31 December 2007

Homily - New Year 2007

just a Homily outline -

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of foolishness, it was the age of wisdom,
it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the epoch of belief,
it was the season of darkness, it was the season of Light,
it was the winter of despair, it was the spring of hope,
we had nothing before us, we had everything before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

Not a quote from the Bible, but from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (re-arranged my way). A description that could fit our situation tonight – on the eve of the New Year 2007.

Binagyo kita. Kadakaul nagkararaot. More than 600 declared dead. More than 600 still missing. More than 1 Billion pesos estimated damage to property and infrastructure. Hanggang ngonyan, majority of the province do not yet have electricity.

Kadakul pa man giraray an nasa mga evacuation centers ta dai nang uurulian. Kaipuhan na sindang irelocate. Dakul sainda mangangaipo nin food subsidy at least until January o February for they have lost their means of livelihood.

Pag may kalamidad, may oportunidad. Pag may trahedya, may nag-aaprobitsa. Report hale sa 2 banwaan – bagas na para sa mga biktima kan Milenyo, sinaray, nadumog kan Reming, linubong na sana. Mga pulitiko gigamit pa an pondo kan gobyerno o tao kan ibang tawo para sabihon na hale daa sainda. O na may utang na boot an mga biktima sainda.

May nagdara nin relief goods sa sarong komunidad. Naaraman kan mga nasa haraning evacuation centers. Nagruruso ta dapat sainda daa ito. Maski natawan na sinda. Minsan aram tan a maski pira an pigtatao pirmi man giraray iyan na kulang sa tunay na pangangaipo. Pero bako na sainda ito, sa iba naman na dai pa natawan. May mga naggugurulangan sa rasyon, may mga dai minapahunod – dapat kami man, maski aram na dakul pa na mas nangangaipo.

Nagkaigwa nin looting sa tahaw kan bagyo asin kan tsunami scare.

This is the worst of times. Yet this can also be the best of times.

Sa tahaw kan satuyang paghalat/pagmangno sa pagsalida kan taon/bagong taon

Sa tahaw kan mga pag-agyat sa buhay na pighahalat ta sa bagong taon,

Yaon nakatindog an persona kan tawong pigcecelebrar ta ngonyan:

Si Maria, Ina ni Jesus, Ina nin Dios.

Ano an pwede tang makua ki Maria na pwede tang magamit sa mga panahon na ini?

Kadakul pero mapropose sana ako ki duwa:

1. Magnanimity of Spirit

2. Discerning Spirit

Magnanimity of Spirit. Mary was willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of her Son. She was willing to go beyond her needs and give her all for her Son. Kadakulaan kan Espiritu. It was a dangerous world for an unwed pregnant girl.

Ama – in Albay, mag-ina in a safe place, rescued 4 neighbor families

Ina – in Daraga, brgy captain, helped constituents then family & back…

Kuya – SAC staff, December 4 till today, rest days so far 24pm-25

Volunteer – para sa bayan!

Med student in Manila, organized donation drive in her school & others

Office workers dai nang Christmas party

Pinoy aki sa States, Christmas contest – all prizes donated to the people in Albay

Su mga taga-ibang lugar na electric cooperative

Su mga soldados na nagpatag, nagpakaray kan tinampo sa Padang-Lidong

Discerning Spirit. Mary took everything in her heart, rinimpos nya sa saiyang puso – an pagbisita kan anghel, an pangaki, an pagbisita kan mga pastor, kan mga mago, pati an tinaram ni Hesus sa templo kan nakua na ninda siya matapos an 3 aldaw na paghanap. Mary took these things in her heart and learned what they mean with the wisdom of her faith.

Personal – suminadit su problema ko. Boot sabihon kan pagiging padi.

Lola na pirmi sa simbahan sa Catedral – tangani ngaya na magbalik kita sa tunay na boot sabihon kan Pasko – si Kristo, ta distracted na daa kita maray.

4 families – in Buang, Tabaco, previously at each other, now staying at their parents house, learned to be united and help each other.

Magnanimity of spirit & a discerning spirit to listen to what God is saying to us in the events around us. Ini an madara satuya sa padagos na pagbangon sa satong mga kadipisialan. Ini an dara-dara ni Maria tangani na maapreciar asin magi man nanggad syang Ina ni Kristo.

And at the center of it all is Christ, na namundag para sabayan kita sa pinakababa kan buhay na pwede tang mamatean. Kun wara kitang magnimity of spirit & discerning spirit dai ta mamatean an kaligtasan na dara ni Kristo.

Dipisil an buhay pero sabi ngani sa kanta kan APO:

Mabuti pa nag an Pasko noong isang taon…

Among Ed's Speech at the Ateneo

Gov. (Fr.) Ed Panlilio
Escaler Hall, Loyola Schools
November 22, 2007

Eight hours from now, I will be speaking before a similar audience at De La Salle University. I know what you are thinking. You got first dibs at the governor of Pampanga, and for that alone, the eagle has soared over the archer once again. Tuloy, I am tempted to shout, FABILIOH! By the way, I gave a talk in UP last week, so that probably settles the implied question. Beyond your deep-rooted and far-reaching rivalry, I am grateful to you for giving me a forum to communicate the moral crusade in Pampanga. I hope that the campus communities will respond positively and become an active partner in the renewal that we all desire for our country.

You invited me to share with you my experience in responding to the call of leadership in a time of crisis. I would prefer to rephrase it as a response to a crisis in leadership. In order to make it clearer to you, allow me to begin with a bit of an overview of the social and political situation in Pampanga a few months before the elections. Lilia Pineda, more casually called Nanay Baby, (nanay na, baby pa. Trust the Filipino to be that family oriented) broke into the turf of the Lapid father and son when she began a series of so-called consultations with the people, asking them two questions: first, if their lot has improved with the ascent of the incumbent governor, Mark Lapid. The answer of course, was quite obvious, leading to the second question, if they have an alternative leader they would want to take over the governorship. The answer was equally undeniable. Equipped with more than adequate resources, she covered the whole province, practically running a roadshow of grassroots building. There was talk that Pineda, then a board member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and the wife of Bong Pineda (who is quite notorious, I mean, famous in his own right throughout Regions One to Five), decided to face Mark Lapid head on in the coming elections because the governor chose Con Laus, the son of a local businessman, over her own son, who was the mayor of Lubao town. To make matters worse for the father of the province, Pineda ally and Vice Governor Joseller Guiao filed a case against him, alleging graft and corruption in the supervision and collection of quarry taxes.

The stage therefore was set for a grand battle between the two political giants of Pampanga. Every media pundit and sari-sari store istambay were expecting a drawn out war of attrition, where no prisoners will be taken and no resources will be spared. A senior citizen described it with a mixture of expectation and dread, saying, “muran pera king kampanya,” or that it will rain money during the campaign. So many of the poverty-stricken in the province excitedly awaited the coming of the usual generosity, commonly experienced every three years, but only this time it will come like wave after wave of blessings. It was often said that it is only during this period that the poor get the attention and assistance they deserve, so they better make the most of it by playing one side against the other, conceding to the highest bidder, as it were. Many among the Kapampangans, however, were disconsolate at the prospect of having to choose between two candidates they did not like. A good many of them have decided that early to leave blank the space for governor in their ballots.

Before this backdrop, a group of people, a priest and some seminarians among them (no, I was not the priest) regretted the state of affairs that their province was in. If only to express a statement to the world that Pampanga is not bereft of good leadership, they decided to gather more of their like-minded friends and begin to search for an alternative candidate. Enough is enough, they said, the pride of the Kapampangan is at stake here. And if you know us, then you should also know that our kayabangan is legendary.

And so began the series of consultations in search of a candidate with the moral ground, the resources and the acceptability, who will stand as a symbol for the Kapampangan dignity and conscience. We had a great difficulty in searching for that candidate. It even dawned on us that we might have been too idealistic, too far removed from reality. Either our prospect could not measure up to our criteria, or he would not be willing to get entangled between two battling giants. “The election result is already common knowledge,” one of them said, conceding to the strength of one of the candidates, although I will not say who SHE is.

In the midst of this desperation, one seminarian turned to me and asked, “what about you?” My immediate and emphatic answer was, “no way!” My heart and mind was then running on hierarchical fuel. It was never an option for a Kapampangan priest to run for office in any previous election. Kapampangans being such a pious people, they revere their priests to a fault, conceding to them a spiritual leadership that excluded political power.

Like any other Filipino, Kapampangans live with a compartmentalized sense of morality. Our churches are filled every Sunday, but our jueteng industry is equally robust. We declare ourselves cerrado catolico, but we do not pay our taxes honestly. Our cars and jeepneys are festooned with images and pictures of the crucified Christ and the Virgin Mother, but they are not powerful enough to remind us to obey traffic laws. Thus, what place is there for a priest to enter the secular world of politics?

The idea of a priest running for the governorship snowballed among the people of conscience who have begun to call themselves the Third Force. Slowly, my outright refusal gave way to sober reflection as I thought of the people being under the yoke of patronage, and for how long, since we all know how easily political dynasties can take root and flourish. I looked back at my past to find a ground and a horizon for my final decision.

Even as a seminarian, I have intently dedicated my life for the uplift of the marginalized and the weak, and this had continued in my parochial and archdiocesan work. Thankfully, I was assigned later to direct the Social Action Center of Pampanga, more popularly known as SACOP. This enabled me to delve more deeply into the plight of the masses and be exposed to their needs and aspirations, and more importantly, to identify with their situation. Thus, I made it a personal choice to live a simple life and temper my wants to the more basic necessities, for it would not have been in consonance with the Gospel had I enjoyed affluence while people around me were hungry. If they did not eat, I did not eat.

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo allowed me to work more closely with government and non-government organizations in helping to ease the plight of the poor and dispossessed. I began to realize that good intentions were not enough, there must be a working structure that would efficiently and effectively answer to the needs of the poor. I also learned that I did not have the answer to all the problems besetting the needy, that there are others who can creatively contribute to the common pool of knowledge and wisdom. Thus, it was impressed upon me that I was not a modern-day Messiah, but rather, a bringer of grace from the Anointed One. On the other hand, I realized that redemption has its social underpinnings, and that I join all other people in a journey towards salvation. Having experienced all these, there came a certain point in my life when I dedicated my priesthood to the central message of the Gospel of John, that Christ came that man may have fullness of life in all its dimensions, that we as clerics must not only feed the soul, but also see to the nourishment of the body and the mind. I celebrated the sacraments as essential signs of relationship with the Divine, but encouraged my parishioners to share their graces to the less fortunate they meet outside the Church. In my own humble way, I persevered in my vocation and my service to the archdiocese, giving my obedience to my spiritual fathers, first to Archbishop Oscar Cruz, and then to Archbishop Aniceto, fostered by my brotherhood with my fellow priests.

Thus, when I finally conceded to become a candidate for governor, it was in response to a gaping need for moral resurgence in a despairing province, and in a more personal way, a deepening of my ministerial priesthood. When Kapampangans of known capability, respected stature and proven worth would not want to give people an option to choose a better candidate, I had to stand up for my people. But believe me, I had to spend days of prayer and feverish consultations before I made my decision. I had to resolve if this was a genuine desire for good, or a hidden longing for glorification. Either way, I was made aware of the consequences of my decision. The reasons for not running were many and equally valid. Not a few friends came and gave me their advice. I listened. In the end, I had to listen to and obey what my conscience dictated. My own ministerial priesthood demanded that I come down from the safety and security of the pulpit and incarnate the Gospel message in the political world. The Church has been complaining for so long about graft and corruption, but she was generally being ignored. It would have seemed that she has lost her moral authority over the considering that most of the suspected practitioners of graft and corruption came from Catholic schools themselves, Ateneo included, or probably, Ateneo specially. It was my belief that the extraordinary situation prevailing in Pampanga at that time demanded an entirely different and fundamental response. I took the leap and decided to do something about it hands on. I leapt, and found that I was not alone. I was joined by men and women of good will who were willing to take a risk.

I honestly believe that the people who leapt with me, people from all class and all manners of persuasion were driven by a common desire to see through a crusade that will realize Gospel values in governance. I do not deny the fact that Kapampangans are personalistic, more so with their priests, but be that as it may, I have always explained that the crusade was not about me, but it was about something bigger than all of us combined. I was just a part of the whole, as important as the campaign manager, but equally as indispensable as the poll watcher.

Who were these people of conscience? A classic example would be our technical consultant on software systems. All his life he had never voted in any election, or even participated by any means whatsoever. He was a self-confessed apolitical and fence-sitting Filipino who would just let political dogs lie, for as long as they leave him in peace. But when the crusade began, he was convinced by his wife to visit the EDquarters and offer whatever talent or materials he could contribute to the furtherance of the campaign. We cannot quantify his involvement in pesos, much less measure its effects, but because of his free services, we were able to set up a text brigade, hook up the EDquarters in a wi-fi network, and more importantly implement an automated quick count system that helped us track down the results of the elections accurately. Given the fact that as independent candidate I was not privileged to receive a copy of the election returns, his help was truly incalculable. What is more notable is that during an interview, it was found out that he lived next door to a mayoralty candidate of the City of San Fernando . He could have earned tens of thousands of pesos, had he offered his services to him. But he chose to give it to us for free.

Actively involved, too were a dozen former seminarians who were among the workhorses of the campaign. Collectively known as Bakal Boys, their background often provided a spiritual dimension in our daily struggle. Where else would you find a campaign where strategies and tactics were discussed along with conversion, metanoia and kenosis? Many of them were influential in my decision to run, being members of the core group that searched for an alternative candidate. Among the Bakal Boys was one who lived quite an easy life in Cebu , earning a salary that would be the envy of most single men of his age and stature. But like Peter, he left everything behind, leaning on nothing but his faith and his earnest desire to do something good for our province. He is now a part of my team, involved in a sensitive position that requires my utmost trust and confidence. Another former seminarian came all the way from London, where his community produced the very first U-Tube video in support of my candidacy.

Perhaps it is the presence of the Bakal Boys that allowed us to look at the ordinary events of the campaign with the eyes of faith. The confluence of all the events, such as the blessing of good weather in both our grand miting de avances, the speed at which triumph was achieved, the mystery of the experts in statistics and probability being confounded by their own means, all pointed to the hand of God actively involving Himself in the affairs of man. At every turn, we looked for the sign of His presence, and we were not disappointed. Ours was not just a moral crusade, it transformed itself into a divine crusade.

A very palpable sign of God’s presence was the full support of brethren from other faiths and denominations in the crusade for good governance. Among the first to express their support on the day I filed my certificate of candidacy were Methodist pastors. Leaders of born again fellowships also boosted our stock, widening the spectrum of collaboration into dimensions previously unknown. I believe that there is no other previous experience in our nation where people of different faiths actively involved and immersed themselves in a mission as one body. What we were seeing was the Kingdom of God , a dedicated assembly of people under one dream: to see good governance become a reality.

Cyrelle was your typical Among Ed volunteer: multi-tasking, energetic, uncomplaining, except for the fact that she just graduated from a private elementary school. She was everyone’s kid niece or sister, a favorite object of pranks, but equal to every joke thrown her way. Forsaking a summer of visiting malls and beaches, she became the ultimate factotum, preparing coffee, manning the photocopy machine, answering the phone, encoding data and stapling sheets of paper. Not even four years social studies in high school would match up to the wealth of hands-on learning she attained during those months.

And of course, there were those who contributed their time, talent and treasure from all walks of life and practically from every corner of the earth. There was this public school teacher who was given a one thousand peso bribe by another candidate. She took the effort to visit our EDquarters and turn over the money to us. As fast as people were taking posters and flyers from our office, equally consistent were the kind donors who dropped by every day to deliver campaign materials they had printed on their own. During our motorcades, ordinary people threw coins into our showboats to share their support. Even non-Kapampangans generously shared their blessings.

And finally, there was Jomar Nulud, a barangay chairman in my last parish who was gunned down by still unidentified assailants days after my proclamation. Kapitan Jomar switched allegiance after he learned of my candidacy. The night before he was killed, he ominously told me to be careful. “Hindi baleng ako ang itumba, huwag lang ikaw,” he said. His was the ultimate sacrifice. I am nothing compared to him.

A common thread that ran among all of these examples of people who joined us in our campaign was the element of sacrifice. The Japanese have a proverb: always replace a thing of value with that of a greater value. In giving up something of themselves, whether as mundane as a summer vacation, as abstract as a preconceived notion of a different faith, or as irreplaceable as a human life, their surrender was for a far greater cause. And because of this, they gained an ownership of the crusade. This ownership has been multiplied a thousand times and has reached the puroks and barangays, but we still need to reach out to a lot more people and convince them to own this new politics.

Once, I expressed my misgivings to a supporter, rhetorically asking, what if I got used to all the attention and the glory? What if I started to enjoy it? What if I started to demand it? Thankfully, I am surrounded by people whose presence always reminds me that the crusade is a team effort. Even now, I am not “Gov” to them. I am still “Among Ed,” and to the more familiar, I am “Brods or Jo.” I allow this informality, because I know that I am just one instrument among many volunteers, workers, contributors, prayer warriors and well-wishers who gave a part of their lives to realize a vision. It just so happened that my position warrants me to be a primus inter pares, a first among equals, or more accurately a father to sons and daughters who deserve my love, respect and attention, because they gave so much so freely.

That we have won through a plurality reminds us that we have to be gentle with our salesmanship. We have to convince the civil society and the civil service, by way of example and education,that honest governance works. We have to provide for a transparent, efficient and effective delivery of services, that the people may pay their taxes with cheerful hearts, knowing that their hard-earned money does not find itself in some bureaucrat’s pocket. Arriving much sooner than expected, as it were, we are quite pleased that the Capitol leadership, as well as the rank and file have for the most part adapted to our program of government quite quickly. I credit this to the government employee’s innate goodness and willingness to work. I have to admit, though that the adjustment period was quite tenuous. But when the Governor sets the example in punctuality, simplicity of lifestyle, openness to the constituents, dedication to work and pleasantness of disposition, the most taciturn employee has no other recourse than to follow.

Today, our province earns an average of a million pesos a day in quarry revenues. Suppliers have lowered their bids dramatically after being reminded that the days of SOPs are over. A system of fiscal discipline is being instituted. We have streamlined the manpower to make it more citizen-oriented. Our primary attention is now given to the equipment, staffing and development of our provincial and district hospitals. We are at the moment studying systems and processes that will make quality service be delivered on time. Capacity and confidence building measures are being undertaken in order that the bureaucracy can pride itself as a working and effective body. For the first time in the history of the province, a draft three-year executive agenda will be submitted to the people tomorrow for their comments and suggestions, in the spirit of consultation and collaboration.

But for society to be transformed, it is not enough that government employees be empowered and motivated. The desire for positive change and the willingness to sacrifice for the greater good must not only trickle down, but must engulf every barangay. A visual way of describing the approach to this objective is that of the way the bibingka is cooked: heat on top, heat at the bottom. We should inflame the governing and the governed. The inured system of political patronage and dependency may take a little more time and may require a more extensive strategy for the people to realize that in the end, the benefits to the community will outweigh any personal gain. Good citizenship must take root until following the law, paying taxes honestly, respecting the environment and upholding one’s dignity shall become second nature to every person.

I don’t think that God meant me to endure five seminaries just to become a Governor or some other public official. I love my vocation, and at the end of this temporary detour into politics, I shall desire nothing more than to have my priestly faculties once again, and be a shepherd of the faith anew. A personal glory shall be that day when I shall hold aloft the transubstantiated body and blood of Christ, recalling my first mass after my ordination. It is from this vantage point that I say that I really do not encourage the entry of priests or ministers to the electoral arena. It would be utter presumption and even a complete falsehood to maintain that only the clergy posses the moral superiority to lead the nation. A layman with the proper motivation and popular support can lead any province to glory, in the same manner that an elected priest with less than honorable intentions can bring the province to its knees. Every believer has a divine mandate to do good and cast out evil. For the sake of the beggar out in the street, for the sake of the baby who is fed with rice water, for the sake of the sick patients in our public hospitals, for the sake of every Filipino who persists in the hope of a brighter horizon, I ask you to help us prove that we are essentially good, and that we uphold the common good.

It has been said so often that Pampanga right now is a laboratory mouse in a grand experiment upon which almost every eye of every disillusioned Filipino is fixed, steadily observing how the dream of good and honest governance is realized, and if it can result in the improvement of the people’s plight. Historically, our province has always been the breeding ground of social unrest and revolutionary thought. Once again, there is something revolutionary going on in Pampanga. With fervent prayers, consultative and exemplary leadership, participatory and law-abiding citizenship, collaborative and dedicated service, together with the application of better organizational systems, technological processes and innovations, I believe that we can overcome and transform the individual and the society. Then shall our success in Pampanga be translated in every province of the nation. Let us all join forces to transform ourselves, and in turn our beloved Philippines.

Ang Josefino, Asin at Ilaw ng Mundo

+Ambo S. David
Main Talk
San Jose Seminary Alumni Homecoming 2007

I wonder if you are aware that the Department of Education requires elementary and high school students to sing, in addition to the national anthem Lupang Hinirang, also the song of Kuh Ledesma entitled, Ako ay Pilipino. In our seminary in Pampanga, even if we just happen to be passing by, if we chance upon the national anthem being sung, we normally also stop, face the flag and put our right hand on our chests and join in the singing.

One time, one of my colleagues was passing by the quadrangle and the Lupang Hinirang was intoned. Like the others, he stopped when the singing of the anthem began, but proceeded as soon as it was over. Another colleague stopped him and said, Hindi pa tapos, meron pa. The impatient colleague continued walking and said, looking back, Kailan pa naging pambansang awit iyang kanta ng Kuh Ledesmang iyan? Ayoko ngang kantahin iyan, ang yabang ng dating.

I reviewed the lyrics, and I ended up agreeing with him. The song says,
Ako ay Pilipino may dugong maharlika,
Likas sa aking puso ang adhikaing kay ganda
Ako ay Pilipino, ako ay Pilipino
Taas noo kahit kanino, ang Pilipino ay ako.

I do understand the intention of reinforcing in our students a sense of patriotism. But a song like this sung as an anthem for schools can indeed come only from a nation that is suffering from a very low collective self-esteem. Para bang kung hindi man natin maranasan sa totohanan, e di kantahin na lang natin?

Dear brother alumni of San Jose, I have been asked today to share some reflections on the topic "Ang Josefino, Asin at Ilaw ng Mundo." Hindi ba parang kanta ni Kuh Ledesma ang dating? Baka maisip pang idugtong ng mga seminarista sa pambansang awit ang isang bagong San Jose Crusade song,

Ako ay Josefino may dugong maharlika
Likas sa aking puso, adhikaing kay galling
Ako ay Josefino, ako ay Josefino

Taas noo kahit kanino, ang Josefino ay ako.

Baka sabihin sa atin ng mga taga-ibang seminaryo, "Ok, Josefino na kung Josefino. E ano ngayon?"

When I hear ourselves engaging in a collective ego-trip about the superiority of the Josefino brand of formation, I am tempted to recall that our own Jesuit formators who have established their own excellence in various fields of discipline, have an anthem that is meant to remind them who they are before God. It says,

Sino kayong napabilang sa kanyang kapisanan?
Sino kayong tinawag niyang katoto at kaibigan?

And the answer to numerous lines asking the same question Sino Kayo is:

Kayo'y taong makasalanan hinubog sa lupa't kahinaan
Kayo'y taong makasalanan inampon sa kanyang pangalan.

The Jesuit who is asked who he is, is supposedly expected to answer: a sinner.

Excellence is not excellence if it needs to advertise itself. I think it has to speak for itself. Having made my point about what I do not intend to say about the topic Ang Josefino: Asin at Ilaw ng Mundo, let me now proceed with my reflection.

"Asin ng daigdig at ilaw ng mundo." Sa madalas tawaging "Pangaral sa Bundok" (Sermon on the Mount) sa ebanghelyo ni San Mateo (5-7), para kay Kristo, asin at ilaw ang ginagamit na larawan ng panawagan at gawain ng isang mabuting alagad. Kaya siguro sa lumang ritwal ng binyag, bukod sa kandilang nakasindi (ilaw), sinusubuan din ng pari ang bagong binyag na bata ng konting asin. Too bad, we have lost the salt and kept only the light.

Let me begin with salt. Salt is probably the humblest, the cheapest, but the most basic ingredient for cooking our food. It is colorless. Kahit mukhang puti, pag nilagay mo sa tubig hindi nito kukulayan ng puti ang tubig. It quickly disappears when mixed with food. It does not even have its own smell to add to the food. (Ang toyo pag nilagay mo sa pagkain, bibigyan niya ang pagkain ng lasang toyo at amoy ng toyo. Ang patis, gayundin, bibigyan ang pagkain ng lasa at amoy ng patis. Pero and pagkain pag nilagyan mo ng asin, hindi mo sinasabing lasang asin o amoy asin. Pag napansin mo nga ito, ibig sabihin hindi tama ang timpla. Maaring matabang o maalat.) You know only that you have put the right amount of salt in the food when you don't even notice it. What you notice instead is the natural taste, the natural flavor and aroma of the meat or vegetables that you are cooking.

I'd like to believe that Jesus had all these in mind when he used salt as an analogy for the mission that he expected his disciples to take part in. It is in fact an image that reminds me very much of several of our revered senior Josefinos. Take his eminence, for example, our dear Lolo Dency Rosales. In the height of his stature as archbishop of Manila, prince of the Church and candidate-Pope, he can easily become another superstar like the late Cardinal Sin, hug the limelight, and be in the headlines of national dailies for even a most insignificant comment on the daily goings-on in Philippine society. And yet he remains very low-key, and people have know him better as a humble, self-effacing, low profile, unpretentious, quiet, but very effective personality. Parang asin nga. Sometimes you don't even spot him in a crowd because he could quickly disappear. (Remember that time when he took bus to Batangas in order to catch up with the funeral of a friend of his?) He can easily blend with people; he doesn't call attention to himself. He is not the regal, imperious or monarchical type of a bishop. Rather, he is the empowering type who brings out the best in people. He is one extraordinary man who can make himself look so ordinary, people can easily relate and identify with him. Lolong-lolo ang dating. He is not an imposing figure and his voice is hardly audible when he speaks, but people keep quiet and strain their ears to listen to his wisdom and take it to heart. Instead of calling attention to himself, he calls people's attention to Christ.

O, baka naman maging para eulogy na ito, e buhay na buhay pa itong ating si Lolo Dency. Marami tayong ganitong mga Josefino-ordinaryo ang dating pero matinding kagaya ng asin. (At pag nalagay sa mata o sa sugat, mahapdi.) They are so accessible, so reachable, so human, and remain so, even when bestowed with power and authority. Ganyan din ang ating si Lolo Angel Lagdameo, current president of the CBCP and Apu Ceto, head of the CBCP Commission on Family and Life. Because of Church leaders like them, our CBCP assemblies are never a stressful or intimidating kind of experience. To my pleasant surprise when I joined their ranks, the mood is friendly and familial, never formal or business-like. Of course meron ding occasional tendencies sa CBCP na mag-grand-standing o magpaistaran, but always, when you have people like Lolo Dency, Lolo Angel, and Apu Ceto and other alumni-bishops, such tendencies are easily put on check and dissipated. Their presence is always reassuring, sort of silently saying, "Come on, there is no need to over-assert yourself. We are family here; you are a brother, a friend. There is no need to pretend, no need to impress anybody, no need to seek approval. You can be your true self with us; we will accept you for who you are." That, for me, is an empowering presence.

Even our dear Chito Tagle is like that. You know, he seldom even raises his hand to speak at our CBCP meetings. Pero pag may trabaho nang kailangang gawin, si Chito lagi ang paboritong alipin. Kasi walang kiyeme, walang angal, laging "at your service", at "service with a smile." College pa lang kami, idol na ng bayan iyang si Chito. Kasi super-galing, pero walang ere ni katiting. Despite his brilliance he can make fun of himself. He makes lofty ideas sound so simple, mas magaling pang mag-explain sa mga professors namin. With Chito explaining things, even Marcel, Buber, Heidegger, suddenly become so easy to understand. I remember how in college, during one group review, a brilliant fellow seminarian explained a philosopher and he sounded so complicated parang ang feeling ko, napakabobo ko yata, ba't di ko maintindihan. And then when Chito explained the same stuff, it was so easy to chew and digest. When you get to participate in the discussion and follow Chito's style of putting complex ideas in simple words, pakiramdam mo ang galing mo na rin. Asin din iyang si Chito. Superior na walang superiority complex. Magaling na hindi nagmamagaling. In his company, hindi ka mabobobo. Magiging mahusay ka rin.

You are the light of the world. May iba-ibang klaseng ilaw. Merong spotlight na nakatutok lang sa isang direksyon. May mainit na halogen lamp na nagpapatingkad mabuti sa iniilawan. There is also the lamp shade in a corner that illuminates a room in a soft way. Pero anumang klaseng ilaw, iisa ang silbi nito-hindi upang manilaw kundi upang tanglawan ng liwanag ang paligid. (Di ba kawalan ng modo ang itutok ang flashlight sa mukha ng kasalubong na tao?) Sinisindihan ang ilaw hindi upang panoorin ito o pagmasdan, kundi upang maipakita nito ang kapaligiran, o ang ating patutunguhan. Talking of light may mga Josefinong napakaliwanag sa CBCP hall-si Bishop Nes. Makintab ang ulo. Si Bishop Ted maliwanag ang mga mata. Paligsahan kaming dalawa. At naku, kapag masyado nang complicated ang usapan, may magtataas kamay na Kuya Jess Mercado na magbibigay liwanag sa mga bagay-bagay, ang interventions nya laging simple, maikli, pero malinaw. And those CBCP statements that shine out in clarity over matters of faith and morals, informed by Scriptures, tradition and the magisterium? I tell you, most of them bear the silent unwritten signature of the small but terrible Lolo Orly Quevedo.

I don't know if my fellow junior bishop Kuya George Rimando feels the same way, but I am silently edified when I note the strong but unthreatening influence of brother Josefinos in the CBCP. But I don't want to push it too far lest we sound like bragging or boasting again. The light isn't there to shine out, not to try to outshine anybody. (I think, one of the curses of our Josefino aspiration for excellence is really that tendency to be sobrang bilib sa sarili, or even to develop an unhealthy sense of competitiveness. Di ba natin madalas marinig sa mga ibang pari na madami din sa atin ang medyo pasaway ang dating? What else can temper this tendency except a serious spiritual and prayer life that alone can put us in our proper places, and make us boast only in the Lord?) John of the Cross once said, "The closer I get to the light, the darker my own darkness seems." Even Matthew is clear about the purpose of shining out-"Your light must shine before people that they may see your goodness and give glory to the Father in heaven."

But take note, the Gospel is clear and categorical about it: Let your light shine that they may see. And perhaps we might even add: that they may feel it, hear it, smell it, touch it, experience it. through us!

One thing has become clear to me after almost 20 years of ministry as seminary formator: we spend many years in the seminary not just to train candidates to communicate the faith. What we shape in our candidates is not just the intellect but the whole character-a priestly character according to the mould of Christ.

Rolheiser says-and I hope you don't mind that I quote him at length, because I cannot say it better than he does- "Good theology stimulates and inflames the intellect. Thomas Aquinas and Bernard Lonergan add that it also helps to move the will. The heart needs to have some intellectual vision. Good ideas play no small part in any healthy change."

"Thus, the Christian community is always in need of good academics. As history shows, every time the Church has compromised on its intellectual tradition, seeing it as unimportant, it has paid a heavy price. Good, sound, abstract, academic theology is perennially the great corrective within church life and spirituality."

"More recently," he continues, "we have been blessed with an abundance of good theology. It is hardly the academy of theology that is weak at the present moment. The last thirty to forty years have produced (literally) libraries full of wonderful books on scripture, church history, liturgy, dogmatics, moral theology, spirituality, and pastoral practice. We are not lacking for solid ideas." he says.

What Rolheiser thinks we are lacking however, is "fire, romance, aesthetics, as these pertain to our faith and ecclesial lives. What needs to be inflamed today inside religion is its romantic imagination. " He insists that "solid ideas and solid programs alone are not enough. We need someone to re-inflame the romantic imagination of Christianity, a new Francis, a new Clare, a new Augustine, a new Thomas More, a new Ignatius, a new Therese of Lisieux."

Rolheiser also says the same thing about vocations to the priesthood and religious life. He says, "More than strategies of recruitment, we need new romantic fire." He proceeds to cite romantic figures among the religious of the past few decades like Thomas Merton, Mother Teresa, and Sister Helen Prejean and asks why one stirs up vocational romance more than another. Rolheiser also cites the explanations proposed by both conservatives and progressives over the graying and the emptying of Churches in the western world. He recognizes that there is some truth in all the reasons they propose but insists that "Among other things, we lack a romantic ideal for our faith and church lives. We have too little idealistic fire left.. We need to re-romanticize faith, religion, and church and give people something beautiful with which to fall in love."

None of this is possible at all if we allow our petty selves to get in the way of the mission of Christ. Unknown to many, the real reason why I chose KENOSIS as motto for my coat of arms was precisely to temper that over-assertive ego that often gets in the way of the ministry. (Perhaps it is the same spirit behind Ignatius' AMDG-because the world tends to condition us to aspire for our own glory.) There is much that must decrease in us if God is to increase through us. Paul must have struggled with this tendency himself. He was all too aware of his inner inconsistencies. In his desire to be strong, he is supposed to have asked the Lord to remove his weakness. And God's reply is, "My grace is enough for you. For in weakness, power reaches perfection. It is when I am weak, that I am strong." (2 Cor 12:9) In our weakness, we have reason to hope only in the power of God made most clearly manifest in the weakness of the cross. This experience of paradox once moved Paul to say, "This treasure we possess in earthen vessels in order to make it clear to us that its surpassing power comes from God and not from us." (2 Cor 4:7) I think you know well as I do that this is not always clear to us.

And strangely, it will always be the worst and most painful trials that will make this gradually clear to us-the many experiences of self-emptying and dying to self, the many instances that would prove Francis of Asisi right when he said,

For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I started with salt, so let me end with salt again by reading to you the story of the salt doll that a friend of mine quoted in full and wrote in a hand-made card he sent me on the occasion of my ordination as bishop. The story goes:

A salt doll journeyed for thousands of miles over land, until it finally came to the sea. It was fascinated by this strange moving mass, quite unlike anything it had ever seen before.

"Who are you?'' said the salt doll to the sea.

The sea smilingly replied, "Come in and see.''

So the doll waded in. The farther it walked into the sea the more it dissolved, until there was only very little of it left. Before that last bit dissolved, the doll exclaimed in wonder, "Now I know what I am!''

Sabi ni Father Roque Ferriols, ang tanong na SINO AKO ay hindi masasagot nang minsanan. Paulit-ulit din nating sasagutin kung SINO TAYO, mga kapwa Josefino, hanggang di natin natutuklasan na tayo'y asin at ilaw. Mga mistulang manikang asin na unti-unting malulusaw sa dagat; mga mistulang kandilang aandap-andap upang magbigay ng konting liwanag hanggang sa tuluyang maubos tayo at maging kabahagi ng ganap na liwanag ng Diyos.

29 December 2007

SOLID SUMILAO FACTS distorted or evaded by desperate paid ad

Posted by: "javieralpasa" javieralpasa@gmail.com javieralpasa

Thu Dec 27, 2007 6:16 am (PST)

In this David vs. Goliath struggle where the corporate giant can splurge hundreds of thousands for paid advertisements, all we can do is email blast the TRUTH. Please pass for the sake of the poor farmers who rely on our help.

============ ========= ========= =======

SOLID SUMILAO FACTS distorted or evaded by desperate paid advertisements

1) Sumilao farmers are LANDLESS as defined in RA 6657 "One is considered landless if he/she owns less than 3 hectares of agricultural land."

a. The 66-hectare Carlos Estate was distributed to 78 farmers belonging to the MAPALAD Multi-Purpose Cooperative who received between .4 to .9 hectares per family.

i. This means that those who benefited in the Carlos estate ARE STILL QUALIFIED to become beneficiaries under the agrarian reform program.

ii. The point of the agrarian reform program is to distribute lands to help landless farmers have sustainable livelihood. This is why the law provides that a family size farm which is around 3 hectares is necessary to fulfil the program's objective of improving the lives of farmer-beneficiaries. To say that the Sumilao farmers who own land sizes far less than what is provided by law are no longer qualified beneficiaries is to violate the very spirit of the agrarian reform law.

b. The other group that joined the Sumilao march is the San Vicente Landless Farmers Association (SALFA) and NOBODY IN THIS ORGANIZATION OWN ANY PARCEL OF LAND.

2) Tenancy is NOT a requirement to become a beneficiary under CARP. R.A. 6657 provides: "The lands covered by the CARP shall be distributed as much as possible to landless residents of the same barangay, or in the absence thereof, landless residents of the same municipality in the following order of priority: agricultural lessees and share tenants, regular farmworkers, seasonal farmworkers, other farmworkers, actual tillers or occupants of public lands, collectives or cooperatives of the above beneficiaries; and others directly working on the land.

a. Most of these farmers were already screened and named in the title/CLOA (Certificate of Land Ownership Award) that means they were already deemed rightful beneficiaries under the agrarian reform program in general and in the 144 hectares in particular.

b. Even so, we are still in the pre-coverage stage and who would become beneficiaries or the inclusion/exclusion process is still another step after the issuance of the Notice of Coverage. The Sumilao farmers are very much willing to undergo this process. Their more than 10 years of faithful and peaceful cooperation with the law
should be a glaring proof of that.

3) CLEAR VIOLATIONS OF SMFI rendering current operations as ILLEGAL:

a. From the Office of the President's Order (December 18, 2007): "Apparently, the unilateral development of subject landholdings into a hog farm by SMFI is NOT one of the purposes for which the conversion order has been issued. This clearly deviates from and constitutes a VIOLATION of the conversion order issued to the respondent NQSRMDC."

b. SMFI claims they made consultations but the resolution referred to by San Miguel Foods Incorporated was a bogus resolution. No such barangay council session favourably endorsing the piggery project happened. Assuming without conceding that the Sangguniang Barangay unanimously approved and endorsed the project, it cannot be denied that it remains to be in violation of the law because Local Government Units have NO POWER OF CONVERSION under the law as that prerogative solely belongs to the Department of Agrarian Reform.

4) 144-hectare land is CARPable:

a. Sec 4 of RA 6657 provides that "The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 shall cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity produced, all public and private agricultural lands as provided in proclamation no. 131 and Executive Order no. 229, including other lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture.

b. The area is considered prime agricultural land that is traversed by an irrigation facility. (A basis for the Order denying the conversion from agricultural to agro-industrial issued by DAR Secretary Ernesto Garilao on Nov. 14, 1994).

c. 144-hectare land is adjacent to the constantly quoted Carlos Estate that was already CARPed. In fact, the 2 sections of the one big CARPable land are just divided by barbed wires.

5) 144-hectare land is Higaonons' ANCESTRAL LAND

a. The forefathers of the Higaonon Indigenous Cultural Communities led by tribal leaders Apo Manuagay Anlicao and Apo Mangganiahon were the early settlers.

b. The land was considered "balaang yuta" for the Higaonons, at the same time, the seat of the government for the tribal leaders where the traditional "pamuhat" and "paghusay" were conducted.

6) The Sumilao farmers are the LEGAL and MORAL OWNERS of the 144

a. This is the first and foremost reality that should not be evaded by stating availability of other idle government lands. The 144-hectare land is their holy and ancestral land being Higaonons. Why should they be given other lands when they are the rightful owners of the 144-hectare land?

b. If SMFI knows that there are other lands available, why did it have to displace indigenous peoples who are qualified to claim the 144 hectares of land?

AUTHORITATIVE and HIGHLY RESPECTED individuals and institutions who
also studied the case:

a. Former DAR Secretaries and Undersecretaries. Sec. Abad even said that "DAR should always stand beside the farmers. In the case of Sumilao, the facts are very clear." (PDI, 12/08/07)

b. Legal luminaries, various lawyers' groups and law schools. Constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ said "The welfare of the underprivileged need not be achieved the big business way. Let the little people decide what is best for themselves and for their dignity
as human beings – especially since they have the law on their side! " (PDI, 12/24/07)

c. Church Authorities, several Bishops, Dioceses, religious organizations including Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, and countless others. Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales emphasized the higher moral principle that called for kindness, love, sympathy and compassion for the poor. (PDI, 12/21/07)

8) SMFI Legal Counsel is DAR's former Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs who knows too well that the 144-hectare land is CARPable, that the Sumilao farmers are qualified beneficiaries and that the Supreme Court's approval of the conversion is subject to conditions. Furthermore, one may also simply look at the following documents to see the truth:

a. Tax declaration clearly stating the land is AGRICULTURAL;

b. History of the title;

c. Deed of Sale .

As regards development, The Church through the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace issued the official document last month (November 23, 2007) entitled "Towards a Better Distribution of Land: The Challenge of Agrarian Reform." Here are some salient points:

o Many developing countries have sought to modernize their economies as quickly as possible by basing themselves for the most part on the often unjustified belief that rapid industrialization can bring about an improvement in general economic well-being, even if
agriculture suffers in the process.

o Imbalances in the division of land ownership and the policies giving rise to and sustaining them are the source of serious obstacles to economic development. Such imbalances and policies can have economic consequences which affect the majority of the population.

o Agrarian reform is one of the most urgent reforms and cannot be delayed. In many situations, radical and urgent changes are therefore needed in order to restore to agriculture – and to rural people – their just value as the basis for a healthy economy, within the social community's development as a whole.

Furthermore, Economists from Ateneo de Manila University stated that "In economic development, it is widely recognized that effective land reform is a sine qua non of agricultural change and rapid economic growth. Countries that have undertaken effective land reform not only have had more robust agricultural growth and productivity, they also have enjoyed a better distribution of income and lower rates of poverty."

The effect on growth and development will be much greater if CARP was implemented more decisively.

We end with SALFA President Napoleon Merida, Jr.'s sentiments:

"The very point of our 1,700 kilometer walk was to make our rights of the land very compelling and difficult to ignore. We chose a very peaceful way of asserting our rights even if it meant a big sacrifice for us. We succeeded in gaining a recognition of our rightful claim over the land and the injustices that we have endured over the last decade. For once, the public, the Church and even the Office of the President have seen our side and have recognized that the law is on our side. Now, through their expensive full-page ad SMFI is trying to paint a picture of itself as the savior of the farmers of Bukidnon and that we have no right over our land. What is the price of justice then? Is it worth P2.4B in investments?"

Manalangin. Manindigan. Makialam.

Homily - Christmas 2007

Celebrating the Word who was made Flesh

There are four versions of the Christmas story as there are four Gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke tells the story of the birth of the Lord pretty much the same, with some details added or absent in each one of them. Now the Gospel you just listened to comes from John. It also tells us about Christmas. But instead of a story, John gives us a theological assertion.

“In the beginning was the Word.
And the Word was with God.
And the Word was God…”

Friends, when you go back to your homes after Mass today, I suggest that you look in the Bible our Gospel today, the first chapter of John. There you will find a summary on the person and mission of Jesus, and who He is in our lives. Let us briefly examine the significance of this Word who is as much present now as in the beginning.

The Word creates. The first word that we hear uttered in the Bible: “Let there be light!” And there was light. The process of creation was started.

The Word judges. God asked Adam and Eve what they have done. From their very answer, Adam and Eve knew they would have to leave paradise. But not before God promised a time of restoration for all humanity represented by Adam and Eve, and a savior who will fulfill that promise. The Word promises.

The Word makes Himself known. Faced with a burning bush, Moses heard a voice telling him: “I am who am”.

The Word calls and sends. Throughout history God calls certain people – Abraham, Moses, David, the judges, and the prophets – and sends them into mission, to save His people from the misery that they often put themselves into. The Word is a saving Word.

The Word speaks through the prophets. In the Old Testament, the prophets would begin their prophecy by the formula: “dabar Yahweh”, the Word of Yahweh, to signify that the words they speak are not their own but that of the Spirit.

And finally, to top it all, the Word was made flesh and made His dwelling upon us. Jesus, the Son of God, became man for us and our salvation. John’s poetic introduction is a way of telling us that behind that quaint familiar story of the baby born in a manger, is an idea, a history, a power of infinite proportions.

What does this mean to us? How relevant is this teaching about the Word for the present generation? A little side story.

Two senior citizens were talking about the gifts they receive this Christmas.
Lolo 1: Pade, hilinga ini, regalo kan aki ko ngonyan na Pasko – a hearing aid. Malinaw na malinaw na an pandangog ko, lataw na lataw an mga tanog.
Lolo 2: Talaga pade. Manggurano kaya an presyo?
Lolo 1: Tama ka pade, dai na man nanggad ako napeperwisyo!
Iyo man giraray palan!

When God speaks, are we listening? It is especially important to listen to the Word today when so much information abound and is made available to us. Not all of them speak to us about the truth. Not all of them lead us to what is right and good.

A favorite Christmas carol goes: “Pasko, Pasko, Pasko na naming muli, taaging araw na ating pinakamimithi.” Ano nga ba ang ating pinakamimithi. Christmas is special for all of us because, among other things, Christmas evokes the deepest longings of our heart or, more precisely, it evokes the answer to the deepest longings of our heart; the answer which only the Word made flesh can give.

The Word gives hope. I was invited by the pastor of Manito to say Mass in his parish for the first five days of Misa de Gallo. I would ride a motorbike in the evening to Manito, celebrate the dawn Mass and another Mass, either for a funeral or a wedding, in the morning, then leave again for office work in Legazpi. I enjoyed that brief ministry in Manito. While I was there I had a conversation with a woman who came to the parish convent looking for a priest for advice and some help.

This is her story: A few days before, she, her husband, their eldest son, and two nephews went to work on a piece of property they own in Inang Maharang (the farthest barangay in Manito, near the border of Bacon town in Sorsogon, and where the Bac-Man Hydroelectric Power Plant is situated). The ownership of the land was apparently disputed by another party, but she claimed that her family has possession of the land title. Sometime later, they saw their son being attacked by a group of more than 10 bolo-wielding men. Her husband came to their son’s rescue. Two against more than 10: one could instantly imagine the almost logical outcome of that encounter. Both her husband and eldest son were killed that day. Her husband sustained 30 hack wounds, her son, 21. A member of the attacking party also got killed. Only two, whom she was able to identify, was caught by the police.

The Word inspires us to all to goodness.

Dear Editor, I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says “If you see it in The Sun it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence…”

to be cont...

Homily - Christmas 2006


Christmas is the time of year when the Church becomes a story-teller.
Like Lola Basyang. Or J.K. Rowling. Or Tolkien. Or C.S. Lewis.
Before we had doctrines and dogmas, pastoral letters and political interventions,
before all these – and at the very core of our faith – we have stories.

We hear the story of a father whose compassion and fidelity provided for and protected his family. Like many fathers that we know.

We hear the story of a young girl, of great strength and even greater faith, who became a mother and sacrificed so much for the sake of her Son. Like many girls and mothers that we know.

We hear the story of a baby, who people would say, had so much promise in him for the future. And we remember how we, too, in our youth, possessed so much promise for the future.
And some of us would ask what has happened to that promise.

Such is the Christmas story. And why has it remained ever so popular
even after so many centuries? Of the many reasons I would like to propose three:

First, because it recounts the story of our faith.

Second, because it is also the story of each one of us.
Joseph, Mary and Jesus went through trials and difficulties.
We, too are going through trials and difficulties.
And as they went trough their hardships with love and strength and promise,
we too are being reminded that by the grace of God we can overcome whatever hardship or suffering we may be facing right now.

Third, because Christmas brings us Joy and Hope.
Joy. Pope Benedict XVI recently said: “The true gift of Christmas is joy!”

Let me tell you a story of joy… In the darkest days of the First World War,
in the Western Front, the British and the French soldiers were entrenched on one side
and the Germans were on the other side. It was Christmas Eve and the weary soldiers thought they had enough of war and violence. They decided to hold a ceasefire.

The leaders of the French, British and German forces met in the center of the battlefield
– while around them the bodies of the dead lay lying under cover of snow –
and agreed upon their improvised rules for their improvised peace. Spontaneously,
the soldiers from different camps started chanting: “No more war! No more war!”.

It was Christmas, and after so many months of fighting, they felt a sudden rush of relief and joy!
They laid down their arms, sang Christmas carols, exchanged gifts, and played football.

This scene is turned into a film titled “Joyeux Noel”, because it was made in France.
It has been released here in the Philippines just recently with the title, “Merry Christmas”.
But they sanitized and romanticized the story in the film for reasons that are political and commercial. Anyway, the scattered acts of friendship went on for several months till Easter.
The superiors from the different sides didn’t like it. And the war still raged long after those incidents. But the memory of those brief breaks of joy was enough for the many survivors
who were there to overcome the horrors of war and made their healing faster.

Friends, Christmas is a natural magnet and time of joy. That is why, we reserve this time to enjoy family reunions, when friends and even former classmates gather together, for they are truly occasions of joy and celebration. But of course, we all know that.
What many of us seem to be forgetting though is how simple it is for joy to be acquired.
The Christmas bonus and the 13th month pay, and the preparations, are still important,
but the simple gifts and those small gatherings of family and friends
could bring as much if not more of this joy to us. Children know this naturally.

Though there is one creeping tradition though that I don’t like.
It is when people say “Ang Pasko ay para sa mga bata”. And they stop at that.
As if saying that would make us feel more adult, more responsible, more in control, more happy.
The joy of Christmas is for everybody, even and especially for parents and heads of household who have to make ends meet all year round and especially during Christmas.
After all, the Christmas carols would sing that Christmas is offered to kids from 1 to 92, Christmas is for children, young and old.

Hope. The other thing that Christmas brings is hope.

Another creeping tradition is when every time Christmas comes we would hear people say
that life is hard. While it is true, it gets highlighted greatly at Christmas. Dipisil an buhay.
The Apo Hiking Society would sing:

“Meron pa kayang caroling at noche buena
kung tayo naman ay kapos at wala nang pera,
baka sa gipit happy new year mapopostpone
at ang hamon ay mauuwi sa bagoong.”

Ano man ngaya kun bagoong, balaw?
Christmas should not make us cynical or despairing, it should bring us hope.

Let me tell you another story, this time a story of hope.
If we say that this year life is hard, last year it was even harder, especially for the 3 provinces that were ravaged by a disaster that was ostensibly ecological but mostly man-made in nature.
I’m speaking of the provinces of Quezon, Aurora and parts of Nueva Ecija.
They experienced a series of typhoons and heavy flooding last year.
It resulted to so much damage to property and so much loss of lives.

Immediately after the floods subside they took to the task of rebuilding and rehabilitation.
With shovels, pickaxe, saws and other tools they did as much as they could
to clear the mud and debris that covered their streets and lodged in their homes and buildings.
In many places the mud and debris were several meters deep.

Many people were saying: May saysay pa ba ang magdiwang ng Pasko sa gitna ng trahedya? May saysay pa ba ang magsaya at magdiwang kung naaalala pa rin palagi ang maraming mga namatay na kapamilya’t kaibigan? The bishop and the parish priest thought
they should push through with the celebrations, at least in the Church and in the liturgy.

And since Simbang Gabi then was fast approaching, the people decided to give priority
to clearing the Church. The church in our story is the Cathedral of Infanta.
While the volunteers were busy with their shovels and other tools, a group of young people decided to make a belen. It was like most traditional Filipino belen you would expect,
except for one difference. St. Joseph, instead of the staff he would usually be holding,
in their belen, he was holding a shovel, pala, the tool most used in their task of rebuilding.

And many people who came to Church for the Simbang Gabi and the Christmas Masses
could not help it but look into the direction of the belen and St. Joseph’s shovel,
and find in it their sign of hope.

What did they see? This is what they saw: Like us, the Holy Family lives in a makeshift home, not even their own. The baby Jesus was born in poverty and difficulty, like us.
And so they understood, in their hearts, they understood that that is what is meant by Emmanuel, “God with us”, God sharing not just our human condition
but the condition of those who are most poor and most helpless.
For many parishioners, that belen and St. Joseph’s shovel was their symbol of hope.
Their hope that was anchored in the God who does not promise to end all our sufferings
should we embrace him in faith, or to put an end to all the consequences of our sinful actions
or of the sinful actions of others. Rather their hope was in the God of Christmas,
the God who is with us and remains with us through it all.

Friends, as we go through our Christmas celebrations these days,
let us take to heart those simple, even corny, Christmas traditions and celebration in our family. For, when the time comes, and these will happen to all of us, eventually,
when we feel down and helpless, when we think that life is bitter
and the end to our troubles lies far away, the memories of those simple Christmas joys
will serve as very concrete sources of strength and hope.
Those memories will make us survive whatever troubles we have gotten ourselves into.
Those memories will make us go back to our family and to our God
and find once more our source of strength and consolation.

The gift of Christmas is the Word of the Father, our Savior Jesus Christ,
whose birth brings joy to the world and hope for his People.

Merry Christmas to all of you. And God bless us everyone!

09 December 2007

a year of 'sinful' ministry

today, or to be exact, a few minutes ago, which means yesterday, since i'm writing this just after midnight, i celebrate(d) the first anniversary of my ordination to the presbyterate.

although generally unintentionally planned, the things i did this morning and afternoon were somewhat symbolic of the ministries i had on my first year. i said Mass in the morning, in honor of the Immaculate Conception, with the people from rapu-rapu gathered at the kampo ng bayan in front of the provincial capitol. fr. oli, cssr, concelebrated with me inside one of the tents. together we prayed for justice and blessings from God to resolve the issue plaguing the people of rapu-rapu: mining and its dire effects to the island community.

then i went to tahao road church to officiate a wedding. then baptism for several infants. then off to tabaco city for a blessing of a cousin's new internet shop and for an aunt's birthday.

it has been an exciting year. too bad much of what caused the excitement may not be prudently published here or elsewhere. i have been swallowed/embraced by/became part of the establishment! and an integral part of it even, owing to my present job.

did some perspectives change? definitely. seeing things from within, sometimes looking out, most of the time looking inwards, necessitates certain changes. one thing i can honestly say: whoever says the Church is monolithic, doesn't know what he is talking about.

change of principles? hopefully not.

they say we're lucky for we of the present stand upon the shoulder of giants. walter burghardt, s.j., is one giant i like to assume to stand upon. i believe the words he spoke in a homily delivered at a Mass to celebrate his 50 years in the ministry, best approximates my first year in the priesthood:

"In the course of a half century,
I have seen more Catholic corruption
than you have read of. I have tasted it.
I have been reasonably corrupt myself.
And yet I joy in this Church—
this living, pulsing, sinning people of God,
love it with a crucifying passion.
Why? For all the Catholic hate,
I experience here a community of love.
For all the institutional idiocy,
I find here a tradition of reason.
For all the individual repressions,
I breathe here an air of freedom.
For all the fear of sex,
I discover here the redemption of my body.
In an age so inhuman,
I touch here the tears of compassion.In a world so grim and humorless,
I share here rich joy and laughter.
In the midst of death
I hear here an incomparable stress on life.
For all the apparent absence of God,
I sense here the real presence of Christ."
on top of that, i really feel blessed and thankful. as i was reviewing my year a few hours ago, suddenly it dawned on me: practically all of my personal intentions/wish list during my thanksgiving mass have been fulfilled before the year turned full circle to this anniversary.

God does answer prayers in his own ways. masuripot an Dios!

looking forward to another year of answered prayers & 'sinful' ministries. waxing prophetic, maybe Rapu-Rapu's woes may finally be over before my next ordination anniversary.

Praise be the name of the Lord!

06 December 2007

Death in Rapu-Rapu

Maurita de Ramas, 27, married, with 4 kids, from Brgy. Poblacion, Rapu-Rapu, passed away at 11 a.m. on 23 November 2007.

She complained of nausea and vomiting immediately after eating some fish caught by her husband on 28 October 2007, the same day a massive fish kill was witnessed by residents in Brgy. Poblacion. As she was the first to eat what was supposed to be their meal, and having seen her condition, the rest of her family no longer ate the cooked fish. She was immediately brought to the hospital and was given some medication. For the next few days, she went back several times to the hospital because of her ailment. She developed a boil on her face and wounds over her stomach before eventually succumbing to heart failure.

Her husband blamed her death to the apparently contaminated fish she ate days before, and to the Lafayette mine, the most probable cause of the fish kill. He also said she had no history of any major illness. She was buried the next day as her family could not afford embalming services.

It was a gloomy day on her funeral, both figuratively and literally. It was the day the typhoon (coincidentally named) "Mina" was predicted to arrive in Albay. The typhoon changed course eventually, sparing the province.

Maurita de Ramas' illness and death seemed eerily symbolic of the suffering of the people, and of the island itself, of Rapu-Rapu.

Lafayette says this is a hoax.

This video is real.
The suffering of Rapu-Rapu is REAL.
When will the government finally take side with the people on this issue?

23 November 2007

Oratio Imperata for Deliverance from Calamities

(Please pray at every Mass after the Post-Communion Prayer.)

Almighty Father, we raise our hearts to You in gratitude
for the wonders of creation of which we are part,
for Your providence that sustains us in our needs, and
for Your wisdom that guides the course of the universe.

We acknowledge our sins against You and the rest of creation.
We have not been good stewards of Nature.
We have confused Your command to subdue the earth.
The environment is made to suffer our wrongdoing,
and now we reap the harvest of our abuse and indifference.
Global warming is upon us. Typhoons, floods, volcanic eruption,
and other natural calamities occur in increasing number and intensity.

We turn to You, our loving Father, and beg forgiveness for our sins.
We ask that we, our loved ones and our hard-earned possessions
be spared from the threat of calamities, natural and man-made.
We beseech You to inspire us all to grow into
responsible stewards of Your creation,
and generous neighbors to those in need.
Through Christ, our Lord.

V- Our Mother of Salvation. (3x)
- Pray for us. (3x)


(Pamibion sa lambang Misa pagkatapos kan Huring Pamibi)

Amang makakamhan, iniitaas mi an samong mga puso
sa pagpasalamat huli kan mga ngangalasan kan Saimong paglalang,
huli kan Saimong pangataman sa pagtao Mo
kan samong mga pangangaipo digdi sa daga,
asin huli kan Saimong kadunongan na nag-aantabay
kan lakaw kan bilog na kinaban.

Inaako mi na nagkasala kami Saimo asin sa kapalibutan.
Dai kami naging marhay na paraataman kan Saimong paglalang.
Dai mi nasabotan asin naotob an Saimong kabotan
na atamanon an kinaban.

An kapalibutan nagsasakit huli kan samong mga salang gibo,
asin ngonyan namamatean mi na an padusang-balik
kan samong pag-abuso asin kapabayaan.
Padagos an labi-labing pag-init kan kinaban.
Huli kaini nagdadakul asin nagkukusog an mga bagyo, baha,
pagtuga kan bulkan, asin iba pang mga natural na calamidad.

Dai kaming mabibirikan kundi Ika, mamomoton na Ama.
Sa Saimo kami minahagad nin kapatawaran kan samong mga kasalan.
Ilikay Mo kami, an samong mga namomotan, asin mga pagrogaring
sa peligro nin mga calamidad, natural man o kagibohan nin tawo.

kaming magtalubo na magin
mga responsableng paraataman kan Saimong paglalang,

asin mga matinabang na parasurog kan kapwang nangangaipo.

Huli ki Kristo, satong Kagurangnan.

V- Nuestra SeƱora de Salvacion. (3x)
Ipamibi mo kami. (3x)