Saturday, April 28, 2007

Election106 - Only With The Three G's

The prevailing sentiment and feeling among the voter's for the coming elections is very alarming. They believe that an honest to goodness candidate will never be proclaimed. Unless he has the three G' (Guns, Gold, and Goons), even if he was voted by the majority, he stands to lose the elections. This is very sad. Whatever had happened to us? What kind of generation do we have now if this system is allowed to prevail? That is why we deserve the officials we have. Yet, we welcome these officials in spite of the way they acquired their power, much worst, the way they govern. I refuse to agree and cooperate with this kind of thinking. There is great hope. We must begin chipping away the rusts that destroys the moral fiber of our society. Let us vote according to our conscience. Even in a small way like going out and casting our vote would make a lot of difference no matter how little are our individual acts. Miracles do happen!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Myth Of Overpopulation

Will the world really run out of space for human beings? Could humankind really populate the whole world to the point that there will be excess humans who will fall out of the earth? In the eyes of faith, this is absurd. How can God allow human beings to procreate and not provide a place for them? Can God be that stupid? Definitely, He knows what He is doing. There are some things that we human beings can not do and fathom because our brains, even if it is put to full use, will still be wanting and incapable. But even if this is not argued from the eyes of faith, it should be easy to see that overpopulation is not an issue in our present time and even in the future. Those who view the world as overpopulated are only those living in the metropolitan areas or those who have vested interest in making it appear that we are already overpopulated.One only had to go out of the city in order to see that there is a place and subsistence for everybody. Good distribution of the goods of the earth is the answer. Some people just have too many while others just have too few.

It is really unfortunate that there are certain groups who continue to mislead and confuse people about the issue of overpopulation. And it seems they are dominating and winning. Thanks to some national leaders who are more concerned about their pockets than the welfare of their people. If we are not critical of their statements, we will easily be convinced. Their arguments look really reasonable at the onset. But close scrutiny would reveal that it is misleading if not reductionist. Try telling it to people in the rural and countryside areas and you will certainly faced adverse reactions and unbelieving eyes!
Is it really a case of the world running out of space, food, power and other necessities? Those who are advocating population control, are they really concerned about the welfare of the people, specially of women. While it is true that population has something to do with economy and subsistence, we are not yet in that situation. And if we make good and full use of the resources of the world, we will never be in that situation. Human beings, the very object of depopulation, are in fact the best resource against hunger and development. We are our best response to the issue of overpopulation. Countries like Belgium and Singapore had already realized this. There was a time when they discourage and even give incentives to those who would control their family number. Now, because of the big generation gap that they are experiencing, they have realized that they could not anymore run their country because their population is aged and too young. You can not just produce people overnight. People need to grow, be educated, and acquire skills. If technology and tradition are not handed down because of generation gap, the country will easily collapse, and so will the world! Why, for your information, would countries in the Middle East, Europe, and the USA continue to invite and accept workers from well-populated countries like China, India, and the Philippines? Not only because they are too rich that they can afford workers. The truth is that less of their citizens are available to do the works they needed. They can not provide the necessary manpower and skills demanded by their economy. If our government claims that we are "overpopulated", where would we get those billions of dollars we get as incomes from OFW's? At present, can we survive without our OFW's? Not that we recommend it. The fact is that we could not provide work for our citizens. We have not really exhausted our human resources. If we can provide jobs for all our people, we would have one of the best and greatest work force in the world.
It would be better for us then to enhance, educate, and equip our people rather than prevent them from being born. The world and us are a team. God made it that way. As human beings with the gift of intelligence, we are stewards of the whole creation. Let us put ourselves, the world's best resource, to our advantage.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Republic Of Bohol

After more than two and a half years of being pastor of St. Alphonsus Mary De Liguori, I was finally able to go on a long vacation. Me, my parents, and a friend family packed our bags and flew to Bohol for a four day vacation. It was not the first time I would be going to Bohol. I was there in 1987, still a seminarian, for the ordination of Fr. Andy Ayco. We arrived at the Bohol Beach Club at about ten in the morning of the 16th of April.
What deeply impressed me about Bohol is its great awareness of taking care of its environment. Backed by a very long and meaningful history, one can never miss at how they had preserved their natural resources. The famous Chocolate Hills, though very inviting to be conquered (not by eating but by occupying or owning), was very much preserved. They had made a view deck in order for tourists and locals alike to be contented in appreciating and marveling its uniqueness and beauty. The owl-eyed and timid Tarsiers, tiny but long-tailed animals were “domesticated” so that tourists would have the rare benefit of watching and even lightly touching it in a special sanctuary somewhere in the island. The island boasts of being one of those places that gives great efforts to preserve this unique animal. In the early fifties, the officials of the island foreshadowed the need for more vegetation and trees in the island. Aside from protecting the vast and various mangroves along the shoreline, they had a man-made forest over hectares and hectares of land at the southern part of the island. Now, some fifty years later, we can appreciate the genius of that action. Bohol is blessed with a forest, though man-made, it still serves its purpose.
Known as the “Ilocanos of the Visayas”, they are proud of being ubiquitous. Although it is misunderstood as their being “individualistic”, they claim, it was just their way of caring for themselves first so that they can be of better service to others. Dagohoy, a known legendary hero, joined other groups to fight against invaders in order to protect his Kingdom of Bohol. Every Boholanon is taught to be self sufficient. He owns the land he tills. There were no haciendas in Bohol. They patronize their own. SM (ShoeMart) which is being established in every island or city here in the Philippines, could not find its way in Bohol. This is because the owner is not a Boholanon. Bohol is only for the Boholanons! Cesar Montano, a famous actor-director and a native of Bohol, now a candidate for Philippine senator, would surely find great support from his islandmates.
Our tourist guide also stressed the Catholicity of the people of Bohol. The Catholic Church is well regarded and respected all over the island. She has a say in all the concerns of the island. The issue of establishing a casino in this part of the Philippines will undergo a long and hard debate. The tricycle, one of the common ways of transportation in the island, would never run without a religious saying or quote painted on its car. The island boasts of the second oldest church in the Philippines (Immaculate Concepcion Church in Baclayon) and a number of other old and historical churches. And then you would have an opportunity to experience, though in a limited way, the Catholic life in the 17th and 18th century by touring the Baclayon church museum.
Fishing is the primary industry in the island. Farming comes second. Tourism is slowly coming to be a lucrative industry because of the presence of beautiful tourist attractions, long and pristine beaches, great people, and wonderful history. Though I am not a Boholanon, I am proud of it because they are a part of being a Filipino. There are still many more things to experience in Bohol. Next time will be a new experience but definitely it will always be vintage Bohol!

Priorities, Priorities, Priorities!?

There was a time when government officials would measure their service and performance by the number of waiting sheds they had made. Then, I felt that it was generous and responsible for them to have taken steps to see to it that the common man would feel the care of government through the protection being rendered by those waiting sheds. This was in spite of the fact that some of these waiting sheds were noticeably almost useless because they were wrongly placed, easily dilapidated because it was made from low quality materials and poor workmanship, and designed more for aesthetic rather than utility. In any case, it was accepted as real government service.
Years and years later, came the advent of Christmas lanterns. The premiere road in Makati, the Ayala Avenue, must have started it. As soon as advent begins, the buildings of Ayala Avenue begin to decorate their building facade with Christmas decorations, especially lanterns. Later, the lamp posts of Ayala Avenue and other main streets of Makati would be adorned with well lighted lanterns of different sizes and colors. Soon, almost every town or city in Metro Manila and some in other places are already adorned with lanterns for the Christmas season. The lanterns were attractive and beautiful, no doubt, but one wonders how much was spent for those decors. It becomes an issue when we realize that they maybe overpriced! We wonder why a government official would easily spend so much in to promote a purely religious activity. This is truly and really the classic example of the “separation of Church and State” issue. In that constitutional principle, the state is prohibited from making an activity favoring a certain religion. Would these government officials do the same for the Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists etc? Are they willing to spend so much money to directly participate and support a certain religion? Then, they are not really giving much taking consideration of the number of Catholics in this country or in their locality.
Now, comes another form of “service” by local officials, the lamp post. I really do not know who started it. But most prominent are the lamp posts of Manila along Roxas Boulevard. Others are in Pasig City, Mandaluyong City, Makati City, Taguig City, and Pasay City. At least, in these places, lamp posts had been erected. Lately, the controversial lamp posts in Cebu City. Lamp posts? Why lamp posts especially when their design and construction costs are very expensive? A thousand lamp posts with a cost of twenty thousand each is already a whooping 20 million!? Nothing really wrong with lamp posts. They beautifully adorn the streets especially in their different designs as well as providing light to the darker parts of the streets. It helps in adding visibility and therefore, security to the place. But, are lamp post the necessity of all necessities now? Are the streets really wanting in light that we need to install those many? Surely, those who had to work so hard everyday just to make both ends meet could just watch in envy about what those money could have done for them? And those who had to live everyday by begging or risking their lives by engaging in petty crimes could not stop their mouth-water in realizing that even a very small part of the money spent for those very lucky and blessed lamp posts would ease them of a lot of their pains and worries. Not that they wanted to be just given to them. But I am sure, given the opportunity, they would be willing to work hard to earn it.
Waiting sheds, Christmas lanterns, lamp posts, and maybe others before them, which had been the signs and ways of service of officials, indeed had been given much emphasis and special treatment. What is next? I pray that the next will be a “who” and not a ”what” anymore. Proponents of the “what” may give all the reasons for the benefits of these things, but the truth is that their indirect benefits to the “who” fail in great comparison to the benefits they could generate for them if they were used to uplift their lives through education, jobs, health benefits, and even political maturity. It is sad to say that those projects of providing waiting sheds, Christmas lanterns, and lamp posts at costs that are beyond proportion are already considered immoral given the condition of the people in those places.
I sincerely believe that this is not hard to see. Those government officials are very much aware of this. They just had other priorities. Maybe, they have other interests other than the interests above. It is really their decision. But, for the sake of those people who are most needy in their places, giving them better services is the least that could be done for them. For the sake of those who are rendering taxes and those people who had died to preserve our independence and democracy, the least they could do is to promote and sustain the very ideals they fought for.
If I could extend this more, it is easy for us to see that most problems and difficulties are really caused by us. If we just treat each other better, life maybe not without problems, but certainly very challenging yet manageable and exciting. We, as a people, can really make our lives better. We have to do it ourselves. We have to take responsibility for it. We can not blame it on those who had lived before us or on those who will live after us. That kind of principle and reasoning will just make us irresponsible and uncommitted persons of this beautiful world. We must live life today making use of the mistakes and gems of the past, giving great regard for the people of the future, and most importantly, do everything we can even beyond what we can. This is our only chance in this life. Time passed is past. We can not always rely on tomorrow for tomorrow may not come. Today is what matters. What we should do, do it now and here!
May all we do today be in respect and improvement of the past and thanksgiving and happiness of the future.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Priest Forever!

A lot of talks had been happening regarding some priests joining the coming elections. I was asked if I agree with it or is it allowed by the Catholic Church? As far as the Philippine Constitution is concerned, being a priest is not a cause for disqualification. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, a priest can not serve as a government official at the same time. If a priests insist on running for a government position, he must cease from doing active ministry. He maybe suspended by his bishop from dispensing the ministry. In case he loses, can he still go back? In the first place, his priesthood was never lost. One is a priest forever. It now depends on the bishop whether he will be accepted or not. Another question arises. If a priest is suspended, and still ministered, e.g. celebrate a mass, what does it entail? The mass celebrated by an ordained even if suspended priest is valid! This is to guarantee the effectivity of the sacrament in favor of the faithful in spite of the defect of the priest. It is valid but illicit. Valid for the faithful but illicit for the priest.

It is really unfortunate that a priest would have to at least temporarily leave his ministry in order to serve the people in a civil capacity. I understand that many lay people in those places had been offered to run. However, those who have the ability to serve better declined to run against moneyed opponents. In their quest to stop the dominance of corrupt politicians in their places, the priests in question, decided to take the cudgels for the faithful be running in the elections themselves.

A priest would be better off doing his ministry. The clergy expects the faithful to do their job. They are expected to be more assertive and active in running the civil aspect of our lives. But when corruption and evil is clearly threatening the flock and no lay person is willing to take the responsibility, I believe, a priest may vie even for the temporal leadership of the People of God!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Intention Determines Morality

How should a certain fund be spent? Is it determined by how best it will be used? Does it depend on the decision of the one holding it? It would not be wise to immediately spend it no matter how good is the purpose. There is a need to know the history of the fund. Why was it generated? What was the intention of the donor? The intention of the donor takes priority. There maybe more noble intentions other than the original, but, morality requires to respect, above all else, the intention. It is really hard to find an exception to this. Maybe, when one is endangered of falling to sin or committing an evil, it may prudently and carefully be utilized even for the time being. In any case, it is always safe to first determine the intention before it would be used.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Celebrating The Resurrection Every Sunday

Easter is the mother of all Sundays. It was made obligatory to make every Christian remember and celebrate the Resurrection. We are Resurrection Christians. Our belief rests on it. We live because we expect to continue living even after death. The Sunday liturgy helps us be aware of this belief. The Eucharist that we celebrate helps us to remember what the Lord Jesus had done. It reminds us of the saving action of God in His Son.It is more than enough that we spent six days of our life working and recreating. One day, the Sunday, is being asked to be spent reflecting and celebrating the Resurrection.

There are really a lot of ways we can celebrate Resurrection on a Sunday. Our creativity is being summoned to make that day meaningful and fruitful. Worship as a family. Reflect and share together on the feast, liturgy, homily or other parts of the mass that touched you. Gather your graces and disgraces the past week. Thank God for all the graces and ask forgiveness for the disgraces. Praise God for the good acts and apostolates you had done the past six days and ask for support and inspiration for the coming challenges. These are some of the meaningful things we can do to celebrate the mass in the spirit of the Resurrection. Let every Sunday be a part of our week. Let us anticipate it with enthusiasm. Never miss it! If we truly believe that it is a continuation of the death of the Lord on the cross and from it flows the graces of salvation and the fruit of the Resurrection, then, it is a must and non-negotiable. In fact, one need not be reminded of or forced into it. Salvation can not be attained without it!

The Resurrection: A Matter Of Faith

Proof? Who needs it? With the Resurrection, proof is not necessary. As long as you believe, no proof is needed. In the first place, it cannot be proven. NOBODY saw the Lord actually Resurrecting! One would die witnessing it. The events and and situations given in the bible (empty tomb, many appearances of Jesus to the apostles) are signs that give us reasons to believe that the Lord resurrected. But our belief in it does not rest on the empty tomb nor in the appearances. The testimony of the apostles (specially Paul and John) are enough for me to believe in it. John puts it very well in his first letter when he said that what he had written are what he had seen, heard and experienced during the lifetime of the Lord.

On the natural level, we can identify "signs" of life eternal and therefore, the Resurrection. Seeds needing to die before it springs to new life, grow, and bear fruit; butterflies emerging from a cocoon; trees which are almost dead on a certain season and becomes fully alive and blossoming on another season; and the experience of the supernatural.

Life is too precious to just disappear and lead to nothing. God, who is life, is a God of the living. Life, therefore, would never cease. It just changes!

Why I Belong To The Christian Faith

Today we celebrate Easter Sunday. The Lord is Risen! Alleluia! The Lord Jesus who is God, became one like us. He also shared our death. He died in obedience to the Father. And then, He Resurrected from the dead! Tell me, what religion, movement or group had a founder who lived, died, and Resurrected? Many founders and great persons in the history of the world had lived lives that were to be emulated. There were men and women who had given the world words that were instrumental in the development of life. There were men and women who had given their lives for the truth. But nobody had risen from the dead like the God of the Christian faith! The Lord Jesus had defeated death. The Lord Jesus gave death to death. The Resurrection had proven that love is stronger than death. The resurrection is the reason for being. The resurrection is the meaning of everything especially the sufferings and challenges of life. Only because of the resurrection do we go on living and enduring everything that life gives.

As far as I can remember, the Christian faith in general and the Catholic faith in particular, had already been attacked from all angles. All I can say is that, for all the weaknesses, frailties, sinfulness, and defects of the faith, the truth of the Resurrection gives me the reason to persist, move on, and journey through life towards the destiny Jesus had merited for me. Because Jesus rose from the dead, I too will rise from the dead to a new life with God. I believe that my faith is enough for me to bear everything because of the promise of Resurrection.

How about you? Why do you believe? Why do you belong to your faith?

Sunday, April 1, 2007

It Is A Holy Week

The roads in Metro Manila are almost empty. There are few people around. The city appears abandoned. It is Holy Week. The most important week for every Catholic every year. It is a week of witnessing and appreciation of what God had done for us. The passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus is celebrated. It is the climax of Catholic worship. Every Catholic is expected to participate and celebrate. But, save for some devotees, many are not really in the city. Many took advantage of the long "vacation" offered by offices and institutions supposed to be to give every Catholic a time to reflect and celebrate his faith. Beaches, rest houses, hotels, vacation places welcome and cater to those who would spend their "vacation" for games, rest, relaxation, dinners, and other activities to while the time. It is really unfortunate that of all the vacations given, the Holy Week was chosen thereby sacrificing that great opportunity to commune with God. Gone were those days when all Catholics would respect and celebrate the Holy event. Secularism seems to have dominated many of the faithful. Worse is that they seem to be not feeling guilty about it. They believe it is OK. Maybe they had seen it from their parents or from others who had given them a different reason for the season. But one only had to see the meaning and importance of this week to realize and appreciate what is at stake. It is easy to see that being Catholic is to be involved and to participate in all the Holy Week celebrations. It is the peak, acme, climax, and ultimate of Christian worship. There is no excuse in being a part of it, much more in not celebrating it.

It was not like that before. Then, people were more sincere in the participation and celebration of the Holy Week activities. The celebrations were more solemn not only in churches, but also in homes and in the streets. Everyone cooperates; the mass media (radio stations, television stations, newspapers), transport groups, stores, restaurants, amusement centers and most businesses except those which must operate twenty-four hours like hospitals, jails, police stations, fire stations etc. Now, it is different. Good if the internal disposition is retained. I hope. I pray. Then, at least, we had not lost the best and the heart of the celebration. In spite of all the distractions, we remain to be contemplatives in action.