Monday, March 31, 2008

On Graduation Ceremonies

Three of my sons (two in high school and one in elementary) graduated over the past five days, and over the same period I have heard a total of six student speeches: three welcome remarks and three valedictory addresses. There were quite a number of speeches by the usual school administrators, and the usual one-by-one interminable march to hand over the diplomas to the graduates. The whole graduation ceremony takes up a typical four hours (of agony - for me at least), which a parent spends by anticipating and intently watching their sibling march on his turn for a fleeting instant, and the rest of the time idling by. Aside from my son’s turn and the valedictory addresses, I must admit the rest of the proceedings didn’t catch my attention at all. The rest of the time is spent with mostly wandering thoughts, chatting with my wife, and the impatient hope for the program to soon come to an end. A good deal of energy though, is spent by vigorously fanning oneself in the overheated and stuffy school gym, and my uncomfortable barong tagalog didn’t help any.

It’s a good thing I anticipated this turn of events, as I brought some handy literature with me to while away the time. While reading, I was half-tuned to the proceedings though, as I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to click my camera once my son’s fleeting turn came up on the stage. There was this one guest speaker though, who seemed to be delivering a wonderful speech, as the audience burst out in laughter occasionally. However I didn’t manage to hear what it was all about, as the sound system seemed to have been designed for bionic ears, and so I turned back my attention to my book mostly.

A thing or two must be said though of the valedictory addresses. They were mostly delivered with good diction and oratorical prowess. I tried to strain my ears to every word that was being said, as I wanted to get a feel what the best-in-class has to say. Mostly the three graduation speeches I heard had a common theme: gratitude to parents, extolling the school, and some exhortation to be the best that you can be. It’s not a bad idea, but in all instances, I had a feeling that some standard written essay was being read in an oratorical style, rather than a speech being delivered from the heart. Deep inside, I was expecting an impassioned speech for love of country driven by the love of God and fellowmen, but I guess I was dreaming.

All of which brings me to reflect that these graduates are the future of our nation, which our great hero Jose Rizal realized so long ago. Dr. Jose Rizal composed the poem “A La Juventud Filipina”, where he exhorted the Filipino youth to use their abilities and skills to excel not only for their success but also for the success of the country. Our youth - the hope of the Fatherland. It was in 1879 when Rizal wrote that poem, when he was only 18 years old, somewhat the same age of our high school graduates right now. Many generations have passed since then - and we are still hoping that the hope becomes a reality.

So much so for “education”.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.'

(Mark 12:28-31)

That is how the Love of God is commanded: with ALL of one's heart, soul, mind and strength. Everything. Total. Absolute, no-holds barred commitment.

Do we think anyone among us today can rightfully claim before God of strictly following the first and foremost commandment? Much less the second which commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves? Do our constant thoughts, actions, feelings, words and deeds attest to total obedience? Maybe the most pious among us tries their best to do so, but then Jesus didn't say "You shall TRY to love..." rather, "You SHALL love...". In other words - Huwag mong subukan, gawin mo!

Impossible? If we read along further, we see that the scribe understood Jesus' words clearly and even confirmed it by repeating His words, as well as acknowledging that it " much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices". Now lets pay attention what happens next. When Jesus saw that the scribe understood intelligently, He said:

"You are not far from the kingdom of God.".

The first step is understanding. An understanding that comes with acceptance. Only then can we attempt to reconcile it with our constant thoughts, actions, feelings, words and deeds. Then, like the scribe - we should not be far from the Kingdom of God.

But - it will take His mercy and gifts of grace to bring us completely there.

I think about that as we approach the second Sunday of Easter: the Divine Mercy Sunday.

The Three Monks of Tolstoy

I’ve been gifted with a book last Good Friday which I have started reading.

“The Only Necessary Thing” is a collection of writings by Henri Nouwen. Here is an excerpted anecdote which gives an insight into prayerfulness.

- o -

Three Russian monks lived on a faraway island. Nobody ever went there, but one day their bishop decided to make a pastoral visit. When he arrived he discovered that the monks didn't even know the Lord's Prayer. So he spent all of his time and energy teaching them the "Our Father" and then left, satisfied with his pastoral work. But when the ship had left the island and was back in the open sea, he suddenly noticed the three hermits walking on the water - in fact they were running after the ship! When they reached it they cried, "Dear Father, we have forgotten the prayer you taught us." The bishop, overwhelmed by what he was seeing and hearing, said, "But, dear brothers, how then do you pray?" They answered, "Well, we just say, 'Dear God, there are three of us and there are three of you, have mercy on us!'" The bishop, awestruck by their sanctity and simplicity, said, "Go back to your island and be at peace."

- o -

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Images of Lent: Easter Vigil

My eldest Miguel is so happy to have been assigned to the "insenso".


There it goes...

Lighting of the Easter Candle

Chino's growing fast. I just noticed here his "sutana" is now quite small for him. I will have to get him a new one. 13 y/o but he's almost as tall as the priest...

The Resurrection of Jesus, the crowning truth of our faith in Christ,
a faith believed and lived as a central truth by the first Christian community;
handed on as fundamental by Tradition;
established by the documents of the New Testament;
and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross:
Christ is risen from the dead !
Dying he conquered death;
To the dead, he has given life.
(CCC 638)



Saturday, March 22, 2008

Images of Lent : Good Friday

Siete Palabras.

"Father forgive them..."

Couples For Christ Choir

"Amen, I say to you, today..."

Side note: There were some glitches with the
sound system. The parish priest, who was seated
next to me, remarked : "They do not know what
they are doing. Father forgive them".

Procession for Santo Entierro

Friday, March 21, 2008

Images of Lent : Holy Thursday

Chrism Mass

Bishop Ongtioco of Cubao Diocese

Mass of the Last Supper

Washing of the feet

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

Altar of Repository

Monday, March 17, 2008

On Jesus Last Words: The Second

“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43)

Some of my musings on the words “today” and “paradise”:

Christ addresses the repentant thief on the cross.

Jesus ascended into “paradise” with the thief that very day after He died? There is a considerable debate on the exact meaning of the word “paradise” as used in Jesus Christ’s promise to the repentant thief. The common inference is that Jesus took the thief with him to heaven on that very day after He died, though equating “paradise” with heaven in the context.

There are even interpretations which claim that a supposed placement of a comma between the words “today” and “you” reveals the correct orientation of the message, meaning that Christ emphasized “truly I say to you today, you…”, which only assigns a superfluous use of the word “today”. However, we note from the Apostles' Creed that Jesus "was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell, the third day he rose again from the dead."

By further reference to 1 Peter 18-19, Scripture tells us “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison”.

Afterwards, Jesus stays another 40 days with his disciples (Acts 1:3) and then was received up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God (Mk 16:19).

Catechism stands for a clear reference at this point:

633. Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into ‘Abraham’s bosom’. (see Luke 16:22-26).

Paradise in the statement clearly then is 'Abraham’s bosom' - that intermediate stage where the righteous of the Old Testament await Christ’s saving sacrifice, where Jesus Christ descended and proclaimed the good news of salvation to the imprisoned souls after His death. It was a place a step short of heaven but where the righteous are comforted (Luke 16:25). Only after Christ’s death were the gates of heaven opened, for all the righteous in Abraham’s bosom - and for the repentant thief, just as Christ promised.

The second word is even debated by fundamentalists as disproving the necessity of baptism as essential for salvation. To this it is simply noted that baptism as it is now commanded became part of the new covenant only after Christ’s death and resurrection – the thief was saved before the new covenant began. All of which reminds me again that Scriptures can be quite perplexing, especially when one digresses from the essential message at hand. We simply track back a few verses from Luke 23:43 to understand that Christ’s second word is in response to the thief’s Repentance and Faith, which is the real essence which Jesus’ second word addresses.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Ok, everyone should have known the story by now.

The media, youtube and the blogosphere had a field day.

On youtube alone, there are over a hundred clips and millions of combined views.

Here’s one of them:

“…My family is the most important persons in my life...”

Frankly, I find it all very funny and entertaining. I was alternately smiling and laughing out loud the first time I saw that video clip.

But look again: TV patrol interviews her afterwards:

“…Inspirasyon ko po talaga ang pamilya ko...”

Now, some of my sober thoughts:

- Her father is a jeepney driver. She’s a college student at U.E. Think of her family’s challenging economic conditions. Think of her family rooting for her. Try to picture her as your sister or daughter. Then think of motivation, importance, and inspiration.

- What really is the criteria? I personally do not know, and even how the pageant judges saw it. But I think: beauty - inside and out - is in the eye of the beholder.

- Courage involves overcoming fear, and sometimes courage recklessly sets aside weaknesses. But then think again: motivation, importance, and inspiration.

- All of us had embarassing moments at one time or another. All of us had some defining moments likewise. Think about whether these two are the same or not.

- Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Mat 7:1)

- I love underdogs.

All in all, I still think it was all very funny and entertaining, but still I say: GO JANINA!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How (not) to protect “Reproductive Health”

Two recent TIME stories:

one: US Syphilis Up for 7th Straight Year -
“U.S. syphilis cases climbed for the seventh straight year in 2007… “
two: Study: 1 in 4 US Teen Girls Has STD -
“at least one in four teenage girls nationwide has a sexually transmitted disease…”

- makes one wonder why sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise in the U.S., where the use of condoms is widely promoted - ironically to combat STDs and unwanted pregnancies.
U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias, the global anti-AIDS czar, saw the writing way back in 2004. He has this to say: "Statistics show that condoms really have not been very effective," Tobias said, adding, "It's been the principal prevention device for the last 20 years, and I think one needs only to look at what's happening with the infection rates in the world to recognize that has not been working.".
On a rather belated note, Belmonte OKs new QC population policy . The new ordinance stresses the use of condoms and other artificial methods for “reproductive health” .
Tell that to the Marines.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Almsgiving

(excerpts from Catholic Encyclopedia – Alms and Almsgiving)

ALMSGIVING - Any material favour done to assist the needy, and prompted by charity.

- Charity demands that the vital interests of an indigent neighbour should supersede personal advantages of a much lower order. To a neighbour in serious or pressing indigence, alms must be given by using such commodities as are superfluous in relation to present social advantages. This does not imply an obligation of answering every call, but rather a readiness, to give alms according to the dictates of well-regulated charity.

- No one, however wealthy, is obliged to take extraordinary measures to assist a neighbour even in direful straits. There is never any obligation of using the necessaries of life for almsgiving, because well-regulated charity ordinarily obliges everyone to prefer his own vital interests to those of his neighbour.

- Almsgiving should be discreet, so as to reach deserving individuals or families: prompt, secret, humble and cheerful.

"Blessed is he that considers the needy and the poor". (Psalm 40:2)

You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God”. (2 Cor 9:11)

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Mat 25:35).

(all emphasis mine)

Monday, March 10, 2008

On increasing poverty and car sales

Poverty worsens…

Poverty worsened from 2003 to 2006, and the Arroyo administration will almost definitely not achieve its poverty reduction target under its medium-term development plan.

as car sales increase.

Meanwhile, local car manufacturers last year had their best year in over a decade, with sales of more than 118,000 units, marking the first time the industry breached the 100,000-unit sales mark since 1996.

Hmm…our society seems to be doing a Robin Hood in reverse.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

'Queen' enthroned for helping Maranao poor

The inquirer report details the story of this Muslim lady who devotes her life to looking after thousands of poor in Lanao, and the victims of war that flared up in the region and other neighboring provinces eight years ago. Now she is being honored by those she has helped by being “queened” in her province.

36-year-old Baicon Macaraya set aside the glitter of the law profession in favor of a life of service to her war-weary province in Mindanao. She became the founding chair of the youth organization, Bangsamoro Youth-Ranao Center for Peace and Development. She oversaw the daily needs of thousands of evacuees staying in schools. Her group handled the reconstruction of about 500 houses, six mosques and five schools destroyed by the fighting in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur. She helped launch the advocacy group, Mothers for Peace, to push for an end to the conflict in Mindanao because women and children are the greatest casualties of war. Macaraya is now involved with the United Nations World Food Program, touring schools to distribute rice, to make sure children stay in school and to address the food security needs of people living in conflict-affected areas.

Towards the end of the story we get a glimpse of how this remarkable lady developed a golden heart for the poor and oppressed. She simply learned from her parents the value of charity and compassion. She vividly recalls an incident when one night her father returned home from work with a bag of rotten tomatoes he had bought from an old vendor. "I asked him why he did not buy the good ones. He told me that if he did not buy them, the old man would have stayed longer out on the streets selling tomatoes," she said. Her mother, on the other hand, believes in simple acts of charity. Her mother would always cook extra food for unexpected visitors. "She would also always eat last to make sure everybody has enough. Those simple things really instilled in us the value of helping others," she said.

This is a refreshing story amidst all the depressing news nowadays. Today’s Filipino Christians should learn a thing or two here, most especially the lasting mark of parents - the very thing that struck me most in this moving story.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

On Conservatives and the QC Reproductive Health Ordinance

Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. announced Monday that he has approved a controversial ordinance that sets the city’s population and reproductive health policy. Among others, the ordinance seeks to promote artificial birth control methods and “reproductive health” education and training. The bill was passed in spite of vigorous objections from religious groups, but not without the removal of punitive provisions which were initially included in the initial versions of the ordinance. Despite the passage, the removal of the punitive provisions is seen as a concession towards active lobbying against the ordinance.

Meanwhile, Michael Tan in his latest column takes umbrage at religious “conservatives” who lobbied against the passage of the ordinance. Tan takes the tired Malthusian population bomb-scare theme in heavily criticizing the Catholic/religious “conservatives” who opposed the ordinance, even while he praises the “growing number of responsible and courageous local government officials” for passing the measure. This is not the first time I have heard of “conservatism” in a religious context, and more often than not, it is used in a negative connotation, as opposed to say, progressive or liberal. Tan repeats the term “Catholic/ Religious conservatives” numerous times in a derisive manner all throughout his article, and one gets the idea that Catholic “conservatism” is something dreadfully evil, grossly irresponsible, and woefully bereft of decent reasoning – even from a supposedly “Catholic” standpoint.

Anyway, is there really such a thing as Catholic “conservatism”? Or even Catholic “liberalism” for that matter? Or maybe even Catholic “in-between” perhaps? There is NO such thing. Authentic Catholic teaching is ALWAYS consistent with the Church’s Magisterial teaching, and when we pare it down to conservatism, liberalism, whatever – it simply doesn’t make sense – it is either Catholic or it is not, period. One cannot pick cafeteria-style from authentic Catholic teachings based only on private preferences, home-made opinions, or relativist postures and still claim oneself to be a faithful Catholic. Not all Catholic teachings are easy and convenient to abide by, in much the same way that ALL rules by any given authority for that matter are easy and convenient to abide by. With respect to artificial birth control, the Catholic Church has been consistent all throughout its history. The papal encyclicals Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, down to today’s Catechism of the Catholic Church, affirm the intrinsic immorality of artificial birth control and its harmful consequences to society. Thus, labeling Catholic opposition to artificial birth control as “conservative” amounts to either ignorance or plain defiance of the Church Magisterium. This brings to mind my earlier post on Conscience and the Denial of Sin.

Being a faithful Catholic is never intended to be easy and convenient, in much the same way that it is never easy and convenient to love one’s enemy, care for the poor, or turn the other cheek. But that’s the way a Catholic “conservative” goes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

EO 464 Revoked

EO 464 is finally revoked by PGMA.

As I noted in a previous post, the strong recommendation pertaining to the abolition of EO 464 was the most significant item in the CBCP’s Pastoral letter, and now we see the President taking heed just eight days after the Pastoral letter was released. This development comes at a time when the Supreme Court and the Senate are to the point of ironing out a compromise arrangement as to the parameters of invoking Executive Privilege at the Senate hearings.


- NSCB reports more Filipino families getting poorer
- Five people hurt in violent MMDA demolition, 50 stalls razed
- RP Stocks fall on high inflation, Wall st
- Philippines largest lake under threat

Altogether, things should get more interesting at the Senate hearings.
This one should be eagerly followed - again.


But who’s been minding the store?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Moses high on drugs?

Thus claims this Israeli “researcher” who claims that Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments. The Agence France-Presse report says that Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writes in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy that “such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times”.

“The Bible says people see sounds, and that is a classic phenomenon,” Shanon said, citing the example of religious ceremonies in the Amazon in which drugs are used that induce people to “see music.” Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the "burning bush", he added.

He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil's Amazon forest in 1991. “I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations”.

Wow. This ayahuasca drug must be really, really powerful. If his claims are true, it is most likely that Moses has likewise “induced” himself as well as hordes of Israelites and Egyptians to imagine the parting of the Red Sea. Come to think of it, probably it is not only Moses for that matter, but ALL biblical personages who had “spiritual-religious visions” probably took this drug or some form of it. Maybe that is why Marx said religion is the opium of the masses? Now we are not sure whether this Israeli “researcher” intends to discredit Moses, religion in general, or whether he simply wants to expose the ill-effects of dangerous mind-altering drugs. What we do know as a fact in this day and age, is that dangerous drugs definitely cause wild hallucinations. Shanon himself affirms so, having admitted taking the ayahuasca drug way back in 1991.

It is also a fact that dangerous drugs cause permanent brain damage.

Of Salt, Light, and Pulse Asia’s NBN survey

Pulse Asia’s recent survey reports that 16% of Metro folk are willing to join rallies vs the NBN deal.
Of the respondents, 84 percent of Metro Manila adults are not willing to attend mass actions, whether they support the reasons behind these (53 percent) or not (31 percent).

This Pulse Asia survey reminds me of the story of the pollster conducting this house-to-house survey on the nation’s problems. As the story goes, a pollster walked up to a house, rang the doorbell, and was greeted by a man with a drink in one hand and a television blaring in the background. After introducing himself, the pollster asked this question: "What is the biggest problem in our nation today: ignorance or apathy?" Just before he slammed the door on the pollster, the man answered, "I don't know and I don't care!"

The preceding anecdote rings with the reality of the times.

The top reasons given by those who said they would not join rallies, according to the same Pulse Asia survey, is that: "There are more important things to do" (26 percent) and "there's really no change whoever leads the government" (26 percent). A sizable number of the total, twenty-one percent, said the need to earn money for daily expenses further prevented them from attending rallies. The majority of the people seem not compelled enough to take action. Indifference, lack of information, daily pressures of livelihood, – many factors conspire against the majority to become more actively involved in influencing the political process.

Is there even a need for Christians to be involved?

Let us look at some biblical accounts when God’s people did involve themselves.

Joseph rose to a position of great power in Egypt, and God used him to save many lives during a severe famine (Gen. 50:20). Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and other prophets made sure that political leaders heard clearly what God had to say about justice, the right way to rule, caring for the widowed, the orphaned, the poor, and the lame. Amos spoke out during a time of judicial corruption (5:7), immorality (2:6-8), and oppression of the poor (4:1). Esther carefully used her position of influence to protect exiled Jews in Persia. Daniel was not afraid to speak out on God's behalf (Dan. 4:27). John the Baptist spoke out against the immorality of king Herod and was imprisoned and beheaded (Mt. 14:1-12). In response to influential leaders who were trying to get Peter to stop speaking publicly about Christ, the apostle Peter said, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

Finally, Jesus said to His followers, "You are the salt of the earth..You are the light of the world.. nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house." (Mt. 5:13-15). Salt serves as a preservative and light drives away the darkness. For believers in Christ to serve as salt and light, it means that by words and actions we are to uphold and promote God's standards and help people to see the truth about life and God. As salt and light, our lives are to make a difference in preventing the decay of our society and promote the true worship of God. Yes, Christians should be involved in the political process, while we affirm that any evil should not be used to justify a good. Separation of church and state should not mean separation of state and morality. We must be careful though, that we do not short-circuit the political system, nor promote anarchy or violence. We should not lose sight that the real battle boils down to a spiritual battle, where we need the weapons and armor that only God's grace can provide (Eph 6:10-18). What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, then who can be against us? (Rom 8:31).