Thursday, June 29, 2006

Of saints and martyrs

A few days ago, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo said that a canonized saint—Saint Teresa of Avila no less!—and two future possible ones belong to the Arroyo-Tuason-Pidal family tree. Mr. Arroyo made the claim while aboard the flight that took the First Couple to the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. He revealed this even as the Arroyo administration is being accused of committing a variety of unsaintly acts.

This makes one review and reflect on what really makes a saint, particularly a martyr, canonized or not, in this day and age.

The Philippines now claims two canonized saints, both males—San Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod (whose name I couldn’t immediately recall) who were canonized in 1987 and 2000 respectively. These two men from a long-ago century left the saintly and daring Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, founder of a major Filipino religious congregation for women, whose cause has been well documented, out in the cold.

In the 1970s the Philippines needed a canonized saint, and so the proponents searched for one. That was how it was in the case of Lorenzo Ruiz who was killed, along with Dominican missionaries, in Japan several centuries ago. I had read the book on the search by Antonio Delgado, ambassador to the Vatican during the Marcos era, and was shocked to learn that there was no candidate at that time. In the beginning there was no name, no face, no place, no event to speak of. But the Philippines had to have a canonized saint and so the search was on. Lorenzo Ruiz surfaced.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A college for indigenous peoples

I wrote in the future tense then, I write in the present tense now. I had some doubts then, I don’t have those doubts now.

Late last year I wrote about Pamulaan, a special tertiary school or college for indigenous peoples (IP) that was being built in Mindanao. The target date for its opening was the opening of classes this June.

The dream has come true. Pamulaan recently opened with 47 IP students (from 19 tribes from all over the Philippines) enrolled in the college program.

Pamulaan means seedbed. The college aims to strengthen the potentials of indigenous youth for community leadership. It is a college education program for the IPs in the Philippines and a response to the IPs' dream of an educational program that is rooted in their life, culture and aspirations as a people.

Pamulaan is under the president of the University of South Eastern Philippines. The site is in USEP's Mintal campus in Davao City. IPs from North America recently came to visit and were surprised to find something so special and so focused.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fake drugs could kill

The Inquirer is one of the institutions behind the current campaign against fake drugs. It is not every day that this paper joins a campaign. We’re quite choosy, you see.

Counterfeit drugs could kill. This was the title of the first part of the three-part series I wrote some years ago. At that time the Philippines landed on the list of proliferators of fake drugs released by the Drug Information Association that was meeting in Canada. Another concern at that time was adverse drug reaction (ADR). For while even genuine drugs could cause ADR, how much more the fake ones whose components only the fakers know about?

Listed as an ADR is ``failure of efficacy’’ or Type F. This is what sends patients asking, ``Why is the drug not working?’’ Therapeutic failure could be due to a drug that has little or nothing in it. In other words, some illegal manufacturers could have tampered with a brand’s contents and unless the doctor and patient get the drug tested, they have no way of knowing the cause of the problem.

A change of prescription could be the next option and if the new drug is not fake, it could work. That is, if it is not too late and the patient has not crossed the bridge of no return.

There has been a debate on whether or not brand names of drugs that have been counterfeited should be published so that the public may know. (I did provide a list.) Legit drug companies whose brands have been counterfeited could raise a howl and say they are getting a double whammy because sales of even the genuine items could suffer because consumers will stay away. That is the short-term adverse effect.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Letter from East Timor

It wasn’t so long ago (2002) when I wept while I watched on television East Timor’s declaration of independence after being under the Portuguese for 400 years and Indonesia for almost 30 years and Xanana Gusmao taking his oath as the first president.

I was in East Timor so very briefly in 1995 for the Ahi Naklakan Solidarity Tour (Ahi Naklakan is Tetum for light) with human rights activists. After several days we were found out and promptly rounded up by the Indonesian military and brought to the airport.

When independence was nigh in 1999 violence erupted and many were killed, among them religious missionary sisters. Foreign journalists left in haste but thanks to information technology and e-mail, the world knew what was happening there. Even while surrounded by bursts of gunfire, missionaries e-mailed letters some of which I used in this space (``Epistles via e-mail’’, 9/23/99).

East Timor is again in the throes of war. (It is now supposedly the other Christian country in Asia besides the Philippines but what does this mean really?) Here again is a letter from a missionary whom I know and who had worked in the Philippines. She was assigned to East Timor a few years ago. For reasons of security I have removed names from her letter.

``Yesterday 28 May, I decided to temporarily leave East Timor via one of the evacuation flights to Darwin, Australia…

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Breathless in Yogya

I was in Indonesia for nine days last week for a vacation with close relatives. We spent six days in Jakarta and three in Yogyakarta (Yogya or Jogja for short) which was among the areas in Central Java hit by the killer earthquake in the early morning of May 27.

Yogya, an ancient capital city, is the cultural center of Java. It isn’t anything like Bali but it has its own charm and cultural richness.

The quake that killed some 5,000 people missed us by 38 hours. I do not want to imagine what it would have been like for us had we chosen a later date for the cultural trip there. The quake left many stranded as the airport runways were damaged. (Yogya is 50 minutes by plane from Jakarta.)

Back in Jakarta I had goose bumps when I saw on TV and in the papers images of death and destruction. Some of the places we had visited around Yogya had suffered damage, among them the Hindu Prambanan temples, a Unesco World Heritage Site 18 km. east of Yogya which is continuously being restored to their original grandeur. With the killer quake’s destructive sweep, restoration work has suffered a setback. But the destruction is nothing compared to the thousands of lives that were lost.

Built in the 9th century during Sanjaya Dynasty, the temple complex has hundreds of temples spread out all over but a dozen or so comprise the major ones. The three biggest for the Hindu trinity—Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma—form the centerpiece.