Thursday, April 28, 2005

`Ein papst aus Deutschland’

I kept switching to Deutsche Welle (DW), the German channel on cable TV, right after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope last week. What was it like for the Germans, the predominantly Catholic Bavarians especially, to have one of them become Papst Benedikt XVI? The crawler on the TV screen said ``Ein papst aus Deutschland’’ (the pope from Germany).

DW had first crack at the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, so to speak, in Ratzinger’s home town in Bavaria, Germany. Now, cookies and bread are being named after him.

DW was game enough to show tabloids with screaming headlines saying ``Papa Ratzi’’, ``German Shepherd’’, ``God’s Rottweiler’’ and something about the Hitlerjungen to which Ratzinger was conscripted in his youth.

I’ve been to Germany a couple of times. Both were journalism-related trips and the second one took us through the so-called ``Romantic Route’’ and the ``Fairy Tale Route’’ that featured castles, places in the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales and even a torture museum. A must-see was the castle of the tragic Bavarian king Ludwig after which the Disneyland logo was modeled.

Bavarians are supposed to be warmer in disposition compared with Germans from the north. Several of my mentors in college were German Benedictine nuns who hailed mostly from Bavaria. I can still name some of them. Sr. Odiliana Rohrwasser (Trigo, Algebra, Physical Science, Theology II),who is now in Baguio; Sr. Ehrentrudis Eichinger (Psychology, Theology III); Sr. Ma. Bruno Allmang (Logic, Cosmology and Ontology, Art Appreciation) who is back at their Motherhouse near Lake Stanberg in Bavaria. The librarian was Sr. Ma. Clemens Schwarzmaier. It was boot camp with a smile.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Billboards from hell

If someone had already used the above title, please, may I use it again? I couldn’t find a nastier one.

Every person and her/his first cousin living in this metropolis and yonder surely have a billboard complaint to air. I have mine, you have yours and chances are, we’re all talking about the same things. The unending row of gigantic billboards lining the highways. The smaller ones, zillions of them, hung on lamp posts in the middle of the road. The defacement, the darkening, the uglification of the sky and the horizon. The offensive, stupid content.

In saecula saeculorum. The repetitiveness, the eternity of this brazen assault on your senses just blows your mind to billboard hell. It is an Andy Warhol nightmare except that it is also yours and mine. How have we come to this?

Last year, I wrote a piece on billboards when the offensive, double-entendre ``kinse anyos’’ ad of Napoleon Brandy created a furor. I had an email avalanche from irate readers who were thankful someone had expressed their pent-up disgust in print.

But that was about content. I mentioned then that before the outcry against the Napoleon Brandy ad, there was this huge billboard near the foot of the Nagtahan Bridge that was just as offensive. I saw it every time I came from the Inquirer in Makati and headed for home via Nagtahan. It showed a young girl, about 15 or 16, in a reclining position and with her legs sufficiently spread out. She had her big pleading eyes looking up, and she had the fly of her jeans unzipped and wide open to show her skimpy panty and most of her pubic area. Lee was the jeans brand. The sell jeans that way?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Allen’s `Conclave’

``The trash heaps of church history are littered with carcasses of journalists who have tried to predict the next pope.’’ This quote comes from journalist John L. Allen Jr., author of the updated ``Conclave: The Politics, Personalities and Process of the Next Papal Election’’ and ``All the Pope’s Men: The Inside Story on How the Vatican Really Thinks.’’.

Jesuit theologian Fr. Catalino Arevalo made sure I got a copy of Allen’s book. I rushed to Loyola House of Studies to claim it.

Allen was the familiar face and voice on TV during the week of the unprecedented global outpouring that led up to Pope John Paul II’s funeral. Allen provided background and context to the CNN reports from the Vatican.

A prize-winning Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, Allen is probably the best-known Vatican writer in the English language. He was described by veteran religion writer Kenneth Woodward as ``the journalist other reporters—and not a few cardinals—look to for the inside story on how all the pope’s men direct the world’s largest church.’’

That’s a plug for journalists as book authors. I am sure many of the cardinal electors now in Rome have Allen’s book under their armpits, or are furtively poring over it outside their meditation time.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

John Paul II, beloved pilgrim

It was springtime in January in the souls of millions when Pope John Paul II came to visit the Philippines for the second time 10 years ago in 1995. Like a homecoming pilgrim, he came. It is seedtime, he said in so many words, referring to the promise the youth held for the turn of the millenium, as he rallied them to plunge into ``the great adventure of living life well.’’

Think of that quote.

World Youth Day in 1995 in Manila will be etched in history books as days of wonder and joy ineffable. Four million gathered in one place to pray and commune with each other, to be blessed, to be one. Only Filipinos could throw a spiritual fiesta such as that one.

How wonderful. How wonderful for him to be in our tight embrace and us in his.

A thousand images of this blessed land he was taking home with him, he said before waving goodbye. The thousands of words he said to us we will remember and forever keep in our hearts.

I was one of those assigned to cover his visit, to catch his every word in places where he spoke. The reporters in the police beat had an even more daunting task, to wade into the throng, to watch out, just in case…