Thursday, September 30, 2004

Shrine for the poor

Call it congruence, synchronicity or what, but this week brought a couple of church-related news that are good news.

Rising fast in Tandang Sora in Quezon City is a shrine, Santuario de San Vicente de Paul, dedicated to the cause of the poor of the city. It is named after the 17th-century French saint who dedicated his life to the very poor.

The Santuario’s raison d’etre sounds best in Pilipino: ``Ang tunay na esensiya ng Santuario de San Vicente de Paul ay hindi tumutukoy sa malamig na semento at matayog na pader. Ang Santuario ay ang mga taong bumubuo nito. Ang mahihirap ang tanging buhay ng Santuario, at ang mayayamang nais magbahagi ng kanilang biyaya sa mahihirap ang magiging katuwang nito na magsisilbing kamay at paa para sa patuloy na paglago. Ang Santuario… ay yayakap sa lahat ng uri ng tao, mayaman man o mahirap. Misyon ng simbahang ito ang bigyan ng sapat na atensiyon at pagkalinga ang mahihirap at kulang palad.’’

For those who don’t understand Pilipino: ``The essence of Santuario de San Vicente de Paul lies not in the cold concrete and the high walls. The Santuario is the people who form it. The life of the Santuario draws mainly from the poor, and the rich who want to share their blessings with the poor are the partners who would serve as hands and feet so that it will flourish. The Santuario will embrace all, both the rich and the poor. This church’s mission is to give attention and care to the poor and the less fortunate.’’

Thursday, September 23, 2004

VP Noli writes re `riles’

Very welcome is the letter to this column from Vice President Noli de Castro in response to our concern about the poor families living along the railroad tracks. Tens of thousands of these families will have to go when construction of the modern railway system (the North Rail) starts in a couple of months. The railway project is part of the Strong Republic Transit System, a flagship project of the Arroyo administration.

VP de Castro’s letter is welcome because it would be a gauge for those in the ``Bantay Riles’’ (non-government and people’s organizations) in monitoring how the government handles the human side of this project that will change the landscape and they way people live and travel.

Sure, we all need new ways of doing things and the long awaited modern transit system is welcome but we also need to preserve the dignity of human beings, the poor most especially, who live dangerously along the tracks.

As to the big illegal structures built along the way by the non-poor who wanted to free-load, bulldoze them tomorrow.

Note that VP de Castro does not use the word squatters. He uses the word settlers.
``Thank you very much for your concern over the plight of `riles’ settlers who will be affected by the railway rehabilitation project, which you wrote about in your Sept. 9 column, `Bantay Riles.’

Thursday, September 16, 2004

1,347 unfound

They went missing and have not been found until today. They are the 1,347 victims of ``enforced disappearance’’ from 1971 to 2003. They are the so-called desaparecidos (disappeared) who walked into the darkness and were never seen again.

Sept. 21 is upon us again. It will rake up painful memories and open wide the wounds that never quite heal. It is a time to pause to see where we have healed and where still we bleed. Justice still eludes the countless who had suffered while those who caused the suffering walk with their heads high.

Thirty two years ago on Sept. 21, 1972, when Pres. Marcos declared martial law, many people feared for their lives and their loved ones. But that day, they could not have imagined the greater horror, the sorrow, the darkness that would later visit countless lives.

Although some families already had a foretaste of what was to come the year before (the first case of disappearance happened in 1971) they had no inkling of what still lay ahead. The Reign of Terror would later cut a wide bloody swath across the land and for 14 years the dictatorship would hold the nation in its tight grip.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Bantay riles

So what is everybody waiting for, the President wanted to know.

There’s no stopping the North Rail project, we are told, and I couldn’t help thinking of ``The Runaway Train’’, the 1988 bone-rattling movie that left viewers breathless and all shook up.

Ten hours after she returned from her state visit to China, Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo expressed impatience over the slowness of the North Rail project that would span the Manila-Clark (Pampanga) distance. Actual work on the ground has yet to start. China had already released the $400 million for the first phase that would connect Manila to Malolos, Bulacan.

Ms. Arroyo’s trip to China had a lot to do with this project. The Chinese Eximbank has also approved the second phase. During her pulong bayan held at the Cubao LRT station, the President, reports said, was impatience personified. She even called for North Rail president Jose Cortez Jr. who was having coffee in another LRT platform. Start now, she ordered. There were no reports about Cortez spilling his coffee and getting scalded.

The Strong Republic Transit System is one of the President’s flagship infrastructure projects meant to boost economic growth and employment. Who does not want to have a modernized railway system that would get people and products faster to their destinations and minus the hassle of road travel? Who does not want a clean, well lighted train speeding with a humming sound, minus garbage bags piling on its roof?

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Asian idols, Asian stars

Star-struck, star-studded, star search, star quality, star factor, star complex, star potential, star in a million, stardom. It’s all about stars. The young are bombarded with star images, dazzled by star dust, enticed with the possibility of becoming instant stars themselves.

TV shows like ``American Idol’’ surely spawned a lot of ``idol’’ contests all over the world. The local electronic media networks are trying to outdo one another in flaunting their latest finds, showing the mesmerized world how good they are in their business of entertaining you and me.

But what’s a star?

If we go by the pop searches and contests on TV here and abroad in the recent past, the stars are those who have captivated their audience and, of course, the ``star’’ judges, with their vocal talent, originality in projecting themselves, persistence, never-say-die attitude, physical stamina and beauty, the quality of their delivery. One could go on and on.

It’s a battle of nerves too and those who endure and survive to the finals, even if they don’t make it to the top three, are stars too. You have to give it to them.

It all looks so open too. The audience is sometimes even privy to the physical make-overs. People listen in to the judging, the cutting remarks, the grudging compliments of the judges. They are witness to how these star wannabes go through the wringer. Why, the TV viewers even participate in the star-making through the use of their thumbs, by texting, that is.

Then, suddenly, a new star, a new idol, is born. The star-making machine continues to churn out more. Some of these finds stay long in the limelight, others fade away too soon. Not a few become victims of their own celebrity status.