[#AwaNgDiyosPH] An evangelical’s reflection: Hope that the Pope brought

A participant of the encounter of the youth by Pope Francis at the University of Santo Tomas (photo by JEREMAIAH OPINIANO / The Filipino Connection)


In October 1980, I was a grade 6 student at Crusader’s Academy in Ongpin, Binondo, Manila.  Our class, Grade 6 Rose, was brought to the Alvin Angchapel  to learn a new song.  That a song was dedicated to the beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz.  His beatification on was to be held on the occasion of the first visit of St. Pope John Paul II to the Philippines (the first beatification to be held outside the Vatican).  This was to be since this was the school where Lorenzo Ruiz served as church secretary.  We practiced until we remembered the song by heart, only to be told that another choir was going to sing it during the beatification rites at the Quirino Grandstand.

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[Editorials of The Connection] Keeping watch



For the 2013 national and local elections, The Filipino Connection published a special edition and carried the banner story Hope in the Filipino vote? The search continues. The point of that story was not even a second run of automated voting, said to be a major outcome of Philippine electoral reform, “can’t stop usual, serious offline glitches that mark Filipino voting.”

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Batangas’ most ‘competitive:’ Where are they?


For two years running, the National Competitiveness Council (a government-private sector initiative) is piloting a survey on how economically competitive the country’s cities and municipalities are. This is called the Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index, done with the prodding of NCC Chair Guillermo Luz; developed by economist Dr. Alvin Ang of the Ateneo de Manila University; and supported by the Department of Trade and Industry and the United States Agency for International Development.

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[Commentary] Capital S or small s?


Here comes everybody’s feast,”  author James Joyce wrote of Sunday’s festival. . “All Saints’ Day”.  Our forebears called that   “Todos los Santos”

There  are the capital “S” saints. Their names ring out, whenever  the Litany of Saints is chanted. Mary, mother of Christ with Joseph; Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, Therese of Lisieux; Lorenzo Ruiz of Tondo, Manila  and Pedro Calungsod the Visayas’ Pedro Calungsod.

There are, also small letter “S” saints   maids, teachers, barbers to priests and market vendors. Despite their flaws, these obscure men and women serve God in neighbors.

And  perhaps, the Capital S list may soon  include  late Bishop Teofilo  Camomot  of  Cebu?  He often  hocked his bishop’s ring  to bail out the needy.  Dawns, he’d wait  for penitents in the confessional.  He served as  auxiliary bishop of Jaro (1955) and Cagayan de Oro (1958). Poor health compelled his return to Cebu.

“Msgr. Lolong’s ring is here again, pawnshops would call,” Gunmen held up Camomot in Bukidnon after a  confirmation rite. All Camomot had was P20. He had given away his money needy parish priests. The bishop called back the frustrated gunmen and gave them his ring. A Cagayan de Oro pawnshop returned it.

Camomot died in a 1988 car accident, clad in simple worn out clothes. Twenty-one years later, Daughters of St. Teresa nuns exhumed Camomot’s coffin. They jettisoned the urn when Camomot’s body, was found  intact. It was resealed in a hurriedly procured new coffin  after Cardinal Ricardo Vidal “Vidal identified the remains,” Sun Star reported.

Now, the process for Camomot’s  beatification has started On  Sept. 27, 1985,   Camomot and priest-secretary were boarding their car  to Cebu City 40 kilometers away for a meeting. A   woman said her father was critically ill in the mountain barangay of Bolinawan. Could Msgr Lolong  bishop administer anointing of the Sick?  He promised to visit.

On return, Camomot and secretary found the woman waiting. “After your visit earlier today, Tatay was able to get up,” she said. “How could you have gone,” the puzzled secretary asked. “From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. we were in Cebu.” Camomot laughed: “Just keep that to yourself .”

One of  the two thieves crucified with Christ seemed the least likely to be a   A  Capital S  member Scholars note the  Greek word for them  was kakapuorgos, or one who commits gross crimes. Other gospel writers use the term  lestes.  That translates to meant,  bandit or highwayman.

“Don’t you fear God,” he screamed at the other thief who was mocking the Crucified Christ. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

“Pope Gregory IV, in 837 A.D., broadened this to honor, not only to Capital S  members  but all who’ve passed on in grace, whether known or forgotten  The  basic message of  “Todos Los Santos” message  persists: A community of believers share, across the divide of death, grace that surges into eternal life.

Often, we overlook them. These include lay people who spend time, without fuss, in a  parish  charity clinic to serve the poor. There are  housemaids or servants who do their duties. And some take the “road less traveled” challenging an unjust  social order where  cash means right.

Back in July 11,1985, a white Cortina sporting a government license plate, blocked  Redemptorist Father  Rudy  Romano. Armed men on two other motorcycles swerved in. They bundled the priest inside the car, then sped away.

There has been no trace of Father Romano since, like most other of the “disappeared”. None has been convicted. Filipino communists  also  shrug aside pleas from relatives of victims in their pogroms.

Other desaparecidos or “disappeared”  include activist Jonas Burgos, Benedictine deacon Carlos Tayag, UP students Erlinda Capdapan, and Concepcion Empeno Levi Ybañez, among others.

What does this all mean in 2014 “All Saints Day”?                         

“A nation in search of Father Rudy, is a nation in search of itself,” Mary Aileen Bacalso of the Asian Federation Against Disappearances wrote earlier. Over 1,716 similar cases, spanning five administrations…is a wounding reminder of our callousness.”

Forgiveness, does not extinguish accountability. “Men are unable to forgive what they can not punish,” Hannah Arendt stresses in her essay on Nazi terror.

Unveiled in November 1992, “Bantayog ng mga Bayani” ( “Monument to the Heroes.” Honors victimsof martial lawCambodia’s Choeung Ek contains the graves of 8,895 in what were once its killing fields. “Nations are constructed on the basis of great rememberings and great forgettings,” Ernest Renan wrote.

The Redemptorists have forgiven Fr. Romano’s abductors. So has Edith Burgos, whose son Jonas is still missing.“The weak can never forgive,” Asian statesman Mahatma Ghandi said. “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong…(Even when violence appears) to do good, the good is only temporary. The evil it does is permanent…”

A culture of impunity  does not emerge full-blown overnight. It builds up incrementally, stoked by official support, tolerance, and silence. “A man begins to die the moment he remains silent about things that matter,” Martin Luther King warned.

The Protestant National Council of Churches titles  its 83-page report  that  documents 836 politically motivated killings:  “Let The Stones Cry Out.”





[Commentary] Parasol uprising

Rally at the Chinese University in Hong Kong last Sept. 22 (photo taken from http://thetecnica.com/2014/10/12-powerful-pictures-describing-hong-kongs-umbrella-revolution)



“It’s the ‘umbrella revolution,'” said the receptionist Emily Pang as thousand, including Filipino residents  swamped Hong Kong’s streets. Protestors were enraged over Beijing’s refusal to allow open selection of candidates for  in 2017 elections

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[Commentary] Red flags ahead

Over 6.2 million Filipinos are now at risk of regular flooding, says a new analysis of surging sea levels and flood risk around the world.., Conducted by Climate Central, the new report is based on detailed data than has previously been available.

The report came to a Philippines reeling from Tropical Storm “Mario” (international name: Fung-Wong). Twelve died, 14 injured and two were still unaccounted for, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported.. Evacuees crested at 63,254 and the damage bill came to P389.1 million.

This will not be the last storm.The threat of increasingly severe storms due to climate change cuts across Asia. write Gregor Aisch, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy . One out of four Vietnamese will cluster in areas in areas “likely to be subject to regular floods by end of this century. Four percent of China’s residents — 50 million people — live in the same kind of areas.

Globally, eight of the 10 large countries most at risk are in Asia. . About one person in 40, will be locked into places likely to be swamped, if today’s climate patterns persist. Data indicates 2014 could he the hottest year since 2010. No one guarantees the thermometers will dip soon.

More than 40 percent of the Netherlands is exposed. But it also has the world’s most advanced levee system .And few Asian countries came emulate the Dutch system anytime soon.

“Filipinos bear a disproportionate amount of the burden when it comes to climate change,” President Benigno Aquino told the UN Climate Summit last week. He pointed to the battering inflicted by Super Typhoon “Yolanda,” saying: “Nation should not wait for another’s action before determining its own.

“We are dangerously close to condemning the next generation to a future that“is beyond our capacity to repair.”, US President Barrack Obama told the same forum.. “In each of our countries,there will be interests resistant to action…But we have to lead…”

Among seven cities, Manila is second most at risk from climate change, says 2013 Climate Change Vulnerability Index which covers 197 countries. Others are: Dhaka, Bangkok, Yangon, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh and Kolkata.
Rising sea levels could uproot 13.6 million Filipinos by 2050, Asian Development Bank projected in an earlier study: “Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific.” Three typhoons, in as many years, lashed Mindanao. Yet, the island used to reel from a wayward storm every 17 years or so.

In “Environmental Science for Social Change.” , Dr Wendy Clavano identifies “high risk” provinces .These flank Lingayen Gulf, Camotes Sea, Guimaras Strait, waters along Sibuyan and central Sulu, plus bays in Iligan, Lamon and Bislig. Chances of Manila flooding yearly rose to 65 percent, and Davao ’s to 90 percent.”

The burden of coping with climate changes rests on the ground level, not with Malacanang, but on local governments. As of 2014, the country had 81 provinces, 144 cities, 1,490 towns and 42,028 barangays.

The hard question is: How many of them have crafted action plans to cope with the inevitable havoc from altered weather ahead?

Albay is one of the exceptions. It has crafted risk reduction and management institutions. As a “first line of defense ”, the Center for Initiatives on Research and Climate Action drew up. land use plans, zoning and risk mapping. These redirected business and over 10,000 households towards safer locations. Hardware includes a new international airport, road networks.

Social preparation programs range from trainings like evacuation to citizens participation. Local broadcast media are also used for Education-on-Air programs on climate change. The province has ambulances, rubber boats, passenger trucks, helicopters, and fire trucks that could evacuate 160,000 people per day if needed.

Albay’s disaster response program targets pre-emptive evacuation—the province’s key response mechanism to achieve its zero casualty goal. Based on the gravity and proximity of the risk, the government calls for evacuation of the citizens. Protocols for evacuation are well established, and a ready budget for calamities is maintained.

These secured Albay’s casualty list to zero for 16 years now. Two national laws –“The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010” and “The Climate Change Act of 2009”– were enacted based on the Albay model.

Another exception is the third- income class town of San Francisco in the Camotes Island of Cebu. Led by former Mayor Alfredo Arquillano Jr, the townsfolk created a local system, not only to reduce risks in confronting disasters, but also in facilitating efficient delivery of basic services Each barangay has a hazard map and action plan
The system enabled town officials to track before Typhoon Yolanda hit and evacuate people in a swift orderly manner — with zero casualties. It has become a world model for disaster preparedness since.

And where do the other LGUS stand?

Many have focused on trying to wangle a lager slice of the Internal Revenue Allotment fund. For what? Basketball courts, waiting sheds — and in some cases, larger allowances for themselves.

Many have disaster response programs –on paper. That guarantees the officials will be among storm refugees when –-not if-– the next storm hits.

Those who scored a grand slam: San Mig Coffee, and the PBA

Tim Cone's second grand slam feat in the PBA is a team's --and an ice cooler's--happiness (photo by Nuki Sabio for the PBA).


A team’s grand slam feat also gave the PBA its own “grand slam”


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[Commentary] Easter newness

Image by C.H. Spurgeon done on the Lord's day (morning of 29 March 1891) at the Metropolian Tabernacle in Newington, USA. (image taken from http://fortheloveofhistruth.com/2012/04/05/christs-resurrection-and-our-newness-of-life/)


Image by C.H. Spurgeon done on the Lord's day (morning of 29 March 1891) at the Metropolian Tabernacle in Newington, USA. (image taken from http://fortheloveofhistruth.com/2012/04/05/christs-resurrection-and-our-newness-of-life/)

Image by C.H. Spurgeon done on the Lord’s day (morning of 29 March 1891) at the Metropolian Tabernacle in Newington, USA. (image taken from http://fortheloveofhistruth.com/2012/04/05/christs-resurrection-and-our-newness-of-life/)





Are we  captives of  “pre-conceived ideas of Easter”?, theologian Eamonn Bredin asks. Do we  assume  that Easter is “little more  than the simple resuscitation of a larger-than-life Jesus”?

[Commentary] Christmas star lanterns



“Yes, they should have been up by now. But  there are no Christmas parols here yet”,”our friend from Loboc in Bohol emailed.  The  7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit October 15 reduced their four century old church to  rubble.

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Imelda’s sweet sauce

That is the title of a New York Times review on the Broadway musical “Here Lives Love.” Written by Ian Buruma, it goes beyond the usual critique of a musical, as shown on the Public Theater stage. Buruma splices keen insights.
“The audience left happily jigging along with music (by David Byrnes) And I thought to the only time I had lunch with Marcos and Imelda ( in their Hawaiin exile home) Imelda was talking about Ninoy Aquino. ‘’You know’, she said about the man for whose violent death she might have been partly responsible.’He was all sauce and no substance. Marcos: “But honey, that is the essence of Filipino politics.
The pop opera is performed in a made up disco with constantly shifting stages sliding across the floor. The Public Theater audience is coaxed by raucous DJ and pink suited ushers to bopping along with the actorx.
“Filipinos have a word for this,” Buruma writes. Palabas, meaning show or farce. Much in the Philippines is palabas, including, alas, much of its politics. The Marcos dictatorship (1965-1986) was corrupt, kleptomancial, and sometimes brutal, was full of palabas.
“Power was gilded with show and giant parties….Ferdinand Marcos himself was a ruthless operator, more than a showman. He went for the power. His wife provided much of the palabas
In the musical, Imelda is very well sung by Ruthie Anne Miles. Naïve and mawkish, she emerges as “a tinsely fiesta queen.” What follow is a variation of the “The Rake’s Progress”: sentiments are corrupted by increasing power. Delusion ends up bringing her down.”
The show’s pop songs fit perfectly. “The provincial beauty queen becomes a power-hungry pseudo monarch, expecting her people tpo love her shows of wild lavishness, her dances with dictators as much as
she does.
In fact, many of them do —in the way poor people take vicarious pleasure in the abundance of their kings and queens. The musical gives her shenningans a kind of tawdry allure…It was precisely the pop glamour of the Marcos dictatorship that made it so insidious….”
Although the play has the best songs of Benigno Aquino Jr, is the less interesting. The audience keeps bopping until the tarmac assassination.
“In real life, his killing in 1983, on return from exile, was the beginning of another massive palabas: massive street demos, with sentimental pop songs strummed by guitar-playing Freddie Aguilar…One of the slogans,. ubiquitous in the sea of yellow T-shirts was: ‘A Filipino Is Worth Dying For.”
Ninoy Aquino in life is a less saintly figure than he appears in the show. He was a catalyst for a cult that would revolve around his wife: Coarzon ‘Cory’ Aquino. Was Cory’s brand of palabas religious?
“A modest housewife for most of her life, Cory…emerged as the saint of People Power. ..Her newly acquired charisma, backed by the Catholic Church, was one of the factors that brought the Marcos autocracy down…
The stage play could have made more of this. But the ending seems a bit rushed with merely the noise of the helicopters that lifted the disgrace couple from their palace….
“The real sadness of the Philippines is that the carnival of Saint Cory did so little to improve the lives of most Filipinos. Power remains in the hands of a few land owning immensely rich families, including the Aquinos themselves. The current president is Aquino’s son —not a dictator to be sure, which is at least something…

“Imelda is now in her 80s, (she won) a seat in the House of Representatives, with her stolen wealth intact. Her daughter is governor of Ferdinand Marcos’ native province. And the majority of the population is still much poorer than it ought to be.
“And the palabas just goes on, and on, and on.”

Email: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com