co.

But I remember a classmate who was taken to a doctor because of a certain sickness. His eyes, finger and fingernails turned yellow and he was yellow all over. From then on, each time she goes to school, he carried a bagful of White Rabbit candy inside his lunch pack. The doctor, he said, told him to munch a lot of White Rabbit. I am still wondering to this day: Is the candy really cured him from jaundice or other diseases related to it? (To my FB friends out there who are in medical profession, please enlighten me on this.)

Just recently, in July 2007, the White Rabbit was banned for distribution within the country after the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) tested it for formaldehyde, the substance that is used for preserving corpses. The Chinese candy-maker protested that BFAD was "extremely irresponsible" for not confirming the authenticity of the test products and further added that their product was target of confectionary counterfeiting in Asia. After submitting their samples from their own factory to an internationally certified laboratory in Shanghai, it received clearance of any formaldehyde tainting.

Nothing really escapes politics. Even sweet and seemingly innocent things like candies…

(Photo : Google Image)