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)