Thursday, April 24, 2008

Popes apologizing

This is not the first time that a Pope has apologized for the sins of commission, omission and indifference of the Roman Catholic Church. History brings to light so many of these faults and there is no way a powerful and huge religious institution could sweep these under the altar. The only good way is to face up, say sorry and do something concrete to correct the mistake if that is possible.

The late and much-loved Pope John Paul II did a lot of apologizing for many faults that are now written into history. And he and the Church were the better for it.

One of the things JPII’s successor Pope Benedict XVI did during his recent six-day US visit was to apologize to victims of sexual abuse. The Pope did this personally by meeting with many of the victims—women and men who were sexually molested, many in their youth, by members of the US clergy. It was a moving and emotional private meeting which the Pope himself had requested.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What color is your rice?

White or brown or red in the time of rice crisis?

Make mine violet. This is the rice I’ve been eating for some time. I wish I could call it wild. It’s an indigenous Philippine variety that is organically grown in Cagayan by farmers affiliated with the Foundation for the Care of Creation. It’s cheaper and more nutritious than the blah commercial white polished (P33 to P35 per kilo) that’s grown with chemical pesticides and stripped of the nutritious outer fibrous layer.

This violet rice (this is not the glutinous type used for desserts) is nutritious, delicious and only P30 per kilo for now. But it’s in short supply because, I understand, it’s not all that cheap to grow and transport. And the locals, I am told, don’t really go for it.

This great variety ought to be preserved and if there is a demand for it there might be more next, next harvest time. The so-called fair trade marketing groups should get interested and partner with the farmers who have good, safe, nutritious rice to sell.

I still caught that era when brown, unpolished rice was deemed inferior—because cheaper—by many and very white rice was considered the staple of the haves. Well, a few decades later, things went the other way. Brown unpolished became the choice of the discriminating and diet-conscious. It was more expensive and hard to find. Dark-colored was in, like dark brown unrefined muscovado sugar as against bleached refined sugar that has been stripped of all its “impurities” and the rest of its goodness. Fiber was in and was brought back into breads.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The world in a grain of rice

The first lines of William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence” play in my head when I think of the so-called rice crisis. The word rice has taken the place of the word sand. “To see the world in a grain of rice, and heaven in a wild flower…”

Many rice crisis seasons ago (when fancy rice was P20/kilo), I wrote a piece on rice that a number of readers responded to because it brought on memories. This season I again often think of rice in all its glory, the many names of rice in the four Philippine languages that I know and the images they bring forth.

Rice harvests conjure up images of the past, of one’s childhood, of summers and fiestas and times of plenty, of peasants and revolutions, of the simple folk, the countryside and its beauty, of hunger, hope and humanity. No wonder Amorsolo celebrated some of these in his paintings.

When a particular thing—food, animal, plant, product—holds an important place in the local culture, it is given many names. These names could refer to its various forms, the different stages in its life, the end products. They could refer to quality, consistency, strength, age, beauty.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Low carbon Holy Week

If we feel drawn to contemplating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ this Holy Week, we might as well also contemplate the crucifixion of Mother Earth. But we must bear in mind that the high point of Christianity is not the crucifixion but the resurrection. The whole of creation, too, must rise in triumph. We cannot leave Earth to grovel and groan behind us.

Theologian and ecologist Sean McDonagh who spent years in the Philippines wrote in his book “The Greening of the Church”: “A Christian theology of creation has much to learn from the attitude of respect which Jesus displayed towards the natural world. There is no support in the New Testament for a throw-away consumer society which destroys the natural world and produces mountains of non-biodegradable garbage or, worse still, produces toxic waste…

“The disciples of Jesus are called upon to live lightly on the earth—‘take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics’ (Luke 9:1-6). Jesus constantly warned about the dangers of attachment to wealth, possession, or power. These in many ways are what is consuming the poor and the planet itself…

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Signs of hope

The search is on again for innovative ideas to address development and poverty challenges as well as local governance. Up to P1 million each in grants is up for grabs for organizations with proposals on this year’s theme, “Building Partnerships for Effective Local Governance.”

I have been a frequent goer to the yearly Panibagong Paraan “marketplace”. It’s a great source not only of innovative ideas, it is also a great source of stories to write—what people think up in order to be of help to their fellow Filipinos. Here you can feel the quiet heroism and daring of those who are working on the ground among real people with real needs.

If you want to take a break from soul-polluting politics, go to the mall for this event. It will surely take away some of your cynicism, bitterness, hopelessness and fatigue. Eat healthy afterwards.