Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Was There! (Part IV)

(February 25, 1986) At least we were alive! Yes, we could have died there in Santolan. If there was even a small spark of antagonism or violence, it could have erupted to a riot, chaos, or intense fighting between the people and the army. Any iota of threat would have developed into a bloody confrontation. This dawned on me while we were on our way back to the seminary. We were exhausted for the overnight vigil. We were all half awake throughout the duration of the ride. Hungry, tired, pushed, tear gassed, hoarse, lacking in sleep, and frustrated, we hope to rest and recover so that we can come back and continue the fight.

Upon arriving in the seminary, I took my breakfast, had a quick bath, and immediately hit the sack. I dozed off for about five hours. When I woke, I could not easily remember what happened the night before. When I did, I went to the chapel to pray. I saw other seminarians in deep prayer in the chapel. In these trying times, communicating with God is the best resort. Asking God's guidance was the best thing to do in this situation. I found myself entering in serious reflection of the events that had transpired. Where was our country going? What will happen to us, seminarians, who had actively participated in the People Power? I was even worried about the Catholic Church. Will priests be still relevant in the coming days, months or years? The future was both dangerous and unsure. The future was horrifying. 
The bell rang signaling lunch. We all stood and prayed the Angelus. Then we went out of the chapel and proceeded to the refectory to take our lunch. The mood was surprisingly a little upbeat. Everybody was excited to share their own experience and story. We were deployed in different places the night before. Many were interested in what happened to us who were in Libis-Santolan. They heard news about our "encounter" with the soldiers. When we were done with lunch, a short meeting was held to ask how everybody was doing. There were really not much to talk about because everybody was interested to know the developments in EDSA. A sign-up list was posted on the board to indicate one's preference of "duty" for the evening. (Seminarians and religious were assigned to take the night shift.) I decided to sign-up for Channel 4 this time. Fr. Cal Poulin drove us to the place where I took my position at the corner of Mother Ignacia Street and Quezon Avenue. Channel Four became very important because there was an effort to capture it earlier. Many people were called to protect the area from government forces.
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It seemed to be a normal evening. Food, water and drinks were coming from everywhere. Sandwiches and packed dinners were available from food stations. Groups of people were arriving and were very prepared to camp the night away. Suddenly there was an uproar near the station. Word immediately reached me that the dictator and his family had flown out of Malacanang. There was jubilee from all faces. Some were shouting with joy. Many decided to march to Malacanang. People were congratulating themselves. There were exchanges of "Never again!" Meaning we would not again allow a dictator. ( But what about now? With due respect to today's generation, in our time, the present government can not get away with what it is doing now.) Since the dictator had already left, I too left my post and joined the other seminarians in front of Channel Four. When all of us were already gathered, we decided to go home and just watch the developments on television.
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Happily, we rode the seminary Fierra. Upon reaching the seminary, we gathered in the TV room to watch the latest events. Malacanang was the focus of the news. Many people had entered the place. It was literally mobbed! Many expressed their anger to the dictator by destroying some furniture, pictures of the Marcos family, and other things in the Palace.

It was all over. But we knew we were just starting a new chapter in our history. Recovering from the more than a decade of Martial Rule and dictatorship will not be easy. As would be proven later, the reaction was to adopt the stance of the other extreme. The devastation was so deep that they re-emerged again later in another form. The slaves of those days became the tyrants of the following days.
The Philippine People Power became known all over the world. It was known to be a bloodless revolution. Not a fire was shot. Not a life was lost. It was a victory for the People, the true owners of the Republic. We prayed that the transition will be smooth. We prayed that what we had gain would be preserved. We prayed that the change we asked for be first made to happen in each one of us. We prayed for a lot of things. We hoped we would finally rebuild our country and effect our way to recovery. Well, we hoped too much.

Fasting: Lead It To Its True Goal

We have entered into the season of Lent. These are special days of reflecting on our lives; see where it had gone, what is presently happening, and where it is going. Socrates said that " an unreflected life is not worth living." Just like in any sports, there is a need at times to call a time out in order to rest, analyze the game, and think of strategies to apply to improve and win the game. Life, in  a way, is a sport. We need to take time out. Time out does not mean that we stop living or stop what we are doing. Time out maybe a change in routine and in ways. 

Our faith reminds us of this important time out. Lent provides us an opportunity reflect on our lives. How it is being lived? How is our relationship with God? Where we are going? Note that the season of Lent is a preparation for a very important event. In Lent, we anticipate EASTER. Lent finds fulfillment in Easter. Easter draws inspiration from Lent. Whatever we do in Lent is because of Easter. Whatever we celebrate in Easter is because of our preparations in Lent. There are three ways to celebrate a meaningful Lent. Our faith suggests praying, fasting, and doing acts of charity. The Gospel today cites these three ancient old activities of relating with God. They will be very useful in leading us from the Lent to the Easter of our life.

Fasting is one activity we are encouraged to do in Lent. We always hear the question, "What are you going to give up in Lent?" Whatever it is that we are giving up, we can not avoid to answer the question,"Where will it lead us?" So what if I give up chocolates, watching a telenovela, meat, rice, golf, tong-its, mahjong, or beer, etc.? As stated above, our goal determines a lot the value of things we do. We are encouraged to fast for so many reasons. One is to discipline our bodies. Fasting can train our bodies to continue functioning despite the absence of some things including things we crave for. That life goes on even in the absence of some of our wants. The discipline will be very handy in case the devil will use them to tempt us. But there is more to it. Fasting is essentially an offering. We choose to fast on something for the purpose of offering it to God. We see it as a way to participate in His work. The perfect and ultimate fast was done by Jesus. He chose His life as an offering to God for our salvation. It was His fasting. He was willing to give everything to His Father. He left nothing for Himself. In the process, He was given New Life! In losing, He found it! In the same way, our fasting should be made as an offering. Yes it is a deprivation, but we see it as an opportunity to give to God something as a sign of our dying to self. By making the offering, God gives us New Life.

So, we do not fast for the sake of fasting. Our faith reminds us, not obliges us. Do not do it because it is a fad. It may have other benefits, but let us not lose its primary purpose. Do not let it lead us to where it wants. Let us lead it to where we want to go or what we want to achieve. Intention counts a lot. Whatever we decide as our fast or offering this season of Lent, it matters a lot before God even if it may be insignificant to many. God sees what is in our heart. If we offer our fast for the sake of many and in recognition of God's love to us, then it has fulfilled its purpose.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Was There! (Part III)

EDSA 1986 by Le Montage.It was definite, an army would be attacking Camp Aguinaldo via Libis and Boni Serrano at dawn. The army was already stationed somewhere in Ortigas. The time came for them to move sometime near the break of dawn. Information were being sent to us by some "friends" who were tasked to monitor the army. They were composed of maybe a battalion of soldiers fully armed and accompanied by APCs and tanks. The location of the soldiers were being announced periodically. When they were nearing the bend leading to the Santolan intersection, we formed many phalanx of chained human beings. We were determined not to let the army pass through the intersection and to Camp Aguinaldo. We later decided to lay prostrate while maintaining our chained position. As the soldiers drew nearer, we were praying the rosary. The first batch of soldiers we encountered were the "riot" squad. Their task is to disperse us so that their tanks can come in. 
EDSA 1986 by Le Montage.
I was in the fourth row from the front. I was chained with Fr. Mat Sanchez, S.J., who was intensely praying. I noticed, those who were in the first three rows ahead of us where standing up. The soldiers were pushing them and slowly gaining grounds for the tanks that were behind them. I felt it was time for us to stand up. Else, we would be trampled upon by the soldiers and worse, be over ran by the tanks. In fact, only Fr. Mat and I were left prostrate in front of the soldiers. I told Fr. Mat that it was time to stand up for we were the only ones left. The soldiers were already thumping their shields and their baton giving the signal that they should be allowed to pass. But Fr. Mat was determined to stay. Later he told me that he was even willing to die! Because we were chained, I could not stand. I shouted for help from the other seminarians. I have to admit that I was very afraid then. Although, I was ready to stay if there were nobody who responded to my call to help me remove Fr. Mat. We have to literally carry Fr. Mat up so he could be removed from his position. It was just in time before the soldiers forced their way through with the tanks immediately behind them. To completely disperse us, tear gas were thrown all over. We were prepared for that situation. Immediately we took out our face towels and hankies and wet them. We covered our faces. We washed them too from the nearby gasoline station. But the effect of the tear gas as still there. This was a different kind. It sticks to the skin. The soldiers took advantage of our weakened position. They gained control of the intersection.
EDSA 1986 by Le Montage.
Once our line was crushed, the army was able establish their hold of the intersection. Those of us who had recovered tried to approach them. We stood face to face with them. We tried to talk them out of their mission. We begged them. Some even cried. The soldiers told us that they can not do anything. They have a mission to fulfill. We even asked them to abandon their commander and join us. It is the people whom they must protect and not one leader. But they would not listen to us. They were like robots who were just concerned about reaching their goal. Of course we knew that they felt for us too. They were Filipinos too. They knew what was happening to our country. But soldiers are soldiers. They must obey first before they complain. 
Shield of Protection by whemixr.
Once they had taken the intersection, they stopped their advance for a while. Maybe they were waiting for further instructions. maybe they were waiting for the right moment. We took advantage of that situation to approach the soldiers. Some even climbed the tank to talk to the soldiers manning them. Some where given food or drinks which they courteously declined. Some were given rosaries. And some were given flowers. As we have agreed, no one will throw anything that will provoke the soldiers to retaliate or open fire. We tried to smile all the time. We tried to be persuasive in spite of the intense tension prevailing in everyone. We tried communicating to them that we are all Filipinos. They are not our enemies but the one seated in Malacanang. That they are OUR soldiers and WE are the people they pledged to protect!
Flowers of Peace by Le Montage.
At the break of dawn, they finally advanced towards Camp Aguinaldo. While they were on their way, news about Marcos finally leaving Malacanang came. I immediately grabbed my Walkman and listened to Ms. June Keithly who was broadcasting from an unknown place. There was rejoicing and shouting from all who were gathered there in Santolan. We told the soldiers about it. If they were happy, it did not show at all. However, while everyone was just starting to rejoice, June Keithly again went on air telling everyone that it was a false alarm. The dictator was still in Malacanang. The revelry was short-lived. Sadness gripped everyone. The dawn looked like dusk! How long will this ordeal be? Will Marcos ever leave? The future became bleak and uncertain. There was also the fear of being hunted once power is stabilized.
Papers by Le Montage.
Camp Aguinaldo is now under siege. We had been over taken. The fight is in peril. God help us!

I Was There! (Part II)

The "pow ow" (the term we use for our meetings), dealt with assessing the brewing critical situation. There were those who wanted to go out and be with the people in their protest and in protecting Enrile and Ramos. They believed that the the country is calling everyone now. They saw the situation as a very clear sign to have our formation and education right there in EDSA. They believed that the philosophizing and theologizing we have been doing can now find expression and concrete action. There are those who believed that we continue our schedules. Organize vigils and reflection times. If we abandon our studies, we might not be equipped to deal with situations. This is not yet the time. We will be there at the most opportune time.

We were united in saying that Marcos was not anymore governing well. The country had been in quandary. Graft and corruption had reached its ultimate. The civilian superiority, provided by the constitution, had been set aside in favor of military power. What we had was a heavily militarized government. Crimes were committed wantonly by those in power. Many disappeared suddenly and without a trace. Freedom of speech and action were severely curtailed. Basic rights were trampled upon. Communism had penetrated the professionals and the youth. Insurgency, specially in the south, was gaining much grounds.

In the end, we were told that it was our call. We were left to discern whether we will opt to stay and fulfill our regular schedules but be in tuned with the developments outside. Or choose to go out and actively participate in the "revolution". A show of hands showed that almost all wanted to go. Those who are going were warned that there are risks involved and that they would be responsible for themselves. There were the possibilities of being apprehended, interrogated, jailed, hurt, or even killed. The seminary fathers made sure that we were joining in with our eyes wide open. That night, some seminarians and fathers went out to join the people in EDSA.
The next day, February 24, 1986, Monday, there were reports that Marcos had already decided to attack Camps Aguinaldo and Crame. The crucial points were EDSA-Ortigas, Santolan, Boni Serrano, and Greenhills. We were assigned to block the Santolan (near Blue Ridge) intersection which leads to Camp Aguinaldo. After dinner, we donned our cassocks and rode to Santolan. There, in the Caltex station, we found many religious sisters and seminarians from other congregations, leading the people in praying the rosary. After the rosary, singing of some religious and patriotic songs, whiled away the vigil that was taking place. We organized the people for a common action. In order not to be deceived by mixed and misleading information, a system was developed on how to receive, evaluate, verify, and disseminate information. An orientation was also given on how to practice "Active Non-Violence"; that is, asserting one's advocacy without resorting to violence. We were asked to police our ranks. We had to see to it that no one will act on his own. The situation was so tensed that a single shout or violent action may trigger a riot, stampede, or complete chaos in the crowd. With thousands of people gathered and close together, many will certainly be hurt, and some might even die. A "leader" was assigned in order to have a voice that would lead everyone to what action to make. 

Time passed and so was the evening. During those times, the "leader" would time and again make a command in order to practice everyone about our moves. At times, an update about what is happening around Crame and Aguinaldo, was being announced. Midnight passed and the wee hours were drawing near. No one was saying but we were all conscious of the escalating tension. We knew why we were there. Marcos' army will soon come. Marcos could not afford to let the situation go on. 
Finally, we heard news that the attack of Aguinaldo was definite. The army had gathered somewhere in Ortigas and was on its way to Santolan via Libis (now the northernmost part of C-5). It was just a matter of time. The quiet night would soon be broken by the taps of boots marching towards our position. Suddenly, tension was high. What will we do? What will I do? The "leader" spoke and told everyone that we will hold our position and we will convince the soldiers not to proceed.

And the hours, minutes, and seconds ticked away towards that moment...

Monday, February 23, 2009

I Was There! (Part I)

Twenty three years after it happened, it seems that very little grounds had been covered towards advancement of what many of us fought for during EDSA 1. Those four days (February 22-25, 1986) were the climax of years of fighting the dictatorship of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. It should not have been a climax, but due to what consequently happened, it was indeed the climax for after that event, the expected result and change did not really happen. With the present state of things, it even became worse. It is really very very sad to accept that we had gone back (though with a different face) or became more decadent in spite of the much acclaimed and revered EDSA 1.
In entered San Jose Seminary in May, 1985. I was a late vocation, having finished college and worked for five years. In March of 1985, I suddenly became aware of the intense call of God for priesthood. I just found myself one day taking the entrance exam in San Jose. I passed the exams and the interviews. In April, I received the news that I was accepted for formation to the priesthood in San Jose. Just before the school year began, I was asked to report to prepare myself. I entered the seminary in May 21, 1985. Immediately we underwent orientation and did a lot of preliminary activities that will help us immediately integrate ourselves to the community. 

While I was undergoing formation in the seminary, the political situation in the country was becoming more tense. The death of Ninoy Aquino and the massive and blatant cheating that happened in the recent election, where Cory Aquino, Ninoy's wife, "won" over Marcos in an "snap election", became the tipping point. Of course, the people were aware of the corruption and abuses by the government and the military. These were also crucial factors in the uneasiness being felt by the people about their government. During that time, the streets of Manila were always full of protesters from students, workers, teachers, farmers, and "leftists". President Marcos, through the help of the military tried to control the situation. Curfews were imposed. Checkpoints were placed in strategic places in Metro Manila. Abduction of some key people in the opposition were being reported. And there was a suppression of the media. The situation was so volatile that it only needed a little push or "fire" to be ignited and exploded. And it did! 

The necessary push came from the defection of Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile. I came to know about this when I was already in my apostolate area. That was the night of February 22, 1986, Saturday. Incidentally, that afternoon, before I went to my apostolate area in Marcelo Green Village, Paranaque (Mary Mother of Good Counsel Parish), I attended the wedding of my sister, Emerlita to Jovencio in Our Lady Of Fatima Parish, in Mandaluyong City. It was also the birthday of my brother, Guilbert. Because I have to go to my apostolate area, I have to beg off in attending the wedding reception. I rode a bus from Mandaluyong to Marcelo. On the way, in Magallanes interchange, I saw on the other side of EDSA a lot of APCs (Army Personnel Carrier?) going the North direction of EDSA. I said, something was happening. It was about five or six in the afternoon. I reached the parish church and reported to the parish priest, Fr. Dennis Salise. Sometime that evening, a parishioner called our attention to watch television. President Marcos was on television revealing the alleged attempt on his life by a member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG). We turned on the television and we caught Marcos on t.v. presenting the supposed PSG tasked to assassinate him. I could not vividly remember what he said but I think it was about the failed attempt on his life and that he will do everything to find and punish those who were behind the failed attempt.

We left it at that. We slept. The next morning, February 23, Sunday, masses were held in the parish. People were talking about what happened the night before. After lunch, I went back to the seminary. I can not anymore remember how I was able to get back to the seminary. We were told that people had begun occupying EDSA. I believe that when we got to Crossing (EDSA and Shaw Boulevard), we were not allowed to proceed to Ortigas but were diverted towards Pasig. In any case, I reached the seminary in the afternoon. By that time, Enrile had camped in Camp Aguinaldo, while Ramos was camped in Camp Crame (?). Later, they joined together for coordination and stronger position.

An emergency meeting was called by the Rector of the seminary, in the evening, regarding our involvement in the events happening. In case, we are already sure of what we will do and what are our commitments.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Random Pictures, Random Thoughts!

                                             Wiped Out! (Mabilis na pangyayari!)

                                                         Health is Wealth

                                                           Shining Through

                                                        All Is Left And Right

                                             Bridge Over Untroubled Water

                                                             Take Cover

                                                             Dream Pipes

                                             Scattered Clouds of Unknowing

                                                     White Hats To Protect

                                                 Empty Pews Under The Sun

Friday, February 20, 2009

Finding In Losing

Mk. 8:34-38

Jesus was controversial during His ministry not only because of His claim as the Son of God but also because of His statements. In today's Gospel reading He said, "For whoever wishes to save His life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel, will save it." (Mk.8:35). He also said similar statements namely; " Love your enemies." and "Unless a grain of wheat falls and die, it will not grow." These paradoxical statements reflect the true state of things. Jesus, the Son of God, knows best our hearts. These statements are what would really guide and lead us to our true destiny.

The context of His statements are always salvation. Difficulties, challenges, and hardships are not ends. They are means or stages of life's journey towards eternal life, the ultimate goal. They must be seen as opportunities of faith. God did not create us only for this world, or for this life. Christians see the whole of life pat of the next life. I have heard elders say, "Kahit naghihikahos, makakaraos, sa tulong at awa ng Diyos!" (Though we are experiencing a lot of  difficulties, we will pull through with the help of God!") This is a statement of faith. The faith that sees earthly life as a prelude or part of life after death. Jesus, in his statement was referring to the next life. Life on earth, maybe given, for the sake of the Gospel and of the Lord Jesus. Relationship with God precedes everything, even our earthly life. That is why martyrs gave up their lives. They saw that life is not worth living separated from God. "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his own soul?" Even when life is given away, it is actually found and saved if done for the Lord. What is found is life with God. And life with God is all the life we need. Finding God is finding life. Finding (eternal life) is finding God!

City Rivers

Rome (Italy) has river Tiber. Paris (France) has river Seine. London (England) has river Thames. Perth (Australia) has river Swan. Vancouver (Canada) has river Fraser. Lisbon (Portugal) has river Tagus. Cairo(Egypt) has river Nile. Baghdad (Iraq) has river Tigris. Hamburg (Germany) has river Elbe. Germany has the river Rhine as its longest river and has its source from the Swiss Alps. Berlin has river Spree. Vienna has river Danube. Almost all progressive and notable cities has a river in or near it. Rivers are great sources of livelihood and very convenient facilities for transport and other business activities. It is also a very good source of fresh water.
Looking down to the huts/cafes built in the River Tigris, Hasankeyf by CharlesFred.
The river Tiber is the third longest river in Italy and flowing 406 kilometers. It drains a basin estimated at 18,000 km square. The river has achieved lasting fame as the main watercourse of the city of Rome, founded on its eastern banks.

Home along the Pasig 1 by zimrilim.
The city of Manila is not an exception. It has river Pasig. I am sure in the early fifties and sixties, the river Pasig has been  a cause for progress for the city of Manila. Local and international cargo vessels can enter the city through the river Pasig. I am also sure that it is a place of recreation to many. I am very sure that it is a good source of fresh water for domestic and commercial.
Pasig River Ferry--Guadalupe Station by theresekng.
While it is true that it is still very useful today as a facility for cargo vessels, it is not anymore a place for recreation, much more an easy source of usable water. The presence of many factories which are making the river their sewage catcher and the homeowners along it treating it as their toilet, garbage, etc., had made it very dirty. We have lost an important source of water. The benefits we get from these factories along its stretch are not the lost of the river. Lots of concerned  government officials and NGO's had conspired to rehabilitate it. One is in fact going on right now. But unless these factories would follow the law on how they must dispose their wastes, the river assistance made by government can not cope with the demand to process the wastes these factories and homeowners are dumping in the river.

Since the city rivers are crucial to the city, it follows that its condition and health determines the condition and health of the city! So, with the present situation of the river Pasig, no wonder, Manila is not in that very good condition. If the city id not in good condition, the people may not also be in good condition.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

We Have Water!

Small La Laguna Bay by canlasa.
The earth is full of water! So why are there talks of water scarcity in the future? Where does the danger of having a water drought come from? What is the basis for such a "dooms day" scenario? Here are some basic facts about water on earth;

-326 million trillion gallons
-70% of the planet is covered in ocean
-average depth of the ocean is about 1,000 meters
-only 2% of the earth's water is "fresh", of which 1.6 % is locked up in the polar ice caps and glaciers
-0.36 % is found in aquifers
-0.036 % is found in lakes and rivers (equal to thousands of trillions of gallons)
-the rest are in the atmosphere and in our bodies (65% water), animals, and plants, and in our refrigerators!

The recent Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report, which was created by the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC), categorically pointed to global warming as the reason for climate change and mentioned that one of its effects is the scarcity of fresh water in the future. Global warming would result to the melting of glaciers and polar caps which would increase sea water level and therefore invade aquifers which are some of our sources for fresh water. If this happens, the calculated predictions of the scientists of the IPCC would just become a reality.

How about the Philippines? We are composed of thousand of islands. Our land is perfect for agriculture. We have lots of rivers, lakes, brooks, springs, and almost every type of water source. We have mountains which are very important in maintaining the stability of water supply in a place. When hard times concerning water comes, the Philippines maybe one of the few blessed places that is last to be hit hardest. In other words, if and when we experience a drought or water crisis, the rest of the world must be in a worse situation. 

The above should be good news to us. But why is it that bottled water proliferates here? Why are we buying water? With all our resources, we can afford to have fresh drinking water almost for FREE and with a lot more to EXPORT! The water coming out from our faucets are safe for drinking. The filtration and treatment processes the water companies are applying are way above standards. The "tap" water we receive at home are even more safe than many bottled water which we buy at a higher price. Lack of education? Bad experience? Poor advocacy or advertisement? Government should look into this. Unless it profits from the sale of these bottled water.

Lastly, bottled water, which are usually in plastic, is not healthy. maybe it will make us safe from bacteria or viruses, but not on toxins and other serious and long time side effects (sickness) that maybe acquired using plastics.
Laguna de Bay sunrise by jonicdao.
So, I believe it is opportune to call on our legislators and government officials tom preserve and defend these resources that we have been blessed with. Laguna De Bay, for example, a very good source of fresh water, was threatened sometime ago to be converted to an airport! We are willing to lose a bay for an airport? Also, at present, the said bay has become a big septic tank because of the amount of human wastes put in it. This is beside the fact that lots of illegal and legal fish pens are in that body of water. Undoubtedly, the Laguna De Bay is a potential source of the much needed fresh water. If this is how we are going to treat our resources, then, we might just lose this great advantage that we have.

Let us pray and hope that all of us will come to our right senses. As we say in the eco-community, let us do what we can now, for when it comes, we can not do anything anymore.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Waste Mismanagement

Ever wonder where our wastes go? We don't see them at all after using the comfort rooms. We just assume that they go somewhere where they could not harm us. We think that they are taken cared of. 

Usually, homes and establishments are equipped with a sewage system. The sewage system catches all of our wastes. But sewage systems are not bottomless. After some years, they over flow. If not managed, they seep through the soil around and most probably would find their way in aquifers. Aquifers are some of the sources of our water supply, including drinking water. Therefore, if we let our wastes mix with our source of water, dangers to health may occur.

Sewage companies offer the service of emptying sewage systems in homes and establishments. But what do they do with it? How do they dispose them. The best way should be to process them so that the water maybe used again. Solids separated from them maybe used as fertilizers. However, there were some reports and discoveries that they had not been disposed well. The sludge were being disposed in canals or rivers. The purpose is therefore defeated. The sludge will go back to the soil and to the aquifers.

(From left, Ms. Jhoanna B. Mendoza, Facility Manager, Fr. Benny Tuazon, and Mr. Rene Almendras, Group Director for Business, Manila Water Inc.)

I had visited two sewage treatment plants. And there, were shown how water from human wastes maybe processed and be used again. We were told that nature could actually do it. It can heal and refresh itself. But because of too much concentration of wastes in an area, the demand is just too much to address. Human intervention is thus necessary. Sewage Treatment Plants provide this assistance. Not only are we able to use the water again, provide good fertilizers, but also prevent possible diseases. So far, Manila is only recovering 16 percent of its sewage. The goal is 100 percent so that our system will be effective. I know that private companies are doing their share in this. Manila Water Company Incorporated had in fact made this as part of their commitment to its clients. So much investment had been flowed into it with little or no profit at all. Their concern for the environment is what inspires them to go on.

In the light of the importance of this activity, government should be the leader in seeing to it that our sewage system is effective. Citizen awareness must be heightened so that the work will be easier. Private companies must be responsible in disposing the wastes. 

So, even if we do not see them, let us see to it that they are well taken cared of!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Water Matters

We drink it. We use it to wash things. We use it for cooking. We clean our bodies with it. We relax in it by swimming or even being massaged by it. We clean a lot of things with it. We mix it with other liquids. We use it in so many ways, for so many reasons, and different forms. It is basic in life. We have an abundance of it. Our bodies, in fact, comprise more than ninety percent of it. It is a mere five-letter word, W, A, T, E, and R. Yet, it is necessary to live. We can only survive some number of days without it. We must have it to live.

I joined a whole day tour today with the Barangay Magallanes  officials sponsored by Manila Water Company Inc. We went to the La Mesa Dam, New Balara Filtration Plant, Balara Pumping Station, UP Sewage Treatment Plant, and the South Septage Treatment Plant in FTI, Taguig City. We were educated on how, from the waters of La Mesa Dam, potable water reaches our homes for our use. The tour also informed us about the importance of gathering our water wastes for recycling. Based on the tour, water undergoes a lot of processes. It is longer in sewage waters. Thorough security is being observed to assure homes of their supply of this very important commodity. This only shows that water supply is not just business but a commitment as well. At the pumping station, for example, a five-minute delay would be tantamount to a thirty-minute delay in water supply in the homes. The personnel are reservists as well. They can fully defend the place in case threats were made.

Seeing water flow from our faucets  had always been a regular sight to all of us. But having experienced and seen how it is processed created in me a different attitude and thinking. Water should be used wisely. Water, no matter how abundant these days, should be treated as an important thing. Water matters!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Through And True Love On Valentine's Day

John 13:13-17 Jesus Washing Feet Closeup at Dallas Theological Seminary by Resclassic2.

Roads, cafe's, parks, party places, and every activity nook would be super busy today, Valentine's Day! It is a very special day here in our country and to many other parts of the world. Love is in the air. This is a time for lovers. This is a time of focusing on the one you love. This is a time to deepen the loving relationship. This is a time for a very special expression of one's love for the beloved. Well, at least to most!

Never mind how it all began. A little mind on how it developed. What is important is how it is going to be celebrated today. And the best way to evaluate the celebration that will take place is to define what is love? The lovers definition of love will determine the kind of celebration they will have. Complication immediately begins when they have different definitions of love. Friction will exists if they have contrasting definition of love. So what is love?
Lovers by Danny Hahlbohm

Of course, the best definition comes from the source of Love Himself. In fact, He is Love Himself; God in Jesus Christ. For Jesus, love is the willingness to offer one's life for the one you love. The "other" includes even enemies! Loving entails our heart, strength, mind, and soul; with our whole person. Jesus showed this concretely through our His ministry. He signified it by washing the feet of His apostles. During His time, washing another person's feet is only done by the slaves. Humility is the primary character of Christian loving. He capped His love by dying on the cross. Loving is a relationship that involves the whole of our being
Jesus cross crucifixion by Akuman1.
Now, maybe I am being philosophical, theological, and mystical about this thing called love? A spiritual writer, I believe caught most if not all of what Jesus meant by love. Scott Peck said that love is the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."   Aha! Very important here is the purpose of love which is spiritual growth. It is not just about feeling good or physical satisfaction or self-fulfillment. It is about whether both lovers, in the course of their relationship, would attain their spiritual goal? (Note that it does not limit "spiritual" to the Catholic or Christian faith. It just means any spiritual leanings of the lover.) The goal is beyond this life. The goal is eternal fulfillment. The definition also says "extend". Lovers should not only be contented with what they believe they can do but what they do after giving everything. There should also be an extra effort equivalent to more than what they think they can do. And then, that love comes from one's "will". It means it is a decision on the part of the lover. Not whimsical, romantic, boastful, or carnal. It comes from the heart with the purest of intentions. It involves the whole of one's self, nothing less, maybe more!

I guess, with this definition, I need not enumerate or express in detail how today's love day must be celebrated. No matter what religion or denomination you belong. No matter if you do not have a religion and profess yourself an atheist. If you have a (spiritual) goal, you celebrate today according to that goal. All other celebrations will be a neglect, much worse, a rejection of that goal.

Happy Valentines Day everyone!
Chubby Male Cupid In Red Boots, Aiming A Heart Shaped Arrow With A Bow On Valentine's Day

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dress Your Best Not To Impress

"Why regulate our dresses?" "Can we not wear what we want? God will understand!" "How could you dictate what is decent and what is not?" These are some of the reactions and question of some mass goers in our parish after we announced that we will implement a dress code next month. When I and the Dress Code Committee met, we anticipated those questions. We know that it be hard to set a standard for it. But we know too that there is a need to regulate what people wear in the church. Some parishioners had already made complaints about some people who were very indecent in their dresses. Maybe some think that they can just wear anything in church. But we believe that dressing is part of Christian responsibility and discipline.

So what is in a dress? Why dress up and why wear specific dresses for the occasion? In the first place, all of us were born without dresses. But because we belong to a society which requires a certain level and manner of dressing, we abide by it. That alone already limits our freedom about what we may or may not wear. But still, dressing up has its more relevant and important reason. It was not just done for the sake of doing it. We dress up because of respect. How we look is our expression of our regard for the people we meet. The more dignified is the person, the more we dress up. I believe that we feel respected when we meet people who are aptly dressed. We feel somewhat insulted when people face us poorly and improperly dressed. Somehow, the way we are dressed affect the way we will relate. Dresses may not be a perfect reflection of our inner self, but it does communicate who we are, in a way. If we are invited to an important function, say to meet the president or receive an award, we dress up. If you will go to Malacanang in maong pants to meet the president, I am sure you will not be allowed no matter how important is your business. Without saying any word, you have already disrespected the president. (I assume here that the person involved has a capacity to dress up. Farmers are, of course, are exempted because they are limited in their capacity to dress up.)

But our everyday affairs will also tell us the importance of proper dressing. Functions and activities have their own requirements so that people who will join these activities can participate better. In sports, you have a uniform from head to foot in order to perform well. You do not wear a barong or a tuxedo to run, jump or compete in these activities. You will not only be out of place, but it will be hard for you to perform well. In the same manner, you do not wear a bikini or swimming trunks in gala parties. You will be under dressed and may be a sore thumb in the midst of everyone. We dress up. We try to fit ourselves in those occasions not only physically and mentally, but also externally.

This brings us to the mass. It is the summit of Catholic worship. There we meet fellow Catholics and the Lord. The Lord is present in the community, in the Word, in the priest, and par excellence, mismo, in the Eucharist. In the mass, no less than the Lord is the host. How should we dress before Him? The Lord will understand? I think, He will not understand if we know we could have appeared before Him better dressed. That is why we are encouraged to be in our Sunday's best. It is not necessarily the best dress that we have but the best as far as worshipping is concerned. Here will come in our best judgment. If we are not sure, we should not be ashamed to ask others or be willing to be guided by authorities. This is not discriminatory nor oppressive. It is encouraging and challenging everyone to show respect and give the best for the occasion. In this case, the Mass.

My prayer is that people will be open and concerned. Other religions had been known to be particular about their dresses in times of worship. The dress might not be the reason why one will be saved or not, but it certainly will reflect the level of maturity and religiosity of a believer. It is not different for us Catholics. We must show to others and to our God that we have a sense of respect. And we can begin by being dressed for the occasion.

(See also the following relevant websites; and

Friday, February 6, 2009

Live To Live To Leave

John the Baptist's death came after the request of a child who danced before the king was granted. The child asked for the head of the Baptist after she was coached by her mother who was angry at John for crying out in the open the immorality she was committing with her husbands brother. Some would say that it was an untimely death. John could have done more. He could have been the instrument for the repentance of many.

Beautiful and attractive may have been the potentials of John, but the fact is, he had fulfilled his mission; to prepare the way of the Lord. Jesus had come and had been baptized by John signalling the end of the mission of the Baptist! He died a fulfilled prophet. This is not really new. Scanning the Scriptures would reveal that most if not all the prophets died young. They met their death fulfilling the mission God had given them, i.e. to bring the Word Of God to the people. Even the Lord Jesus died at the age of thirty-three. After three years of active ministry, He met His death on the cross.

This is so because God is concerned more on the quality of life. It is not the length of time that we have lived in this world that matters much than the way life was lived. You may have grown old but you still have not fulfilled your God-given mission. You maybe young and yet you had achieved much if not all of the things God expected you to achieve. A saying in sports says: "When the great scorer pens your name, he writes not whether you win or lose but how you played the game." So with God, when we face Him for judgment, it is not the length of time we had lived but whether we had lived life according to the His design.

A poem entitled, "The Dash" speaks of the dash sign between the year of birth and the year of death (e.g. 1901-1980). The year of birth or the year of death are not what matters in that script on one's epitaph. The dash is what matters. That dash represents the life the person who had died. If that dash had been spent according to God's will, that person had fulfilled his life regardless of his age.

So, the death of John should encourage us to look at our lives. What is God's purpose for us? What ought we fulfill? Let us not worried about how long or how short our life is. Let us be more concerned about what kind of life we have lived.