Thursday, August 28, 2008

What to eat when poor as a rat?

Cambodians eat rats to beat global food crisis

Cambodians have found a way to cope with the rising prices of meat, and quite a number are settling for an alternative that is increasingly becoming popular - rat meat. In Cambodia, a kilogram of rat meat costs from 1,200 to 5,000 riel, compared to beef which costs 20,000 riel per kg. (A thousand riel is approximately a quarter of a US dollar). Cambodia is not unique in developing this exotic culinary treat, as field mice have long been eaten in certain regions of Thailand and India where fast food sellers are enjoying a boom in sales. And before you say "YUKKK!", consumers say it is tastier than other meats and that rats caught from rice fields are definitely clean compared with those found in towns or cities. Field mice eat fruits and grains, and is usually cooked spicy with garlic. It probably only takes a paradigm shift to appreciate that field rats are indeed, a welcome alternative to traditional sources of meat.

Personally, I couldn't bring myself to take that paradigm shift, but when the going gets tough and the stomach rumblings get even tougher, who cares about paradigm shifts. The new benchmark for poverty, called the Asian Poverty Line, means the poor earn less than USD $1.35 a day. Roughly 1/3rd of the Philippine population qualifies as such, according to this report. Certainly traditional meat such as beef is way, way beyond reach, as beef in the Philippines cost about $7 USD per kg. Pork costs $4 USD/kg. Then we should seriously think about requesting Cambodia for the recipe and cooking instructions?

Poor as a rat? Make your own conclusions.

Please don't throw up. So sorry about that.

By the way, do you want fries with that?

25.4M Filipinos are living below $1.35/day Asian Poverty Line

25.4M Filipinos are living below $1.35/day Asian Poverty Line

"About 25.4 million Filipinos are living below the new benchmark for estimating how many are poor in Asia and the Pacific region, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report released Wednesday showed. The new benchmark, called the Asian Poverty Line, is roughly at $1.35 a day. Of the poor among the 16-member countries of ADB—totaling between 843 million to 1,042 million, depending on methods used in computing poverty estimates—the Philippines's 29.5 percent poverty level is better than India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and worse than Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka."

This hardly qualifies for fresh news anymore, as the recent NCSB press release states that

"In terms of poverty incidence among population, out of 100 Filipinos, 33 were poor in 2006, compared to 30 in 2003."

Yet the Philippines continues to grow economically, and has posted a real GDP growth rate of 7.3% in the year 2007, its fastest pace in three decades. Where does all the money go? According to the 2003 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), the richest 20% of the population account for 53% of total national income while the bottom 20% get only 4.63 percent. The income of the richest 10% of households is 21 times that of the poorest 10 percent.

Income inequality is horrendous, but in a democratic country like the Philippines, the rich doesn’t seem to be so keen in spreading out some of the money they have in opulent excess. How they earned that much is another story, but try thinking along the lines of land ownership, labor exploitation, and government corruption.

Now, the simple “pro-choice” solution goes like this: If there are 33 poor Filipinos out of 100, depopulate the country of those 33 poor Filipinos. Presto: Poverty is eradicated.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail

Aug 24'08 Sunday Gospel: Mt 16:13-20

"...And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18-19)
If we consider the above passage from today's Gospel with Christ's promise in
(John 14:16)...
"...And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,"


-The Church that Christ built was founded upon Peter, who was given the authority to "bind" and "loose".
-The Holy Spirit guards the Church always.
-The forces of evil cannot prevail against His Church.
-Not in the past.
-Not now.
-Not ever.
-Simply because Jesus said so.

God be praised.

The Erroneous Conscience

Are we called morally good or bad when in striving to follow our conscience, we err?

There is an interesting development of theological opinion on the question.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) , distrusted human knowledge and believed that the root of sin is ignorance. He emphasized the virtue of humility and adherence to the law. Actions contrary to the law and its teaching, even though done out of ignorance, were according to Bernard, bad. Thus if we accept that telling a lie is always wrong, Bernard would say if we told a lie, regardless of our motivation, we sinned.

Theologian Peter Abelard (1079-1142), taught differently. He held that the will, in particular its consent, determines actions as good or bad. If we are in error, but we do not consent to it, there is no sin. Thus if we told a lie in order to protect the life of another, Abelard would call us and our action, good. Faced with the question whether the action from a sincerely erroneous conscience is a sin, Bernard says yes, and Abelard, no.

Upon the powerful influence of Bernard, who accused Abelard of 19 errors, the Council of Sens (1140) condemned Abelard, although his sentence was later lifted.

Later, Thomas Aquinas entertained the question whether a person is good when following an erroneous conscience. For Thomas Aquinas, conscience is the act of applying our knowledge of good and evil to what we do (or might do). So in order to know what is a good action or a bad one, one needs to understand how things are naturally ordered by God -- primarily what human nature is, and what things it needs and deserves. Thomas' question concerned sincerity and understanding regarding the error: Could one have known otherwise? Interestingly, Thomas did not call the person good who despite striving to know the right, followed an erroneous conscience; rather, Thomas argued that such a person is "excused" from blame.

By the 16th century, most theologians agree with Thomas, that a dictate of conscience must be followed under pain of sin and that an erroneous conscience in good faith is, at least, excused from blame. In 1690 Pope Alexander VIII condemned all those who taught that an invincibly ignorant conscience did not at least, excuse. Implicitly, Bernard's attack on Abelard is rejected.

We now see Vatican II upholding the dignity of the moral conscience, even when it errs from invincible ignorance. But it goes on to caution: "The same cannot be said of the man who cares little for truth and goodness, or of a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin" (Gaudium et Spes, 16).

Finally, Cathechism states:

1790. A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

1791. This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin."
In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

1755. A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself (such as praying and fasting "in order to be seen by men").
The object of the choice can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts - such as fornication - that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil.

1756. It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

In conclusion, it must be noted that describing erroneous actions as "good", as contemporary relativists do, is rejected. Relativists rightly find goodness in the integrity of conscience, but they grossly overlook the need to evaluate what we do out of conscience and how we live. This simplistic description is favored by many in society today who praise people for following conscience but who refuse to measure the resulting activity; that each of us is considerably free from objective evaluation. A person who errs in good faith is a person who has struggled to find the right, has searched heart and mind, and in firm good faith and free will acted with conviction, albeit in error. This person is good, and what differentiates this person from another who strives in the same way but whose conduct is recognized as right is precisely the evaluation of the conduct as wrong. Calling the conduct wrong is the sufficient negative description for the activity of the erroneous conscience.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Perfect hostesses outclass sexy cheerleaders at Games

BEIJING—Forget the skimpily clad cheerleaders. The immaculate hostesses handing out medals at the Olympics have won the spectator vote for glamour.
Wearing Chinese silk dresses with their hair pulled back tightly into neat buns, the hostesses are beautiful and elegant. Their eyes are three-tenths the length of their faces, as required by the Chinese selection committee.

“They are so pretty and precise. They smile continuously,” said Debra Sinex, a tourist from Atlanta, Georgia, who was in Beijing for the Olympics.
The hostesses underwent thorough training at a kind of charm boot camp, learning to stand for hours in high-heels and honing the perfect smile exposing eight teeth by spending hours before a mirror with a chopstick between their teeth.

“In the standing sessions, we have to stand still and smile for half an hour or more. We also run about a 1,000 meters every day for physical conditioning,” one of the hostesses, Ma Sha, 20, told Reuters ahead of the Games.

It is no wonder China leads in the manufacturing industry.

PM: Baby-short Singapore to double spending on incentives

SINGAPORE -- Singapore will double its spending on incentives to address a severe shortage of babies threatening the country's future, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a television broadcast Monday.

He unveiled a series of measures, including extended maternity leave, which he said add up to more than 700 million dollars ($US 496 million), "about double what we are spending today on child incentives."

"This package will make a difference to many couples, but I can't guarantee that it will solve our problem, because it is a deep problem," he said in his key annual policy speech.

Government figures say Singapore had a fertility rate of 1.29 babies born per woman in 2007, well below the 2.1, or at least two children per woman, needed for the population to replace itself naturally.
But those incentives failed to adequately address the baby shortage.

Lee touched on the problem earlier this month in another speech on the eve of Singapore's national day, when he said the city-state needed enough babies "to secure our long-term future."
Lee got it backwards. Learn from the Philippines. Make the population dirt-poor, and they will multiply like rabbits.

Australian town mayor recruiting ugly women

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Life can get a little lonely for bachelors in the Australian Outback mining town of Mount Isa. So the mayor has offered up a solution: Recruit ugly women.

Mayor John Molony found himself under attack on Monday over comments he made to a local newspaper that read: “May I suggest if there are five blokes to every girl, we should find out where there are beauty-disadvantaged women and ask them to proceed to Mount Isa.”

The mayor added that many women who lived in the remote Queensland state town seemed quite happy. “Quite often you will see walking down the street a lass who is not so attractive with a wide smile on her face,” he continued.
And several local women said there weren’t a lot of gems to be found among Mount Isa’s men, either.
“We’ve got a saying up here that the odds are good, but the goods are odd,” 27-year-old Anna Warrick told The Brisbane Times.
Nuff said.

On the Infallibility of Humanae Vitae

According to Catholic theology, a teaching of the "ordinary and universal magisterium" is also considered infallible if it is taught by all bishops dispersed throughout the world, as long as they all teach it in a definitive and authoritative manner - "in unity among themselves and with Peter's successor" (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium # 25).

The Church's teaching against contraception provides a case in point. Throughout the whole history of the Church, it has been been clear and constant in its position on contraception. In fact, all Christian churches were united in their opposition to contraception until as recently as the early decades of the 20th century. It was not until 1930 that the Anglican Church went on record as saying that contraception was permissible, for grave reasons, within marriage. It was also at this time that Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Casti Connubii, in which he reiterated what has been the constant teaching of the Catholic Church: Contraception is intrinsically wrong.

The first clamoring for change appeared in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the widespread availability of the birth control pill. Some Catholic theologians began to think that the pill might be a legitimate form of birth control for Catholics because, unlike other kinds of birth control, it did not break the integrity of the sexual act. Amidst such controversy, the landmark encyclical Humane Vitae was released by Pope Paul VI in 1968. It clearly defined the intrinsic evil of contraception and even provided prophetic views that has since materialized. Subsequently, Pope John Paul II affirms Humane Vitae with "Evangelium Vitae" and "Theology of the Body". On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Pope Benedict XVI states: "The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does not change. Quite the contrary, in the light of new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more relevant and stimulates reflection on the intrinsic values it possesses."

Humane Vitae was not pronounced ex-cathedra, there was no need as the teaching contained in Humane Vitae has been constant and unchanging throughout the history of the Church. Due to this, it is infallible and thus, irreformable. People may have contrary opinions, but they remain just that - opinions. Truth never changes. It may be difficult to follow, but that is really the way with much of our faith --- forgive 70 x 7 times; turn the other cheek; love one another. It is only with God's grace that we do not find our faith difficult to accept and follow, and then it becomes a joyful way of life - and we become at peace.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Question: When does a baby get human rights in your view?

“Mega-pastor” Rick Warren (Purpose-driven Life) posed this question during a televised forum at Saddleback Church.

Check out what the contending US presidential aspirants Barack Obama and John McCain has to say.

Turn up the volume, it is also interesting how the audience reacts to each one.

Ok, here's a partial transcript:

WARREN: When does a baby get human rights in your view?

OBAMA: “ah..ah..I think that..ahh… whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, ah...answering that question with specificity …you above my pay grade.”

AUDIENCE: Huh?!? Gasp!! Whoah!
WARREN: When does a baby get human rights in your view?

McCAIN: "At the moment of conception."

AUDIENCE: Yehey!!! Whooh!!! Clap-clap-clap-clap!!! Yehey!!! Whooh!!! Clap-clap-clap-clap!!!
ME: I wonder how much pay grade one needs, to be able answer such a simple question in all honesty.

Now with regards to the local scene, how come Congressional Representatives Lagman, Garin, Biazon, et al, do not make a clear stand on such a question? They say they are against abortion, yet they advocate abortifacients? Huh?!? Gasp!! Whoah! That is the same as saying: " pay grade says....ah..ah... it's just a leaping mass of tissue."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

“O woman, great is your faith!”

…even dogs eat scraps…

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.
(Mt 15:21-28)
Here we have an interesting account of a woman, a Canaanite at that, seemingly arguing with Jesus.
At that time it is quite unheard of for Jews to be even associating with pagans, so we have to understand that this incident provides for a very interesting and important account that Matthew had enough reasons to relate it.

“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.

At this point Jesus stays silent. We have to understand the instances when Jesus speaks and when He is silent, both have deep meanings. What is also remarkable is the persistence of this woman. She had to get past the unsympathetic apostles who even asked Jesus to “send her away…”.

But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Jesus states this as a matter of fact, and should have been enough to finally discourage the woman.

But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”

This woman is really insistent. Note however that she did Jesus homage in the process.

He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

Before we even think that Jesus insults the woman by likening her to a dog, we have to understand here that the focus of this passage was to take away food (an analogy of something good) from children and feed it to household pets that very much less deserve it. It had to be clear to her that Jesus came first for the Jews, then to the Gentiles.

She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

Now we come to the heart of the matter. The seemingly clever argument of the woman that supposedly makes Jesus relent. But is that so?

Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith!”

Notice Jesus didn’t say: O woman, great is your argument!
Going back to the woman’s plea that “even dogs eat scraps from the table of their masters”, the woman in fact acknowledged she was as lowly as a dog, and further acknowledged that dogs have masters. She pleaded in full humility and rightly expects what such a dog might reasonably expect from its master. She was persistent yet she humbles herself rightly before her master. She was not offended, but was inspired to plead what she desired.

“Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

God’s mercy and power knows no bounds.
We cannot come to Jesus boastful of ourselves and expect something in return.
God’s love is given freely if we implore in all humility and true faith.
We can only come to Him in full cognizance of our own weaknesses,
to trust in the mercy and power of God.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

On Peter walking on water

Jesus walks on water.

Part of this Sunday's gospel reads:

"Peter said to him in reply, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!". Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" After they got into the boat, the wind died down. ". (Mat 14:28-32)

Now there's an old joke which says that Peter should just have asked where the rocks are.

But seriously, Mark, John, and Matthew all agree that Jesus walked on water, but it is only Matthew who tells us that Peter tried to walk on water. Matthew seems to emphasize not Peter's doubt, but his faith: Command me to come to you... Of the disciples, it was Peter alone who dared to attempt what was apparently reserved for Jesus: walking on water. As Peter rejoined his companions on the boat, we can imagine him a bit embarassed and all soaked. But we can be certain that Peter was most invigorated and happy with the experience, as is the case when one advances in faith.

As one follows the Master in earnest, each moment can only be an opportunity in advancing in faith. St Paul always finds the imagery for straining forward for the Lord, as there is always the occasion for "forgetting what lies behind and setting our hearts on the prize". On this note it is worthwhile to quote St Gregory the Great:

"Certainly in this world, the human spirit is like a boat foolishly fighting against the river's rush: one is never allowed to stay still, because unless one forges ahead, one will slide down backstream".

If one does not grow, one slides backwards, and sinks. "O you of little faith..."...this is addressed not only to Peter but to all the disciples and future disciples as well.

Let us forge forward, with full trust in Jesus, for we too can walk on water.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Breaking News Odds and Ends

US swimmer Beard bares all in first Olympic athlete protest

BEIJING -- American swimmer Amanda Beard staged the first athlete protest of the Beijing Olympics, unveiling a nude photo of herself Wednesday outside the Athlete's Village to back an anti-animal cruelty cause.

No big deal. Could be the latest in competition swim wear...
Polish monk likens orgasm to meeting God

He has been dubbed the high priest of Catholic Kama Sutra, but Polish Friar Ksawery Knotz says that by giving married couples tips on how to practice divine sex, he is simply doing God’s work.

"I certainly encourage married couples to pray for a good and happy sex life -- it’s a way for them to become closer to God," the 43-year-old Roman Catholic monk says in an interview with Agence France Presse.

...Couples are so eager to attend [the retreats] that his weekend and six-day workshops are booked solid for the next year.

Looks like the monk's seminars are a huge hit. Nothing heretical here, strictly speaking. Maybe he should have emphasized first that a good and happy sex life entails the responsibility of begetting children foremost, but then I guess the retreats wouldn't be a smash hit with that...
66% of Filipino households cut back on food: survey

Filipinos have been consuming or spending less on food in response to double-digit inflation, according to a new survey by a polling firm.

Pulse Asia, an independent polling firm, reported Wednesday that two in three Filipino households or 66% said in a July 1 to 14 survey that they are "consuming less or spending less on food.

As if Filipinos have not been cutting down on food so far, intentionally or otherwise. If this inflation thing goes on and on, we can go ahead and cut on food back further and then get to feel what its like to live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Ageing Japanese men worry about body odor

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese men are worrying about more than mere sweat as summer temperatures rise: talk of body odor caused by ageing is adding to anxiety in a land that prizes being squeaky clean.

Hmm. While we Filipinos worry about food, the Japanese worry about body odor. How come? Perhaps its because we eat less sukiyaki?

‘Birth control’ dad gets dream wedding

To receive or not to receive...

Quezon City First District Councilor Joseph Juico tied the knot with erstwhile fiancĂ©e Trisha Chua in the scenic Madre de Dios Chapel at the Tagaytay Highlands Batangas. The wedding caught some attention in the press, as it must be remembered that Councilor Juico was the sponsor of the controversial ordinance recently passed in Quezon City that provides for reproductive health and services program, among which is the promotion and provision of the full range of family planning methods – which includes artificial contraceptives. There were earlier reports that due to his public advocacy of contraceptives which goes against a core teaching of the Church, he would be denied communion in the diocese of Cubao if and when he opts to get married anywhere within the Cubao diocese (a report that was denied by the Diocese spokesperson), and so he opted to seek the sacrament of matrimony elsewhere outside the jurisdiction of the Cubao diocese. Quite akin to forum shopping, although a real interdict follows individuals wherever they go. Apparently, all’s well that ends well, and the couple has been blessed to live happily ever after, in a wedding officiated by no less than Bishop Soc Villegas, who granted him communion as well.

The propriety of giving and receiving the Holy Eucharist appears to be raised by certain sectors in this event, towards its potentially scandalous implications. Quite certainly, Bishop Villegas must have been aware of the controversy hounding Councilor Juico, considering the media milage that the QC ordinance has generated and the publicly raised specter of Juico possibly being denied communion for his primary role. The fact the Bishop Villegas did not refuse communion despite the circumstances, is an indication that refusal of communion is not warranted in this case. It is worthwhile to reference then Cardinal Ratzinger in July 2004, as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, when he issued a directly concerned memorandum which states in part:

"Apart from an individual's judgment about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin".

In Juico's case, there is no declared excommunication, nor a known interdict. A case may be made of him being in an "obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin". But the question still remains whether it constitutes a feigned ignorance or a lack of understanding, as a mortal sin is defined if it entails full knowledge and consent. Apparently, Bishop Villegas in his judgment has given him the benefit of the doubt, and it is hard to question that. We are not aware whether he has been counseled prior to the wedding to take a more conscientious attitude with the view to making reparations, as this might have conceivably transpired during the pre-marriage canonical interview. We simply do not know, and in the absence of hard facts we take a prudent view of the matter. God will eventually judge his conscience. I just want to personally express my extreme disappointment with Councilor Joseph Juico, a self-professed devout Catholic. His talent, resources, position and devotion seems grievously misdirected in the manner of his advocacy of artificial contraceptives. I wish that the passion he professes for local governance concerns is matched - nay surpassed - by the ardor and passion of studying and understanding the tenets of the Faith, and most importantly, putting it into action. For this he sorely needs pastoral guidance. May God help him.