Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Remembering The Luneta Park!

While leaving the parking lot at the Quirino Grandstand after attending the clergy Christmas party in Ozeano, a fusion restaurant located in the LUNETA OCEAN PARK MANILA, I suddenly remembered a lot of memories spent in the park.

In my younger days, during the 60's and 70's, the Luneta Park is the most popular place of recreation and relaxation. Then, were mostly small department stores and restaurants and no malls. Now, malls had become the primary place of destination! Then, almost every Sunday and holidays, going to the Luneta Park (LP) had become a ritual especially for the poor who can not afford to go to other more distant and more expensive places. In the LP, you can be very satisfied by merely walking through it, squat or sit in a cool place when you get tired, buy ice cream or any "fastfood" being sold by ambulant vendors, and if you are there at the right time, watch the sun set at the historic Manila Bay.
Sampaguita Transit Hino NYB-853 & New E Jose Trans Hino RV (342) in Roxas Boulevarde at Luneta Park, Manila, Philippines. by express000.
The LP is a family's haven. It caters to everyone of every age and and status. The children could learn about Philippine geography by spending time on the Philippine map, the first feature you will see if you are coming from Taft Avenue. The whole LP goes up to the Manila Bay. Teens could enjoy the beautiful greens placed all over the LP. Lovers could spend more time together, even intimately, in the cozy Japanese Garden. Everyone could enjoy the rest the LP can offer; Rizal monument, different gardens, sunset, the big clock, and the open grounds.
Luneta (Rizal Park) by k♥money.
It used to be a source of fresh air for everyone. When I was about seven years old, my lungs were sick because I let my perspiration dry on my body (children, you know!). My grandmother would religiously bring me almost every morning at the LP for me to breathe in fresh sea air. The doctor told my lola that it will be very good for me. I look forward to that everyday trip to the LP for another reason; the opportunity to buy and eat boiled corn which was available always.

When I grew up to be a teenager, our "barkada" in Mandaluyong would visit the LP whenever there is an occasion; birthdays, end of school, Holy Week, and during the Christmas Season. One that we never missed was the to spend our time there after celebrating New Year's eve with our families. We would gather outside our home and bring anything from what was left of the media noche. We also brought guitars, cameras, blankets, books, or anything that will help us while away the wee hours of the morning until dawn. When all were set, we will ride to the LP. At that time, the LP were full of people. It was almost impossible to find a small place where we can spread our blanket and claim that piece of land for our group. But we were always lucky to squeeze in ourselves even if it would entail begging other groups to spare us some space no matter how small. The mood was very joyful. Almost everyone was willing to share their food, music, and even friendship. We came to meet a lot of friends during our yearly new visit to the LP.

Now, I wonder how the LP looks like? I had not made that walk from Taft Avenue to the Manila Bay. I wonder how is the LP during the early new year morning? Are still people going there at that time? I guess it is time to visit the LP again and find out for myself!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Now Is The Time To Enjoy The Joy Of Christmas!

Xmas_carols_inner_cover by PopKulture.Where is the joy that Christmas should bring? This is what seems to be lacking year after year when the Christmas Season begins. Yes, Christmas celebration is not just a day but a season, some number of days! Yet, after all the hype, preparations, and even panic before the day, almost nothing is left as soon as the Christmas Season begins.

Now is the time to sing and play those Christmas carols, give gifts, greet "Merry Christmas", reconcile, visit relatives and friends, party, etc. And, do not forget, do not remove your home decorations yet! We have at least three more weeks of celebration. Here in the Philippines, we do not end the season on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord as other Christian countries do. We end ours in the Feast of the Sto. Nino, the third Sunday of January.

Keep the spirit! It is still Christmas. Savor the joy the birth of the Lord brings! 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Feast of the Incarnation!

                                                    The greeting "Merry Christmas" was put under attack because it was biased to the Christian faith. In the United States, they were encouraged to greet "Happy Holidays" instead to make it a general celebration. Since when is a religious celebration a general celebration? While we Christians do not exclude and stop others from celebrating Christmas, why would our greeting be changed to a compromised greeting?

I came to know that almost all countries in the world are celebrating "Christmas"; but non-Christians celebrate it only in the external aspect. Christians celebrate it because of the birth of Jesus Christ, their savior. "Christmas" comes from the two words, "Christ" and "Mass". People of non-Christian religions join the celebration and at times make their own symbols and activities. Bug to change the very tradition of the religion to which the celebration belongs, is a very arrogant act. I was surprised that Christians affected by this do not plead and fight for their cause. Hs Christmas really become a general celebration? 

But come to think of it, the greeting "Merry Christmas" really needs change. I believe the appropriate greeting must be "Happy Feast of the Incarnation" or "happy Incarnation Day". The greeting perfectly gives the message of Christmas, which is the birth of the Savior. Specifically, the supreme act of God to save man by humbling Himself. He was God but decided freely to enter into humanity by becoming fully human! This is the essence of this feast. "merry Christmas" does not give due justice to the merit of the event.

Other religious feasts are more accurate and faithful to what they celebrate. For example, Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of the Ramadan. It literally means "Festivity" (Eid) and "to break the fast" (Fitr); the Jewish Hanukkah means the Festival of Lights commemorating the rededication of the Jewish Temple. The celebration is marked by the lighting of the candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah; or the Buddhist Vesakh which is a Full moon Day. If Christmas is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and specifically God becoming man, the apt greeting should be "Happy Incarnation". In this way, the real meaning of the celebration is proclaimed just by the greeting alone. If changes are to made in order to help the faithful appreciate and reflect on the meaning this significant Christ-Event, "Happy Incarnation" is a very good replacement.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Incarnation (Christmas), Sole Act Of God

This is the day before Christmas and I again find myself reflecting on it not only because of the homily I will deliver later tonight and the whole day tomorrow, but also to imbibe its meaning in my life. Before I became a priest, Christmas was just an opportunity for me to obtain many gifts and spend happy times with my love ones. If I have those, Christmas is already "meaningful" to me. But since 1992, when I was ordained, Christmas had become for me a message to share than just an opportunity. 

Christmas is the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. It happened on a silent night and a holy night. The Nativity was really a simple, humble and subdued event. God, in His love, decided to become human to personally  save humanity. The greatness of the act is beyond human intelligence. The act is purely divine. Only a God can do it. In fact, ONLY OUR GOD CAN DO IT, WILL DO IT, AND HAVE DONE IT! The meaning of the season rests on the deep understanding and appreciation of that act of God. Nothing less than a true grasping of that truth will make the Incarnation fully accepted and celebrated.

The challenge to a preacher like me is how to present it in human terms. That alone makes it difficult. How can an act of God be explained in human terms. How can an act of the Creator be fully contained in the limited words and experiences of a mere creature! The answer is; NO WAY! At most, maybe we can just have a trillionth of an iota of the idea of it. And that is being generous about it! But the process is not entirely hopeless. As Scripture says, God has inscribed His Word in our hearts. With the right attitude, deep faith, and the inspiration of God Himself in His Spirit, we can arrive at an acceptable appreciation of that truth. We will develop that reason to believe in what God had done for us more than two thousand years ago. 
Nativity Scene by trumpetflickr.
I remember, not an experience but a story I read when I was young, in a "komiks"magazine. The "komiks" is a common tao's magazine in the '70s which contains short stories presented through picture sketches by an artist. The story was about a crime reporter who was assigned by his editor to make an article depicting the life of a convict in maximum security awaiting his day of execution via the electric chair. He was not satisfied with just interviewing one or two of them. He believed that if his article will be credible and factual, he should experience living in the maximum security prison with the death row convicts. So, he approached the prison Chief and told him of his plan. The Chief readily agreed seeing the good it will do for everyone. In order to to preserve the essence of the plan, the agreement was made only between the reporter and the prison Chief. In this way, he will be staying in prison incognito throughout the course of his research. So one day, he entered the death row and was subjected to every process a death convict goes through. He was even given his own execution day! He was not given any special treatment; he ate what they ate, slept where they slept, did his share of prison chores, etc. The reporter was finding death row life very difficult but the prospect of making a realistic and factual report on the life of a death row convict inspired him to endure and go all the way. But something happened. As his execution day was drawing near, news arrived that the prison Chief was hospitalized and later died the day before the reporter's execution day! He was very worried but hoped that the Chief had relayed their secret to the responsible people before he died. On the day of his execution, he was fetched from his cell and was prepared for his death; the people he wanted to see, the last meals, the pastor for confession, his last words etc. Fear enveloped him. He asked to see the Chief. But he was told that the Chief had died. He told them about his agreement with the Chief. But nobody would believe him. They thought he was acting that way because of his impending death. He was shouting, kicking, grabbing, crying, wailing, and in great rage. All the time, he was telling them that it was a mistake and that he was there only for the article. With nobody believing him, he accepted his fate. Now he was actually dying. Worse, he was dying without having committed anything criminal. yet he was dying a criminals death. He was made to seat on the electric chair; put all the straps and the finally the head gear and the blindfold. He said his last prayers and submitted himself to God. The countdown began and he resigned his life. But before the final count, a voice whispered to his ear, "Now, you know how it feels?" It was the voice of the Chief who did not actually die but faked it so as to make the reporter really experience walking to his death! 

While this reporter experienced everything save for the actual execution, our Lord Jesus, went through everything including death. That is how much He loves us. That is the beauty and greatness of what God had done which he begun last Christmas day. He embraced our humanity totally! Reflect on that and you will discover JOY. J-esus, O-thers, and Y-ou!

I searched the dictionary for the right word to describe what God has done. I tried, "Sympathy" which is defined as feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune. Not enough. Next, "Empathy" which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Again, not up to it. "Compassion" which is the sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others. Lacks something more. Finally, I tried, "Inculturation" which is the gradual acquisition of the characteristics and norms of a culture or group by a person, another culture, etc. Very close but still lacking. This just means that indeed the Incarnation is purely a divine act!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To Shop Or Not To Shop

"Christmas cards have all been sent. The Christmas rush is through. And there's only one wish to make; a special one for you."

CTYL Holiday Shopping-31 by RichardJAnderson.

Two days before Christmas and people are now at the height of meeting their targets for the season. Some may have already done everything save for the Christmas eve immediate preparations. But a good number, I believe, are in their home stretch. Some may still make it on time, photo-finish. And if there will be those who will fall short, better luck next time.

As for me, I have decided not to join the band wagon. There's just too many gifts to prepare with little time to spend (and money too!). Traffic is always heavy and department stores are full. Especially these days. I remember some years ago, I told myself that I will just make a last ditch effort to buy gifts on the last day before Christmas. I was thinking that many people might have been over with their shopping and therefore, shopping will not be that difficult. To my surprise, it was contrary to what I expected. It was harder to get a pair of what you want. It was hardest to get on line and pay for what you bought. I ended up returning the good I planned to buy and just went home with nothing. 

Last minute shopping is not advisable because most of the prime goods had already been bought. You are lucky if you still find the pair, design, and size that you want. Most are left overs. Also, you do not have time to bargain. In most cases, you buy it without counting the cost! Also, rarely will you be satisfied with what you bought. You feel harassed.

And so, I decided that I will not join the shopping spree and season rush. But I was not successful. I just found myself in a mall on the 24th buying some things. Years ago it was easier because I only have a few "pamangkins". Now, they are just too many! But what can I do? Eeveryone should be given at least something. So, I need to have something for everyone. I guess, that is part of the spirit the season has developed in each one of us. Unfortunately, it is not the essence of the season. But it can still serve the purpose of Christmas if it is based on the fact that we are giving because we want to share and live the very charity our God had done for us. Something that seems to be missing from many people, and many are even Christians!

Days after Christmas, malls are still full of people. Some Tiangge's may have closed already, but the shopping spirit is still there. Maybe some are still catching up with their gifts by the new year. Nevertheless, it is still Christmas! And gift giving is still in season. In the same way, the birth of the Lord Jesus was not seen as the end of the salvific action of God but was part of the beginning of God's plan of salvation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

As Long As It Is Just A Shoe?

Protesters Throwing Shoes at Bush posters in Montreal by Anirudh Koul. 

Many were startled at what was in the local and international news yesterday. Being played over and over was the video of US president Bush being hurled with  shoe from an Iraqi journalist during a press conference in Baghdad. I could not believe what I saw. The US president being shoe-attacked in a press conference??? When asked about his reaction, President Bush said that it was possibly a "size ten" (referring to the shoe) and the journalist was just wanting some attention! 

No doubt the incident was shocking already, but I was more shocked by his reaction. Either he was very afraid to further draw the ire of the Iraqi, just callous about the event, or just wanted to brush off the situation and render it as nothing. In any case, it seems like a vapid reaction to a very strong incident. I wonder how the American people reacted to it? His wife, Laura Bush thought that her husband did not deserve the treatment but later said that it was proof of the free expression in Iraq. Thanks to the U.S! I, myself, believe that it has to be dealt with fully according to existing laws and processes.

In the first place, the Presidency is not just about the person behind it. The Presidency is an office which represents the whole country. Any act against the presidency is an act against the whole country. If we are to interpret what happened to President Bush, it is an attack against the US government and citizenry at most, and to him at least. To president Bush, it can be dealt with lightly, but in another sense, he has to give concern to its effect to the US government.

The effect of the "weak" response from a strong country can never be fully known but it definitely sets a precedent, and a bad one at that. Hopefully, its consequences are manageable, or better that it be regarded as something not worth repeating. Otherwise, all leaders, especially presidents, and all security personnel, should guard against similar actions not only from the press but from anyone who is in a position to throw a shoe, a pen, a chair, or anything they can grab. But hopefully, no explosives!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Come On!

Yvo Boer, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC which is having its talks regarding climate change in Poznan Poland, said that the expected results for the next UNFCCC meeting at Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, may not be achieved! The present talks are being bogged down, among other things, by how the Adaptation Fund would be managed. Developing countries wanted a direct access to it but developed countries wanted it to go through the World Bank. They hope that the high level segment meeting, which happens in the last two days of the conference and which will involve top environment officials of each member country, would resolve the issue.

This is very alarming! This questions the sincerity of the concerned (those who are responsible for the carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere) countries. Since the early sixties, clarion calls had been sounded off regarding the rapid degradation of the earth due to increase in average global temperature resulting to climate change. Couple this with the abuse that had been made in nature, we may have the perfect combination for the sixth extinction! But this time, slower but painful! The United Nations had been in this for more than twenty years now. The Kyoto Protocol was a big step in forcing countries to make commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (save for the U.S. which is the only member nation that had not signed the protocol). But more is needed to be done. The UN had identified four building blocks, Adaptation, Mitigation, Financial Assistance, and Technology Transfer. Fourteen general meeting and many more sectoral meetings had been done, but a final document is yet to materialize. This dilly-dallying, many scientists had predicted, will cost us so much including the lives of billions! The clock is ticking. Ice is melting in the Arctic, global temperature continues to rise because of continuous gas emissions, sea water level is rising, etc.

Vested interests dominate the talks. Developed countries do not want to jeopardize their economy which is super-dependent in fossil fuel. Some who had made commitments were not being faithful to them. Those who believe they can cope with the envisaged onslaught of the devastation to come are not in panic mode whereas those who will be affected first, who are ironically not responsible for the gas emissions, are in quandary! So much time had elapsed that many were of the opinion that we had reached the point of no return! 

Everybody is of the opinion that the time has come for a change of lifestyle. In the end, all the adaptations, mitigation, and counter-actions would not be sufficient. The amount of devastation it would incur may reach a very high proportion unpredicted and unprecedented in humankind history. One economist estimated that it will be more than the two World Wars and the Great Depression combined! Unless we get out of our selfishness and individualism, we are doomed. Some may go first, but definitely, all will follow!

God Bless Us!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Dollar A Year Salary!

Executives of the big three car companies (Chrysler, GM, and Ford) are doing a lot of "desperate moves" in order to salvage the impending (or is it climaxing?) collapse of their companies. Turnaround plans were submitted to the US Congress in order to secure lucrative loans that will help them survive the present financial meltdown.
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Part of their promise is to have their CEO's received a token $1 a year salary! Further, the CEO's will not anymore use their company planes to shuttle from their homes to the office. Instead, they will make use of hybrid cars that will take them 9 hrs. compared to just two hours of travel by plane. There were other suggestions all of which were to convince Congress to grant them loans.
Verschiedene Ansichten auf Ein-Dollar-Noten
I have heard of this set-up which was usually adopted by individuals who just wanted to serve. There are people who are only willing to share their time and talent without being compensated. For some, having served is already its own reward. In the case above, the question is, "Is this the case with the CEO's of these car companies?". So gracious of them! Are they for real? Probably not fully. The fact that they were doing it for the grant already revealed their intentions. Their intentions being that it will be temporary. Once they had recovered, they will be back to their previous situation and would recoup what they had sacrificed. "Nothing is free in this world anymore.", they might claim later.
Dollar by blipfish.
What is this for us? A lot! If ever we are experiencing it, it is not only because we are being asked to shoulder their needed cash but more because we are not being compensated well for the use of our money. To explain, banks play the crucial role in this process. Almost everyone of us has savings in a bank. In exchange, banks give us interests for our deposits. In order to pay for those interests and gaining some more, they use all our moneys for investments, loans, and other income generating activities. This is where companies and government come in. They make their loans from banks. If their business is good, they usually obtain loans faster and easier. They repay the banks with interests once they complete their transactions and obtain payments. Then, they loan again and the process is repeated. Meantime, executives and owners profit from loaned money with only their time and effort (maybe some little cash too!) invested. We can see from this process that banks and industries rely so much on depositors for funds. If depositors will withdraw and abandon banking, almost all industries will be affected. What the US government is doing now in saving the present financial meltdown is to loan these industries with government money (read: money from taxes collected from the people). Of course, with interest! But, the companies are to profit more than the government and the people. From where do these companies get their profit? From the people also who are their clients...well, more or less! 
dollar close UP by shyb.
With the world's crisis on global warming, we will be better off with less cars and fuel-consuming machines. Not that we should not anymore manufacture cars, but it is about time to find new alternatives and tap existing but set aside ones like renewable energies. I believe that the world has come to a point of changing its lifestyle. The way we are living and the rate we are going, the world will be devastated even before judgment day! Recent findings of economists reveal that the onslaught of global warming would be more than the devastation of World Wars I and II and the Great Depression combined! Billions of people will die of hunger, thirst, and diseases. The present UNFCCC in Poznan, Poland, is now finalizing a concerted action against climate change caused by global warming. Hopefully, we will have one by December 2009 at the final conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
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But we have to do our share. We have to be sincere in our effort to fight global warming. Whether we receive a dollar or more a year, as long as we gear our efforts towards the goodness of humankind, we can afford it. But if we continue our merry-but-dangerous ways, dollar or no dollar, we are in for a rough ride. Worse, it will be a slow and painful death!