Thursday, August 26, 2004

Ben of the lumads

His search for meaning, his taking to the less-traveled road, and his encountering the light at last, among mostly forgotten people—these could only be straight out of a continuing divine plot that has yet to fully unravel. The experience thrills him, fills him with awe and thanksgiving.

Benjamin ``Ben’’ Abadiano, 41, is this year’s recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership. In electing Ben, the RM Award Foundation ``recognizes his steadfast commitment to indigenous Filipinos and their hopes for peace and better lives consonant with their distinctive tradition and hallowed ways of life.’’

I met Ben last year when I interviewed him for a front page feature. I had learned about him from Sr. Victricia Pascasio of the Holy Spirit Sisters whose work among the Alangan Mangyans Ben had helped expand.

Twice I had been among the Mangyans before Ben went there to stay, and I had seen what it was like. Now, I am told, things have changed for the better I wouldn’t recognize the place if I wandered into it.

Born in 1963, Ben was raised by his grandparents. The circumstances of his birth are stuff for primetime TV dramas but that is another story. Ben finished sociology in Cagayan de Oro’s Xavier University where a Tingguian anthropologist, Dr. Erlinda Burton, opened his eyes to the world of the lumads or indigenous peoples (IP).

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Woman, religion and spirituality

Every woman who cares about the future of the women of this world and other planets should read this book. So should every caring man. And the befuddled, benighted ones—may they stumble upon this book in the most unlikely climes, at the most unlikely times, may someone care enough to shove it into their path or gift them with it, beautifully wrapped and scented, so that they may look upon it with curiosity and awe, and having read it, be filled with enormous regret that could turn into tremendous resolve to change things for the better.

The good news is that ``Woman, Religion and Spirituality in Asia’’ (Anvil) by Sr. Mary John Mananzan OSB was launched last Sunday at the National Book Fair. Mananzan, president of St. Scholastica’s College for six years, was recently elected Prioress of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in the Philippines.

The better news is that there is no better time than now for this book to come out. It comes in the aftermath of the tempest caused by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter on women which caused women (hmm, like me) to answer back.

And the best news? The book is easy to read. Surprisingly simple but engrossing, I would say, coming as it does from a scholar and activist nun whose doctoral dissertation at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (where almost all the popes studied) was pompously titled ``The Language Game of Confessing One’s Belief: A Wittgensteinian-Austinian Approach to the Linguistic Analysis of Creedal Statements.’’ A journalist would write, tongue in cheek, ``Ways of Saying `I Believe’’’. But I digress.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Rep. Hontiveros takes on Cardinal Ratzinger

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had it coming.

The author of the Vatican’s ``Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and the World’’ has shown once again how the powerful patriarchy in the Catholic Church views women’s struggle for equality and emancipation. How is the how? With suspicion bordering on paranoia, that’s how. Ratzinger, famous for being an archconservative, should expect a fallout.

Part of the fallout comes from Rep. Anna Theresia ``Risa’’ Hontiveros-Baraquel, a first termer from the Akbayan Party who delivered her maiden privilege speech (``Feminism is Humanism’’) in congress last Tuesday. Hontiveros tackled Ratzinger’s heavy treatise that warned against the rise of antagonism between the sexes, woman power, and other imagined abominations.

I imagine the Lord Jesus Christ, whom I believe to be a thoroughly masculine feminist, befuddled by all this anti-feminist to-do in the Vatican. Jesus posed a counterculture and defended and upheld women so many times. I don’t know why many modern-day high priests could not do the same without being patronizing and suspicious. (Ha, and what would Jesus say about their wearing jewelry and princely raiment embroidered in gold?)

Ratzinger rants: ``Recent years have seen new approaches to women’s issues. A first tendency is to emphasize strongly conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men. Faced with the abuse of power, the answer for women is to seek power. This process leads to opposition between men and women, in which the identity and role of one are emphasized to the disadvantage of the other, leading to harmful confusion regarding the human person, which has its most immediate and lethal effects in the family.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Mody with the smiling soul

She did not paint with her mouth or strum the guitar with her feet. She did not write verses or propound mathematical theories. She was no savant, but she was no sorry saint either. She had no spectacular talent or stunning achievements to speak of that could make her a celebrity worth all the fuss.

What she had were syringomyelia—and her immense capacity to take in life and be joyful. And to infect others with her joie de vivre. And to draw people to herself. And to be drawn to others.

Her story is worth retelling, my former editor at the Sunday Inquirer Magazine said to me the other day. I told her that Cecilia ``Mody’’ Chuidian Jurado, whom I had written about in 1991, passed away last Tuesday morning after a bout with respiratory illness. Mody’s body was cremated immediately. She was 46.

Mody had been bedridden, wheelchair-bound for 37 years. Only her head could move normally. And except for her upper limbs that could make slight, difficult movements, the rest of her was practically immobile. Mody was a quadriplegic. What Mody could not do for herself, others had to do for her.

Mody had been that way since she was nine years old. She was stricken with syringomyelia at that age when girls romped about and beat boys their age at their own game. One day all that energy came to a sudden stop. After four months in the hospital, Mody was brought home, never to move freely again and to start life anew.

Syringomyelia is a blister in the spinal cord that results in a chronic and progressive condition associated with sensory disturbances, muscle atrophy and spasticity.