COMMENTARIES

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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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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Another new year, and we’re not getting young

It has become a ritual. When New Year comes, we remember to update dormant blogs, revisit email accounts, aside, of course, from thinking about what to do in the coming year.

First things first. Let me upload the first photo I took in 2014. It was on the beach in Subic. While everybody was busy watching the fireworks and taking photos, I noticed this young boy who looked fascinated by the gentle lapping of the waves. Thus, this photo taken by my iPhone 4S. When I later looked at the photo on my computer, I realized it was blurred.

new year

Lesson learned? Nothing like, taking a photo is like life, you can’t just gamble on chance lighting or something. It is not also something like the innocence of youth versus the indifference of adults. The lesson I learned of course, and the resolution is, the iPhone 4S is not that reliable when taking New Year photos on the beach, therefore, upgrade to a new iPhone.

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They still shoot Rizal in Dapitan

Soldiers stand guard at the Rizal Day celebration in Dapitan on Dec. 30.

Soldiers stand guard at the Rizal Day celebration in Dapitan on Dec. 30.

EVERY YEAR, at seven o’clock in the morning, people in the sleepy little town of Dapitan in Mindanao gather to witness the “execution” of Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero.

Unfortunately, only a handful of government workers and students, who were required to attend the activity, and a sprinkling of curious townspeople, were present this year.

Yes, unfortunate because more people, especially the young should be there, not only to mark the death of Rizal but to learn about the life of the exemplary young man who once lived in Dapitan.

Unfortunate because the absence of people in activities like the reenactment of Rizal’s execution, which changed forever the country’s history, only shows the way Filipinos, including Dapitanons, appreciate their past.

(Well, many Filipinos still think Dapitan is a street in the district of Sampaloc in Manila at the back of the University of Santo Tomas, and foreigners think the Philippines is a haven of terrorists and karaoke-loving people.)

Dapitan of course is not a town anymore, although it still looks like one and earns less than several municipalities in the country. Thanks to Rizal’s four-year stay here. Dapitan is now a sixth class city in the province of Zamboanga del Norte with a population of 77,441 people.

Rizal was exiled in Dapitan by the Spaniards in 1892 after he was accused of publishing anti-Catholic and anti-friar books and articles; for having in possession a bundle of handbills, the Pobres Frailes, in which advocacies were in violation of the Spanish orders; for dedicating his novel, El Filibusterismo to the three martyred priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, and for emphasizing on the novel’s title page that “the only salvation for the Philippines was separation from the mother country (referring to Spain)”; and for simply criticizing the religion and aiming for its exclusion from the Filipino culture.

He arrived in Dapitan aboard the steamer Cebu at seven o’clock in the evening of June 17, 1892. From that day until July 31, 1896, the sleepy little town witnessed the most fruitful years in the national hero’s life.

He focused on serving the residents through his civic works, medical practices, land development and the promotion of education. He wrote most of his best literary pieces, mostly poems and letters, in Dapitan.

Continue reading

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Not so merry Christmas

(My script for a Christmas report that I will file today.)

Christmas this year is not that merry for many in some parts of the world.

In the southern Philippines, people continue to mourn for their dead, while others are still searching for missing loved ones after a strong tropical storm hit several cities, washing away homes, cars, farms and livelihoods last week.

The number of missing people has been estimated at more than a thousand, while more than a thousand others were reported dead.

In New Zealand, strong earthquakes struck the city of Christchurch on Friday, rattling buildings, sending goods tumbling from shelves and prompting terrified holiday shoppers to flee into the streets. The city is still recovering from a devastating February earthquake that killed 182 people and destroyed much of the downtown area.

In India, Christians in Orissa are seeking protection after a tribal group called for a general strike during the Christmas period in Kandhamal district. They said the strike call “has caused panic among Christians who are planning to celebrate Christmas for the first time in four years.”

In Pakistan, the government is deploying snipers and hundreds of extra police at churches this Christmas to prevent possible attacks on the persecuted Christian minority. The bulk of Pakistan’s tiny Christian community live in and around the eastern city of Lahore, where police said there were 433 churches.

Indonesian authorities are also strengthening their forces nationwide, especially in conflict-prone areas, in a bid to be prepared to act against terror activities prior to, and during, the Christmas and New Year holidays. The police will deploy 83,457 officers, 18,000 of them from the Indonesian Military and related institutions, during the Dec. 23-Jan. 1 operation.

In China, Christmas, although not officially celebrated, has become an occasion for shopping sprees and fun-seeking. In Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’an and even second-tier Chinese cities, Christmas has become an important celebration for urbanites.

Some Christian leaders, however, are complaining that the government is trying to stop celebrations by religious communities that are not officially sanctioned.

In Korea, an alliance of religious groups opposed to the lighting up of a Christmas tree-shaped tower near the border with North Korea has welcomed a government order to scrap the plan. The alliance said the decision was a good one and warned against reviving the plan again next year. South Korea revived the Christmas tradition last year following two attacks by North Korea that killed over 50 people.

Christmas in Bangladesh is often referred to as Bara Din, which means the “Big Day”. Churches are illuminated with lights and the festive spirit in anticipation of Bara Din while streets and homes start taking on the form of Christmas wonderlands, with trees, branches and lights adorning houses and lining streets.

In northern Thailand, in the mountains of Chiang Mai province, tribal people celebrate Christmas for a whole week. This is the amount of time it takes the PIME missionaries to reach all the Catholic villages of the area. In the city of Bangkok, Christmas is a day to go shopping.

And in Japan, aside from celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Japanese people are celebrating a legend – by erecting huge Christmas trees in the shape of Godzilla! It’s not uncommon to spot Gojira (his native name) towering over the rooftops or popping up in the shopping centers during the annual gift buying rush!

So there you are, despite all the challenges that people face, it’s still Christmas, a time to remember the boy who was born in a manger in a small village in the middle of nowhere who later influenced the history of the world.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

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