Author Archives: Joe Torres

About Joe Torres

Joe Torres is a Filipino journalist and author. He is a two-time recipient of the Philippines' National Book Award for Journalism, director of the National Press Club of the Philippines and of the Photojournalists' Center of the Philippines. He is currently bureau chief in Manila of the Union of Catholic Asian News.

Semana Santa na naman

_MG_3401SEMANA SANTA na naman. Masaya.

Bakasyon na naman kasi. Mahaba-habang pahinga rin ito sa maraming Filipino na nagsusumikap kumita araw-araw. Ayon nga sa ilan, buong taon ang kanilang kalbaryo at sa Semana Santa lamang sila nakakahinga ng maluwag, yan kung nakakahinga pa sa dami ng problema.

Kaya naman marami sa atin, kahit hindi mga Katoliko o Kristiyano, ay masaya na rin pagdating ng Semana Santa. Nagiging ugali na ng marami sa atin na magbakasyon sa tabing-dagat, umakyat sa Baguio o di kaya’y sa Tagaytay, o mamasyal sa kanayunan para lumanghap ng malinis na hangin. O kaya’y makipag-inuman sa mga kababatang naiwan sa probinsyang matagal nang di nabalikan.

Simula na sa Linggo ang Semana Santa. Linggo ng Palaspas. Ginugunita sa araw na ito ang pagpasok ni Hesus sa Herusalem kung saan sinalubong siya ng maraming tao at hinirang pa na kanilang “hari.” Sinalubong siya ng mga taong may hawak na palaspas habang umaawit, sumisigaw at kumakaway sa anila’y kanilang tagapagligtas. Masaya ang araw na iyon. Siguradong may ngiting namutawi sa labi ni Hesus sa araw na yon.

Marami kasing natulungan si Hesus. Napagaling niya ang mga may sakit at siguro napakain ang ilang nagugutom. May nagbibigay kasi ng pagkain sa kanya at sa kanyang mga apostoles.

Nagbibigay din si Hesus ng payo sa mga nangangailangan nito. Huwag kayong lagi na lang naglalasing, huwag kayo mambabae para di nyo kailangan ang condom, gumawa kayo ng kabutihan sa kapwa, ipaglaban nyo ang inyong mga karapatan, huwag kayo magsugal sa loob ng simbahan, etc.

Lagi siyang nakikipag-kuwentuhan at nakikipag-usap sa masa. Tumatambay siya sa palengke, sa mga inuman, sa pondohan at kung saan marami ang tao, kasama na siguro ang mga night clubs at videoke bars kasi naging “close” siya sa mga babae na nagtatrabaho sa dilim ika nga.

Marami ang natuwa kay Hesus. Binigyan kasi niya ang masa ng pagkakataong marinig ang kanilang mga hinaing, pinansin niya ang kanilang kalagayan, at binigyan niya sila ng pag-asa. Subalit marami rin ang naasar, kasama na ang mga nasa poder. Ayaw kasi nilang mabigyan ng pagkakataon ang mga mahihirap na umasenso at malaman ang kanilang karapatan. Baka raw kasi mag-alsa at patalsikin sila.

Mahigit 2,000 taon ang nakalipas, ganon pa rin ang sitwasyon ng ating lipunan. Ang mga nakikiisa sa mga mahihirap at tumutulong sa mga dukha ay tinaguriang mga komunista. Ang mga nagsasalita tungkol sa karapatang pantao at para sa kapakanan ng mga wala sa buhay ay tinatawag na aktibista.

Nakalulungkot minsan na isipin na hindi man lang ito naaalala ng marami sa atin sa pagdating ng Semana Santa. Hindi man lang natin naiisip na kung hindi nag-aktibista si Hesus at kung hindi siya hinuli, tinortyur at pinatay, wala sanang Semana Santa. Wala sanang bakasyon.

Labo no? Para bang kung hindi nag-rebolusyon si Bonifacio o di pumunta sa Edsa ang mga Filipino noong 1986 para sumigaw na patalsikin si Marcos wala sanang Bonifacio Day at wala sanang “Edsa celebrations” sa Pebrero. Wala sanang holiday. Ganon lang yon. Ika nga, kailangan ng Biyernes Santo para magkaroon ng Sabado de Gloria.

Semana Santa na. Huwag naman sanang panay pasarap na lang ang ating gagawin. Huwag rin naman tayo magkunwari na kung nakakapag-Visita Iglesia na o Via Crucis ay ligtas na tayo sa ating mga kasalanan. Kalokohan yan. Isipin natin o panoorin (maraming bersyon na ng pelikulang nagsasadula ng buhay ni Hesus na binibenta sa bangketa) ang tunay na kahulugan at kwento sa likod ng Semana Santa.

Ito ay kuwento ng pakikibaka ng isang Hesus na taga-Nazareth, pakikibaka na pinaniwalaan ng maraming tao noong una, mga taong sa kalauna’y lumabas na mga duwag pala, mga taong matapos makinabang kay Hesus ay nagsipaglayasan para iligtas ang mga sarili, mga taong tulad sa marami sa atin sa panahon ngayon.

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Watch ‘Heneral Luna’ and ‘be part of the revolution’

Heneral LunaIf you plan to watch a movie, watch “Heneral Luna” and learn about history from those who fought in the trenches.

Heneral Luna is as timely as today’s politics.

“Negosyo o kalayaan. Bayan o sarili. Pumili ka!”

In a scene where some members of Aguinaldo’s cabinet argued to enter into a deal with the Americans, one moviegoer said:

“Kaya pala ganito ang gobyerno natin ngayon dahil sa mga tarantadong yan.”

In another scene when Luna was about to be executed, somebody in the audience said:

“Tara na, ayokong panoorin yang mga taksil na yan.”

Every time Heneral Luna in the movie delivers his lines, people would say: “Tama!”

“May delegado ba tayo sa Treaty of Paris, o tagapagmasid? Wala? Para kayong mga birhen na naniniwala sa pag-ibig ng puta!”

When Aguinaldo or one of his men speaks, people would mutter “gago” or “ulol”.

Waching “Heneral Luna” was an interactive experience.

The last time I remember when moviegoers were so involved in a film was when I watched a Fernando Poe movie in Mindanao in the early 1980s.

Watching “Heneral Luna” was like looking at a series of well-crafted still photos. The cinematographer painted light on screen like a master.

The movie is poetry on screen.

“Nasubukan mo na bang hulihin ang hangin?”

“Digmaan ang iyong asawa, ako lamang ay iyong kerida.”

“Kailangan nilang tumalon sa kawalan.”

“Mga kapatid, meron tayong mas malaking kaaway kaysa mga Amerikano. Ang ating sarili.”

Watch “Heneral Luna,” be angry, cry for our country, and “be part of the revolution.”

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Thank you for everything, Tiya Sensyang

IMG_2283It was 1:58 a.m. and I was reading an interview of Dom Pedro Casaldaliga, a former bishop of Sao Felix do Araguaia, when the call came.

“I always say, God will take care of us after we’re dead – we have to take care of now until death!” I finished reading the paragraph and uttered a silent prayer before answering the phone.

There must be something wrong back home, I thought. Nobody calls me at 2 o’clock in the morning.

Tiya is gone,” my sister said after I punched the answer button on my mobile phone.

“Just now?”

“Yes,” she said. “I told her to just go to sleep and rest, and she was gone.”

“It’s time,” I said.

Tiya Sensyang was 85 years old.

She died as the last ripe lanzones fruits in her beloved Tipsong fell on the ground. It’s the tail-end of the lanzones season back home.

Last Sunday my sister sent me a box of lanzones and mangosteen. And I remembered my aunt.

When we were young, Tiya would always bring us to Tipsong on her small boat to harvest lanzones and mangosteen.

It was Tiya who taught us the best way down to the waterfalls where we would spend the whole day enjoying the water.

It was her who taught me how to paddle the binigiw from the mangroves in Lombog, through the river, and into the streams of Tipsong. It was her who taught me how to brew coffee, prepare puto, binubodsikwate, and cook canned sardines with odong and malunggay leaves for lunch.

She was the strict aunt who would tolerate our childish escapades and who would secretly give us coins to buy tira-tira and “cotton candy” during fiesta.

Even when we were older, Tiya Sensyang was always there to offer whatever she have.

Tiya Sensyang was always there to offer whatever she has.

When we were in college, Tiya would never forget to hand us (secretly so that our parents would not know) 50 pesos as baon to buy pan so that we would not get hungry during our trip either to Manila or Zamboanga.

She was the aunt who never forgets. She will not be forgotten. Tiya can now rest in peace. She took care of us, now God will take care of her.

Indeed, she can now go to sleep. Daghang salamat, Tiya.

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What do we wear when we party with the Pope?

10896174_10152953780103188_3769575004262868539_oThere were no fireworks where I was last night. There was, however, a lot of noise, and a lot of food, and a lot of talk of what has been and what will be.

There were talks about those who left this world the previous year. Warnings were raised about high blood pressure and cholesterol counts as those around the table feasted on ham and roasted pork.

There were hopes voiced about a “blessed” new year, of dreams that have to be realized in the coming months, of targets to be reached, and of plans to be implemented.

On Facebook, more wishes and dreams were posted with photos of families, of fireworks, and more food.

A friend who serves as parish priest in a poor parish in the south wondered out loud on social media whether those who had New Year feasts last night remebered the poor.

“In prayers, maybe,” I said.

I wonder though if the poor, when they welcomed the New Year in their own humble way, remembered and prayed for the rich.

We – the poor, the rich, the not-so-poor, the not-so-rich, those who think themselves poor and those who think themselves rich – all need prayers. We all need to be remembered. We all need the wishes of good cheers and blessings.

Even as we all welcome another year, let us not forget that we continue to confront the same challenges and issues that we have been confronting the previous year, and the year before the previous year.

There will still be typhoons and storms that will visit our land and our lives, there will still be floods and natural disasters that we have to prepare for. There will still be human rights violations, there will still be war, there will still be elections, and politics will continue to run our world.

There will, however, be holidays and temporary cessation of hostilities, and summer, and Christmas, and New Year. There will be Easter, fiestas, birthdays, and Papal visits.

In 15 days Pope Francis will set foot on the Philippines. There’s a lot of excitement already, and a lot of selfies, and preparations, and politicking.

Yes, everybody wants to see the Pope.

There are those who, led by their faith, believe that by seeing the leader of the Catholic Church they will be healed and their sins forgiven.

There are those who, led by their political beliefs, believe that by meeting the Pope they can push and advance their political agenda.

Of course, there are those who don’t have any agenda at all but who just want to see what everybody wants to see.

What will Pope Francis see when he comes to the Philippines later this month?

The Pontiff will see a people, immature in their beliefs, traditional in their religiosity, cunning in their politics, but very warm, personal, and honest in their hospitality, and “bonggacious” (ostentatious) in their celebrations and parties.

The coming of Pope Francis will be an extended New Year’s celebration.

There might not be fireworks (the security personnel will not allow it), but their will be a lot of food (there is always a lot of good food every time two or more Filipinos come together), talk (Oh, how we love to talk!), and noise (Expect the Left, the Right, and the Center, – sorry Lolo Kiko for the labelling – and anybody and everybody in the 100 million or so Philippine population to talk their mind out. We always do it when we have visitors who may or may not listen.).

So, let the celebrations begin! (Ah, wait! What do I wear for the party?)

This blog also appears on Rappler, which partners with the Union of Catholic Asia News in covering the Pope’s Philippine trip this month.

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I will be on the Papal plane, now what?

1488767_10152396032379845_6191053346362572845_nNow it’s out. I will be one of 14 Filipino journalists who will be on the plane with Pope Francis during his trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, and back to Rome, next month.

The opportunity is “one of the great Christmas gifts” to Filipinos this year, said Bishop Mylo Vergara, head of the media committee for the papal visit to the Philippines.

Indeed it’s exciting, and a rare opportunity for Asian journalists, and a lot of work.

It’s not easy. First, my Italian is limited to some words I’ve read on a menu in a restaurant in Cubao. Second, I hardly passed my Latin and Spanish subjects during my seminary days.

Covering this rare occasion is a challenge, especially after Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle criticized the “Western-dominated international media” that covered the recent Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome.

The good cardinal described the media coverage of the synod as “fair” although he expressed dismay at the “agenda” of journalists who only focused on issues that were of interest to the West.

He also criticized the penchant of the media to label those who attended the synod.

“Labeling people as progressive, as conservative, as traditionalist, may hinder fully listening to them,” said Cardinal Tagle.

He said he felt sad that “there was not a single Asian journalist among the hundreds and hundreds of international journalists” in the synod.

“Who will report on the concerns of Asia? Who will report on the voice of Asia?”

Is it I (us), Lord, este, cardinal?

How does one cover a Pope like Pope Francis? How does one report on the concerns/voice of Asia?

That is the challenge, my friends, not how I could carry sacks of rosaries that you, dear colleagues, relatives, and Facebook friends want the Pope to bless.

(Can you imagine me carrying bags of rosary beads to the plane, opening it up in front of Pope Francis to bless if, by any chance, he stops by my seat?)

And by the way, thanks for all the “congratulations,” but I prefer “good luck.”

Categories: JOURNALISM / MEDIA | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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