Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On the Pakistan floods

Pakistan orders nearly half a million to evacuate

Torrential monsoon rains triggered massive floods affecting a fifth of the volatile country – an area roughly the size of England...The catastrophe has already affected more than 17 million people and left eight million dependent on aid to survive....The Pakistani government has confirmed that 1,600 people have been killed and 2,366 wounded, but officials warn that millions are at risk from diseases and food shortages.

More deaths feared in Pakistan as flood waters recede

But the need for help is greatly outpacing the supply..."The magnitude of this crisis is reaching levels that are even beyond our initial fears, which were already leaning toward what we thought would be the worst," Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesman for the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said Friday. "The number of those affected and those in need of assistance from us are bound to keep rising. The floods seem determined to outrun our response."..."The flooding has surrounded millions of children with contaminated water," said Karen Allen, deputy representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Pakistan. "Most have nothing else to drink. We fear the deadly synergy of waterborne diseases, including diarrhea, dehydration and malnutrition."..

Devastating Pakistan floods finally heading to sea

Floodwaters that have devastated Pakistan for five weeks headed to the Arabian Sea on Tuesday after swallowing two final towns, but the challenges of delivering emergency aid to 8 million people remained...
Aid is slowly reaching the worst-affected areas by army helicopter, road and boat, but millions have received little or no help. The UN warned that additional funding for emergency food was urgently needed to ensure supplies into next month....Once all the floodwaters recede, the country will be left with a massive relief and reconstruction effort that will cost billions of dollars and take years. An estimated 1 million homes have been damaged or destroyed, five times as many as were hit by this year's earthquake in Haiti.

One can't really find enough words to describe this overwhelming Pakistan tragedy. It is more depressing to realize that this massive devastation occurred in a country that is already stricken by violence and massive economic woes. At times like this, it would be ideal that the entire world join forces in alleviating the suffering of a severely afflicted nation. Aid missions whether large or small, can make a huge difference when combined, and every single suffering alleviated goes a long way. To this end, I am wondering why our government is more concerned about protocols before helping out. It is silly for those commenters to say that our countrymen sorely need the DOH services first and foremost. In cases like this, no one is too poor to help out, and barriers should be broken.
Note: Vatican-based Caritas Internationalis is organizing a $5.5M fund drive while Caritas Philippines is coordinating the local efforts in soliciting financial assistance from the dioceses.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The second shall be the last

Baclao No. 1 pick; Al-Hussaini No. 2

MANILA, Philippines
Air21 firmed up its roster for the next PBA wars with four prized rookies, headed by former Ateneo 1-2 punch in Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Noy Baclao in the 2010 PBA Rookie Draft at the Market! Market! in Taguig yesterday.

But the Express pulled off a shocker when they made the defense-minded Baclao as the top overall pick instead of the prolific Al-Hussaini, a former UAAP MVP and Finals MVP, who had been tipped as the No. 1 choice weeks leading to the draft.

Al-Hussaini was relegated to No. 2.

Embarrassed, the 6-7 Al-Hussaini was speechless when interviewed by media men then admitted he was slighted by the decision.

“I feel insulted, what can I say,” he said...

Really. What an unbelievably horrible reaction from an Atenean. And so I asked my son, a 3rd year Ateneo psychology major, if Ateneans typically spoke this way.
"No, it's just him", my son answered.

Baclao is Al-Hussaini's team mate in the Ateneo basketball squad. Assuming he earnestly entertained the thought of being the number 1 PBA draft, why on earth would he feel embarrassed and insulted by being relegated to number two in favor of his team mate? After all, the choice does not mean he is an inferior person and player than Baclao. What was he thinking? Did he not realize he insulted his teammate in the process, and made a silly fool out of himself to boot? Most certainly, he has not the slightest hint of a clue to yesterday's gospel about humility.

What a major, major, insensitive, tactless, arrogant, shameless, and stupidest response. My son and I discussed what Al-Hussaini should have said, and here is what we came up with, more or less:

"Frankly, I thought I would be the top overall pick. When Nonoy Baclao was chosen instead, I set aside my disappointment because I was only too happy for him. He is a great player and teammate, and he also deserves number 1. I look forward to playing alongside him for Air-21. I send my congratulations to Nonoy Baclao."

That would have endeared him to his fans, but mostly to Him who will raise him up to the top.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Knockout funny

This video clip from an old Charlie Chaplin film is so rocking hilarious I just had to share it.

h/t sunnyday

On humility, equality, and greatness

"For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised." (Luke 14:1; 7-11)

I remember a talk from q
uite a long time ago wherein the speaker illustrated the equal dignity of men before the eyes of God. He produced a worn-out twenty-peso bill, crumpled it in his hands, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it a few times.He then picked up the crumpled but still intact bill and asked the audience: "How much do you think is this bill worth?"
The audience was unanimous in responding that the bill was still worth twenty pesos, its face value.The speaker then took out a fresh, crisp, twenty-peso bill from his wallet and asked t
he audience the same question.
"How much do you think this bill is worth?"

He had made his point.

In this Sunday's Gospel (Lk 14:1; 7-11), Jesus teaches us the virtue of humility. It is a dominant theme in the Scriptures. The meek shall inherit the earth. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. H
umility comes before honor.The greatest among you shall serve. The last shall be the first. Whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled. Whoever humbles himself will be raised.

I suppose some of you got wind of the recent hostage crisis that ended tragically here in Manila. The victims were tourists from Hongkong. The hostage taker had a wounded pride that led him to commit such a carnage. Whether he is in his right mind, we do not know.What we do know is that eight people were killed in that tragic affair.Among the victims were a family of five, with dual Chinese-Canadian citizenship. The husband died trying to protect his family.Two daughters died by the hostage-taker's bullets. The only son is in critical condition. The wife somehow survived and said "I thought I would fight for survival so I could take care of my children, but two of them have already died.".

These victims are not just tourists, nor Hongkongers, nor Canadians. More than that, they are children of God made in His own image.Let us pray for all the victims and all the aggrieved relatives. Let us pray that people see beyond their individual pride. Let us pray that people value lives and equal dignity among men, for humility to reign, that people value and cherish people's lives above and beyond their personal travails. God will raise these people.

My wife, my youngest child and I just arrived from the ci
ty of Davao in Mindanao in a brief visit to attend a wedding. Yesterday, we had breakfast at a McDonalds outlet near Apo View Hotel. I notice these two skinny, shabbily dressed street children near the door. While lining up at the counter, I decide to buy them some food. Later while still in the queue, I glance back towards them and I notice that a lady took kindly on them, invited them inside, and has already bought and served them some food. The kind-hearted lady was a step ahead of me. While I just wanted to give the street children some food, she went ahead and invited the children in, bought them food, and even served them. And so I remembered the lesson from that speaker's talk of long ago.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Major-major answer

"You know what, sir, in my 22 years of existence I can say that there’s nothing major, major, I mean, problem that I’ve done in my life because I’m very confident with my family with the love that they are giving to me. So thank you so much that I’m here. Thank you, thank you so much!”

Our very own fourth Runner-up in the recently concluded Miss Universe pageant continues to receive lots of brickbrats for her supposedly "bad" answer in the Q&A portion, something which many conclude cost her the crown. Thanks to her, "major-major" is now trending high on Twitter. She seems to have taken it good-naturedly in stride. Interviewed about this, she says:
"Hahaha… wala lang natatawa din ako sa mga sinabi ko. Well, okay lang kung major trending siya. At least no, ‘yung 'major major,' nakapagbigay ng karangalan. O diba?”. The first time I heard it, I thought that nerves got the better of her but it never crossed my mind to ridicule her answer. I recently posted about that here. I thought it was a tough question that doesn't really have an answer at all. I tried posing the question to myself and found out that I had to think hard but had nothing intelligent to say, so I think Venus handled it with aplomb. If I were asked the same question under time pressure, under the glare of klieg lights, under the watchful eyes of millions, I suppose I would have come up with a stupidly funny answer instead.

I came across a blogger's insightful comment on the issue. Here it is in toto.
elle27 commented on Aug 24 10 at 6:56 pm

Let me enlighten you as to why?

Venus Raj lives a simple and poor life. She lives in a province, sort of your rural America or the boonies. The house she lives in is a simple thatched-roof hut made of bamboo and wood, located in the middle of the rice paddies. Her immediate support are her family, friends, and relatives. She was born illegitimate. In the Philippine society, it is still a stigma. She strives to do her best to study hard and succeed in life. She graduated Cum Laude in Communication Arts and managed to find a job as Information Assistant in a governmental agency in her province. While doing that, she helps her mother, a farmer, buys land on installment basis. Her goal is to help her mother and family improve the quality of their lives and lift from the life of poverty.

Going back to the question posed by Mr. Baldwin, “what is the one big mistake that you did in your life, and what did you do to make it right?”

When Venus answered, “...in my 22 years of existence, there is nothing major – major, I mean, problem that I have done in my life. Because I’m very confident about my family and the love they are giving me. So thank you so much…”

Let’s see…where could she make a big mistake?

DID SHE SLEEP AROUND AND CATCH HIV/STD DISEASES? – No, she did not. Remember, she lives in a rural area in a conservative Catholic society, acting whorish is a big NO NO!
DID SHE GET PREGNANT AND HAVE AN ABORTION? – NO, she did not. She is one wholesome girl. Her family watched, protected, and nurtured her. She can’t escape the watchful eyes of her 4 brothers. Suitors will have a hard time to be near her. If there is going to be one, he will be talking to the whole family instead of talking privately with her. That’s the way life in rural Philippines. Everybody knows everybody, and everybody knows what everybody is doing.
DID SHE SMOKE OR DID DRUGS? – NO, she did not. She came from a poor family. She has no means of buying it. These bad habits are only enjoyed by the wretched people, who are typically shunned by Philippine conservative society.
DID SHE FAIL IN SCHOOL? – No, she did not. She excelled in school. Graduated Cum Laude.
DID SHE COVET A MARRIED MAN? – No, she did not. She doesn’t have a boyfriend at the present time.
IS SHE A BAD DAUGHTER? – No, she is not. In fact, she helps her mother and family improve their lives.

Overall, venus is a wholesome, good girl, who grew up in a rural conservative society, protected, nurtured, and watched by her love ones and did not experience big mistakes in life. She lead a careful and normal life that is totally opposite of what you expect of a life of a young lady in the modern western society.

She was judged by a panel of modern society judges and audiences who can’t believe what they were hearing. Truth is indeed stranger that fiction. But judges should also look at facts and truths, not some generalized opinion that sounds good to the politically correct. Venus answer was factual and brave, and she shouldn’t be lambasted for telling the truth, and it shouldn’t cost her the crown.

Venus being coming from a poor existence and making it into the world should have been a great role model for people living and born into poverty, which aptly applies to the 70% of the world population, and for those born out of wedlock. She can be a great messenger to the world that:

1. There is nothing to be ashamed of being born of out wedlock. It is not the end of the world. Life offers redemption and many possibilities.
2. Being poor is not a hindrance to succeed in life.
3. Stress the importance of education and of finishing college.
4. Highlight the importance of moral character and a girl’s wholesome image
5. Faith of a creator with unlimited gifts to those who believe ~nothing is impossible with god. He can use a messenger from the lowly and poor and exalt her to new heights. She can be a living testament of god’s grace and power that he can do anything and can change lives.
6. Great role model for young girls ~be virtuous~be honest ~honor the parents~excel in school~helps family, etc.

Where can you find a rare and special girl like venus raj?

Mr. Trump and the panel of judges failed to do their due diligence. They failed to do their job and in failing to do their job, they missed this once in a lifetime opportunity for a great messenger to the world, who is convincingly believable to the world, because she is a living and breathing proof of overcoming hardships, obstacles, and challenges in life. Just look at her life … and how far she goes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

from Miss Universe: a universal message

22-year-old Mexico woman crowned Miss Universe

LAS VEGAS – A 22-year-old Mexico woman won the Miss Universe pageant Monday night after donning a flowing red gown and telling an audience it's important to teach kids family values.

Jimena Navarrete of Guadalajara was first contestant to answer an interview question onstage and the last of 83 standing in the headline-grabbing pageant on the Las Vegas Strip.

"I want to give my parents a big hug," she said at a news conference after the pageant. "There was a lot of effort and a lot of sacrifice."....

Asked by Olympic gold-medal figure skater Evan Lysacek how she felt about unsupervised Internet use, Navarrete said the Internet is important but parents need to be careful and watch over their kids. "I do believe that Internet is an indispensable, necessary tool for the present time," she said through an interpreter. "We must be sure to teach them the values that we learned as a family."... /

Hurray !
It's a good thing that all the judges appreciated the answer. These Q&A portions can sometimes create
quite a stir.

Btw, our bet Maria Venus Raj, got a tough question:

"What is the one biggest mistake that you have made in your life and what did you do to make it right?"

Her answer: “You know what, sir, in my 22 years of existence I can say that there’s nothing major, major problem that I’ve done in my life because I’m very confident with my family with the love that they are giving to me. So thank you so much that I’m here. Thank you, thank you so much!”

Not so eloquently said but it is a good answer likewise. Anyway, fifth place is already a great achievement. Congrats Venus, we are proud of you too.

Primetime hostage crisis ends terribly

8 Hong Kong tourists killed in hostage crisis

Manila police defend handling of deadly hostage crisis

Statement of President Aquino on the Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis

With the uninterrupted coverage of media organizations of the hostage crisis at the Quirino Grandstand last Monday, the President said former senior police inspector Rolando Mendoza was given “blow-by-blow” developments affecting his area, including the strategic deployment of the security forces.

President implies media coverage only helped hostage-taker

At this point, he threatened to kill a hostage. The police decided to remove the brother from the scene. As the negotiators were departing, the negotiators were shot at. Media coverage of his brother being taken into custody further agitated the hostage-taker.

Yes, there was a TV inside the tourist bus.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Anne Rice: Out of Egypt and Out of Context

My reaction to Anne Rice renouncing Christianity is a bit late, although my extreme surprise and dismay remains fresh. When Rice announced her reverse-revert decision in her Facebook page last month, I was about halfway reading through the paperback edition of her fascinating novel "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt". On the first page, the venerable LA Times endorsed the book by saying:

"This is a straightforward tale set firmly - thanks to Rice's considerable strengths in research - in the geographic and historical context of the time...".

I am now wondering whether Anne Rice's "considerable strengths in research" was ever applied to 2,000+ years of Catholic tradition, to a point where she can put some historical context into the "quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group" that she is renouncing. My, she has some choice, colorful adjectives for the Bride of Christ, even as she professes to "remain committed to Christ".

On Youtube, I have come across Fr. Barron comments on Anne Rice leaving Christianity.

Here, I take particular note of Fr Barron's reference (3:43 onwards) to St Paul's experience on the road to Damascus. Saul of Tarsus was hounding Jesus' followers, yet Jesus said: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?".

I will pray for Anne Rice, and many like her who refuse to stay attached to the mystical vine, just because they refuse to 'historically contextualize' their personal thorns. I think the best reaction to Anne Rice's decision would be her very own words, written as a closing 'Note to the Paperback edition' where she partly says :

"..I realized that none of my theological or social questions really made any difference. I didn't have to know the answers to these questions precisely because God did. He was the God who made the Universe in which I existed...I didn't have to worry about the ultimate fate of my good atheistic friends, gay or straight, because He knew about them, and He was holding them in his hands. I didn't have to quake alone in terror at the thought of those who die untimely deaths from illness, or the countless millions destroyed in the horrors of war. He knew all about them. He had always been holding them in His hands."

I pray that Anne Rice allows God to continually hold her in His hands, because He really wants to embrace her.

I have more to say against Anne Rice's Facebook post, but at this point I only need to add just one more.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Give us babies, or give us death

(title with apologies to Sir Patrick Henry)

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!"

Singapore Launches 'Dating Campaign' To Counter Low Birth Rate
Taiwan Considers Cash for Births as Fertility Rate Dips to World’s Lowest
Hah! Dating Campaigns and Cash for Births?!? Good luck then…

If the campaign would have the slightest possibility of success, then it should encourage respect for sexuality, love of children, respect for life, and a longing for stable and loving marriages that trumps all materialism. All of these go against an ingrained culture of materialism, but like it or not, these are the only things that cause babies to be born and cherished.

Anyway, since Singapore and Taiwan are in dire need of campaign slogans, here are some of them. They’re not quite original but I fervently hope they get the drift.

-Babies are people.
-If it's not a baby, you're not pregnant.
-Smile. Your Mom chose life!
-Real men love babies.
-Real women love babies.
-Real governments love babies.
-Money won’t hug you back.
-Choose Life.
-The future of humanity comes by way of the family (a good and timeless one, from Pope JP II);


-Slavery. Think about it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The dogma of the Assumption of Mary

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII solemnly declared:

44. For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

(from the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus)

Thus, the Assumption of Mary was dogmatically defined in 1950. It was clear though, that the belief was already commonly held throughout the church since the earliest days of Christianity.

Here is an excerpt from Catholic Answers which explains this development:

Neither Jerome, Origen, Athanasius, Ambrose, nor Augustine contested Epiphanius in what he had written regarding Mary's miraculous passing, and Ephraem (d. 373) described Mary as having been glorified by Christ and carried through the air to heaven (Cf. Ephraem, De nativitate domini sermo 12, sermo 11, sermo 4; Opera omni syriace at latine, Vol. 2, 415). Throughout history, there have been very few opponents in the Church of Mary's Assumption. No one seemed ready to claim that she corrupted. In fact, the first opposition to the Assumption cannot be found until Ambrosius Autpertus of the eighth century.

From this faith of the Church, Christians began to celebrate the feast of Mary's unique passing. Like the fruit from a tree, the liturgy is the result of doctrine, not the source of it. By the end of the fourth century, the feast of the Dormitio or Koimesis, which celebrated Mary's death, resurrection, and Assumption, was celebrated throughout the East. A feast celebrating Mary's entrance to heaven, "The Memory of Mary," also began around the fourth century. The significance of these early feasts cannot be overlooked, as they are testimony to the truths that the Church knew to be true. Christians would not initiate feasts throughout the Church that were ideas on the fringes of Catholic thought.

One reason why it is difficult to assess where Mary's last days were is because she left no remains. The early Church prized the relics of early Christians, as can be seen by reading The Martyrdom of Polycarp. However, no one claimed to have Mary's remains, which would have been prized above all others. There is no historical reference to the relics of Mary, the corruption of Mary, or the place where her body lies. A skeptic who denies Christ's Resurrection should be asked to find evidence of the remains of Christ, and the same challenge can be extended to whoever denies Mary's Assumption.
Again from Munificentissimus Deus:

43. We rejoice greatly that this solemn event falls, according to the design of God's providence, during this Holy Year, so that we are able, while the great Jubilee is being observed, to adorn the brow of God's Virgin Mother with this brilliant gem, and to leave a monument more enduring than bronze of our own most fervent love for the Mother of God.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

General Antonio Luna

UP prof tells of Gen. Luna’s assassination

MANILA, Philippines—Had the Philippine Revolution not lost the brilliant and enigmatic Gen. Antonio Luna in June 1899, it might have presented the invading US forces a less than easy conquest, according to such scholars as Prof. Vivencio Jose of the University of the Philippines.

Jose, author of “The Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna,” which was published in 1972 and reprinted in 1981 and 1992, will talk about Luna, including his death in the hands of fellow revolutionaries led by Emilio Aguinaldo, before members of the Diliman Book Club at the Bahay ng Alumni’s ROC (Restaurant of Choice) in UP Diliman on Aug. 14 at 6 p.m.

Jose says his research has given him an endless mission—to uphold Luna as a revolutionary figure betrayed by fellow Filipinos who could not see beyond kinship and personal alliances.

In his book, Jose sketches how Luna was assassinated:

On June 5, 1899, Capt. Pedro Janolino, Aguinaldo’s ally, struck Luna on the temple as the latter was rushing down the stairs of the convent of Cabanatuan in Nueva Ecija, to check on gunshots he had heard in the courtyard.
Then, Janolino’s troops from Cawit, Cavite, started shooting and stabbing Luna as he tried to flee toward the front part of the convent. Two of his aides, Col. Francisco Roman and Capt. Eduardo Rusca, were struck down as they tried to stop his killers...
A sordid chapter in the annals of Philippine history. I looked up the wiki entry and it substantiates the sad ending of General Antonio Luna. That entry said that the volatile Luna was hacked in the head in a confrontation with his fellow officer.

Aside from being a trained chemist, the great Antonio Luna was also a master fencer, skilled sharpshooter, avid musician, and a trained military strategist and tactician. During the war with the Americans, he urged the building of a systematic network of trenches, bunkers, and artillery positions from Caloocan to Novaliches. Many of his plans were not implemented by Aguinaldo, which probably led UP historian Vicencio Jose to surmise that had he not met an untimely death at the hands of his compatriots, the Philippine Revolution might have presented the invading US forces a less than easy conquest. That was 111 years ago. The Manila Bulletin has an interesting article on the occasion of his 111th death anniversary:

General Luna was a dedicated partisan of the Filipino republic. He infused discipline and rigid training into the Filipino army. Unfortunately, a sector of the Filipino leaders wanted to submit to the enemy. He had them arrested and punished - an act that led to his untimely death. The enemies of the Filipino republic killed him on June 5, 1899, in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. American Civil Governor of the Philippines William H. Taft considered General Luna's death a heavy blow against Filipino aspirations. His own foes on the battlefield paid the highest tribute to General Antonio Luna on his death. To United States (US) General Frederick N. Funston, he was the "ablest and most aggressive leader of the Filipino republic," To US General James F. Bell, General Luna "was the only general the Filipino army had." Selflessness and unwavering loyalty to the land of his birth are two sterling legacies General Antonio Luna bequeathed to his countrymen. The Filipino people badly need these qualities today.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

To space or beyond

Mankind must abandon earth or face extinction!

LONDON—Mankind's only chance of long-term survival lies in colonizing space, as humans drain Earth of resources and face a terrifying array of new threats, warned British scientist Stephen Hawking on Monday…

"Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill."…

If we want to survive beyond the next century, "our future is in space," added the scientist.

"That is why I'm in favor of manned, or should I say 'personed', space flight."…
Shiver me timbers! The stuff of Michael Crichton sci-fi novels now approaches reality. Only this time, the doomsday scenario is predicted by a real McCoy – renowned British scientist Stephen Hawking who predicts the dire future even while not forgetting to be politically correct: ‘personed’ space flight. At least we’re sure it won’t be a monkey piloting the spacecraft of the future, but who knows? At the rate the secular world has been redefining the biological and fundamental norms of society, we really can’t be sure what a ‘person’ would mean in the future, can we.

At any rate, we are given one century to conquer space because we are steadily burning out ourselves and the earth! The ‘terrifying array of threats’ will slowly but surely snuff life as we know it on earth. In the next few decades, the population will continue to grow but will peak out by the year 2100. This development will finally make the doomsday Malthusians happy (yes, they’re still around) , but big companies like Toys-R-Us would be wiped out of the economy. So will an entire gamut of industries catering to kids like Infant formula, disposable diapers, McDonalds Kiddie meals, and the like. No wonder because at this time, there are almost no kids around, and the average worldwide age would be at about 45 years of age. Meanwhile, the world-wide shortage of goods starts to makes its presence felt, starting with the scarcity of commodities like adult diapers, rheumatism medication, hearing aids, and false teeth adhesives. From its peak in 2100, the world population now starts at a rapid decline, owing further to science’s utter failure to discover how to make same-sex unions (hugely popular at this time) produce natural offspring. Like Hawkins predicted, mankind (or is it personkind?) will at this time find the limits of its technical ability to change the environment (along with changing the nature of humans, of course). Meanwhile, Singapore is still at it. The country is now offering 10 billion dollars to its citizens for every child they bring into the world. It is probably a tad late anyway, because Singapore at this time will have a country population of exactly 1,003 people – 90% of whom are senior citizens.

But wait. At this time, a heretofore small and insignificant country in the Far East, the Philippines, has emerged as the new world super-power! While the rest of the world has been grappling with its myriad problems, the Philippines has quickly made giant strides in super-technology, while maintaining its population at a healthy, replacement level. Its emergence as a world power can be traced to its bucking the trend of disastrous ‘postmodernism’ with the heroic efforts of an innovative, value-oriented, and incorruptible administration starting in the year 2010. Unlike the rest of the world, this country has shunned contraceptive mentality and concentrated in tapping the productivity of its best resource – its people. Also in large part due to the migration of Filipinos around the world, key leadership positions were cornered by the best and brightest Filipinos in their various countries of residencies. The best scientists of the world, now young Filipinos, were able to solve the fuel and food problems of the whole world! Thanks to the ingenuity of these scientists, one grain of palay can now grow into 100 sacks of rice. A single super-solar cell can now light the whole of Metro Manila. Global warming has finally been conquered. It is now the year 2110, and there is no more need to conquer outer space!!! Stephen Hawking was right about the problems of the world, but he grossly underestimated the resilience and ingenuity of these hardy people from a small country in the Far East.

Meanwhile in local politics, Congressman Lagman XXVI, Jr., has refiled the controversial RH-bill on the very first day of the opening of the 214th session of Congress, year 2110. Reminded that this is the RH bill's 204th try for legislative approval, Lagman XXVI, Jr, replied: "We'll have it passed this time around. We have the numbers. If not, we will have it passed on the moon".

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Sunday Gospel
(Lk 12:32-48)

"...That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."

If one interprets Jesus' words here literally in isolation, it would seem that those who have been endowed with much talent and knowledge would have a bigger burden to bear. Much will be required of that person so endowed, or else "severe beating" would be due. Wouldn't it then be far more desirable to be untalented, stay uninformed and therefore be more relaxed, unperturbed, and carefree? To remain blissfully ignorant, passive and unresponsive just so one only deserves "light" punishment?

More than nine years ago before I became active in a Catholic Charismatic community, I was quite exhausted with the demands of my office work. I managed our company's IT department and I felt it was a very demanding job. The remaining spare time that I had was spent on recharging myself, and occasionally having late-night outs with some close friends to unwind. I felt I was maxed-out and there was no time left nor nothing much else to do. I was attending Mass on most Sundays (which was already fair enough I thought) but other than that, I simply neglected my spiritual life.

I was indifferent, cranky, much too busy, and much too tired anyway.

In the year 2001, my wife and I succumbed to a persistent invitation by a close friend to join the Couples For Christ (CFC) community. We gave in to the invitation more as a favor to that close friend rather than a real desire to attend a 13-Saturday CLP formation program - the entry point to CFC. I was a reluctant, nonchalant participant as the first few talks started, but as the formation program progressed, the spiritual passion was gradually stirred within me. To cut the long story short, my wife and I eventually became active members of CFC starting 2001. Since then we eventually became household heads and unit heads where we were entrusted various couples under our pastoral care. Since 2004 we have also concurrently served in the Parish Pastoral Council as Family and Life Ministry couple coordinators, where we pursue family-oriented programs for the parish as well as conduct pre-cana marriage seminars. We also joined the CFC ProLife Ministry where my wife and I got ourselves qualified as certified instructors to be able to volunteer in teaching Natural Family Planning courses. In all this time, my wife and I still held our full-time office jobs. She is an Associate Director in a large hospital. On my part, my responsibility in our office has more than doubled in the time being, since our CEO also assigned me starting in 2005 to head the HR department on top of my responsibility in managing the IT department.

There is much, much more on my plate right now compared to more than nine years ago, but I am not complaining. Wonders, but there is still much left for quality time with the family, plus some recreation on the side. Compared with the years before I became active in the church, now I feel much more organized, fulfilled, relaxed, and the most amazing thing is that I feel so much more...well-rested.

There is no irony when God is at work, after all He is the one arranging our schedules, managing our difficulties, and blessing us with time and resources to fulfill His will. When we commit ourselves to serve, it is God's work, and we are just instruments. It is God who makes things possible, and His handiwork becomes manifest in our lives. We are blessed and empowered and I understand why St Paul says we are going to be made prosperous in every way so that we can be generous for others in every way. I also understand why this Sunday's Gospel also says that to whom much is given, much is expected in return.

There should be nothing to worry about regarding the Master's will, because Jesus also tells us: Come to me all of you who are tired...and I will give you rest.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Odds and Ends 8/3/10

109 new HIV/AIDS cases recorded last month

“Of the 109 individuals reported, 18 were detected from voluntary counseling and testing as part of the ongoing community outreach activities... 42 percent (46) of the reported cases were from the National Capital Region,” the DOH said.

The rise in HIV/AIDS cases started three years ago due to unsafe sexual practices of the men-having-sex-with-men (MSM) sector, which includes not only gays but straight men as well, according to the DOH.

But during the first quarter of 2010, the DOH was alarmed after finding 68 HIV cases among injecting drug users in Cebu City. Eventually, more HIV-positive injecting drug users were monitored in 11 other towns and cities in Cebu province.

DOH program manager for National AIDS/Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention and Control Program Dr. Gerard Belimac warned that the virus that causes AIDS spreads faster through injecting drug users because four to 10 individuals often share an infected needle.

So we see…the rise in HIV/AIDS cases is attributable to MSM and drug abuse, something former DOH Sec Cabral (good riddance) did not want to highlight, in the way she pushed for free condoms to battle the rise in HIV/AIDS. What a neat solution - spend scarce, public money to condone and subsidize irresponsible, risky behavior. And some people actually called her ‘courageous’. (?!)
'Corruption at Customs down by 80% in 3 years'

MANILA, Philippines - Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez has vowed to cut corruption in the bureau by 80 percent in three years.

“I cannot stop graft and corruption overnight. But when I came in from the private sector, I thought it would take a while or six years to reform. But with the signs I am seeing right now, maybe it would only take three years to realize that dream. Maybe we could get rid of 80 percent of graft and corruption,” Alvarez said.

Sure 80% is a big enough percentage. What puzzles me however, is the methodology in arriving at 80%. Does this mean that 100% of corruption at Customs is already known but only 80% can be solved in three years’ time? The thing is, one can only measure what is observable. If 100% of corruption is observable, then why stop at 80% and then call it a dream realized ? I have nothing to say against the good Commissioner’s intentions, but there is something wrong with the his stated objective…
Women's groups to Congress: Allow 'safe and legal abortion'

Reproductive health and women's rights advocates urged Congress Monday to pass a law allowing "safe and legal abortion," citing a new report that described a “human rights crisis" of maternal deaths, injuries, and illnesses arising from unsafe abortions in the Philippines.

The report “Forsaken Lives: The Harmful Impact of the Philippine Criminal Abortion Ban" released by the New-York-based Center for Reproductive Rights on Monday estimates that more than half a million Filipino women induce abortions every year. Of these, around 90,000 seek treatment for complications, while around 1,000 die.

“Our Congress should address this issue by passing a law that expressly allows safe and legal abortion," said Attorney Clara Rita Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.

Hmm…more ‘courageous’ people. I wonder how they came up with the 'estimates': "more than half a million; around 90,000; around 1,000"...when the report itself (on its methodology, page 21) said it relied only on 53 interviews and "on secondary sources containing public health data relating to unsafe abortion, which is very limited as a result of the criminal ban.". I guess even Commissioner Alvarez would be astounded by this "methodology" to arrive at an "estimate".

True colors are out: “Reproductive health and women's rights advocates” = "Pro-aborts". Let's see what Reps. Lagman, Garin, et al, have to say about this. Remember Rep. Garin stated that -- “We are strongly against abortion. The RH bill is pro-life and we are pushing for a good quality of life”. As a congresswoman worth her word and salt, we should now expect her to strongly oppose these “Reproductive health and women's rights advocates”. (!?) (h/t sunnyday)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happy without

The great philosopher Socrates supposedly loved going to the market.
When his students asked him about this, Socrates replied:

"I love to go and see all the things I am happy without."
When I was a kid in the elementary grades, I longed so much to own a bicycle. So I struck a deal with my dad where I would save up part of my daily allowance until I save 10% of what the bike costs. When I have saved that much, I will turn over the money to him and he will produce the remaining 90% to buy me a new bike. Eventually I did save that much money and turned it over to him, but it took quite a long, long while for my dad to keep his part of the bargain. I was so disappointed. Only after so much crying and pestering did he buy me a new bike. I understand the value of constant knocking and persistence, but I cannot understand what kept it so long. Only much later when I was already grownup did I realize that my parents were then so hard up in finances and were actually saving money for our school tuition fees. My young mind never imagined it.

In this Sunday's Gospel (Lk 12:13-21), God chastised the rich man: "this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?". Every material thing that the rich man hoarded for so long will be gone in a fleeting instant. Everything. If only he had stored up on spiritual treasures, it would have lasted for all eternity. It would take no less than an inner conversion for the rich man to change his disposition. Only when he becomes grownup spiritually can he realize that it is far easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle, and saving up for the the Kingdom is what really matters.

Today, my childhood bicycle is long gone and but a fleeting memory. On the other hand, I am now continually reaping the benefits of an education that my parents persevered to give me -- and I realize it is a gift for a lifetime that is worth so much more than the best bicycle in the world. Socrates was right, but his philosophy runs short. We can be happy without many things, because our Father wants to give us so much more than we can ever imagine.