02 November 2006

this is your invitation to our ordination

This is your invitation to our Ordination
to the Sacred Order of Presbyters
by the grace of God and the laying on
of hands of our bishop. That day
will be rife with meaning and filled
with possibilities; timely, too, for
celebrating the kindness of friends
and family who helped made that day
possible. We hope you can join us
in the Eucharist and Ordination Rite
at 8:30 a.m., 8 December 2006, Friday,
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception,

at the Cathedral of St. Gregory the Great
in Legazpi City, and share in the joy
of that day with us, dream dreams
for the Church with us, and pray
that we remain thankfully, faithfully
Shepherds after His own heart.

"I give you shepherds after my own heart." Jeremiah 3,15

Rev. Rex Paul Arjona y Bragais
son of Renato Arjona Sr. and Socorro Bragais
Thanksgiving Mass: 8 December 2006, 4:00 p.m.
St. John the Baptist Parish, Tabaco City

Rev. Gerard Arroyo y Bonayon
son of Simeon Arroyo and Corazon Bonayon
Thanksgiving Mass: 10 December 2006, 3:00 p.m.
St. Anthony of Padua Parish, San Antonio, Tabaco City

Rev. Emman Avila y Belchez
son of Armingol Avila and Evangeline Belchez
Thanksgiving Mass: 9 December 2006, 9:00 a.m.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Malilipot

Rev. Jose Baranda Jr. y Benasa
son of Jose Baranda Sr. and Rose Benasa
Thanksgiving Mass: 10 December 2006, 9:00 a.m.
St. Rose of Lima Parish, Bacacay

Rev. Roque Patanao y Oliquiano
son of Segundino Patanao and Delia Oliquiano
Thanksgiving Mass: 9 December 2006, 3:00 p.m.
St. Stephen Proto-Martyr Parish, Ligao City

Most Rev. Nestor C. Cariño, D.D.
Bishop of Legazpi

together with
Most Rev. Lucilo B. Quiambao, D.D.Auxiliary Bishop of Legazpi

Most Rev. Jose C. Sorra, D.D.
Bishop-Emeritus of Legazpi

and the Presbyterium of the Diocese of Legazpi

27 October 2006

pope meets world

The Post-9/11 world that is. And he’s finding it too thrilling for comfort. What started as an innocuous homecoming lecture, filled with the usual erudition and staidness as one would expect from Pope Benedict XVI, churned out the most controversial and dangerous results.

The offending words: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached” (lines spoken by 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologos in a dialogue with a Persian scholar). Of course, Benedict XVI didn’t mean that he agreed with the opinion of the Emperor.

The other offending point was the Pope’s assessment of Sura 2;256 (“There is no compulsion in religion”): “According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war.

The Pope might have thought it apt and even timely to use these points as jumping board to scholarly discussions on the transcendence of God, the dynamics of faith and reason and the contradictory natures of religion and violence. The points, however, jumped farther than he imagined.

Several Muslim scholars have since challenged the accuracy of the Pope’s observation and that of his sources, as well as certain other theological points concerning Islam that he made in the lecture. Many also thought he could have exercised a little more sensitivity and prudence in his choice of words. However, the intensity of violent reactions from the Muslim world – the rounds of vitriolic condemnation from Muslim leaders, incomplete, of course, without the fatwas and flag-burning; the demand for recalling Papal legates in some Muslim countries; the bombing of Christian churches (many of them non-Catholic) in West Bank, Gaza and Iraq; and the murder of an elderly Italian nun in Mogadishu allegedly because of it – have turned out to be, at once, inexcusable, ironic, understandable and expected.

Inexcusable because violence is never a fitting response to an academic opinion. Plus the inherent irrational nature of terrorist acts. Plus the appalling disproportion of the reactions. Suspicion of blasphemy is enough to merit several death sentences; allegation of disrespect to the tenets of another faith is sufficient ground to bomb churches.

Ironic because so much of the aggression has been pointed (1) at Pope Benedict XVI himself, icon of intellectual rigor and dogmatic correctness; (2) and at the Catholic Church (and other Christian Churches, by association) who is among those at the forefront of dialogue, peace-seeking and lobbying in behalf of Muslims in war-torn areas. And (3) radical Islamists dream of the day when everyone will think of them as men of peace by killing today those who think otherwise.

Understandable, to an extent, if one considers the Muslim context: a history of general poverty (despite the affluence of some oil-producing Arab nations), lack of proper education, suspicion against the encroachment of Western culture to their society and traditions, and recently, the wars involving “Christian West” versus Muslim peoples in Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Expected because, in this Post-9/11 world, if you’re a world leader and you say something in public that falls short of perfection about the Prophet and Islam, do you expect to have peace of mind afterwards?

The Pope has since issued several apologies for the confusion and hurt of those who misinterpreted his words and intentions. The Vatican has made diplomatic moves to ease the tension and work for a return to normalcy of relations. Some were relatively satisfied with the apologies. Some just could not get over it.

Other than a costly lesson on religious sensitivity, the controversy has come to highlight certain facts: the growth in strength over the years of the threat of radical Islamists; the need to truly understand and properly respond to this phenomenon; the paucity of the West’s response to it so far (i.e., economic sanctions and military occupations); and the need for continuing and effective dialogue and peace-building among cultures.

Nothing new under the sun really; just a timely jolt to remind the Church of certain realities it has come to terms with in our Post-9/11 world, just like everybody else.

26 September 2006


Today it has been 1 year, 1 week & 2 days since I got ordained as a deacon.

This anniversary fact first came last 16 September when I went to the ordination to the diaconate of some members of the batch next to us at San Jose.

It was a bright Saturday morning. The ordinandi were visibly beaming as well. Their family and friends were present. Bp. Bacani was the ordaining prelate. Loyola House's St. Ignatius Oratory turned smaller with all the guests who came to witness the ordination, some of them spilling to the side corridors. A few happy tears too were spilled at certain high moments of the rite: 5 young men prostrated on the sanctuary's marble floor as the congregation invoke the intercession of the saints; Bp. Bacani laying his hands on each of them, one after the other, to confer the Sacred Order of the Diaconate; the newly-ordained vesting for the first time the deacon's stole and the dalmatic, assisted by their parish priest, another priest-friend and their parents.

Aside from the obvious remembrance of a similar event which happened 1 day shy of a year ago, suddenly it came to me: I was back again at San Jose, back to its familiar familial atmosphere, back once more to the company of people whom I shared space and life with just a few eternal months ago. Words like magis, cura personalis, familiaritas cum Deo, et al. rushed back and claimed their lost meanings. Even the old oft-quoted words appeared with the freshness of a just-heard thing: “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”

Amen to that and to all such Jesuit/Ignatian words, even if today they are no longer confidently attributed to the saintly Pedro Arrupe, S.J. It was an ordination, a most fitting time to hear once more those words in the homily, in the words of thanks, in conversations – including the one which I and a classmate had as we did a celebration of sorts for our ordination anniversary the next day, Sunday.

I can’t help but compare. I’ve only been in my diocese since April, a little less than six months, yet it seemed I have acquired a new epistemology, a new set of things to learn and live with: the literature of pastoral bulletins and circulars; the unique sociology of a provincial presbyterium; the psychology of clerical age-groups; the economics of remittances; the mathematics of bination, trination, quaternation and pluri-intention Masses; the politics of social action; the different management styles of pastors; the procedural arcana of our general assembly; an alternate philology for words like: prayer, dialogue, support system, on-going formation, simplicity of lifestyle, and especially, Church of the Poor.

Limited experience and viewpoint notwithstanding, it seems to me rather strong, this seeing of varied levels of dissatisfaction and dissipation among our clergy. There seems to exist among us a heady mix of several coping/escape mechanisms: a groping for direction, a desperate clinging to the stability of the status quo, a nostalgia for real/imagined better by-gone days. Yet in all this, the Word of God continues to be preached, the work of evangelization proceeds at a certain pace, the People of God have not been relatively led astray. Our situation sometimes gives new dimensions to St. Therese of Lisieux’s “everything is grace”.

If I were fatalistic I would say I sense, as I sometimes do, an imminent time for reaping the rewards of all our blunders and good intentions, of our denials and discernments, of our failings and excesses, of our diligence and fidelity – in short and in Gospel-speak, a day of harvest both of those wheat and weeds we have so (choose your adverb) planted. But I am not.

I am just a transitional deacon, 1 year, 1 week & 2 days older.

Ora pro nobis.

15 September 2006

we don't want to delve into that

“Technically Lafayette has been compliant with all the conditions. The political and economic issues would be a different matter… we don’t want to delve into that.” So said Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Horacio Ramos (Phil. Star, Fri, 8 Sept. 2006, p.2).

What’s wrong with this statement? Two things:

1. A high-ranking DENR official gives advance notice of yet another anomalous government decision: the permanent lifting of the order which suspended the operations of a recidivist multinational mining company, in the aftermath of a series of mine spills and fish kill in October 2005.

2. A virtual announcement of yet another government-Lafayette collusion and whitewash. Ramos, in his great fervor to endorse Lafayette’s mining operations in Rapu-Rapu, admits to have judged as having no practical merit to the case, as far as he/the MGB is concerned, such issues as: Lafayette's glaring lack of social acceptability, its cheating the people of taxes and revenues, its social and economic cost to the lives and livelihood of the locals (which the company tries to assuage with its palliative and deceptive community development programs), its proven destruction of the environment, and the MOST RECENT SERIES OF FISH KILL WHICH HAPPENED ON JULY 2006 - well within the schedule of the test run.

On record in the Rapu-Rapu Sangguniang Bayan minutes: some residents saw several DENR officials on the site of the fish kill, while it was happening. As usual, no picture evidence of the incident ever surfaced. And all this time company representatives were all over the media, preaching their new-found mantra ever since the “take-over” of the “new” board: transparency...responsible mining...transparency... responsible mining...

That is when they weren’t busy accusing Greenpeace and the whole motley of local anti-mining advocates (including, presumably but left unmentioned, the Dioceses of Legazpi and Sorsogon) of staging the fish kill themselves via an elaborate plan that involved smuggling into Rapu-Rapu a sizable volume of pesticide and then stealthily dumping it all into one of several heavily guarded (by both private guards and the military) creeks in the island.

But they don’t have pictures of that Operation Whatever taken either. What they have is made of far stronger stuff: the testimony/rantings of Gov. Raul Lee of Sorsogon in an interview with a notoriously pro-Lafayette PDI Southern Luzon Bureau reporter. How reassuring it is for the people of Sorsogon to hear their governor passionately defend a company coming from foreign lands, operating in another province, yet posing as the gravest threat to date to their own province's booming eco-tourism industry. Pity the butandings, they're no match for Lafayette in enlisting the support of local officials.

What's wrong with the quote again? DENR should be releasing the result of the tests they have presumably conducted during/right after the fish kill, instead the news article where that quote is taken has this for its headline: "DENR says Lafayette fit to resume operations in Rapu-Rapu".

As an afterthought, MGB Director Ramos gives a token display of realism and balance: “We cannot preempt though the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB), which would decide on whether to lift the suspension order or not.” But of course, he doesn't want to preempt the PAB, he just wants to prepare the ground for when their decision comes out.

In a recent mobilization in Legazpi City, a couple or so banners bore the words, "DENR: Destroyer of the Environment and Natural Resources". With public officials like these, that claim might turn out to be closer to reality than we think.

19 July 2006

apathy is bliss

let us be united for our country's sake.
no more impeachment.
no more protests.
they won't listen anyway.
i'd still go for elections, for it's part of our democracy.
but no more election watch.
no more namfrel. no more ppcrv.
everybody cheats and steals anyway.
let's just ask the cbcp to issue another pastoral letter,
then cheer them for doing their prophetic duty.
amen for critical collaboration.
amen for pro-poor donations.
then, let's move on.
let this government be.
let oppositionists and leftists fight their own battles.
morality for political expediency.
let's get real.
let's move on.
no more truth-seeking,
apathy is bliss, apathy for progress.


A Call for Unity and Sacrifice

It’s been a year after the Garci tapes first surfaced, and we are still hopelessly divided as ever. Each side appeal to the other to join their cause, both claim to represent the majority. The anti-GMA forces base their claim on survey results which consistently show that a vast majority believe GMA cheated. Pro-GMA forces claim the people have spoken – they have not responded to the opposition calls for protest. They conveniently forget that neither have the people responded to their call to move on.

The truth is we are in a political gridlock. And the situation will continue to worsen unless we see a breakthrough in the current impasse.

It is unreasonable to expect GMA and her allies to budge. Therefore, the only option left is for us within the anti-GMA camp, who claims to be motivated by love of country, to make the supreme sacrifice by abandoning our quest for the truth. After all, truth is a small price to pay for progress.

Let us heed the admonition of the bishops. They discourage us from pursuing impeachment, convinced that it will fail, and will only dismay every citizen. Besides, they question the motivation of some groups in our rank. In effect, they’re saying we might inadvertently abet the return of Erap, the succession of Noli (whom they probably see as incompetent), or worse, the ascendancy of the communists. So, let’s not waste our time and energy on impeachment.

While at it, let’s ask the poor to stop filing cases in court. They will only be dismayed since we all know it takes money to win a case. They will do all of us a favor by unclogging the dockets in our court system. The wheels of justice will finally grind faster, especially for those with enough money to influence the court decisions.

And what’s all this talk about asking the US government to deport Bolante so he can finally testify at the Senate hearing? We all know that he will simply deny all allegations, just like Garci did, and nothing much will happen. We will only be dismayed. Let’s not waste any more taxpayers’ money on all these Senate inquiries in aid of legislation.

On the other hand, the bishops want us to continue denouncing the palace-led people’s initiative for charter change. They find the haste by which Malacanang is pushing this rather alarming. I wonder why they do not find the alleged cheating and the subsequent cover-up efforts by the palace equally alarming.

I also wonder why they have decided to fight this one when the very same groups whose motivation they question are fighting this one, too. I guess it’s because non-partisan groups like One Voice and Kapatiran, are endorsing it. They have no agenda (just like many of us in the anti-GMA camp, anyway) and they know what’s best for this country. Let us join them and speak with one voice on this issue.

While at it, let’s also heed the repeated appeals of the “top 600 women” and businessmen like Donald Dee for us to stop all forms of protest. They only scare investors away and imperil the economy. Let’s not nitpick on the issue of cheating. Everybody cheats anyway. Some of them even expect us to be thankful for GMA’s cheating, because it saved us from an FPJ presidency. The end justifies the means.

Let’s not bother to have elections in 2007 and 2010. In fact, let’s not have elections ever. Everybody will cheat, anyway. And we run the risk of our mindless masa voting another incompetent movie personality into office. Let’s just leave the future of this nation to these all-knowing non-partisan groups. Never mind that the rest of our people do not agree with them. They know better.

Some of them actually believe that what this nation needs at this time is a benevolent dictator. And they cite Singapore’s success under Lee Kwan Yu as the best example. No wonder they eagerly embrace GMA’s all-out war against the leftists. Never mind the unabated killings (they’re all communists, anyway) and escalating human rights violations. They are but small sacrifices that we can offer in the altar of national progress.

Of course, GMA supporters will not openly admit that she is a dictator, even though she has repeatedly violated the constitution with CPR, EO 464, and PP 1017. But we can all agree that she is benevolent. Just ask the Comelec officials who met at her house and the congressmen who voted down impeachment last year. But then again, the bishops may not agree. P20,000 in an envelope can hardly be considered benevolent.

I call on my colleagues in the anti-GMA movement to stand down and join the majority of our people who believe she cheated but have decided not to do anything about it. That is the most patriotic thing to do.

Never mind that we are breeding a new generation of Filipinos lacking in moral scruples, where lying, stealing and cheating abound. You cannot eat morality. Never mind that our rights are curtailed and our basic liberties trampled. You cannot drink democracy. National unity, at whatever cost, is our only hope for a better future and a strong republic.

How times have changed. I remember, right after EDSA 1, people proclaimed, “Never again!” Now, all we can say is “Never mind!”

Enteng Romano III
Convenor, Black and White Movement

P.S. – please pass this on to everyone you know who are actively involved in or even remotely supportive of the anti-GMA movement that they may be enlightened and do the right thing for the sake of our nation.

06 July 2006

pastoral letter: mining in rapu-rapu

in light of relatively recent events: the 11 and 31 oct 2005 mine spills in rapu-rapu island, albay; the fish kills and the subsequent fish scare; the final report of the rapu-rapu fact-finding commission, also known as the bastes commission, on 19 may 2006; the recent DENR announcement allowing a 30-day test run of mining operations; & other events pertaining to the lafayette mining operations in rapu-rapu, our diocese, thru bp. quiambao, released a pastoral letter, or bulletin, reiterating our consistent stand: rapu-rapu is not suitable for mining, thus, stop mining, close the lafayette mine. just read the details below.
this will be read in a press con on 11 july, so we issued an embargo to members of the press who have gotten hold of early copies of this pastoral letter. there will be a rally in the afternoon of the same day, dubbed the 'black tuesday' grand rally against mining. we urge participants to wear black to express mourning for DENR’s approval of a 30-day test run of mining operations and indignation at the govt’s and lafayette’s sustained indifference to stop the harm being done to our land and people. those who can't join the rally, are asked wear black even in the confines of their school or office. those who can't wear black, a black arm band may do.
The Chancery
Legazpi City

PASTORAL BULLETIN NO. 05, Series of 2006

To: Clergy, Religious, Heads of CEAL Schools, Lay Faithful, Men and Women of good will

Dear People of God:

“Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell” (Num 35,34).

The Mine Spill Incidents. On 11 and 31 October 2005, two mine spill incidents took place at the mining site of Lafayette Philippines, Inc. (LPI), and its two subsidiaries, i.e., Rapu-Rapu Minerals, Inc. (RRMI) and Rapu-Rapu Processing, Inc. (RRPI), in the island municipality of Rapu-Rapu, Albay. The mine spills flowed into nearby creeks and rivers and into the open sea.

After both incidents, fish kill ensued in several bodies of water in Rapu-Rapu. Fish kills were also reported to have occurred on several occasions in November 2005 in the coastal waters of Sorsogon and the Albay Gulf. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) found positive for cyanide several fish kill samples submitted by the Mayor of Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon. After the fish kill came the fish scare which adversely affected the lives and livelihood of fisher folk families, fish traders and the fish consuming public.

Three months after the last mine spill, a study conducted by a team from the University of the Philippines–Natural Science Research Institute (UP-NSRI) reported that Sorsogon’s, as well as Albay’s waters, fish and underwater sediments are safe. However, the team admitted that its findings were not conclusive and need further studies. Further, UP-NSRI and various other groups and individuals, which also conducted different studies taken at different periods within five months following the tailings incidents, yield a telling common result: “the presence of toxic heavy metals in the soil, water, and sediment samples and in the urine and blood of some of the patients coming from communities near the mine site” (RRFFC Final Report).

The Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission (RRFFC), created by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and headed by Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, reported, among others, the following findings:

1. “Lafayette is guilty of irresponsibility for starting operations prior to the completion of environmental protection infrastructure.” “11 of 29 conditionalities and subconditionalities contained in the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) were violated by the LPI Group.”
2. “The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its bureaus, i.e., the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), its regional offices, including its monitoring team… did not have sufficient capability of monitoring mining operations in Rapu-Rapu. Worse, though, is that if they had the capability then they utterly lacked will.” The Mines Rehabilitation Fund Committee (MRFC) and the Multi-partite Monitoring Team (MMT) were also found to have exhibited poor monitoring and management capability.
3. The Commission also noted the hasty and irregular manner by which Lafayette was able to secure its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) in the first place, despite vehement opposition voices raising valid concerns, such as, its dubious social acceptability and its potential to harm the environment, and despite a Senate committee investigation, led by former Senator Jaworski, which recommended the non-issuance of an ECC.

The Church’s Involvement on Mining and Environmental Concerns. In November 1999, when Lafayette and another mining company, Miracle Mile, were still in the process of initial exploration and application for the necessary permits, the Diocese released a Pastoral Letter on the “Rapu-Rapu Island Mining Case”, warning, among others, that:

“The much touted economic development and industrial growth to be brought upon by the mining companies will definitely be beneficial only to them and to certain government officials. In fact, it will only aggravate the poverty of the people since the land will be taken away from them and the agricultural and marine life of the island will be gradually and systematically destroyed. The livelihood programs being offered by the mining companies are mere palliatives and are actually meant to lure the people into acquiescing to their demands and activities… The countless effects of the toxic wastes and mineral tailings will be terribly felt and will gravely affect the livelihood and health of the people.”

Such prophetic words. Some though question the Church’s involvement in the issues of mining in general and the mine spill incidents in Rapu-Rapu. The answer is simple: our preaching and living the Gospel demands the prophetic duty of teaching about the integrity of God’s creation and our responsibility as stewards of creation, and, whenever necessary, of speaking against the grave injustice of pursuing profit at the expense of the environment and people’s lives, especially, those of the poor. Pope Benedict XVI, in his very first encyclical, says that “the social concern is as essential to [the Church’s] mission as the ministry of the sacraments and the preaching of the Gospel” (Deus Caritas Est 22).

Call to Action. “Whatsoever you do to the least of My brethren, you do unto Me” (Mt 25,40).

Thus, we, your bishops and priests, together with the Diocesan Social Action Commission, would like to reiterate what we have held consistently from the very start: that mining must not be conducted in Rapu-Rapu and that the best course of action is the immediate closure of the Lafayette mine.

Our position is supported by the findings of the Ateneo de Naga University–Institute for Environmental Conservation and Research (INECAR) which has been doing scientific research for more than six years now in Rapu-Rapu. Studies done by Dr. Emelina Regis, INECAR Director, find the island gravely unsuitable for mining due to the following reasons:

“[It is an] island ecosystem with steep slopes; [it has a] Type II climate, [i.e.,] there is no dry season, with very pronounced wet period from November to January; [it is] located along the typhoon path; and [it has] massive iron sulfide rocks with acid-generating capacity or Acid Mine Drainage (AMD)... The resulting impacts of AMD include death to living organisms and release of toxic heavy metals that causes loss of productivity of aquatic and terrestrial plants… [and ultimately,] destruction of livelihood in agriculture and fisheries… These impacts will persist for a long time. Heavy rains will continue to erode loosened contaminated soil. Silt and tailings that poison the land and sea will leave behind unproductive land and dead coral reefs… There is no justice in sacrificing the survival of generations of people and other living organisms for the short-term gains of a few.” (INECAR Position Paper regarding mining in Rapu-Rapu: Closure of Lafayette Mine, 15 February 2006)

For the same reasons, we express our opposition to the announced 30-day Temporary Lifting Order (TLO) by the DENR that will allow a three-stage test run of mining operations by RRMI and RRPI, which many believe is but a ploy and a prelude to regular operations.

We also support the recommendations of the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission (RRFFC). In particular, we wish to highlight some of these recommendations and appeal to the President, the DENR Secretary, officials of local government units (LGUs) and concerned government agencies, to consider them as moral imperatives:
1. “Cancel the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of RRMI and RRPI” for serious violations of the ECC conditionalities and other previously-mentioned grounds.
2. “Cancel the RRMI and RRPI Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) registration on the basis of the irregularities found (by the RRFFC) and for the reason that the Rapu-Rapu LGU has been unduly deprived of local taxes.”
3. Review R.A. 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, and its Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations, and repeal provisions that put the interest of the Filipino people at a disadvantage.

We call on the faithful in the parishes and religious communities, and men and women of faith and good will, to act and unite to protect our environment from further degradation, and to support the people of Rapu-Rapu and those in nearby towns in Albay and Sorsogon who are adversely affected by Lafayette’s mining operations. A Diocesan Circular, released alongside this Pastoral Bulletin, details our Diocese’s plan for immediate actions.

Conclusion. No doubt, our present situation reflects what the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) refers to in its “Statement on Mining Issues and Concerns”, released on 29 January 2006, which is but a repeat of what the bishops previously declared in 1998:

“[The] government[‘s] mining policy is offering our lands to foreigners, with liberal conditions, while our people continue to grow in poverty… [Further,] the adverse social impact on the affected communities far outweigh the gains promised by mining transnational corporations (TNCs).”

The celebration of the World Environment Month this June, and the CBCP declaration of 2006 as the Year of Social Concerns, are powerful reminders that the story of Rapu-Rapu need not continue nor end as yet another reiteration of our dire pronouncements. The situation is not hopeless. Let us unite and work together “for the cause of truth and goodness and right” (Ps 45,5). Let us hold on to the struggle to put an end to destructive mining and unjust State and corporate practices in Rapu-Rapu, in other parts of our country, and in developing countries around the world.

Finally, let us pray unceasingly for our elected government leaders; for DENR officials; for the executives of Lafayette; for the victims of the mine spills; and for us all; that we may open our hearts to receive the Holy Spirit. Then He shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.

Devotedly yours in the Lord,

Auxiliary Bishop of Legazpi

(Sgd.) Fr. John B. Mendoza
Ad-Interim Chancellor-Secretary
30 June 2006

05 July 2006

ehemplo anti-corruption music video

heto ang isang music video mula sa ehem - kampanya laban sa corruption ng phil province ng kapisanan ni Hesus (heswita), kasama na ang tanggapan ng ombudsman (omb. merceditas guttierez, kasama kayo, talaga po?).

EHEMPLO. ang mga kumanta - ng libre - para sa produksyong ito ay sina noel cabangon, cookie chua, lolita, gary granada, himig heswita, pendong & susan fernandez. mula sa panulat ni paring bert alejo, s.j. at musika ni dodgie fernandez.

kaya lang baka maging ambivalent ang tanggap dito ng mga hardline pro-life kasi kasama ang USAID sa mga tumulong pinansyal, hehe.

sana magpaapoy sa damdamin ng marami para mas dumami pa ang nais lumagay sa wasto at lumaban sa corruption.

13 June 2006

4-point agenda in the 'tricameral' budget hearings

after following peripherally in the news the recently conluded anc teledrama, otherwise known as the 'tricameral' budget hearings, it was a delight to read pdi most aptly capping (for now) the whole thing with its independence day editorial offering. the write-up succinctly spoiled what could have been another well-polished act for bunye, faithful as ever to malacañang's lay-all-the-blame-on-the-senate-to-pave-the-way-for-its-abolition pr-strategy. the senate, too, didn't come out unscathed there. i had a talk recently with a friend from the reg'l dbm office here in legazpi, & she was exasperated at the way the senate did to their proposed 2006 budget. all that hard work for a reenacted budget.

the sorry state of our gov't has come to these: malacañang dictates to congress its wishes. congress - den of trapos that it is (heri, hodie, semper?) - pithy opposition notwithstanding, delivers the malacañang-'inspired' budget proposal to the senate - 'the graveyard of congress-approved bills' (acc. to my district's congressman, lagman). the senate, in turn, sees a dilemma staring at them: not to approve the bill & compromise funding for certain valid & urgent public concerns or approve it ('all or nothing' -again, malacañang) & risk giving gloria enough leverage to bribe congresspersons come impeachment time or assure admin candidates of yet another round of 'pera-ic' victories come election time. the compromise: the lame fall back of a reenacted budget - symbol, symptom, synonym of this country's current political empassé.

happy independence day, anyone?

The secretary lies

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the June 12, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IT IS A SORRY SIGN OF THE TIMES, AND A SAD reflection on the state of the nation, 108 years after independence was first proclaimed, that the headline above can be understood to refer to more than one government official serving in the present Cabinet.

It could refer to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, whose job description seems to include drawing public anger and opposition criticism away from the President, through the strategic use of intemperate, injudicious, inaccurate statements.

It could refer to National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, who has demonstrated a capacity to manufacture entire conspiracies or imagine mass graves out of very thin cloth.

Unhappily, to those who find Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye a generally amiable fellow, the headline refers to him. In particular, it refers to the statement he released after a bicameral conference committee failed to conclude negotiations on the proposed 2006 national budget. The key passage reads: “We lament the nonpassage of vital reform bills to include the national budget due to the noncooperation and dilly-dallying displayed by the Senate. This situation is the clearest and best argument for a shift to a unicameral system that fuses the executive and legislative powers in one chamber for which we now have a growing momentum of public support.”

In these two sentences, Bunye asserts four principal facts. On closer examination, we find that all of them are lies.

First. Malacañang does not lament the nonpassage of the 2006 budget; in fact, the Palace positively guaranteed the outcome. We are certain that the Executive would have welcomed the passage of the full trillion-peso budget for 2006; but we are even more certain that a reenacted 2005 budget also suits the President’s political purposes. Hence, the late transmission of the House bill to the Senate. Hence, the all-or-nothing ultimatum from Malacañang, which was designed to stop negotiations, not encourage it.

Second. The Senate bears its share of the blame, but so does the Palace. “Both waged systematic efforts to impair each other’s competitive positions via a scorched earth or creeping decapitation strategy ahead of the 2007 elections,” a frustrated Rep. Joey Salceda, head of the House panel to the budget bicam, told the Inquirer. In fact, in his frustration, Salceda finally admitted the obvious. “It’s really a tricam since the Executive casts a shadow over the entire exercise.” The administration-controlled House merely channels the ghosts of Malacañang. “Invariably, the House panel is a conduit of Executive intervention since we religiously adopt their budget proposal which inevitably becomes our position during the bicam.” That position was “take it or leave it.” In other words, the noncooperation and dilly-dallying Bunye laments can also and rightly be laid at Malacañang’s door.

Third. The budget fiasco is not the clearest and best argument for a unicameral system; rather, it is the clearest and best argument against it. The ostensible assumption behind Bunye’s “false-facts statement” is that efficiency is the best justification for a legislature; this is a point of view we can have a reasonable and profitable debate about. Bunye’s real assumption, however, is that the bicameral conference was a failure because it failed to advance the President’s objectives. Considering that the President’s 2006 budget objectives included billions of pesos in the presidential equivalent of a pork barrel, the Senate’s proposed reduction of that part of the budget was very much in the public interest—and, therefore, it was an endorsement of the check-and-balance function of a bicameral legislature.

Fourth. There is no growing momentum of public support for a unicameral system. The latest surveys from both Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia show that most Filipinos of voting age are against a change in the system of government. The online statistics Charter change advocates point to are non-scientific, at best; manufactured, at worst. Like Bunye’s brazen assertions, they are nothing more than a tissue of lies.

the editorial may be viewed at http://news.inq7.net/opinion/index.php?index=1&story_id=78827

02 June 2006

bishops and deacons

“I cannot as a priest but be poor. It is in being poor that we can better live out our vocation and be more effective in our ministry. People can see Christ better in us and can have a clearer idea of who Jesus really is if we are poor priests."
bishop-elect broderick pabillo, auxiliary bishop of manila, speaking at the national clergy congress 2005.

last sunday, 28 may, i read the happy news on pdi, via my favorite columnist (and future presidential candidate?) randy david, of the election by benedict xvi of two new bishops - fr ambo david (randy's brother) and fr broderick pabillo. fr ambo is well-known in my circle - alumnus of san jose, scripture scholar & prof at LST, sought-after talk-giver and retreat-master. unfortunately for me, i never had him as prof in any scripture course at LST (it was a tough choice between him & fr vic salanga, sj).

fr or bp-elect broderick is also an in-demand talk-giver and retreat-master. i only know him from afar. but whatever distance there may be, what i know of him is enough to leave me highly edified. he was an sdb priest who left the relative comfort of his don bosco community to become a diocesan, devoting himself to one of the poorest parishes of palawan. it was his experience of poverty & sanctity in palawan that was the context of this blog's intro quote.

last 24 may, my bishop ordained 4 seminarians to the diaconate. rev deacons dok arroyo, gboy avila, joey baranda & roque patanao. incl myself, there are now 5 of us, deacons, serving legazpi - yey!

the recent ordination brings back memories and insights from discernment and prayer periods past. i remember finally getting over the fear of not choosing the 'better option' in favor of the road less traveled. i remember struggling over celibacy before getting to accepting it, first, as a means that i need to appropriate in order to realize a life lived more fully, then, at last, as God's gift to me. i remember one contemplation: on the feeding of the 5000 in matthew - Jesus speaking, 'these are my people and this is my work, from them will rise my dream, the coming of the Kingdom; would you dare join me in this dream?'

after almost 9 months as a deacon, i still shudder at all these remembering. at present, with the realities of ministry in my diocese gradually, sometimes jarringly, beginning to unravel themselves in ways perceived only vaguely before, remembering becomes an exercise that brings both comfort and perplexity. most return journeys, this one a return to ideals, are both comforting (because it brings us back to places and states we have become accustomed to, to our comfort zones) and perplexing (because our lofty ideals get measured up by how we have fared so far in taking on 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune', otherwise known as - reality).

my ideals regarding the ordained ministry:

1. it is the choosing of a life less ordinary - of becoming agents of the sacred, purveyors of hope, firesetters for the Kingdom.

2. it is all about making a sacrifice. & by sacrifice i mean not just enduring the regular hardships that accompany any self-giving, but more about 'making holy' one's humble efforts because they are, after all, but a sharing in Christ's work.

3. it is a witnessing to that 'something more', i.e., that there is something more than the usual pursuit of power, prestige, or financial gain. it is about how one strives to be poor and to serve in a church that professes to become one with the poor, indeed, become poor itself. sadly, in this regard, many of us, ordained ministers, have been measured & found wanting.

that is why, frs david and pabillo becoming bishops is a happy occasion. for we need more men like them to make us pause & reflect & get fired up once more in our own witnessing and sacrificing. we need to attend more ordinations so we may remember how, for every deacon, priest and bishop, his ordained ministry started by dreaming Christ's dream.

18 May 2006

how not to solve the problem of ALECO

admittedly, the result was not unexpected.

last 6-7 may, our electric coop's miembros-consumidores voted for the new ALECO board of directors. well, at least, 13% of them/us. i voted in behalf of the bishop's house. you can look at 13% in two ways: glass is half-empty - small voter turn-out; glass is half-full - largest ever voter turn-out. an optimist by preference, i choose the half-full version. and partly because it would lead me to discuss two factors why it happened thus.

1. the church factor. the sunday before, the homilies in all masses had a common subject: the election. plus our media campaign. suddenly people were talking (and were apparently concerned) about the huge debt - P850M plus and counting - which ALECO has incurred in more than a decade of corrupt and bad management.

2. the vote-buying factor. again, it was not unexpected. vote-buying happened in all districts, save for 2: legazpi-rapu-rapu (where there was only one candidate) and ligao-oas (the baluarte of the governor). some also claim a no-cheating situation for old albay-manito, then again, we also heard reports stating otherwise. the consensus: there was cheating in that district but only to an 'insignificant' degree.

the same 'style' for the regular gov't officials' elections was employed for this election. including padrino politicos. but here's the twist: rumor has it that a local politician with powerful connections way up, was seen in public in, at least, 3 districts, a day before and during the 1st day of election, talking with 'known' supporters of certain candidates. the 'public secret' is he's behind most of the vote-buying operations.

let's twist things some more: apparently, he is only a point-person (if you want to be charitable) or a pimp (if you want to be precise) for a foreign company who has long expressed (another understatement) intention to either buy the coop (i.e. privatize - which was popularly opposed) or enter into an 'independent management contract' (IMC).

speaking of un-failed expectations, the winning candidates' true colors are expected to be revealed further in two more forthcoming occasions: (1) during the voting of the board chairman and (2) during the deliberation and voting for the resolution/s on the 'independent management contract' issue. and then, of course, in their conduct and decisions through their entire term.

now here's our commitment, and hopefully, that of all the member-consumers of ALECO, too: we will watch the board. we will be vigilant and we will push for transparency in all transaction and decisions. whatever decisions will be taken will have to pass through proper, just and fair processes.

this time, we hope, despite initial setbacks, there would be space for our great expectations.

16 May 2006

reactionaries! (the da vinci code - take #2)

this thu, 18 may, da vinci code will be shown in phil theaters. finally. finally, too, the phil bishops stepped into the fray. how could they not? the movie's pr-strategy: hype the elements of the book deemed contrary to the christian faith & let the media do what they do -- voila! reactions guaranteed (the more extreme, the better). end result: greater public attention and higher revenues for mr brown, his publishers and movie producers.

the cbcp released a pastoral letter and a guide, containing direct, objective answers to matters of faith and facts raised by the novel. but, of course, the more adversarial reactions from certain catholic leaders and fundamentalist groups got better media mileage. somehow, calls for banning the movie, suing the author et al., or, (hopefully not true) book burning, produces higher ratings than level-headed answers.

the whole process won't be complete without avowed liberals counter-(over)reacting to any moves, real and imagined, at censorship. talk about anti-reactionary reactionaries, hehe.

the cbcp was right not to give in to the temptation. in this post-postmodern, so-called information age, censorship is the most counterproductive of options. nevertheless, some fundamental truths of the faith have been put into question, and a good number of the faithful have been disturbed by the book’s claims, thus a proper response was in order.

some of the book's claims:
· Jesus is not divine.
· his marital relations with mary magdalene produced an offspring.
· nicea was the council where they voted (narrowly at that) in favor of the divinity of Christ.
· constantine fixed the NT canon & had a hand in choosing the 4 gospels.
· the church suppressed many facts about the christian faith, including that of the magdalene and some 80 other gospels.

some other facts about dan brown and his work:
· contrary to his claims, not all, descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate, a good number of them have been proven to be downright untrue.
· the priory of sion, as he described it, hasn't existed in history. but, of course, he could always tell us: 'it's a secret brotherhood.' sure.
· the 'les dossiers secret', which supposedly lists down the grand masters of the non-existent priory, is a well-documented hoax.
· he claims to have 'worked hard to create a fair and balanced depiction of opus dei' but insists on his personal unfavorable opinion of the prelature.
· when confronted by scholarly refutation of his claims, mr brown resorts to the following appeals:

appeal to fiction – it’s a work of fiction. indeed. but fiction which insists on certain dubious elements as hard facts.
appeal to history as written by victors – a convenient argument when going against the grain of scholarly consensus, and the fact that no authority of note or respectable university affirms his basic assumptions.
appeal to his own opinion – mr brown says he welcomes the debate spurred by his work. the debate happens this way -- affirmation: he writes the novel. rebuttal: they write books to challenge his facts. final word: i disagree with them, and that’s that.
appeal to rationalization – this one, on some levels, i would agree. his book undoubtedly sparked renewed interest in religion. but at the expense of the most revered truths of the christian faith, of the sensibilities of many christians all over, and of the image of the catholic church in general, and opus dei in particular. it also sparked renewed upsurge in mr brown's income.

i'm no great fan of the opus dei, too conservative for my taste. but assassinations and terroristic acts? come on. thought they'd be more adept at issuing threats of CDF censure to erring theologians than death threats, hehe.

but the opportunity for evangelization, that i could thank him for. ironic that a moderately well-written (mr butch dalisay would have a different much expert opinion. though i myself would choose michael crichton many times over mr brown when it comes to SF, & i've read all 4 of mr brown's novels) pulp fiction, founded on spurious documents, dubious facts, recycled legends and alternative art appreciation, could move otherwise apathetic christians to know more about their faith (and hopefully relate more with the God they profess to believe in) than a slew of televangelists -- both the preaching and duelling types -- and sunday after sunday of regular church masses, which only a relative few attends, could achieve.

of course, he could also thank God (or maybe, just his common sense) that he only 'did' christianity, not islam. otherwise, fatwas and flag-burning, anyone?


for direct statements from dan brown about the controversy surrounding his novel, check this site:

15 May 2006

can't resist joining the da vinci band wagon ;-) here's my take (#1)


from the “fact page” of the novel da vinci code:


The Priory of Sion – a European secret society formed in 1099 – is a real organization. In 1975 Paris’s Bibliotheque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous numbers of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo and Leonardo da Vinci.

The Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion and a dangerous practice known as ‘corporal mortification.’ Opus Dei has just completed construction of a $47 million National Headquarters at 243 Lexington Avenue in New York City.

All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.


before even decoding da vinci’s code or declaring it a hoax, a deception, a work of the devil, whatever, certain things may already be said about dan brown’s touted “facts” and their accuracy, or lack thereof.

· the priory of sion is not as real an organization as mr. brown would have us believe. the closest to genuine historical record we have is this: in 1099, the christian king of jerusalem at that time founded the abbey of our lady of mt sion in jerusalem. it was destroyed by muslims in 1291 although the replanted abbey-community survived till the 14th century in sicily. a certain pierre plantard founded a 'priory of sion' in france in the 1950s, he is curiously connected with the so-called “les dossiers secret”.

· the “dossiers secret”, which supposedly contains a list of an unbroken line of the priory’s grand masters from 1188 to 1963, were neither parchments nor were they discovered in 1975 at paris’ bibliotech nationale. rather they were texts deposited (planted?) there (and in some other libraries) in 1967, most likely a hoax of fairly recent origin.

· church authorities, as a matter of practice, do not call the opus dei a “sect” (the term has connotations of divergent/dissenting doctrines or practices) operating within the catholic church. they don’t have member monks. needless to say, such non-existent member-monks don’t engage in assassination and terrorism. and while stating there were “reports of brainwashing, coercion and a dangerous practice known as corporal mortification” may qualify as factual reporting, they are, actually, facts of certain people's opinions and hearsays on opus dei. further, his choice of words and facts ($47m headquarters along lexington ave., nyc) may even qualify as deliberate efforts to make the prelature appear secretive, sinister, hugely influential and, therefore, to some extent, conveniently convincingly dangerous and menacing.

the idea of Jesus and mary magdalene getting married and having (a) child/ren has been a staple in some ancient pseudo-christian texts and later anti-christian writings. the church – the christian communities, faithful and united in the faith taught by the apostles and their legitimate successors – since earliest times, has consistently considered the notion heretical, i.e., not of the true faith. the book’s claims hinged upon a quaint legend from a village in the region of provence in france where an ancient shrine to st. mary magdalene is located. the legend tells of magdalene spending her last days there with her child/ren.

constantine is sweepingly charged with fixing the NT canon and having a hand in choosing the gospels which presented a “divine” Jesus, for political and security reasons. a century or so before even constantine reached world history prominence, the four gospels have already been universally acclaimed by the church as canonical and inspired. around the same time, the church has already been consistently condemning gnostic-christian texts as heretical.

da vinci painted Jesus and 12 other persons in the famous last supper scene. via an alternative art interpretation and clever explanation of symbolisms, he insists the person to the right of Jesus is mary magdalene. the simplest and most obvious interpretation (and the one upheld by scholarly consensus) is that it is a painting of Jesus with the 12 apostles, the one beside him being john.


for the recently released cbcp pastoral letter on the da vinci code and accompanying guide on "handling questions" you may click these sites:

07 May 2006

triple whammy! e.o.464, cpr, p.p.1017. but why the negativity?

three little pigs: e.o. 464, cpr, p.p. 1017. three little pigs housed on arguments of hay which the arroyo administration devised to suppress the search for truth and expression of legitimate dissent. three little pigs oinking their way to martial rule. until the supreme court (big bad wolf?) blew their house away and exposed them for what they are: the delusions of mad-persons corrupted by power and bent on self-preservation no matter what. laws of this country be damned, having discarded morals long ago. bernas calls them: palace adventurists. it seemed now, with the series of slamming the supreme court did several days ago to three of malacañang's prized weapons of suppression, the team arroyo adventure is about to come to an end. or is it?

the obvious good news aside, what is perhaps glaring is the degree of caution and trepidation, even cynicism and pessimism, from all over, which greeted the supreme court decisions. why all these negativity? need you ask?

consider: at may 1 eve, another supposed plot/s by the usual suspects, cpp/npa, was announced on national tv. as if on cue, the secretary of injustice promptly reminded/threatened the nation of their readiness to activate p.p. 1017 and the full coercive force of the state. you have to give it to these guys, they're slick, sleazy and tummy-churning wicked but slick.

so the supreme court has already decided. the first two got unanimous votes, the last, an overwhelming majority of 11-3. but what's stopping gloria and her minions from concocting yet another scheme to intimidate and oppress, and strengthen their hold to power? their smug dare: got complaint, charge us in court.

looks like this would be the way things work: they initiate, i.e., they'll organize a palace initiative for cha-cha, arrest and jail dissenters, harass the press, bribe the bishops, use all the machineries of gov't - police, military, comelec, pagcor, lgus - to pursue their agenda. and nobody can do anything but charge them in court, but place oneself at the mercy and wisdom of our justice system. scream 'unfair' all you want but, hey, they are ever careful to remind you, we are following due process.

so, those who see the sc's rulings as a hollow victory really do have a point. but i prefer to look at the glass as half-full. i'd like to think of them as incremental changes producing incremental reactions from a usually apathetic nation. little steps on the way to the holy grail of social movements - the 'tipping point'.

for now, let us enjoy and acknowledge them for what they are - victories little but victories still. otherwise having demolished houses of hays, you may just want to rush to the next best but useless thing: to huff and puff at gloria's impregnable (for now) brickhouse.

05 May 2006

how do you solve a problem like ALECO?

tomorrow, 6 may, is the election of the new board of directors of our aleco (albay electric cooperative). though only a small segment of our province's population will get to exercise their right to vote (only registered members, i.e., those whose name appears on the bill), we have been actively promoting and giving it extensive media exprosure.

aleco is saddled with so many problems - technical, personnel, financial (a whooping P865M debt, and counting). 2 times napocor threatened to cut the province's power supply, it was assuaged by the appeals and assurances of both the governor and the bishop. this election is recommended by our original SAC consultants commissioned by NEA (at present, some of them hold key temporary posts in the management of aleco) and by some of the province's leaders as one of the major steps towards solving the coop's problems.

what has happened to aleco? imagine. more than a decade of systemic, endemic, wanton graft and corruption. positions dispensed as political favors - result: overstaffed, lots of unnecessary and inefficient workers, enormous retirement benefits, and several court cases filed by employees, former and present. NEA inspectors wined, dined and womened. antiquated facilities. 21% systems loss (way above the 14% industry standard). only 63% collection efficiency (way below any standards) - that's 37% uncollected electric bill! clear and simple mismanagement.

in short, aleco was runned and runned down like a regular gov't agency. but unlike a gov't agency backed-up by a huge network with deep source of funds that can remedy the regular foul-ups it commits, aleco has none such backing. it stands on its own, on the discretion of its managers and directors, and the support of its coop members.

the election is so important that the bishop was compelled to make a radio message last week, his first since assuming his post in legazpi, urging the members to vote and the people to be concerned, as well as assuring the public that the election would push through (against the attempts and rumor-mongering of one atty. olaybal, a former member of the board, to stop the elections for reasons of his own). last sunday, in all the parishes and sunday masses in the entire diocese, the homily was this election and aleco's problems. here's the homily which our office prepared:

Ikatolong Domingo Pakalapas (30 Abril 2006)

Sa ebanghelyo ngonyan padagos kita sa pagsubaybay
sa mga pangyayari matapos an Pagkabuhay-liwat ni JesuCristo.
An ebanghelyo manunungod sa istorya kan mga disipulo
na nagkakatiripon sa sarong kwarto, sarado an pintuan,
nagdadarangog sa istorya kan duwang disipulo
na nakaibahan si Jesus sa dalan pasiring sa Emmaus
alagad dai ninda tulos namidbidan,
kun bako sa pagbaak kan tinapay.
Mantang naghuhuroron sinda manunungod kaini,
biglang nagpahiling sainda si Jesus.
Nagkatarakot sinda asin naghurona
na nakakahiling sinda nin multo.
Alagad an pagkatakot nasanglean
nin katoninongan asin kaogmahan
Lalo na kan si Jesus maghapot:
“Ano lamang an isirà ta dyan?”.
Asin naliwanagan an saindang kadikloman
kan namidbidan na ninda saiya.

Uya pa saiya an hawak na “nagkakakan” alagad dai na magagadan
nin huli ta dinaog na niya an kagadanan siring man an kasalan.
Ipinaliwanag man ni Jesus sa mga disipulos na nasa Kasuratan
an bilog na plano nin Dios manungod sa kaligtasan nin tawo.
Sa Banal na Kasuratan masasabotan niato
na an Dios igwa nin plano sa tawo:
boot niyang makaligtas kita sa karatan
asin makasaro sa bagong buhay huli ki Cristo.
An kaligtasan asin bagong buhay na ini
para sa bilog na tawo – hawak asin kalag –
na magmumuraway, huli sa saiyang gracia, sa huring aldaw.
An kaligtasan nin Dios huli ki JesuCristo
kaligtasan para sa hawak asin sa kalag.

Ngonyan na Domingo, kaming mga padi kan dioceses
igwa nin boot ipaaram saindo –
nagpagdesisyunan mi na tabangan an satong katawohan
na maaraman asin maliwanagan sa sarong dakulang problema
na pinaghahampang ta sa ngonyan –
an satuyang Albay Electric Cooperative o ALECO.
Tibaad magngalas kamo kun nata ta pinaggigibo mi ini.
An rason iyo na an ALECO nakakaapekto
sa karahayan kan gabos na Albayano.
Sa pagpadagos kan misyon nin kaligtasan ni Jesus,
an Simbahan kaipuhan na magmakulog sa karahayan
asin kapakanan kan bilog na tawo – kalag asin lawas.

An problema ta iyo ini: an ALECO igwa nin dakulaon na utang:
maabot 800 MILYON DE PESOS
sa NAPOCOR asin sa iba pang pinagkakautangan.
Kan Abril 2004 diit na kitang putulan nin kuryente kan NAPOCOR
nin huli ngani sa dakulang utang na ini kan ALECO.
May 200 na empleyado kan ALECO an nagrani sa Obispo
asin naghagad nin tabang. Dara ninda an suporta
kan National Electrification Administration o NEA
Nin huli ta para man sana ini sa karahayan kan kagabsan,
an Obispo kan Legazpi kaidto, si Msgr. Jose Sorra,
inako an dakula asin mapagal na trabahong ini.
Kaya an Simbahan, sa paagi kan Social Action Center (SAC),
nagtatabang na sa paghanap nin solusyon
sa problema kan ALECO poon kaidto.

An problema kan ALECO dakulang gayo.
Alagad dikit saná an magiginibo
hanggang dai pa natatawan nin solusyon
an sarong aspeto kan problema kaini.

Sa katunayan, nag-expire na an termino
kan gabos na miembros kan Board.
Kaya kun igwa pa man ki miembro kan Board na natatadà,
an saiyang termino haloy nang nag-expire,
kaya dai na man talaga nin Board
na nag-aatendir sa mga pangangaipo kan ALECO.

Ini an satuyang gigibohon sa maabot na Mayo 6 asin 7:
Boot ming ipaaram na an Board of Directors kan satong ALECO
importanteng gayo sa solusyon kan satuyang problema.
Sinda an naggigibo kan mga policia
asin nagmamangno/supervise sa pagpadalagan kan mga ini.
Sinda an naggigibo kan mga importanteng desisyon
sa ngaran kan gabos na consumidores asin miembros kan ALECO.
Kaya kaipuhan tang makaelihir nin MARHAY
Boot sabihon kaipuhan tang magpili
nin sarong miembro kan Board para sa satong distrito
na igwa kan mga minasunod na qualificacion:

Enot, igwa nin KAKAYAHAN (competence)
– moral asin profesional.
May pagkaaram sa mga bagay na tecnical
manunungod sa pagpadalagan (management)
nin sarong dakula asin sensitibong serbisyo.
Siring man tatao magdesisyon
susog sa prinsipyong makaDios asin makatawo.

Ikaduwa, igwa nin INTEGRIDAD; boot sabihon maimbod
sa pagsabuhay kan saiyang identity (pagkamidbid sa sadiri)
bilang aki nin Dios asin parasunod ni Cristo.
An siring na tawo midbid na matanos
asin matitiwalaan (just and trustworthy)
sa mga presente o nakaagi na niyang trabaho, negosyo o posisyon.
Bakong kurakot, abusado sa poder, mabisyo, o mahabon.

Ikatolo, Pinapaorog an karahayan nin kagabsan (common good).
Kaipuhan na an Board of Directors igwa nin kusog nin boot
na daogon an makasadiring interes,
o interes kan pamilya, o mga suportadores,
na kontra sa karahayan kan kadaklan o kan kagabsan.
Siring man, may political will na magdesisyon
asin mag-implementar kan mga kaipuhan na reforma
asin pagbabago sa ALECO minsan dificil asin mapagal.

Nangangapodan kami na magkaigwa kita
nin sarong malinig asin honestong pirilian.
Kun igwa nin mamakal nin boto, magtao o magtugâ nin pabor
para botohan an sarong kandidato, maliwanag na tanda ini
na dai ta siya botohan ta mahanap an siring na tawo
nin paagi para makabawi kun manggana.
Siring man, nangangapodan kami sa gabos
na dai maghagad o maghalat nin anuman – kwarta o pabor –
hale sa mga kandidato; ta pagginibo ta ini,
kita na mismo an nagkukurakot sa mga kandidato,
kita an nagdadara sainda na maggibo nin sala,
kita an nagpapasakit sa satong banwaan,
an nagpapagabat kan sadiri tang kamugtakan.

Ini an nagkapirang mga praktikal na kaipuhan
maaraman para sa eleccion sa Mayo 6-7:
1. Aramon kun ika qualificado para magboto
/ taraman su iba na qualificado.
An qualificadong botante iyo su an ngaran nakasurat sa electric bill.
An lista kan mga qualificadong botante nakapaskel
sa opisina kan ALECO asin sa municipio.
2. Aramon kun haen an lugar na pagboborotohan.
Sa satong banwaan/ciudad an polling place
nasa _______________________.
3. Magdara nin valid ID para madali an identificacion.
Magpasiguro man nin kopya kan electric bill
kun saen nakasurat an pangaran. Ballpen siring man.

Tabangan ta an satong ALECO.
Tabangan ta an satong banwaan.
Magpili kita nin MARHAY asin MATANOS
na miembro kan BOARD of DIRECTORS.

Saro sa mga mensahe kan Pagkabuhay-liwat ni JesuCristo iyo ini:
minsan gurano kadificil an buhay,
minsan gurano kagabat o kadakula kan problema,
kaya tang magtriunfo sa kadificilan,
kaya tang makakua nin marhay na solusyon.
Siring na si Jesus nanggana sa karatan asin kagadanan,
sa paagi nin sakripisyo asin pag-atang kan saiyang sadiri,
kita man kayang pangganahan
an dakulang problema kan satong ALECO.

Dios an mag-antabay saindo gabos. Amen.

28 April 2006

much ado about judas

the gospel, that is. national geographic primed an interested public on the 'revelations' of the recently studied and translated gospel of judas by debuting its story at the start of the christian holy week. expectedly, it drew reactions that range from incredulity to hostility, following, of course, the near-exact formula: the strength of negative reaction is directly proportional to the degree of your religious fundamentalism. more expectedly, it was surrounded by so much pr-generated, media-induced hype. the teaser for the tv documentary: it was a discovery that would likely shake the very foundations of the christian faith. sure.

what do we know about it? here's the latest consensus:
1. it is a gnostic text, written in coptic, 'egyptian written in greek characters'.
2. the papyrii copy in question is carbon-dated to have been written in c. 4th century c.e.
3. for a change, it details judas in a good light.

some points to put things in context:
1. it is obviously not orthodox christian text. not the faith of our fathers, definitely.
2. even during the time of the apostles, there were already groups who were appropriating the teachings and life-story of jesus of nazareth and mixing them with elements from various other sources; who, thus, could also lay claim to the identity of being themselves christian churches.
3. these churches also have their own 'sacred texts'. the various gnostic groups have been known to have a long tradition of claiming to be keepers or guardians of secret knowledge and powers stashed in some sacred writings, artifacts, or other-worldly plane.

still, such stories could make the average christian rather perplexed. this situation highlights the gap (not insumountable, mind you) between the christian-on-the-street, even one who had relatively good religious education, and the graduate student of theology who has presumably studied and understood church history and such basic questions as canonicity and inspiration of scriptural texts.

something could also be said about the present intellectual culture that puts more premium on academic interpretation over dogmatic assertions. in this post-postmodern milieu, the gospel of judas is seen as a welcome addition to the body of knowledge that makes wider the perspectives - historical, theological, political, etc - for a better understanding of early christianity.

then again, and here i would assert my 'catholic bias', questions may have to be raised at the apparent tendency of certain scholars (at least, of some of those who contributed to national geographic's documentary) to put all these various 'primitive' christian churches that co-existed during the first centuries c.e. on a seemingly equal footing, sociologically (which is fine) and even doctrinally (which is questionable); or to explain the great influence wielded by one particular group of churches - the (catholic) church that trace its foundation to the apostles - in the language of political power play.

further, there is a wide difference of views and practical life-application between one who actually practices the faith and one who has predominantly academic interest only on christianity - or, even wider, one from outside looking in. the christian faith (the whole gamut of scriptures, tradition, teachings, practices, etc.) cannot be explained by a simplistic recourse to the dialectics of dominance of certain individuals, groups or ideas across the ages, or of the confluence of political forces and historical circumstances. for the christian, it is, first of all, the work of the Holy Spirit, the same Trinitarian Spirit who creates the world, raised Jesus from the dead, effects our salvation, and guides us to our continuing journey of greater union with God.

furthermore, who are those affected by controversies like these (include the one spawned by dan brown's da vinci code)? they generally come from the educated class and the reading public (not necessarily mutually inclusive groupings), in short, from a rather small percentage of our christian population. so, it is safe to say, a wide-scale desertion from organized religion is not in the offing.

finally, these controversies raise questions and create doubt, in short, they generate attention. in a media-saturated, information-overloaded world, if judas and his gospel could make people want to know more about their long-held but largely-ignored faith, then perhaps it may not be unwise to consider all this hype, all this confusion, as somewhat the work of the Spirit. in this limited application, this 'gospel of judas' may just turn out to be divinely-inspired.

09 April 2006

domingo de ramos & the politics of personality

today is palm sunday, the whole catholic church celebrates the start of the holy week: blessing of palm fronds, mark's passion narrative as gospel, red vestments. also very heavy traffic on nlex and slex as regular city folks start their twice, or so,-a-year pilgrimages to their home provinces.

this early morning's blessing of the palms, recalling Jesus' 'triumphal' (over what?) entry to jerusalem, evoked some thoughts on the cult and politics of personality. add to it the rather amusing fact that in this semana santa, not only do we have a "domingo de ramos" but a "sabado de gloria" as well. the 1997 cbcp exhortation on phil politics identifies the 'politics of personality', among other things, as the bane of this country's political culture. too much dependence on individuals of either strength, or celebrity, or notoriety, or all of the above.

come to think of it, Jesus was such a personality himself. and the people were already proclaiming him king, a rightful heir to the house of david. whether or not they were the same crowd, but shouting a markedly different slogan, on john's passion narrative this good friday is another matter.

a strong, charismatic cult figure. peoples at all times and places have been drawn to such figures, accepting their almost-natural leadership, taking on their words as gospel truths. even the current troubles of phil politics have been reduced to a question of personalities.

after the (rhetorical?) question: "did gloria lie, cheat and steal and so is better off stepping down from office?", the next most natural and, to some extent, harder question to answer is: "and who do you propose should take her place". personalities. it seems now this political gordian knot could be simply and swiftly (although apparently there is nothing simple nor swift about this process) be loosened by presenting a charismatic and winnable figure, an icon that would symbolize all the supposedly noble aspirations of the various/divided (take your pick) opposition. someone like cory aquino in 1986. personalities.

a leading cleric puts it succinctly: the question of what happens next, i.e., among other things, who would replace her is itself, a moral question. and for as long as no barabbas is presented the pretender queen of the pinoys will remain queen -- okay now, that was bad metaphor -- and she will railroad chacha, continue to suppress protest actions, threaten the press, and proceed to lie, cheat, steal, not only by her lonesome but with and through her minions as well, and with less impunity than ever.

it is ironic that a system, such as the parliamentary system, that supposedly favors strong parties, party identity and stands -- and, therefore, political maturity -- is widely perceived as a tool and a ruse to prop up the most unpopular, sleaziest, personality-oriented administration in the history of this nation. and the perceived solution to this crisis: a strong and winnable opposition candidate in a snap poll that would be driven by the same manic politics of personalities and party allegiance-switches. and when that candidate (whoever s/he is) wins, then we could all start working for political maturity again.

let us pray that this holy week may be a good time for repentance and conversion for all filipinos, especially our leaders from all sides. hope springs eternal, after all, we are celebrating an epic story that includes a tortured thief availing of salvation right before death's door.

have a holy holy week.

07 April 2006

an auspicious beginning

an arsonist is haunting legazpi city these days.
last week he razed the b.u. little theater to the ground.
before that, a portion of aquinas hospital,
as well as some other hospitals.
two attempts were made at st. raphael's church,
both of them frustrated by timely discovery
of small starting fires - fire on a pew; burning jacket
draped on the church's sound system controls.
yesterday i saw a portion of divine word,
thick smokes billowing from windows, firetrucks all over,
onlookers, students & employees waiting outside.
it was the school's a.v. room that got gutted.
is he just a single individual or does he work with a team of sorts?
some eyewitness accounts describe a 40-something
male, average height, relatively stocky.
is he a pyromaniac? or simply part of a grand scam
to boost sales of fire prevention tools or the security business?
i don't know. & authorities are mum about the matter,
presumably they're doing something about it, considering
the high profile institutions the arsonist has been targetting.

an auspicious beginning for a pretentious,
a bit self-conscious, little blog. this blogger
though vows no relation or complicity
whatsoever to the legazpi arsonist.
why firesetter news? for various reasons
but mainly because this blogger hopes
to set a different sort of fire. the one that brings about
meaningful change, and such other big and vague things as
renewal, recovery, reducing extreme poverty
and, let's not forget, world peace.
i hope to do more than just 'light a candle & stop cursing
the darkness' or to simply 'keep the flame burning'.
the ideal is to start & keep nothing less than a conflagration.
more like, a hip & driven, pro-active 'voice in the wilderness'.

this is the blog of a young deacon starting public ministry,
with as much fire and fear as could be decently expected, as an
office drone, a glorified assistant to the assistant to the boss-man.
this is me: transitional deacon, occassional cynic, aspiring firesetter.