Iglesia moments ng hindi Iglesia

INC

Isang maalab na pagbati sa lahat ng mga kasapi ng Iglesia ni Cristo. Wow, ‘sandaang taon na kayo.

Lumaki akong ayaw sa Iglesia ni Cristo. Noong bata pa ako—nung grade school—tumatawag ako sa radio upang makipagtalo tungkol sa relihiyon at ipagtanggol ang Katolisismo laban sa Iglesia. “Best in religion” kasi ako lagi noon at champion sa mga bible quiz.

Isa sa mga kapatid ng nanay ko, si Uncle Erning, ay umanib sa Iglesia nang maging nobya niya si Auntie Meding. Tuwing family reunion at magluluto ng tinola si lola, nagtatalo ang mga tito ko kung ano ang gagawin sa dugo ng manok. Ibaon sa lupa, sabi ni ni Uncle Erning, sapagka’t iyon daw ang nakasaad sa banal na kasulatan samantalang ang iba pang mga uncle ko ay gustong ihalo ang malinamnam na dugo sa tinola, dahil ‘yun daw ang nasusulat sa cookbook. Hindi naman seryosong pagtatalo ‘yon, kantyawan lang. Hindi ko na maalala kung sino ang nasunod, pero naaalala ko na laging masarap ang native na tinola, may dugo man o wala, basta’t pinagsasaluhan ng pamilya.

Dati, parang kulto o sindikato ang tingin ko sa Iglesia. Hindi ko sila maunawaan, o baka simpleng ayaw ko lang talaga sa kanila. Ngunit noong fourth year high school ay dumating sa buhay ko si Rona, ang girlfriend kong mabait, matalino, maganda, at Iglesia ni Cristo. Isang mahabang proseso bago niya ako nakumbinsing sumama sa pagsamba. Sinubukan ko pang kumbinsihin siya na upang patas ay makikisamba ako sa Iglesia tuwing Huwebes at sasama naman siya sa’kin sa Simbahang Katoliko tuwing Linggo, ngunit ipaliwanag niyang ‘di talaga puwede.

Maaga kaming pumunta sa kapilya dahil bawal raw ma-late. Hiwalay ang upuan ng mga babae sa lalake at ginabayan ako ng diakonesa patungo sa aking upuan. Hindi puwedeng mamili, hindi tulad sa Katoliko na puwedeng dumiretso sa mga upuang malapit sa electric fan. Napansin ko agad ang kaayusan sa loob ng kapilya. Walang mga batang umiiyak o nagtatakbuhan. Walang nagbebenta ng kandila, at wala ring nag-aalok ng rebulto, popcorn o balloon sa labas. At maayos ang pananamit ng lahat; angkop ang kasuotan sa banal na gawain.

Noong magsimula ang pagsamba, napaka-solemn ng mood; talagang damang-dama ng mga kasapi ang pagkanta at pananalangin, mayroon pa ngang mga lumuluha at umiiyak. Hindi ko man lubos na naunawaan ang lahat, naramdaman ko ang alab ng pananampalataya ng mga miyembro. Hindi kami nagkatuluyan ni Rona ngunit hindi ito dahil sa relihiyon.

Continue reading “Iglesia moments ng hindi Iglesia”

Ilocos priest also ridicules unwed mothers

photo from the blog My Happy Thoughts
photo from the blog My Happy Thoughts

There was no video clip, no recording whatsoever, but Rose (not her real name) still vividly remembers the incident at the St. William’s Cathedral in Laoag a few years back.

There were three other babies to be baptized that day and the priest asked for the fathers to gather in front. When the priest saw that the young woman was alone with her son, he asked where the father was. Rose, a single mom, said there wouldn’t be anyone. Laughing sarcastically the priest asked, with the whole congregation listening, “Apay, awan kadi isuna idi inaramidyo dayta?” (Why, wasn’t he there when you did it?) The priest went on to publicly scold Rose, who was left by her boyfriend even before she knew she was pregnant. The young woman, made to feel ashamed of herself, was on the verge of tears while the priest, insisting that a father is needed to raise the child, did not begin the ceremony. It was then that Rose’s uncle stepped forward and asserted, “I’ll stand up for this child.”

This incident, dear karikna, is not an isolated case. I have personally talked to other sources who have confirmed this priest’s habit of shaming single mothers. And there are surely other members of the clergy who do the same and prefer judgment and condemnation over God’s overflowing grace, love, and compassion. One priest, also from the diocese, made another woman cry on a day that should have been her happiest moment. Impatient about the wedding running a few minutes late, the priest began the ceremonies even when the bride was yet to arrive. The bride cried a river and ruined her make up, and not because of joy.

As for Rose who felt the hurt rushing back to her upon learning that a teenage mom was similarly shamed in Cebu, she only wishes that no person would be subjected to the same public humiliation she went through. But because there was no viral video to upload and no outrage from the public, this priest who is currently assigned in a garlic-producing town in southern Ilocos Norte, remains unlike Cebu’s Fr. Romeo Obach who has publicly apologized, and even more unlike Pope Francis who finds no difficulty saying, “Who am I to judge?”

Tale of two Cebuanos: one good, the other despicable

Two Cebuanos are in my consciousness these days. One brings forth inspiration; the other, indignation.

Let’s talk first about the good one.

When I was growing up, my dad used to tell me that he is not particularly fond of the Sto. Niño. “Why pray to the child Jesus when you can pray to the adult one?” he asked rhetorically. My mother, a daily communicant, thinks otherwise. Not only does she have images of the child Jesus prominently displayed on our home altar, she actually had me dress up like a Sto. Niño during a novena mass at Church: I held a sceptre on my left hand and a globe on my right. I barely remember other details of that event, but I do recall my mom telling me that she prays that I may become a good boy like the child Jesus. From then on, Sto. Niño and I became faithful friends.

Me and mom: I was the smallest Sto. Nino.
Me and mom: I was the smallest Sto. Nino.

ñ

That friendship was fortified when I attended college at San Beda where the community has a special devotion to the Sto. Niño of Prague. Dedicated to him, our annual college fair and frolics is highlighted by a procession in the Malacañang vicinity, and a grand mass at the football field. Even after I graduated and began working, I’d go back to Mendiola every third Sunday of January to join the Pista ng Sto. Niño sa San Beda. Also, I’d go to the feast of the Sto. Niño in Tondo where the family of my good friend Weng de Jesus lives. The Tondo fiesta is the liveliest I have been to, with processions, parlor games, and drinking sprees happening in every nook and corner of the district. I have also been fortunate to visit the Sto. Niño in Cebu and in Iloilo where the country’s grandest festivals are held.

It is always a joy being in the company of my beloved friend who constantly makes me feel loved and at peace. During times of great trouble, I visit him and feel comforted. I am assured by his gentle smile that everything is going to be okay; after all, he’s got the whole world in his hands.

Last week, as the pilgrim image of Sto. Niño de Cebu visited various towns of Ilocos Norte, I was amazed by the very strong devotion Ilocanos have for the child Jesus. The queues to the image were constantly long as people from all walks of life came to pay homage. At the St. William’s Cathedral, I was particularly struck by a couple who stood in line behind me: they are probably in their seventies. The old woman man walked very slowly while her husband was aided with a cane. They politely asked if I could take their picture. I took the camera and did as asked, the Sto. Niño smiling in the background. Then I asked them if I could also take their picture with my own camera, for I wanted to capture that touching moment, and probably share the story of their piety with others. They graciously agreed.

 

photo by Joel Dul-loog
photo by Joel Dul-loog

Both the old and young venerate the Sto. Niño. But why pray to the child when you can go directly to the adult Jesus? Our special affinity to the Sto. Niño is probably because we see the best qualities of humanity in childhood: that of innocence and purity, of carefree fun and adventure, of meekness and humility, and, ultimately, of pure and unadulterated love. Never mind that the cruel and oppressive Spaniards brought the historic image here and forced their religion to us. It is interesting to note that the image of a spiritual child runs across Oriental religions, specifically in Hinduism’s Krishna.

Now, let us talk about the other Cebuano, the despicable one. Continue reading “Tale of two Cebuanos: one good, the other despicable”

Priests unhappy with bishop’s project

mayugba Insiders say many priests of the Diocese of Laoag are unhappy with a pet project of Bishop Renato Mayugba who has been in the diocese for only a year.

Although the clergy, especially its senior members, are open to the idea of building a seminary in the diocese, they lament that the 90 to 120 million pesos to be spent for the facility’s construction in Bacarra town is unnecessarily expensive. The priests fear that diocesan programs, particularly those for the poor and marginalized, will be sacrificed because of the ambitious project. “The college seminary is not a pastoral initiative; it’s a project of the bishop,” a senior priest said, thus revealing rocky relations brought about by Mayugba’s construction project.

There were suggestions to just improve the existing St. Mary’s Minor Seminary in Brgy. Mangato, Laoag City where the college seminary could be housed (high school seminaries are unnecessary anyway and are being closed down elsewhere), but sources say the bishop was cold with the idea. Other priests also opine that building a college seminary should not be a priority because the school only caters to a few. Established in 2011 and currently housed within the Laoag Cathedral Compound, the Mary Cause of Our Joy Seminary produced only six graduates last month while the current batch of freshmen is composed of a mere nine.

The diocese also has the option to continue sending aspiring priests to the San Pablo’s Seminary in Baguio City where most of the diocese’s priests graduated from.

Despite strong opposition, however, Mayugba, according to insiders, seems resolute in constructing a new seminary facility primarily because he wants something that people will remember him for. (“Kayatna nga adda bukodna a pakalaglagipan.”) Continue reading “Priests unhappy with bishop’s project”

Poly

st-william-s-cathedral

In Greek, “poly” means multiple, but for many Catholics in Ilocos Norte, the word is more associated with “long.” Uncomfortably, unnecessarily, unbearably long.

Fr. Policarpio “Poly” Albano, currently rector of St. William’s Cathedral in Laoag and former parish priest of Batac and Dingras towns, is known in all the parishes he has served for his kilometric homilies that are desperately wanting in coherence and organization.

Maria, a Batac parishioner who is now based overseas, laments, “Kapag nagsesermon siya, natutulog ako. Paggising ko, nagsesermon pa rin siya kaya matutulog ulit ako. Mga lagpas kalahating oras siyang salita lang nang salita. Halos wala na nga talagang nakikinig sa kanya. Napaka-monotonous niya at paulit-ulit-ulit-ulit-ulit talaga. Ang boring boring. Walang emosyon. Going around the bush. Walang pinatutunguhan ang sermon niya.”

Magenta, a Cathedral churchgoer, says she would rather skip mass than listen to Fr. Poly deliver a homily. “Kapag nalaman kong siya ang magmimisa, hindi na lang ako tumutuloy. Kasi lalo akong magkakasala kung nakaupo ako sa simbahan pero naiinis ako dahil ‘yung pari ay nakakaubos talaga ng pasensiya dahil sa napakahabang sermon niya na paikot-ikot. Torture talaga!” Magenta, not her real name, is a teacher, and thus knows the necessity of proper lesson planning and class preparation. Surely, Magenta knows that quantity never compensates quality, that length of delivery never makes up for lack of preparation.

I really can’t imagine, dear karikna, how insensitive a speaker one could be to continue to blabber and not notice that the faithful are either sleeping or squirming in their seats.

What many churchgoers lament is that Fr. Poly’s sermons just go around in circles. For instance, when he gives the cue “Kamaudiananna” (Lastly) it does not mean the homily is anywhere near its end. “Lastly,” in Fr. Poly’s case, means the homily is around one half delivered. He would proceed to repeat the same things he has tackled earlier in the homily, not for style nor emphasis, but simply for evident lack of structure.

Some well-meaning parishioners have mustered enough courage to provide Fr. Poly feedback regarding his uber-long homilies. But the good priest dismissed the comments simply by saying,

Continue reading “Poly”

Nuestra Señora de la Mantsa: The Case of the Laoag City Bell Tower ‘Apparition’

And we did it again.

Ten years ago, I wondered in an essay why this Catholic Nation has produced only one saint so far while Thailand, Japan and China–all non-Christian countries–have more. Maybe, unlike Filipinos, I said then, people from those nations have more sensible things to do than creating miracles by desperately looking for images in the stains of tree trunks and forcing statues to shed bloody tears.

Recently, an image of a woman, believed by many as Mama Mary, reportedly appeared at the midsection of the Laoag City Sinking Bell Tower. With pictures of the ‘apparition’ circulated on Facebook, the phenomenon generated public interest, especially after it was featured on national television evening news.

Make no mistake, I love Mama Mary, and I always turn to her for guidance and protection, but, on a personal level, and with all due respect to anyone who does, I don’t believe the image is extraordinary. The blurry figure is obviously a product of stain and discoloration which any old structure, such as the 400-year old Laoag Bell Tower, would have. You can find stains anywhere and assume them to be something, anything. My friend Luvee from Pagudpud says there are also a lot of stains in their toilet wall, and, as a child, it was her hobby to spot them and identify certain images, some of them religious. Rizal Javier, a retired philosophy professor from Batac, is obviously no longer a child but he still spots some images in their restroom and has actually considered publishing those in his Facebook account. There was one problem though: he does not have a Facebook account. Continue reading “Nuestra Señora de la Mantsa: The Case of the Laoag City Bell Tower ‘Apparition’”

Rooting for Apo Jack

As you read this, Sergio Utleg would have been installed as archbishop of Tuguegarao. In an interesting turn of events, The Ilocos Times, where articles critical of Utleg’s leadership have seen print, paid tribute to the religious leader in a full page feature in last week’s issue. The banner story also amplified the bishop’s anti-mining views. I have spoken enough about the bishop, and often in an unflattering light, but I agree that he ought to be commended for his anti-mining views. He is a lover of nature and crusader for the plight of indigenous peoples.

Jun-b Ramos, editor in chief of the North’s most enduring community newspaper, is said to have personally paid a visit to the archbishop-elect in his last days in Laoag. During the dialogue, Jun-b, aware that some Catholics feel of resentful of the paper due to some articles (including mine) critical of Utleg, assured the bishop that The Ilocos Times is neither against the Church nor its leaders, and that it only tackles issues that do well to be clarified and serve as wake-up call. The bishop, admired by many for his humility and gentle demeanor, explained his side on issues raised by some quarters. Inside sources say some powerful blocs in the Diocese, including leaders of the Knights of Columbus, have been prodding the bishop to file a libel case. Now, all is well, and rightly so. Filing a criminal case is not exactly the best way for Utleg to bid the Diocese of Laoag goodbye. Continue reading “Rooting for Apo Jack”

My mom’s Letter to the Editor: In defense of Bishop Utleg

I wish to take exception to Herdy La. Yumul’s column titled “Utlegged”, published in the other week’s issue of your respectable newspaper. While I support the young writer, who happens to be my son, in all of his undertakings, his rather harsh commentary on Bishop Sergio Lasam Utleg is something I do not approve of. In fact, I found myself weeping a lot because of the grief and agony the article gave me.

As a church volunteer, I have always known Bishop Utleg as an honorable person and a respectable church leader. He is humble and kind, caring and nurturing.  I appreciate very much that he sacrificed his whole life in the service of God’s people. I, my family, and many other churchgoers attest to his vast contributions in nurturing the spiritual lives of his constituents, and in helping uplift the lives of the poor and the oppressed. No doubt, he is well loved and well admired by his flock. Continue reading “My mom’s Letter to the Editor: In defense of Bishop Utleg”

Utlegged

YES, thank you for noticing the past tense. Sergio Utleg is set to leave the Diocese of Laoag to wear a heavier cap as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao.

Last June 15 at the Vatican, Josef Ratzinger, alias Benedict XVI, announced the new appointment. Utleg will succeed Diosdado Talamayan, 78, whose resignation has, after three years of waiting, finally been accepted by the Pope. Sixty-seven year old Utleg will serve the archdiocese with around 1.3 million Catholics, 82 priests and 122 religious.

I am happy with Utleg’s transfer, for his near six-year stint in the Diocese of Laoag was marked not as much spiritually as it was commercially. And it started on the wrong foot. Right after he assumed office as bishop of Laoag, the very first project to be completed was a swimming pool at the bishop’s palace.

Then the diocese worked closely with the Laoag City Government to have a mall built in a parcel of land where a heritage school building sits. “Of course, it’s about the money,” the bishop, in a personal meeting with your karikna, said of the unpopular move, explaining that revenues can be put to good use. But Utleg was all too willing to dismantle everything just to have the diocesan cash register ring louder than our famed bell tower. Boy, he even attempted (or, at the very least, condoned attempts) to wrap the churches in Laoag and San Nicolas with mall buildings. If not for the people’s strong resistance and fervent prayers, add to that twists of fate, these plans would have pushed through. Majestic Ilocos churches would have been irreparably utlegged.  Continue reading “Utlegged”

Jubileeconomics

St. William Cathedral, Laoag City

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Laoag, established in June 1961, celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year, and I should feel excited. This must be something big and meaningful. After all, Ilocanos are a deeply pious lot and we, as with the rest of the nation, are predominantly Catholic. But I feel uneasy, dear karikna, because of certain circumstances that surround the celebrations.

I came to know of the Church’s golden jubilee in a rather odd way. In November last year, Luvee Hazel Calventas-Aquino, a friend and colleague in the university, expressed to me her discomfort over a tarpaulin streamer that was hung very conspicuously near the side entrance of the St. William Cathedral in Laoag.  Most churchgoers take the side entrance, and so it is very difficult to miss the streamer. “Why post it there?” Luvee asked. And it is not only Luvee, many other well-meaning parishioners shared the same sentiment.

Let me describe to you the banner. It is huge, really huge, billboard sized.  Even if you have an eye problem, it would be difficult for you not to notice it. Featuring the latest model of a car brand, it bears an attractive picture and a catchy line which goes, “Find out why 10,000 customers chose the new Honda City.  Honda: forever change the rules.” In the middle of the streamer is an invitation which goes: Inquire Inside. Continue reading “Jubileeconomics”

Refusing ninonghood

I received today another invitation to a baptism, it reads: “I, Chery May, invite you to come and join me to witness my christening on the 27th day of April, 2011, 10:00 a.m. at Saint William Cathedral, Laoag City.” I am asked to be a godfather to the cute baby whose photo appears in the invitation, together with an image of Hello Kitty.

I have made it clear to my friends that I am uncomfortable being a “ninong,” given the serious responsibilities attached to it. I am not referring, dear karikna, to the customary gifts during Christmases and birthdays, but to the guidance I have to provide, and this is the most important function of a ninong, on how to grow up a good Catholic.

How can I be a credible witness to the Catholic faith when I am in the middle of a campaign for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, a vital piece of legislation that the Church, using medieval logic, vigorously opposes? How can I help usher a young soul to a faith that still considers homosexuality as a natural anomaly? And how will I explain to an adult Cherry May all the hypocrisy in an institution rocked with scandals of every kind?

It is not, however, easy to turn down invitations to ninonghood because, in Filipino culture, such has great implications in the social context more than in the spiritual realm. Refusing to be a ninong can be insulting to the refused, and the reluctant godparent may find himself a few friends poorer. Good thing that I am not a politician, and have no intentions of seeking any elective post, not in the near future, and neither in the most distant tomorrow.  And so I can say “no, sorry, can’t be a ninong.” Continue reading “Refusing ninonghood”

Uncle Gerry

I ALWAYS tell my students, almost all of them in their teens that, at this point in their lives, they probably enjoy spending more time with their barkada—with whom secrets are shared, ‘happenings’ are enjoyed, and brave youthful explorations are carried out—than with their family members, especially the oldies, whom they perceive as KJ, epal, and close-minded.

I remind my students though that, as I myself would find out myself when I was a teenybopper no more, many friends come and go, while the family, fortunately or not, remains.

I was browsing though old photo albums the other day to look for pictures we need for our parents’ golden wedding anniversary next month when I noticed in the prints someone who has always been present in important occasions like birthdays, graduations, and weddings. He has been there during happy moments, but even more in difficult ones.  He is a vital constant in our family.

The second youngest in a brood of nine, German Nicolas Labayog was the only among his siblings who lived with his parents, my lolo and lola, until their twilight years. He took very good care of them. He gave them all the reasons to be happy.  He always made them laugh even as he constantly reminded the octogenarians to wear their pustiso.

With our grandparents gone, Uncle Gerry, although now based in Hawaii with his super beautiful wife Auntie Elsie, is the unifying force in the Labayog Clan. He would encourage us to gather and celebrate as a family, occasions big and small.  He would not be physically present anymore, but we would always feel his love. He would know if some members of the family are at odds, and would go at lengths to negotiate peace. I and my cousins each have our own stories to tell of gratitude and appreciation of Uncle Gerry. He tells you he is proud of you, and you would feel that he means it. He gives sound advice in a very tempered way and helps you realize your follies but never judges. He has ultimate belief in one’s capacity to do good.

I know he has mixed feelings about me right now. Continue reading “Uncle Gerry”

“Damaso” guy hails Laoag’s Rafales

WHILE I CONSIDER myself tech savvy, there are still times when my jaws drop marveling at how technology spreads information like wildfire.  This, dear folks, is one of those times.

Last week in my newspaper column, I wrote about Jesus “Lakay Susing” Rafales, a fellow Ilocano who blew his whistle and led a classy walkout at the St. William’s Cathedral in Laoag after a priest read a politically charged pastoral letter during the mass.  This happened almost two and a half decades before Carlos Celdran, a famous tour guide, did a theatrical protest at the Manila Cathedral over the issue of reproductive health.

At a rapid pace, the article, which I also posted in this blog, made the rounds in social networking sites Facebook and twitter.  Shortly after, Celdran himself read the story, and shared it as well to his tens of thousands of followers in cyberspace.

“I’m reading about a man who came before me named Rafales.  Read about him.  Cool cat,” Celdran twitted.  Then after, he left the following comment: Continue reading ““Damaso” guy hails Laoag’s Rafales”

Before Celdran, there was Rafales

AND THE present pales in comparison to the past.

Carlos Celdran, a well-known tourist guide, made news recently when he walked into the Manila Cathedral in the middle of a Mass and shouted, “Down with Padre Damaso!”  in protest of the church’s arrogant blocking of the Reproductive Health Bill.

There were mixed reviews of Celdran’s theatrics.  A few said  it went overboard, that it was tasteless, even “bastos,” but most were appreciative, thrilled, even blown away by his act.  Many felt that Celdran did what they would themselves do if only they can muster the same amount of courage.  “His stunt was not only brilliant, it was one of the most classy protest we have seen in many years,” said one fan.

I agree, Celdran did well.  Few people know, however, that two and a half decades before the Manila Cathedral incident, something like it happened at the St. William’s Cathedral in Laoag, and it was even more meaningful and classier. Continue reading “Before Celdran, there was Rafales”

Fr. Jose Agustin

A STABLE income.  House. Car. Good education for the kids.  Just when they have attained financial success, my parents felt an existential void, a void waiting to be filled.  Something was missing.  They were searching.  They were wanting.

And then there was Fr. Jose Agustin.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s, mom and dad would visit Fr. Joe at the parish rectory nighttime to ask questions like, “What is the Immaculate Conception?,”  “Will non-Christians go to heaven?,” “Why can’t we confess our sins directly to God?”  Soft-spoken and gentle in every way, Father Joe, although tired from a day’s work in the parish, would patiently and passionately answer each query, and my parents would always go home enlightened and eager to visit again. Continue reading “Fr. Jose Agustin”

Why beer is better than religion

MY FRIEND Rommel, a highly regarded scholar from Cagayan, observes that going to church is no different from frequenting a videoke bar. You go to these places to find relief from life’s cruelties.

The great American statesman Benjamin Franklin posited that “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

I argue that beer is better than religion, and here are 18 reasons why. Continue reading “Why beer is better than religion”

Church of the Pool on the take?

BUT OF COURSE.

Archbishop Oscar Cruz, an indefatigable anti-jueteng crusader, revealed recently that eight to twelve Catholic dioceses are benefitting from illegal gambling operations.  One wonders if the Diocese of Laoag is among them.

This sense of wonder is not without basis.  A retired archbishop, the longest-serving leader of this lone diocese of Ilocos Norte, openly admits that his beautiful house was built for him by a known jueteng lord.  My sources also attest that some structures in the diocese were either built or renovated with help from operators of the popular numbers game.

Note, dear karikna, that I am not against jueteng per se.  As a sociologist, I have previously written that jueteng exists not much because government officials and the police allow it, but more because the people need it.  Where the government and church fail, jueteng fills gaps and satisfies needs.  It provides jobs, it gives people hope.  “False hope!,” some people may point out,  but false hope, dear karikna, is always better than no hope at all.

You see, jueteng to me is not among what I would consider as major, major social problems.  What disturbs me is the patent hypocrisy by which the church deals with it.

“Receiving money from and betting on jueteng is a grave sin,” says Sergio Utleg, Laoag bishop, citing moral grounds.

A more candid stand, however, was made no less by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, the most influential Filipino prelate ever.  “If Satan appears to me and gives me money, I will accept the money and spend it all for the poor. It is not the practice of the Church to ask donors where their donations come from. Our duty is to make sure all donations go to the poor,” he posited.

At least, Sin had the interests of the poor in mind. Under Utleg, the first structure to be constructed was not a church and neither was it a facility for our impoverished brethren.  It was, of all things, a capricious swimming pool by the bishop’s palace. Continue reading “Church of the Pool on the take?”

Yes to Jueteng!

I AM HAPPY that P-Noy himself clarified categorically that while he is against jueteng, eradicating the illegal numbers game is not on top of his to-do list.  “That’s a low priority for me,” he said.

I surmise it saddened Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a staunch anti-gambling crusader, although I suspect that a good number of bishops heaved a sigh of relief, for they, too, receive jueteng payoffs.  Good example is an Ilocos prelate whose retirement house was built by a jueteng lord, a fact the man of cloth does not deny.  Then there are churches built or renovated using jueteng money, and sadly this includes the cathedral I used to frequent as a child.  The late Cardinal Jaime Sin justified this, saying “the church will accept money from the devil as long as it goes to the poor.”  Holy cow! Continue reading “Yes to Jueteng!”

The Christmas gift I cannot give

A BISHOP I know pretends to champion social justice, but, right in his own backyard is brewing unrest.

“His true colors now show,” say a group of parish workers.  “He is a moneymaker.”

For instance, he announced that he will celebrate masses in all parishes this Christmas season, and, with over 30 parishes in the diocese, and with the standard Php3,000 stipend the bishop gets per mass, the figures easily translate to Php100,000.  The amount does not include enveloped gifts and the customary bananas and eggs in shiny wrappings. Continue reading “The Christmas gift I cannot give”

Church unwittingly endorses vice; notes on the sacred and the profane

(Note: This is an improved and elongated version of an earlier post)

IMG_7369

SOMETHING CAUGHT my eye when I visited the Catholic church in Batac recently. Among the souvenir items they were selling at the parish office was an ash tray imprinted with the name and logo of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish.

While I would not say that smoking is evil and that smokers are baaad folks, I feel uncomfortable with this apparent endorsement of the vice.

“It would have been perfectly okay if it were a candle holder, but an ashtray?!?  And the name of the Blessed Virgin is even there.  That’s so off,” say my friends who were shocked to see the item. Continue reading “Church unwittingly endorses vice; notes on the sacred and the profane”

Church unwittingly endorses vice

ash-tray

I visited the Catholic Church in Batac recently, and found this among the souvenir stuff they were selling at the parish office.  While I would not say that smoking is evil and that smokers are baaad folks, I feel uncomfortable with this apparent endorsement of the vice.  I would appreciate your thoughts on it. Continue reading “Church unwittingly endorses vice”

Song insults humanity

ON TOP of the radio charts today is “Who am I?“, a gospel song performed by a Christian rock band named Casting Crowns.

The other weekend when I had to stay in the office to help my students polish their degree papers, I listened to the song 43 times (yes, I tallied!) in two days, not exactly by choice, I assure you, as all radio stations were playing it incessantly.    To the vulnerable, it would seem a perfectly inspirational song.  For me, however, it brings much discomfort. The song insults humanity. It insults me… and you.

The musical piece sets off on a nice note though.  It poses the most important and meaningful of man’s questions.

Who am I?

“The unexamined life is not worth living”, posits Socrates. All inquiries must be rooted in the self, and so I honestly like the first line.

But then the insult begins… Continue reading “Song insults humanity”

RH Bill Tackled in Multidisciplinary Forum

panel

The Department of Social Sciences of MMSU-CAS initiated a multidisciplinary forum to tackle House Bill 5043 or the Reproductive Health and Population Development Act, one of the most controversial legislations pending in congress.  It was held at the CAS lobby, March 4.

Prof. Mario Singson and Mrs. Marchita Singson represented the Catholic Church, which poses the strongest opposition to the bill.  The couple is with the Diocese of Laoag Commission on Family and Life.

Dr. Violeta Alonzo presented her economic analysis on the bill while Prof. Fides Bernardo Bitanga delivered his philosophical discourse.

Also present were lawyer Erme Labayog and Dr. Leonisa Silvestre, MMSU health services chief, to shed light on legal and medical issues respectively.

The resource speakers delivered short speeches on their respective stands.  After which, a vibrant open forum ensued. Continue reading “RH Bill Tackled in Multidisciplinary Forum”

Pretentious & meaningless, Pamulinawen Festival kicks off

St. William the Hermit, Patron of Laoagueños, did not exactly relish fiestas
St. William the Hermit, Patron of Laoagueños, did not exactly relish fiestas.

The revelry leading to the February 10 Feast Day of St. William, patron of the city, begins today.

The Laoag City Fiesta I have grown up to know was simple, dry, and forgettable.  There were strings of parades, yes, but with very little  fanfare.  Then until now, the main attraction is a karnibal, which is not even 1/1000 as good as Enchanted Kingdom, located under the Gilbert Bridge.  There, I remember going to freak shows of sirena (mermaid), babaeng ahas (lady snake), babaeng pusit (lady squid), and other human beings whose physical deformities have been exploited in cash ‘s name. Continue reading “Pretentious & meaningless, Pamulinawen Festival kicks off”

Why the National Anthem must precede invocations

Illustration by Ronaldo "Ronmac" Macalma, my student and favorite cartoonist
Illustration by Ronaldo "Ronmac" Macalma, my student and favorite cartoonist

Yesterday, your  karikna was invited to speak in a seminar-workshop in the University.  As the Opening Prayer came before the Philippine National Anthem, yet again, I was reminded of this article written (and sent to me) by Manuel Quezon III, explaining why it should go the other way instead.  Quezon III–grandson  of the illustrious Philippine Commonwealth president–is a journalist, political pundit, and historian.


Country first always

WHICH should come first in a public ceremony: an invocation, or the national anthem? To any Filipino before the 1990s, the answer would have been as simple as it would have been instinctive: obviously national anthem first, then invocation. This was the way it was always done; this is the way it is done elsewhere. Even the Vatican City State has a national anthem, and the Pope stands at attention at the playing of the anthem of his state with that of any state he happens to visit, and only afterwards proceeds to invoke God and bless the people, after the state rituals have been concluded. This is the way things should be. But somewhere along the line, and I believe it began only within the last decade and a half, things have changed in our country. Continue reading “Why the National Anthem must precede invocations”

Academicians critique priest’s book on Aglipayanism

scan0015

FR. ERICSON JOSUE is one of few Catholic priests I admire. Besides being bright and hardworking, he is humble and sensitive. We have known each other since our early teens (when he was still so lanky while I was then too fat), and I have always held him in high regard.

While other priests were busy attending parties, grooming expensive dogs, and constructing an ostentatious swimming pool in the Bishop’s Palace, Ericson had been busy writing books. Only in his early thirties, this son of Pasuquin has already published his second research output. “Out of the Depths”, which came out last December, tackles the phenomenal rise and eventual decline of Aglipayanism.

Well-meaning scholars must be given support and due recognition, and so I encourage my students and friends to read the book, if only to generate intelligent and enlightened discourse, a rarity in the Church (and government) these days.

Here, allow me to share excerpts of an interview conducted by students with Professor Fides Bernardo A. Bitanga, who teaches Sociology of Religion in the Mariano Marcos State University. Bitanga is also the new Editor-in-Chief of Sabangan, a social sciences publication in MMSU.

Continue reading “Academicians critique priest’s book on Aglipayanism”

Budding Sociologists tackle the laoagcentralissue

 

Young Ilocano Sociologists at work
Young Ilocano Sociologists at work

INSTEAD of submitting tired academic papers, my students in Sociology of Development are working on a blog (http://laoagcentralissue.wordpress.com).

Using the sociological lens, the blog tackles the complex issues that surround the construction of a mall in downtown Laoag.

My students’ zest in posting entries there is fueled not only of their aspirations for high marks, but more so of their desire to generate intelligent and enlightened discussion on the implications of the mall project to development.

Continue reading “Budding Sociologists tackle the laoagcentralissue”

Bishops’ pectoral crosses go to the highest bidder

Rosales
Rosales

AS A TOKEN OF GRATITUDE, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales last month gave his pectoral cross (that huge accessory that hangs on a prelate’s chest) to someone who, in the cardinal’s opinion, has served the Catholic Church well.

You might be tempted to think that the recipient of such honor is a human rights advocate, or an anti-gambling crusader, or a vanguard of the environment, or a brave journalist, or a catechist who has sacrificed her whole life in the service of God’s vineyard. Well, karikna, don’t give in to such temptation. Yet again, you might be expecting too much of the church. And expectation is a cause of suffering.

Rosales’ pectoral cross went to Felicidad Sy, matriarch of the family which owns the SM retail chain. The Sys handed the church a cash donation that was so big, Rosales, who admits to having “a close relationship with the family”, promised not to disclose it.

Not just one, but two.

In mid-2008, another illustrious archbishop also presented the Sy family his pectoral cross. The Most Reverend Diosdado Talamayan of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao, another long-time friend of the family, made the gesture in appreciation of the many cash donations the Chinoy capitalists have given his archdiocese.

Talamayan
Talamayan

There’s nothing wrong with giving gifts. Nothing’s wrong with accepting donations either. I am not surprised that the prelates are receiving huge sums of money, I’m just dismayed that they would come from where they come from. Continue reading “Bishops’ pectoral crosses go to the highest bidder”