Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The anonymous almsgiver

People devastated by hurricane Sidr in Dhaka, Bangladesh

The Pope encouraged almsgiving in his Lenten message, dated Oct 30 and released yesterday by the Vatican. The Pope clarified in his Lenten message that Gospel charity should be hidden:

"The Gospel highlights a typical feature of Christian almsgiving: it must be hidden: 'Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,' Jesus asserts, 'so that your alms may be done in secret' (Mt 6,3-4)."

Meanwhile, this news item in ABS CBN culled from Agence France-Presse reports today that:

"An anonymous individual has donated $130 million to build hundreds of schools and cyclone shelters along Bangladesh's cyclone-devastated southern coast"...

"The government would spend 110 million dollars from the donation to build about 500 primary schools cum cyclone shelters in the coastal districts, while the rest would be spent on immediate relief agriculture and fisheries projects."

Wow. This is the largest single anonymous donation I have heard of thus far. We do not know if the Pope's message ever reached that anonymous donor who took it to heart. Maybe yes, maybe no.
Maybe a professed Christian, maybe not. Many more people might be moved into helping the poor in the spirit of Lent, but we simply do not know for sure.

What we do know is that:
- There is an anonymous m/billionaire somewhere with a Good Samaritan's heart.
- Millions of poor people in Dhaka will now have food, shelter, livelihood, and most importantly - hope.
- God's Light shines through.

Monday, January 28, 2008

on OFWs

Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) calling Int'l Direct Dial (IDD) from abroad:

HUSBAND: Hon kumusta ang tindahan? (Honey, how's our small store business going?)
WIFE: Department istor na! (It's already a department store!)
HUSBAND: Ang Tricycle?
WIFE: It's now a Taxi business!
HUSBAND: Ayos! e ang dalawa nating anak? (Great! and how's our TWO kids?)
WIFE: eh..LIMA na!... (oh...there's FIVE now!...)

Jokes circulating on the OFWs such as these would be quite funny until the ring of reality hits. Carlo Osi in his column today over at the the Inquirer sees the Filipino diaspora as a form of revolt on the frustrating political-economic conditions. Meanwhile, Hubert D'Aboville in his ABS-CBN opinion piece, laments the brain-drain and hits the button on the social costs, saying:

"An average household has five members. The Philippines has a population of 90 million souls, including 10 million abroad. You do the math on how many Filipinos are living dysfunctional lives. What is the true cost of those broken families?"

But the government does not seem to be interested in counting the social costs with as much alacrity as counting the dollar remittances ($15B in 2007). Whenever one of the parents are physically separated from the family for whatever reason, it becomes dysfunctional outright. A family is meant to be together. Of course there's the long-distance call (like IDD - see above) , email, internet and maybe even PC video-conferencing. But nothing beats live, warm interaction. For how can you hug, kiss, wipe tears, pat backs, and give your shoulder to cry on - if you are thousands of miles apart?

An OFW's contract goes for anywhere from 2 to 6 years. Most of them renew contracts as often as possible. Once an OFW, most likely they remain OFWs all their lives, as the local job market won't take them. Due to the urge to save more money to send home, home country visits are very limited and far in between, saving the plane fare costs. Thus it is fairly expected that a lot of things may change in those many years that they are in a faraway land earning keep for the family (and extended family) back home.

But that's the price you pay. You just can't make up for the lost time that you were away for example, in your children's formative years. Parenting is hard enough even with the husband and wife joining forces, and each does have unique gender roles in parenting. Children grow fast in your absence, you may not recognize them, they may not recognize you when you come back after a long while. You miss them and you miss your spouse a lot too, but hopefully, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Otherwise the joke may be on you.

Lets pray for the OFWs and their families.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Association of the Elderly

As Parish coordinators of our parish Family and Life
Ministry, one of our projects is to organize our elderly parishioners. We thought of organizing them to form their own support group,
providing focused support for their spiritual, physical
and social well-being. They formally organized recently by selecting
their initial set of officers.

We started out by conducting once-a-month informal assemblies every 2nd Saturday of the month, after hearing the 6am Mass. We partake of some morning snacks, then our parish priest provides some inspirational talk (as usual, laced with a lot of jokes) and then some sharing, fellowship and prayers. Most of the attendees are of the over-70 age group, but you can't tell judging by their energy and enthusiasm. Once I brought along a D.I. and we spent a couple of minutes swaying those sprightly limbs and hips (be careful now, take it easy...) to the tune of some funky music.

Now, every assembly, they are going at it with much gusto.

These folks are cool. I just love them.

CFC Leaders Conference

CFC Leaders Conference shots last Jan 12 (Thanks C.D.)

The Theme...

Close to the stage...

and from my vantage point...


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Young Once

Today’s Gospel at Sunday Mass reminds us that the child-like and humble is the greatest in the Kingdom of God. Much as I reflected on the proper metaphor, it also reminded me of my biological age.

Getting on in age just sort of creeps up on you.

Not that I already belong to the league of senior citizens, much very far from it, but I guess it depends on how you describe ‘far’.

In my case there’s the patch of white hair nearest the forehead. It just so happens that the white hair seemed to congregate in that area, giving it some sort of fashionable streak which I have seen among the young people, and so I didn’t consider having it dyed. When someone ribs me on it I just smugly say it’s some sort of ‘Richard Gere’ look, in case they didn’t notice.

The eyesight I can get along with. I bought a bunch of cheap reading glasses which I scattered around the house so that I can manage to read anywhere within. I am considering buying more, since I can’t remember where I placed some of them.

The pain on the underside of the left foot is something else though, although it occurs very rarely. Recently (after the holidays), it suddenly announced itself after waking up early in the morning. There’s my painful lesson. I threw caution to the winds during the holidays by not watching my diet, since it was once-a-year holidays anyway and there was plentiful sumptuous food all over the many Christmas parties I attended. Wincing while walking, the embarrassment doubles the pain because almost everybody who notices automatically kids me on rheumatism, while I am in a state of vigorous denial. I remembered to take a herbal cure one of my older friends advised : ‘buto ng malunggay’. It worked miraculously. The only problem in that it transferred higher upwards to the knee. It’s a blessing my car had automatic transmission, as I went to a real doctor the same day and now it is mercifully gone.

I know I should take some exercise along with watching the diet. A few swings at the golf driving range once in a while will probably do the trick.

All of which reminds me of that story of two senior citizens playing golf. After hitting the ball, the first one said:”Did you see where the ball went?” The second one said : “Yup, but I can’t remember!”.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Proposed survey in aid of legislation

Having read Ed Sorreta's arguments in a previous post,
I thought maybe we should survey some of our constituents
in Quezon City on how they prefer to contend with the following:

(1) harmful effects of smoking,
(2) gout,
(3) frequent hangovers,
(4) lethargy,
and (5) fear of catching AIDS.

The pollster will ask which among the two sets of solutions is preferred:

/_/ Set # 1.

1. Use cigarette filters.
2. Take anti uric acid medication.
3. Alka-Seltzer to beat hangovers.
4. Lipovitan or Red Bull to stay fresh and alert.
5. Use condoms for protection against HIV/ AIDS.

/_/ Set # 2.

1. Don't smoke.
2. Watch your diet.
3. Drink moderately.
4. Take enough rest.
5. Understand what marriage means.

The survey results might be a good aid in legislation which our councilors might find useful.
I wonder what type of legislation though, and if it is even needed.

Monday, January 7, 2008

On the Epiphany

The story of the wisemen captures our imagination for many different reasons. The end of the story is most fascinating. We are told that the wisemen went home another way. They did it to avoid Herod. I always wonder about that other route home. Was it quicker? It seems like a longer detour. The story is saying that once you have really experienced Jesus, you can't go back to the old way of life. The encounter with Christ must bring about a turn. Changing one's life changes the way one takes.

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 4, 2008

QC Ordinance on Reproductive Health and Population Management

On the morning of December 18, 2007, the Committee on Laws of the Quezon City Council conducted its first public hearing on the Reproductive Health and Population Management Ordinance proposed by Councilor Joseph Juico (Dist. 1). The hearing was presided by committee chairman Councilor Jesus ‘Bong’ Suntay (Dist. 4). Also present were Councilors Dorothy Delarmente (Dist. 1), Joseph Juico (Dist. 1), Jorge Banal, Jr. (Dist. 3), Antonio Inton, Jr. (Dist. 4), and Edcel Lagman, Jr. (Dist. 4).

Seven speakers from both sides were given alternate turns to deliver a 10 min. speech. Below is the statement of bro Ed Sorreta which I reproduce in full:

“I am a father and represent many fathers who oppose the ordinance on Reproductive Health and Population Management proposed by Councilor Joseph Juico.

The 1st point that comes to my mind is “Can you make a legislation prohibiting our brother Muslims from having a 2nd or 3rd wife? Or an ordinance forcing Iglesia ni Cristo members to join unions or rallies?” The obvious answer is no, you cannot, simply because it is their belief and faith which is a basic human right. It is for this reason that no piece of legislation of this sort has ever been debated on the national and local levels.

Yet here you are with this ordinance that forces Barangay health workers and officials, public and private schools to implement a program that goes against the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Otherwise, fines and imprisonment await those who refuse to tow the line. I hope you realize you cannot do this, especially when more than 80% of your constituents are Catholic! This ordinance will result in a conflict between the state and the Church as it compels Catholics to go against the teachings of the Church. Where is the freedom of choice that Sec 2C of the ordinance provides? The Catholic Church is obliged to speak out the truth, and be clear on her teachings against the use contraceptives (for good moral and temporal reasons, I might add). But does she excommunicate the suppliers of contraceptives, or does she ask the faithful if they use contraceptives before giving them communion? She does not because she respects the basic freedom of every person to choose what is right or wrong. After all, at the end of the day, each one will be held accountable to God alone. And so, contrary to what one of your lawyer speakers said, the Church does not impose, rather it is this ordinance with its punitive action that does unjustly.

The 2nd point is something very close to my heart since it will affect my children, grandchildren and future generations of my family. Part of the definition of Reproductive Health in your ordinance means ‘the ability to have a safe and satisfying sex life’. This is a component of the sex education curriculum being proposed for grade 5 to 4th year HS students, including the use of contraceptives and condoms to avoid HIV infection. This kind of teaching simply is inconsistent, for how can you tell our children not to smoke, and yet on the other hand, teach them how to use filters just in case they do decide to smoke? Additionally, how can you tell our kids to avoid premarital sex, but at the same time, teach them the use of contraceptives and condoms just in case? Who among you, parents, especially our young councilors, would approve premarital sex for your teenagers?

In this regard, I wish to pose these question to our vice-mayor and councilors, especially to Councilor Juico: “Is this something you want the schools to teach your grade 5 to 4th year kids?” If your answer is ‘no’, then there is no need for this ordinance. However, if you honestly think this type of lessons will be good for your children, I have no problem with that. It is your right to bring up your children the best way you see fit. I would suggest though that you do it yourselves. Teach your own children. Or if you do not feel competent to do this, maybe you can organize a summer class for parents who think the same way you do, and they can enroll there, together with their kids. That would really be freedom of choice. But DON’T TEACH IT TO MY CHILDREN! As much as I respect your parental right over your children, so do I expect you to respect mine. I am a Catholic who adheres to the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially regarding contraceptives and I wish to pass these on to my children and their children. By making these lessons compulsory in all public and private schools, you are stepping into my parental responsibilities. UULITIN KO PO – RESPETUHAN LANG PO TAYO! Is that too much to ask? In the end, if my kids get into trouble, the government will not be around for them.

In conclusion, I, together with many parents, unequivocally state that we oppose this ordinance on Reproductive Health and Population Management. We pray that you will respect our basic human right to our religious beliefs and our primary responsibility as parents to our children.”

(In all honesty, all seven speakers against the ordinance presented incontestable arguments, while those in favor had shallow justification. Some of them even seemed unprepared. It makes me wonder. Could it be that the hearings are moot and academic? Could it be that in reality, the ordinance will be legislated, whether we like it or not? I hope I am wrong.

But all the more for us to be vigilant in our prayers and in our action. Our families are under clear and present danger.)

Bible is clear?

The Bible is clear...
In most of our lively discussions, my evangelist friend always insists on this every time he has a chance.
It goes without saying that he is a clear Sola Scriptura proponent, and basically what he is saying is:

“If Scripture is studied in its entirety and in its proper context, the truth can be easily determined.”

I have extreme difficulty in coming to terms with this statement. Let me attempt to gather all the premise behind this:

1. First of all, you have to be sufficiently literate in order to do this. And very patient too. The bible contains 73 books (ok, ok – lets just say 66 for purposes of illustration). Over a thousand chapters and 31,000++ verses. But if you’re persistent enough and really read it for some minutes daily, you’ll cover the entire book in a year. A tall order for couch potatoes whose idea of serious reading is limited to newspaper headlines, sports pages, and TV programmes.

2. Next, you must have developed a certain degree of good cognitive, conceptual, analytic, synthesis, critical thinking, retentive and extrapolative mental capabilities in order to make sure you get the context right. When faced with arcane and apparent contradictions in verses, compare scriptures with scriptures and pinpoint all those related verses wherever they are, as the bible does not contradict itself. You will need an elephant’s memory for this.

3. Develop a fluent vocabulary in the language of the bible version you are reading. Be forewarned that there are many archaic words like rebuke, abideth, gainsay, glistering, - these are just a few of those. And so, be prepared to do some painstaking exegesis every now and then. Of course you may want to read the bible version translated in the local dialect you grew up with. I once tried to read the Tagalog version, and promptly gave up after a few tries. I felt like I was reading Greek.

4. Learn some of the historical culture of the biblical times. This would give you a more accurate insight into the comings and goings at the time. Remember, you were born in the 20 th century, in an era far removed from the time when the apostles walked the earth. The subtle nuances of the culture in that period of lambs, scrolls, famines, slavery and kingdoms might be completely lost on a person used to the environment of Corporate takeovers, the internet, wireless technology, Paris Hilton and McDonalds.

If you seriously consider at least all of the above, chances are you will get the truth right. In statistical terms, that would translate into a probability of 0.568 % . Yes, less than 1 percent probability of getting it right, after going through all that trouble. If our math teacher demands the equation for such an unremarkable figure, tell her that it is already an optimistic estimate. In the Philippines alone, excluding other countries, there are already 176 or so denominations who remain convinced that the bible is so easy to understand. Each one of them claims their own correct interpretation of the bible. Since all of them cannot be true at the same time, let’s just assume that at least one is.

"Understandeth thou what thou readest?" (Acts 8:30)